Monday, 12 March 2007


One early criminal who received notoreity was Mary Frith, dubbed Moll Cutpurse for her expertise as a pickpocket. A lusty but plain woman who dressed like a man, she was often drunk and chain smoked. Born in the Barbican, London, in 1584, her parents died when she was a child and her family tried to get rid of her, once tricking her onto a merchant ship as crew. Escaping, she joined a gang of pickpockets, doing the rounds of fairs, before joining highwayman, Captain Hind.
Caught, she went to Newgate Prison but bribed a guard. Released, she bought a house in Fleet Street, setting up as a fence, even advertising stolen goods in her window. Later, the house turned into a brothel and before her death in 1658, she could often be seen walking London, dressed as a man, a huge cigar in mouth, her Mastiff close by.

(c) Anthony North, Feb 2007

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