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If you stand in Lombard Street at any time of the day, for example, that narrow thoroughfare like others in the vicinity echoes to hurrying footfalls. It has been a continuous sound for many hundreds of years, in the very centre of the City, and it may be that the perpetual steady echo of passing footsteps is the true sound of London in its transience and in its permanence.

-- Peter Ackroyd, 2000

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Law and Order in LondonCrime and Punishment: Margaret Grimes Alias Barrington
Posted on Jun 08, 2002 - 10:57 PM by Bill McCann

Executed before Newgate, 22nd of February, 1809, for taking a False Oath, and thereby obtaining Letters of Administration to the Effects of a Soldier. She unsuccessfully tried to escape the hangman by claiming that she was quick with child.


At the Old Bailey, on Saturday, the 14th of January, 1809, Margaret Barrington was capitally indicted for falsely taking an oath before Dr Coote, surrogate to the judge of the Prerogative Court, Doctors' Commons, to obtain letters of administration, in order to receive twenty- four pounds, one shilling and sixpence prize-money due to one Thomas Rotten, late a private in the 87th Regiment, and a supernumerary on board the Eurus frigate at the time she made various captures in her voyage to the West Indies.

The prisoner appeared to have been connected with two persons of the names of Vaughan and Knight, the former of whom was hanged, and the latter transported for life, for similar offences to that with which she was charged. In her defence she persisted in the story of her marriage to Thomas Rotten : the only thing she could be blamed for, she said, was presenting a fabricated certificate, which she confessed Knight made for her; but she was told she would not get the prize-money without it, and at Dumfries they kept no register of marriages.

The judge summed up with great humanity; and the jury, after consulting together for some time, found a verdict of guilty. She was sentenced to death, and ordered for execution on the 22nd of February.

On a motion of her counsel she was again put to the bar, and pleaded, in stay of execution, that she was quick with child; upon which a jury of matrons were empanelled, who retired with the prisoner and Mr Box, assisted by a surgeon of eminence, who were also sworn. After being absent about fifteen minutes they returned a verdict that she was not quick with child. Whereupon the recorder, in a most solemn and pathetic manner, exhorted the prisoner to make the best use in her power of the short time allotted to her in this life. The unfortunate woman was taken from the bar in convulsions, but next day appeared resigned to her fate.

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