Marylebone today is far from it’s murky past which contained slums, poor houses, bandits, highway robbers, extreme poverty and a body of desperate people. Poverty sent people into crime – usually by necessity – the theft of money, food, clothing, bedclothes and even sometimes passers by were stripped naked for their under clothes.
Marylebone was a filthy place in 1727. The majority of inhabitants were desperately poor and were maintained the downtrodden by the upper class. Misery was the bread of life for the masses whilst the privileged few exemplified excess and lived by exploitation.
Servants were regularly abused – physically and sexually and the area was not a safe place for children. Nor for many of its citizens – be they old or young. The masters kept their servants in a state of want and obedience. In a state of oppression where aspects of normality in human nature was totally and fully absent. Servants were ‘things’ and not ‘beings’ and when the master found reason the servant would fear even death.
A child or a wife might take the master’s shilling, or his ring or other effects to use as coinage for small pleasures regulated or held distance by the master. Men were allowed to drink and be merry, to languish in the private members club, to enjoy excesses and to be and act the superior being. Not so the wife and children as often was the case. So sometimes they would pilfer a few coppers to enjoy merriment whilst the master was out.
And the servant was often blamed when the master remembered his effects and noticed their absence. Sometimes the servants simply reached out and pocketed a little of the excesses in the masters house. And many poor servants were put to death, flogged, branded with hot iron on the face or hand, or transported. A life of hopelessness, of servitude without mercy.
Ann Senior was such a servant whose master was Mr Samuel Thresher of Marylebone. Accused of theft a few small coins – three guineas to be exact - for which she was to face the punishment of death. No access to legal representation and no entitlement to legal rights. Remember Ann as you enjoy Marylebone today. Remember what she represented and remember her blood and the blood of so many of her kind that has seeped and soaked below the streets of Marylebone. A history that warrants remembrance.
Court record from the Old Bailey
Ann Senior of St. Mary-le-bone was indicted for feloniously stealing three Guineas, in the Dwelling House of Samuel Thresher .
The Prosecutor depos’d, That he had taken the Prisoner in as his Servant , and that missing his Money out of a Chest of Drawers, he had Suspicion on her, and sent one to enquire after her character, and that in the Interim the Prisoner ran away, but pursuing, he took her before a Magistrate, where she confess’d the Fact, and returned two Guineas.
Anne Cornish confirmed the Evidence of the Prosecutor, by making Oath that the Prisoner confess’d, the Fact to her, and that she was present when the Prisoner returned Part of the Money, confessing at the same Time, that she had dropp’d the other Part in a Value.
These plain Evidences, and the Prisoner having nothing to say in her Defence, she was found Guilty . Death .
more reading at portmanestate.com