The Swan Circle

A story of Georgian networking

Stephen West & the Assassination Plot Part II

Family History, The Swan Circle, West Family 1650-1700 1 Comment »

In the December of 1670, Londoners experienced some of the worst fog for a generation. In his diary for 15th December, John Evelyn wrote that he had observed, `the thickest and darkest fogg on the Thames that was ever known.' 
   The murky winter evenings and the poorly lit streets of Piccadilly, formed a backdrop against which, an ambush and an attempted murder would take place.
   A week before John Evelyn wrote his diary entry, the London Gazette published an account of an attempt on the life of James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde. Thomas Carte, Butler’s biographer wrote a detailed version based on the Duke’s own elaboration of the incident.
  On 6 December 1670, the Prince of Orange, on a visit to London was accompanied by the Duke to an entertainment in the City. As the Duke journeyed home, he was attacked by six men in St James’s Street  between the hours of six and seven in the evening. Despite always being accompanied by footmen, the Duke was urged from his coach and forcibly mounted on horseback behind one of his attackers.
   One of the assailants rode ahead to Tyburn to tie a rope to the gallows with the intention of hanging Butler, but the Duke had managed to unhorse his attacker whilst they rode beyond Berkeley (Devonshire) House towards Knightsbridge.
   The Duke and the dismounted attacker fought in the mud, until the man, alarmed by a clamour of voices, started and mounted his horse. He fired his pistol at the Duke, but missed as he hurriedly took aim in the dark. The attacker and his comrades rode off, ‘the bold Assassinates having made shift to escape all pursuite by reason of the darkness of the night.' The Duke, suffering no more than shock and a few bruises, was confined to his home at Clarendon House for a number of days.

Clarendon House 1680

On 7 December, the London Gazette reported that:

“His Majesty has thought fit by His Royal Proclamation… that whosoever shall discover unto His Majesty… any one of those Six Persons, or any of their Aiders or Abetters… he shall for such his pains and diligence in this Affair, receive from His Majesty a Reward of One thousand pounds Sterling.”

Furthermore, the Gazette published a description of one of the horses and the pistol used in the attack, declaring ‘it may be some good Means to promote the Discovery of these Malefactors.’ The weapon was described as a small ‘Pocket Screwed Pistol’, garnished with silver, and marked with the Letters T. H.; the horse was a brown bay ‘with a white stripe or Blaze all along his face.’ Anyone wishing to view the instruments of the crime, could do so by paying a visit to Clarendon House, where they were on display.
   The King called upon all ‘Mayors, Sheriffs, Justices of the Peace’ to assist in seizing the assailants as ‘His Majesty resolves to pursue and bring to Justice, as the Enemies of His Crown and Dignity.’

On the 8 December 1670 the London Gazette issued a description of the attackers based on witness testimonies:

“Richard Hallowell, alias Holloway, a tobacco-cutter, lately dwelling in Fryingpan Alley in Petticoat-lane without Bishopsgate-street, a middle sized man, plump faced, with pock holes, of demure countenance, having a short Brown Periwig, and sad coloured cloaths, about Forty years of age.

“Thomas Allen, alias Allyt, alias Ayliffe, who pretended himself a Chyrurgion or Doctor of Physick, sometimes living at Rumford in Essex, but lately lodging at or near Aldgate, being a man of a down look, lean faced, and full of pockholes, with a stuff coat, usually wearing a Worsted Camlet Cloak, and a Brown Short Periwig, inclining to Red, about 36 years of age.

“Thomas Hunt, a tall and well proportioned man, and a ruddy complexion about 33 or 34 years of age, wearing a Flaxen Periwig, of a large Curl, and long, but sometimes of late a black one; his cloaths Black, and sometimes wearing a Brown Worsted Camlet Coat, long, and has one legg a little crooked or bow’d… and a mark or searce near his right Eye, about the bigness of a penny.

“______ Hurst, of a middle size, good complexion, with a dark coloured Periwig, and commonly wears a Black Coat.”

   Eyewitness accounts reported that the assailants were seen heading towards Knightsbridge after the attack. Once they were by the river, they doubled-back and took the road ‘near to the Neat-houses by Tuttle-fields’ before making their way through Lambeth into Southwark.
   Four of the men were mounted on two horses and one of the attackers was on a black mare with a white foot about 16 hands high. The mare was seized at Lambeth, as belonging to the aforementioned Thomas Hunt, who was then, as the London Gazette reported, apprehended for attempted robbery at Smitham Bottom in Surrey.
   In the following issue, the London Gazette (15 December), published its description of Thomas Hunt again, as if the arrest in Smitham Bottom had been a false hope.

It seemed apparent that the gang had disappeared south, and no further knowledge of them emerged until two men were arrested in Southampton.

Part 3


Stephen West & the Assassination Plot Part I

Family History, The Swan Circle, West Family 1650-1700 No Comments »

London, Decem. 7th. 1670

"Whereas upon Tuesday, the Sixth of this instant December, between the hours of Six and Seven in the Evening, an Inhumane Attempt was made upon the Person and Life of his Grace, James Duke of Ormond…"

On 12 November 1642, Prince Rupert brought his army of cavalry and Welsh infantrymen to Brentford. The Parliamentary army were barracaded inside Brentford guarding the bridge across the River Brent that connected the two halves of the town. Rupert's forces drove the Parliamentarians over the bridge and into the open fields, fighting into the afternoon and forcing the enemy to flee via the river, only to drown in the depths of the Thames.

Glovers map of Brentford battle
   A year or so before Prince Rupert's men had come to Brentford and, as the story goes, stole some 300 apples from the orchard of a local man, Stephen West was born. It is unknown whether he was born in Brentford or Ealing or if he had come from further afield, but he and his brother Charles were both apprenticed to the trade of butchery. The registers of St Laurence, Brentford record the burial of a James West 'butcher' in 1680, and in the same register, one Mary West daughter of John West 'cutler' was buried in 1695.
  On 30 April 1663, having met and courted a girl called Ann Shelley, Stephen West applied for a marriage licence. Ann was a year older than Stephen and had given her place of origin as St Mary Cray in the parish of Orpington, Kent; there had been a Shelley family holding the manor of Crofton in Orpington in the early half of the 16th century and Ann's family may have belonged to the manor.
   On 2 May 1663 a marriage was recorded in the register at Ealing Church and two baptisms followed, Elias on 14 April 1664 and Anne on 11 November 1666 – however both children were entered into the register with the father's name only by each entry.
  By 1664 the inhabitants of Brentford had numbered a shade over 250 hearths and were surrounded by the peaceful assurance of industry, fisheries, wharfs and timber yards. A busy thoroughfare for transporting goods and individuals had given rise to the growth of inns in the settlement and despite being larger than its neighbour, Brentford was only a lesser part of the parish of Ealing.
   By 1665 the plague had arrived and decimated the population; the burial registers show that 103 burials had taken place in Brentford. Stephen and Charles managed to escape the plague's merciless destruction, probably by travelling to fairs across the south of England as a consequence of their trade.
   Five years later, on 10 November 1670 they arrived in Stapleton just north of Bristol. They bought a horse from Thomas Greene a local tanner and butchered a bullock and sold him the hide. They attended a fair five miles from Stapleton on 6 December and left for Southampton on 12 December; upon arrival in Southampton the Mayor arrested them for attempted murder and treason.

Part 2


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