Who was Jonathan Wild

A brief History of who my protagonist actually was.

Born in Wolverhampton in 1683, he was apprenticed to a Bucklemaker, and there is no reason to think he didn’t serve his apprenticeship well.

We do know sometime around the end of his apprenticeship, he got married and fathered a son, continuing to support that son all the while he was able.

No, a some point he joined his master on a visit to London, and this was where he thought he would relocate, his idea being to make his products closer to his marketplace, thus stealing a march on his competition.

Unsurprisingly, this venture failed and he soon found himself in Wood Street Compter for debt. (In 1708) This really was where his eye for self advancement took off. He took up with a Mary Molineaux (or Milliner as some sources state), who was inside for either thieving, or prostitution, or, more likely, both. Wild soon built up to trusted status, escorting prisoners to court being one of his duties, being paid he was able to pay his jail time and pay his debts. Also this allowed him to build up contacts within the side of law and order, going with Mary’s contacts in the criminal underworld .

So, 1712 or thereabouts, Mary and Jonathan leave the comptor, paid up and ready to face the world again. Stories have that they either tried their hand at brothelkeeping, or worked as “Buttock and file” ie Jonathan shaking down Mary’s clients . Either way, they paid off Charles Hitchen – the Undermarshall of London (of whom more in a later post) for protection from prosecution. But, with their contacts, a new arrangement between the three of them was always on the cards, and it wasn’t long before Wild became a “Thief-taker” under Hitchen’s watchful eye.

So… What was a thief taker? Well, although it has connotations of a lawman, the truth was less defined. Yes, wild was tasked with bringing criminals to justice, also with returning stolen property. Now, the idea behind stealing property was to make money off the back of it, as such many “pawnbrokers” and other merchants ran a nice sideline in fencing stolen goods. Laws were passed against this During William III’s time, but only really acted on a decade later . What this was for a decade, these merchants bought stolen goods and sold them on, rarely getting caught.

So, 1712, a a few were caught out and imprisoned or hung, and these outlets became unusable to London’s underworld. This saw the rise of men who could organise and take possession of stolen goods for profit without fear of capture, Holland was an ideal destination, high value items could be changed for cloths and other times, legally brought in and customs paid. Wild and Hitchen’s route was different (although the former did make use of Holland later in his career) . Taking care for his thieves to note where they stole the goods from, Wild was able to claim a reward by “finding ” the stolen merchandise. As such he was able to build a coterie from Mary’s contacts, keep them as far as possible away from prosecution – or bribing juries to convict of lesser offences -as long as they did things his way – loyalty was everything.

Thus the actions at the start of the The Puritan’s Son fit into his history.

As for the murders – he brought one to book in 1715 , on that basis, I have used the idea to dramatic effect .

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