Francis Coath



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Confession of Francis Coath
Taken in Bodmin Gaol

April 5th 1786

That about two years & a half since, Elford Eveleigh Jnr & Robert Rillis bought a goose to his house which they roasted there. He suspected that the goose to be stolen but cannot positively say so.
The said Eveleigh jnr and his own children frequently stole poultry, five or six a night which was sometimes carried to Mr Thomas at Porthlevan where they were roasted and eaten by the children of the said Mr Thomas and Mr Eveleigh Jnr, with (he firmly believes) the knowledge of their parents.
This he has from reports of his own children, this Elford Eveleigh Jun? ~ That there was an uninhabited house belonging to Mr Eveleigh where Eveleigh Jnr and Thomas Jnr and one Pugh held nightly meetings, where they feasted on plunder, got drunk, and were frequently unreadable ; but this, he conceives, without the privity of Mr or Mrs Eveleigh or Mr & Mrs Thomas. He remembers that Mr Eveleigh went to the house with a horsewhip in order to chastise whoever he might find there; and that Mrs Eveleigh often bitterly bewailed the course of life, in which her son seem’d to be engaged.
That the plunder alluded to above, consisted of game or fighting cocks; which were taken chiefly for the purpose of fighting; ~ That Robert Coath, his son, told him he had a shilling (which he saw in his hand) given him by Mr Eveleigh Jnr and that he (Mr Eveleigh Jnr) owed him much more, for that he had carried ducks to him to the number of 40 which he (Francis Coath) knows were stolen, some of them, he suspects, from Buckthorpe.

That Eveleigh Jnr told him he was to blame for starving when there was such plenty around him. That about two years half since also, he got thro’ the window of his brothers wool warehouse by night & at two different times stole wool to the value of 20 shillings each time, his wife at one of the times being in company with him. But that at dinner times he frequently watched the absence of his brothers people & at 5 or 6 different times stole wool out of the warehouse to the amount of 20 shillings each time ~ That his sons Robert & William (or Francis) about the 4th Oct 1783 by night, got thro’ the aforesaid basement in the warehouse without his knowledge or privity & stole wool to a considerable value: Which wool was carried by Mr Eveleighs horses (unknown, he is sure, by Mrs Eveleigh) & sold at Leering to Mr Philp & that William, his son said that he was cheated in the weight by a half hundred being substituted for a quarter of a hundred weight; by which means the buyer had two pounds for one ~ That on the 13th October in the same year (about 3 0’ Clock in the morning) he came with his son Robert to the wool warehouse aforesaid & tried a false key but hearing some noise within, went off. – He went to the door at this time because he found the window better secured than usual.
That on a further attempt (his wife being with him) they were both terrified by something which they thought very uncommon & desisted from their design.

That two of his sons, E Eveleigh Jnr & Cullis nearly about the same time bought a sheep to his house, the property (as they said) of Mr Rean, which sheep was slaughtered there and it was wholly dressed and eaten at different times in his house. – but that he, in his conscience believes, that the elder Eveleigh was not privy to this or any other act of sheep stealing.

That as for the fact for which he is condemned to die, he knows not from who the sheep was stolen at the time he was taken into custody, but that he however partook of the meat knowing it to be stolen by his children and afterwards that the said sheep was the property of Mr Searle ~ That about a year since his wife and son Robert stole a very considerable amount of barley to the amount of 5 or 6 bushels from her brother and sold it at Looe ~ That on some night in September last he, in company with two of his sons, stole a ewe sheep from his brother which was eaten by his family, that several other sheep were stolen by his children & eaten in his house to the number of 7 or 8 ~ That poverty & hunger in the bitterest extreme impelled himself and his children to this course of life. That the 7 or 8 sheep mentioned above were stolen from Mr Rean, his wife’s brother.

That he has had no connection in sheepstealing (he declares on his hopes of salvation) with any other person or persons than his own children, except the instance of the sheep bought to his house by Cullis and others as above mentioned, he considers as such that he knows of no sheepstealing or combination of sheepstealing in his neighbourhood or elsewhere, & he declares as a dying man that (tho’ suspected) he is perfectly innocent of stealing sheep from Edward Buller Esq.

That his sons one night bought a lamb (which they had stolen, to his house) the property of Mr Chark, he rose and took it in, but turned it loose again, informed the owner that he had seen such a lamb, and by this means Mr Chark regained his property.

And that tho’ a report prevailed that Mr Eveleigh Jnr had been concerned with him in acts of felony and petty larceny – he utterly denies the truth of such reports and declares the said Mr Eveleigh utterly innocent.

