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preventing of robbery, burglary, and other felonies, and for the more effective transportation of felons” became a landmark act for transportation to America. For the first time, the justices im- posed sentences of transportation on all except the most serious or the most trivial of crimes. This court had the authority to impose such sentences it thought proper to the crime such as burning, public whipping, placement of persons in the pillory, or sentences to public gaols. It met 8 times a year and in 1749 began to impose sentences of transportation regularly on petty of- fenders. Official support was given to ‘dumping’ unwanted offenders, who crowded prisons and cost the state money, unto the shores of the labor-hungry colonies in America. The cost to transport a prisoner in 1716 was about £2 a head. Though this does not seem a large amount, one needs to remember that £2-5 was the average lifetime savings of an early 18th century laborer. Middlesex itself, between 1716 and October 1775, until stopped by the forces surrounding the beginning of the Revolutionary War, sent some 10,000 prisoners through the gaol of New Gate to America (after which, they were sent to Australia). Most of these were indentured for the average period of seven years to pay off the cost of their transportation and sentences through what amounted at times to no more than white slave labor on the plantations. One wonders whether the conditions in New Gate Prison, as deplorable as they were, were any worse than the conditions of the transportation ships where rats, disease, malnutrition, and death were a common day’s happening.


Within the above context of Newgate Prison, James Spurgeon and John Spurgeon were indicted for robbery at the Old Bailey and held at Newgate. His indictment reads:


James Spurgin late of [the parish of] St. Mary Matfallon alias Whitechapel, County Middx [Middlesex] labourer, on 6 February, 5 George I [1718/19] at 4 at night burgled the house of Mary Fletcher, a spinster, and stole cloth coats worth 52s; Shag breeches worth 6s.; one camel coat worth 2s.; one camel waistcoat worth 1s.; one furstian frock worth 2s.; one furstian waistcoat worth 6s.; five druggett coats worth 10s belonging to Mary Fletcher.6


The list of prisoners being held at New Gate Prison on 25 February 1718/19 included “James Spurgin held by J. Tillard Esq. (Sheriff) for burglariously breaking into Mary Fletcher’s home and stealing goods worth 50s.”7


In The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, a printed record of crimes and punishments, one may find the original text there stating:


6“Middlesex Sessions Roll, ” MJ/SR/2324. 7Ibid.


© 1993 Spurgeon Family History by Dr. Gary Alan Dickey, 1546 Devonshire Avenue, Westlake Village, CA 91361 • p. 5


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