Ottolangui UK

Our Ottolangui Criminal Record II

Part Two
Israel Ottolangui and the King

This chapter is taken from the Law Report of the King’s Bench dated 10th February 1823.
The King’s Bench was one of the most ancient legal institutions in Britain originally being known as “The Court of the King Himself” and in the early 19th century was still a very busy court dealing with offences in the name of the monarch, thus this case was known as
“The King versus Israel Langley “

This is the item as published in the Times newspaper on 11th February 1823 followed by a transcript of the same report:

The King V. Israel Langley

“The Solicitor-General prayed for the judgment of the Court against this defendant, who suffered judgment by default, to an indictment, charging him with assaulting an excise-officer

It appeared from the affidavits on the part of the prosecution, that an excise-officer had a warrant to arrest the defendant, in September last, for a fine of 10 pounds, which he attempted to execute at the house of the defendant, in Catherine-Street, Tower-Hill, but he affected his escape. On the 16th of the same month, a successful attempt was made to take him, when he stoutly resisted, and violently assaulted the officer, but he was overpowered, and secured in White-Cross-Street Prison.

On the part of the defendant an affidavit was read, stating that he was a foreigner, a native of Italy, and ignorant of the Laws, of this realm, that he had suffered several week’s imprisonment, and had a wife and 9 children dependent on him for support, and that he felt deep contrition for the offence of which he was guilty.

In reply to the inquiries of the Court, the Solicitor-General said the defendant had since paid the fine, and had been in custody since December 13th (1822).

Mr. Justice Bayley pronounced the sentence of the Court to be, that the defendant should be imprisoned for 3 months in the House Of Correction in Coldbath-Fields, and find security for his good behaviour, himself in 40 pounds, and two sureties in 20 pounds each, for 3 years.”

This sentence of imprisonment after the 3 months that Israel already been held in custody prior to his trial, must have come as an intense blow to Amelia Ottolangui with her 9 children to support, not to mention having to find guarantees in the amount of 80 pounds (in excess of US$10,000 in today’s money) from the family’s meagre income, however life must have been even harder for Israel in Coldbath Fields, he was around 47 years old at that time. Coldbath Fields Prison, formerly known as the Middlesex House of Correction, Clerkenwell Gaol and was informally known as the “Steel”, was situated in the Mount Pleasant area of Clerkenwell in the north of London. Founded during the reign of King James I (1603–1625) the prison was completely rebuilt in 1794. It was used to house prisoners on short sentences of up to two years. There were separate blocks for felons, misdemeanants and vagrants. The prison housed men, women and children. The prison became notorious for its strict regime of silence and its use of the treadmill.

Watercolour by Ackermann c. 1815
Contemporary plan of the prison

Scenes from Prison Life

The treadmill was a common form of punishment whereby prisoners were forced to walk for hours. In some prisons it was used to pump water or drive machines which would generate income for the prison. It had the side benefit of keeping the prisoners physically fit, although that was probably not the intention.

Picking oakum was another common form of punishment or penal servitude (hard labour) as it was known.
The prisoners were given lengths of old rope to unravel into single strands or yarns, sometimes used to make mats
The prisoners were housed in large common dormitories, in the one depicted here there appear to be upward of 50  prisoners. At Coldbath, there was also a bakery making bread for the 2,000 or so inmates.
The “Broad Arrow” was the symbol used to mark government property.
Prisoners clothing was thus marked and frequently convicts were branded
by having this mark burned into their skin,
usually on their right cheek.

By bryanell2020

Occasional genealogist and full-time Ottolangui family historian. 8th generation descendant of the 17th century Ottolenghi family of Livorno, born in London, graduated in Birmingham, lived around the United Kingdom, Israel, and in Rome, Italy. For a short while in Buenos Aires, and currently residing in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic where I have been since 2005.

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