British Executions

Mary Adams

Age: unknown

Sex: female

Crime: robbery

Date Of Execution: 16 Jun 1702

Crime Location:

Execution Place: unknown

Method: hanging

Executioner: unknown



Executed for privately stealing, 16th June, 1702

THIS unhappy woman was born at Reading, in Berkshire, and, when she was old enough to go to service, went to live with a grocer in that town. Mary being a girl of vivacity and genteel figure, she unfortunately attracted the regard of the grocer's son, and the consequence of their connexion became very conspicuous in a short time.

As soon as it was evident that she was pregnant, she was dismissed from her master's service, on which she immediately made oath that his son was the father of the child thereafter to be born -- a circumstance that compelled the old gentleman to support her till she was brought to bed.

She had not been delivered long before she went to London, and entered into the service of a mercer in Cheapside, where, by prudent conduct, she might have retrieved the character she had forfeited in the country; but, though she had already suffered by her indiscretion, an intimacy soon subsisted between her master and herself; but, as their interviews could not conveniently be held at home, they contrived to meet on evenings at other places, when the mistress of the house was gone to the theatre, or out on a visit.

This connexion continued till the girl was far advanced in her pregnancy, when the master, apprehensive of disagreeable consequences at home, advised the girl to quarrel with her mistress, in order that she might be dismissed, and then took a lodging for her at Hackney, where she remained till she was delivered; and in the meantime the connexion between her and her master continued as before. Being brought to bed of a child that died in a few hours after its birth, the master thought himself happy, supposing he could easily free himself from the incumbrance of the mother, of whom he now became heartily tired.

When the girl recovered from her lying-in, he told her that she must go to service, as it did not suit him to maintain her any longer; but this enraged her to the highest degree, and she threatened to discover the nature of their connexion to his wife, unless he would make her a present of twenty guineas; and with this demand he thought it prudent to comply, happy to get rid of her even on such terms.

Being now in possession of money, and in no want of clothes in which to make a genteel appearance, she removed from Hackney to Wych Street, without Temple Bar, but was scarcely settled in her new lodgings before she sent a letter to the mercer's wife, whom she acquainted with the nature of the connexion that had subsisted between her late master and herself; but she did not mention her place of abode in this letter.

The consequence was, that the mercer was obliged to acknowledge the crime of which he had been guilty, and solicit his wife's pardon in terms of the utmost humiliation. This pardon was promised, but whether it was ever ratified remains a doubt.

Mrs. Adams had the advantage of an engaging figure, and, passing as a young woman in her new lodgings, she was soon married to a young fellow in the neighbourhood; but it was not long before he discovered the imposition that had been practised on him, on which he embarked on board a ship in the royal navy.

By this time Mrs. Adams's money was almost expended; but, as her clothes were yet good, an attorney of Clement's Inn took her into keeping; and, after she had lived a short time with him, she went to another of the same profession, with whom she cohabited above two years; but on his marriage she was once more abandoned to the world.

Fertile of invention, and too proud to condescend to accept of a common service, she became connected with a notorious bawd of Drury Lane, who was very glad of her assistance, and promised herself considerable advantage from the association. In this situation Mrs. Adams displayed her charms to considerable advantage, and was as happy as any common prostitute can expect to be: but alas! what is this happiness but a prelude to the extremity of misery and distress? Such indeed it was found by Mrs. Adams, who having been gratified by a gentleman with a considerable sum of money, the bawd quarrelled with her respecting the dividing of it, and, a battle ensuing, our heroine was turned out of the house, after she had got a black eye in the contest.

After this she used to parade the Park in the day-time, and walk the streets in the evening, in search of casual lovers; at length she joined the practice of theft to that of incontinence, and few of her chance acquaintance escaped being robbed. She was often taken into custody for these practices, but continually escaped through defect of evidence.

But an end was soon put to her depredations; for, having enticed a gentleman to a bagnio near Covent Garden, she picked his pocket of all his money, and a bank note of a large amount, and left him while he was asleep. When he awoke, he sent immediate notice to the Bank to stop payment; and, as Mrs. Adams came soon after to receive the money for the note, she was taken into custody, and lodged in prison; and, being in a short time tried at the Old Bailey, she was convicted, received sentence of death, and was executed at Tyburn, on the 16th of June, 1702.

After her conviction she lived in the same gay and dissipated manner that she had done before, and was visited by many of her former acquaintance, who supplied her with money to support her extravagance. Agreeable to her own request, too, their mistaken bounty contributed to purchase her a suit of mourning, in which she was executed; and they buried her in as handsome a manner as if her life had been conducted by the rules of virtue, and she had likewise been a woman of fortune.