Francis Coath
Witness Geo Coryton (Chaplain)
James Chapple - Keeper

I have received the enclosed petition from the gentlemen in my neighbourhood in Cornwall on behalf of Coath who is now under sentence of death and is to be executed on the 27th instant, if not again respited or reprieved before that time. The gentlemen have requested me to get the petition lain before the king but I wish to submit it first to your consideration. How for the circumstances stated of his having made a full confession (which I have also enclosed) & the general wishes of his neighbourhood to prevent his execution may render him deserving of his majesty’s mercy to commute the sentence of death into perpetual banishment.

The petition I perceive is signed by all of the three remaining acting justices in that division, viz Sir Harry Trelawney, Mr Forster and Mr Coles & by almost all the gentlemen in the neighbourhood.

The principal reason, that I understand has induced them to be so anxious to have his life preserved is from their being fully convinced that by his being crippled in one arm & having a family of nine children to maintain, he was incapable of procuring a sufficient quantity of food to enable them to exist and, that his family had been frequently driven to the greatest distress & misery & have been impelled by extreme hunger to have recourse to the several thefts they have committed. The gentlemen who have interested themselves in his behalf also state to me, as an extenuation of his guilt in his thefts from Rean, that he was brother to Coath’s wife, to whom the father had left by will, one half of his effects, but that just before his death, when he was almost deprived of his understanding, Rean the brother, prevailed on his father to revoke his former will & make another in which he gave everything to him and left nothing to Coath’s wife or any of his family, after that Coath might not deem it a very heinous crime to plunder a man who has so grossly defrauded him.

I beg leave to submit the whole of the case to your lordships consideration & to request the favour that you will transmit the petition to Lord Sydney with your sentiments on the subject.

I have the honor to be
With the highest respect
Your faithful & obedient servant

John Buller



~To the Kings Most Excellent Majesty~

The humble petition of your Majesty’s subjects whose names are hereunto subscribed on behalf of Francis Coath, a convict now under sentence of death in Bodmin Gaol, condemned for sheep stealing at the last assizes holden at Launceston within and for the county of Cornwall.

That the said Francis Coath does positively deny that he was immediately concerned in committing the offence for which he is now under condemnation; alleging that the sheep with the stealing of which he had been charged and convicted, was bought to his house by other persons, but admitting that he was afterwards acquainted that the same was stolen, tho’ at the time he knew not from whom. That the said Francis Coath doth with great grief and compunction acknowledge that he hath been guilty of several offences and misdemeanours in company with the offenders of his neighbourhood, whose names and characters he hath disclosed in a written confession signed by him in the presence of two witnesses. That it appeareth from the report of the Chaplain of the said gaol, who attended him on the occasion, that the convict was not made acquainted that any respite of his execution had been granted previous to his making the confession above mentioned, but that the same was made as the confession of a dying man resting on the hopes of salvation on the truth of it and in the spirit of unfeigned penitence of his life.

  • That in consideration of his premises ~particularly his declaration of innocence, so far as not having been immediately concerned in perpetrating the theft for which he stands condemned, as well as the tendency his said discovery of other offenders may have towards those preserving the safety and security of the neighbourhood either by deterring the persons so discovered being guilty of the like offences in future, or exciting the vigilance of those whom it may concern in detecting and bringing them to condign punishment – Your majesty’s most humble petitioners beg leave to recommend the said unhappy convict Francis Coath to your majesty’s mercy and to beseech that your majesty will be graciously pleased to order that the sentence of death, under which he now stands condemned may be altered to that of transportation for life or any term of years that your majesty in your wisdom may most graciously think fit to command.
    ~ And your Petitioners will ever pray ~
    Harry Trelawny Benj. Foster John Soady
    Richard Tory Thomas Donni Thorne Charles Bawden
    John Price John Whitter
    Geo. Dyers Thos. Ball
    Paul Harris Nicholas Richard Fichell
    Wilm. H Nicholas Rich. Maynard
    William White
    Robt. Grigg
    Sam Hext Rich. Foster
    Spermory Rich Foster Junior Clement Jackson
    W. Ledger John MacGilorny Nicholas Clifford
    Edmund Freeman Thos. Hobling John Grigg
    M. Fortesque Ralph Powne
    Henry Langmaid
    John Tregaskis
In loving memory of
The wife of Walter Coath
Who died 10th May 1884 aged 64 years
Also of her son
John Williams Coath
Murdered by savages in the Island of
Espirito Santo
On the 2nd April 1874 aged 35 years
Also of Walter Coath
Husband of the above
Who died 18th October 1896 aged 82 years
Also of
Daughter of the above
Born 27th February 1843, died 2nd July 1923
Also of
Daughter of the above
Born 13th September 1851, died 14th December 1935