Court Reports

Ann Pursey – Sentenced to death

The Purseys are no different from the rest of the population – some of them at various times, found themselves on the wrong side of the law.

The most serious punishment handed out to a Pursey was “death”! And that sentence was passed on a woman.

Ann Pursey married Richard Cuerton on March 27, 1768 by licence in Tottenham’s All Hallows church in Middlesex. She signed her name Ann Cuerton, late Pursey.

Either they had fallen on hard times or they were professional criminals, for in May 1805, an Ann Percy alias Cureton was up before the judge at the Old Bailey charged with “robbing her lodgings”.

The charge was that “ANN PERCY, alias CURETON , was indicted for feloniously stealing, on the 13th of April , a set of bed-furniture, value 5 l. and a pair of sheets, value 20 s. the property of Penelope Drummond , widow , in her dwelling-house”. This was not the first such occurrence as a note in the assize records states that there were four indictments against her.

Essentially Ann came to rent a furnished apartment, saying that she and her husband were on their way to the West Indies. It seems that while the landlady was out checking Ann’s reference, she had left the boarding house having left the bed “stripped of all the furniture; the whole of the curtains and trimmings, and the sheets”. Ann then went to two different pawnbrokers and pledged the items in return for cash.

The police were soon on the case and it transpired that husband Richard had been working in one of the shops as a carpenter. Repeated questioning of Ann revealed the whereabouts of the stolen items.

The judges obviously did not take a lenient view as having heard the evidence they handed her the death sentence. (A record of the whole proceeding of the trial can be found in Old Bailey Proceedings Online.)

A further note in the assize records records that she was later pardoned and the sentence was transmuted to be transported for life. Another comment of 14 July 1805 says that she suffered “detention on board the Wm Pitt for N S Wales”.

On 31 August 1805 , the William Pitt sailed from Cork in Ireland bound for Australia. Ann was amongst the 120 women on board. The ship arrived over seven months later in April 1806.  (An account of the journey of the ship can be found on the Free Settlor of Felon website.)

I don’t know what became of Ann but a last detail from the assize records notes that she came from Suffolk. Is she in your family?


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