Gillard, Emily, c.1834-1905

Imprisoned Coiner who Desisted from Crime

Upon marrying her husband William, Emily’s criminal activities seem to have begun, largely revolving around coining offences. Following two separate prison sentences, including four years of penal servitude, Emily was eventually reunited with her husband after six years apart. Upon their reunification, Emily seems to have reformed her behaviour and desisted from crime once and for all.

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Early Life

Evidence suggests that Emily was born in Hertfordshire in either 1832 or 1834. Some time whilst she was still a child she moved to London, and census data suggests that in 1851, when Emily was 18, she was unmarried and living with her cousin, Susan Pendergast, performing household work. Her later trial documents also record the name of Emily Adams, and given that her husband’s surname was Gillard, it is likely that Emily’s maiden name was Adams.

Crimes and Trials

During her first Old Bailey trial, in June 1859, she was charged with coining offences along with her husband and her father-in-law. Her father-in-law, who was an elderly man and apparently an inmate at a workhouse, was found not guilty. However, after the police had found multiple counterfeit coins both on their person and in their home, Emily and her husband William were found guilty of coining offences, and Emily was sentenced to one year of imprisonment, while her husband was sentenced to two years. Notably, during the trial it was revealed that when attempting to arrest Emily, she gave a “blow in the face” to policeman Arthur Elliot.

Emily was tried again in July 1860, almost immediately after her initial sentence had finished, alongside Elizabeth Teeling, again charged with coining offences. Although her co-defendant was found not guilty, on account of her previous conviction for the same offence, Emily pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to four years of penal servitude.

Punishment and Outcomes

Emily’s initial appearance at the Old Bailey in 1859 does not seem to have succeeded in deterring her from criminal activity, given that she reoffended almost immediately after her release from prison. Her previous record counted against her in her second trial, however, and as a result the punishment for her second crime was much more severe. Upon her release from prison in 1864, however, there are no further records of Old Bailey trials or crimes committed by Emily, suggesting that she did in fact reform her behaviour following her second, four year sentence of penal servitude.

Personal Details and Life Events

It is unknown exactly when Emily married her husband William, other than that it was sometime before their 1859 trial. It is possible that her marriage actually encouraged her criminal behaviour, for two potential reasons. Firstly, a William Gillard, born in 1831, was tried at the Old Bailey in 1848 for theft, although he was found not guilty. Although the connection is not certain, it is very likely that this was Emily’s husband, in which case he was known to the authorities prior to Emily’s conviction, and so in turn he may have had a criminal influence upon his wife. In addition, when they were convicted for the same crime in 1859, Emily received a one year sentence, whereas her husband received a two year sentence. As such, when she was released from prison in 1860, her husband still had a year of his sentence left to serve, and with no other known family in London, it may have been all too easy for her to resume her criminal behaviour without any support networks and with the absence of her husband.

Indeed, this also seems to have happened to her husband upon his release in 1861, at which point his wife still had three years of her penal servitude sentence left to serve. It appears that he was tried at the Old Bailey shortly after his release in July 1861, and was sentenced, like his wife, to four years of penal servitude. As such, between 1859 and 1865 Emily had been continuously separated from her husband. Interestingly, despite her previous reoffending, and the fact that when she was released from prison for a second time in 1864 her husband was still in prison, she appears to have, perhaps due to the four year penal servitude sentence she had just served, been able to escape the cycle of criminality and desist from her criminal activities. After his 1861 conviction, there are also no other recorded trials for Emily’s husband, and so it seems that they were both able to cease their criminal activities after each of them had served two prison sentences – perhaps because they had finally been reunited after many years apart. It does not seem that Emily and William ever had any children together.

From her prison license we learn that in 1863 Emily’s health was described as "good", and her literacy was described as "well". She was also described as "stoutish", had a fresh complexion, dark brown hair, hazel eyes and was 4’ 11” tall. Her prison license also states that she had a scar on her left cheek, a wart between her fingers on her right hand, and a broken nose. We know that prior to her 1859 trial she had injured a policeman’s face during her arrest, and so it is possible that her broken nose was caused by her violently resisting arrest, either in 1859 or in 1860. Her prison license also notes that during her previous 1 year sentence, her conduct was considered "good".

Later Years

The 1871 census records her as living with her husband William and her two nieces Elizabeth and Jane Hall in Lambeth. No children are mentioned as living in the house, and this together with the absence of any birth records indicates that Emily remained childless. However, her husband died and her nieces moved out of her home some time prior to the 1881 census, which records her as a widow living alone in Lambeth, working as a "licensed hawker". The 1891 census reveals a similar picture, by which time Emily was 60 years old, and she was then working as a brush hawker. In 1901, Emily, still in Lambeth at the age of 69, worked as a sempstress. Finally, in 1905 at the age of 74, Emily died in the Wandsworth area. It appears, therefore, that Emily never again returned to her life of crime, even after the death of her husband.

Wider Context

In some respects, Emily’s experiences can be viewed as being fairly typical of the nineteenth-century criminal justice system. For example, women in their early-to-mid-twenties like Emily was at her first Old Bailey trial were much more likely to fall into crime than older women, and this may be partly explained by the tendency of women in their late twenties and early thirties to get married and have children. Although Emily ultimately did not have any children, and her marriage to her husband could have actually pushed her into crime rather than prevented her criminal behaviour, her desistance from crime at the age of around 30 still fits this general pattern of older women being much less likely to commit crimes than younger women. In addition, the fact that she initially received a lighter sentence than her husband when they were both found guilty of the same crime can be seen within the general tendency during this period to punish male crime more severely than female crime, although her husband's longer sentence may also have been due to the fact that he had appeared at the Old Bailey before, although he was found not guilty.

Further Reading


Coining, Imprisonment, Penal Servitude, Recidivism, Prison Licence, Female

Author Credits

This page was written by Alex Traves with additional contributions by other members of the Digital Panopticon project team.