Saturday, 7 January 2017

Trial of Uriah Moses (part 2)

 On the surface the record of the trial of Uriah Moses and Ann Benjamin is just an account of the many trials heard at the Old Baily at the end of the eighteenth century. However when you carefully read the trial notes and investigate, where possible, some of the people mentioned in the trial it is possible to gain a better understanding of Uriah and his life so far.

We knew that Uriah Moses was Jewish and a closer look at the Old Bailey Online trial notes indicate that the area around Whitechapel, where Uriah appears to be living, had a large Jewish population at the end of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Reading the trail notes shows a number of contradictions, however there may be some clues providing information about Uriah and his family.

Kitty Jacobs
In a previous post I wrote about the possible connection between Uriah and Kitty Jacobs, one of Uriah's character witnesses. A major reason for the assumption that this Kitty Moses might be Uriah's sister is that her husband, Henry Jacobs, had a glass shop and she stated that Uriah had worked with her husband for three years. Uriah would have been about twelve when he started working for Henry Jacobs. Kitty stated that Uriah worked worked with Henry for three years. Uriah's ability to cut glass windows was probably the reason he was involved in the robbery. Unfortunately for Uriah his skills let him down on this occasion.

There are many references online, including forums, to the Jacob family and the glass business. British Genealogy and Family History Forums has a section Jacob's family, china and glass merchants.

Kitty married Henry Jacobs in June 1793 at the Great Synagogue. The marriage record (GSM 011/7) in Synagogue Scribes shows Kitty's Hebrew name as Keila and that her father's Hebrew name was Moshe Cohen.  Moshe is another form of Moses.

Family Search wiki provides information on Hebrew names in England at this time. The Ashkenazim Jews initially used a patriarchal system of names where a child was the son or daughter of the first name of the father. In this case Moses.

The actual transcription for the marriage of Kitty and Henry Jacobs reads:
Source: S2996 Title: Marriage: Henry Jacobs & Kitty Moses, London 1793 Type: Marriage Record Publication: Transcript in Marriage Records of the Great Synagogue, London 1791-1885, Lewin, H and M, (privately published, 2004)
Husband: Jacobs, Henry. Hebrew Name: Hirsch b. David Litsim (or Letson)
Father's Hebrew Name: David Litsim (or Letson)
Wife: Moses, Kitty. Hebrew Name: Kelia b. Moshe Cohen (daughter of Moshe Cohen)
Father's Hebrew Name: Moshe Cohen
Date of Marriage: 19th June 1793 NB: Other transcripts give the date as 5th June 1793.
Ref 94666/77/G115 Repository: #R75 Data Changed: Date: 21 JUN 2011 Time: 11:12:05

At the turn of the eighteenth century the Jews in England were forced to accept a more uniform naming pattern. Consequently tribal names were often used. Cohen was a form of Kohanin, a priestly tribe. Another common Jewish name, Levi, was chosen for similar reasons.

Suffice to say researching Jewish names at the end of the eighteenth century for family history research is next to impossible.

Uriah's parents
During the trial the constable who had arrested Uriah reported that on asking Uriah how he had cut his hand he answered that he had been at his father's in Petticoat Lane and had cut his hand when he tripped, carrying a teapot, on London Bridge. Needless to say this information was not accepted as the truth by the judge but the mention of his father in Petticoat Lane may be true.

There is also mention of Uriah's mother during the trial. A character witness, Elizabeth Hicks said that she did not know Uriah but she knew his mother as ' a very honest hard working woman'.

This suggests that Uriah's parents were living in London by the time of his arrest and that they probably lived in Petticoat Lane. Petticoat Lane has been Middlesex Street since 1830. Prior to the early 1600s it was called Hogs Lane. This blog post in Londonist provides some information on the history of the street.
1720 map showing Petticoat Lane at the top
Middlesex Street (on left) and Whitechapel High Street (Google Maps)
Earlier today I located the Hambro Synagogue Register in the Susser Archive.

The Hambro Synagogue was an independent synagogue founded as an offshoot of  the Great Synagogue in the early 1700s. The Synagogue building, opened in 1725 in Magpie Alley, was demolished in 1892-3 and then rebuilt in another location in Whitechapel in 1899. It closed in 1936 when it merged once more with the Great Synagogue.

The register includes the following entry:
274 The widow of Moses COHEN THIRD FEMALE STRANGER buried on Wednesday 19 Iyar '570 [= 23 May 1810] Petticoat Lane

Could this be Uriah's mother? The name of her husband and the street where they probably had lived are the same. If so, Uriah's father died prior to May 1810.

The 'third female stranger' refers to the class of the person in the record. At this time Anglo-Jewish cemeteries ordered their seating and congregations into classes. Third class referred to strangers or guests and were usually poorer people who would sit at the back of the synagogue and have no regular seat. Jewish burials were also arranged in classes. The woman in this record was therefore buried in the poorer section of the cemetery.

Ann Benjamin
Another mystery in the trial notes is Ann Benjamin who was accused of being the receiver of the stolen goods.

Ann lived with her husband in a house where they let out rooms. The trial notes suggest that the boarders were women though Uriah appears to have known his way around the house. There is no suggestion in the trial notes that he actually lived there. Hannah Smith. Mrs Benjamin's servant, saw Uriah enter the house and race upstairs. She later said that Uriah wanted to speak to Mr and Mrs Benjamin who were not home at the time. Mrs Benjamin then arrived back home.

It is probable that Ann Benjamin was the organiser of the robberies. Once again, from the trial notes, it is suggested that Uriah was not the only boy involved in the robbery. Three boys are mentioned but Uriah appears to have been the only one to go to the Benjamin house.

Ann, when questioned, knew where the stolen items were hidden though initially she said she was unable to accompany the peace officer upstairs as she was observing the sabbath. Ann also admitted to wrapping Uriah's cut hand in a shawl and sending him to the hospital. At the trial Ann Benjamin was found guilty of stealing goods but she was not guilty of breaking and entering. She was sentenced to fourteen years transportation to New South Wales but stayed in England.

During the trial Uriah's defence was 'I know nothing at all of it'. Although his three character witnesses were all positive it is not a surprise that he was found guilty of stealing the goods and breaking and entering the premises of Mr Holmes. As a large number of items were stolen the sentence was the death penalty.

Fortunately, possibly because of his young age, this was commuted to transportation to New South Wales for the rest of his life.

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