Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports compiled by Rictor Norton

May Fair Riots

14-16 May 1702   Westminster, May 16. The Constables of this Liberty being more than ordinary vigilant in the discharge of their duty, since the coming forth of her Majesty’s pious Proclamation against Vice and Debauchery, and having in pursuance thereof taken up several lewd women in May Fair, in order to bring them to justice, were opposed therein by several rude souldiers, one of whom is committed to prison, and the rest are diligently enquired after. [Post Man]

26-28 May 1702   St James’s, May 25. Whereas on Tuesday the 12 of this instant May, a riot was committed in May Fair, in which (amongst other disorders) John Cooper of St James Parish, Constable, being with other Constables and Officers, employed in putting in execution Her Majesty’s Proclamation for the Encouragement of Piety and Virtue, and for the Preventing and Punishing of Vice, Prophaneness, and Immorality, he (amongst others) was dangerously wounded, whereof he is since dead; Her Majesty for the encouragement of all such persons as shall discharge their duty in the execution of Her Majestys Proclamation aforesaid, is graciously pleased to promise her pardon, and as a further encouragement, a reward of 50l. to any of the persons concerned in this riot, who shall uncover the person that committed this barbarous murder, and shall cause him to be apprehended and brought to Justice. . . . we hear that 8 soldiers are already committed to the Gatehouse, and one to Newgate, upon suspicion of their being concerned in this riot. [Post Man]

8-10 July 1703   Yesterday [i.e. 9 July] the Sessions ended at the Old Baily, where among several others that received sentence of death, Thomas Cooke the famous prize fighter, was one, who was found Guilty of being concerned in the riot wherein Mr Cooper the Constable was kill’d in the execution of his office in suppressing the publick disorders at May Fair last was twelve month. He was apprehended in Dublin in Ireland upon his own confession, and brought over to be tryed here by her Majesties order. [Post-Man]

20-22 July 1703   Yesterday 3 of the malefactors, who were condemned last Sessions, viz. Peter Dromet, who kill’d his wife, and 2 Women, were executed at Tyburn, but Cook the prize-fighter had a reprieve for some days, in his way to the execution place, and was brought back to Newgate. [Post-Man]

10-12 August 1703   Yesterday Cook, the butcher of Gloucester, was executed at Tyburn, for the murther of Mr Cooper, the Constable, at May Fair. [Post-Man]







14-16 October 1703   The Sessions of Gaol Delivery which began on Wednesday last, at the Old Baily, ended the day following, it being a very small Sessions, two persons only received sentence of death; one of which was William Wallis a Serjeant in the Guards, he being found Guilty of being in the riot in which Thomas Cook the Gloucester-shire fencer was concerned, and for which he was hang’d in August last. [Post-Man]

22-24 November 1703   John Breston, Master of the Bear-garden, does hereby certifie, that tho’ T. Cook the butcher of Glocester, lately executed, was buried out of his house, yet he was at no manner of charge for his funeral as has been falsly reported and published, the whole expence thereof being payed by his own mother. [English Post]

13-15 January 1709   The Presentment of the Grand Jury, at the General Quarter-Sessions of the Peace holden at Westminster, in and for the Liberty of the Dean and Chapter of the Collegiate-Church of St. Peter, Westminster, of the City, Borough, and Town of Westminster, in the County of Middlesex, on Monday, the 10th of this instant January 1708 [i.e. 1709].

As we are Inhabitants, and most nearly concern’d, so we are most tenderly affected with, and have greatest reason to complain of, the yearly dangerous riots and tumults committed within this City and Liberty, at May-fair; and the rather, because the ordinary course of justice, has been found insufficient to stop the many irregularities, and prevent the great disorders thereof. The presenting and punishing some particular persons (if they could be found) is not likely to produce a sufficient remedy; And whereas the end of the grant is most notoriously perverted, and the same is now kept on foot, to bring together ill-disposed persons who meet there to game, and commit lewd and disorderly practices, whereby many of Her Royal Majesty’s subjects are debauch’d and corrupted, especially the younger people. Upon all which accounts, we cannot but lament that within this Liberty, there should be such a nursery of vice and debauchery, which, as such, we cannot but look upon as a very great misfortune to our selves, our children, and servants, whose habitations are so near the said Fair. We therefore think our selves happy, if, as the Honourable City of London (by the commendable zeal and worthy to be imitated Care of its Magistrates) is freed from the inconveniences of Bartholomew-Fair, the City of Westminster likewise (so nearly allied to it) could, by the zealous care of its Magistrates, be deliver’d from the mischievous Consequences attending May-Fair. Which Address was favourably receive’d by the Bench of Justices, &c. [Post Boy]

30 April—3 May 1709   On Friday last, a Proclamation was publish’d, strictly enjoying the proprietors and owners of May-Fair, that they do not permit or suffer any booths to be erected, or stalls to be made use of, during such time as the said Fair shall be holden, for any plays, shews, gaming, musick-meetings, or other disorderly assemblies. [Post Boy]

(Texts have been modernized with regard to capitalization, italicization, and punctuation, but original spelling has been retained. This edition copyright Rictor Norton. All rights reserved. Reproduction for sale or profit prohibited. These extracts may not be archived, republished or redistributed without the permission of the compiler.)

CITATION: Rictor Norton, Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports: A Sourcebook, "May Fair Riots", 21 December 2001 <http://grubstreet.rictornorton.co.uk/mayfair.htm>

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