The Crimes of Alexander Faux


At about the age of twelve Alexander Faux began working as a pastry cook and confectioner. He was probably apprenticed to his father. The work included the making of cakes and meat pies. Confectionery during this period consisted of delicacies made of fruits preserved with sugar, but could also include the preparing of dried fruits, candy, ice cream and cordials. Costermongers who were poor itinerant sellers of fruit lived mainly in Smithfield and were constantly harassed by the police.
On Tuesday night 30th December 1828 Alexander and his brother Theodore and another boy came to the bakery of Margaret Black at 23 Cow Cross St West Smithfield to have some potatoes baked in the bread oven. It was about 7pm and mid winter. While the boys were waiting near the fire for the potatoes to bake a Mr Robert Downes, a silversmith of Red Lion Street Clerkenwell came in and dropped a bundle of clothes to be washed. When the potatoes were ready the boys made off with the bundle of clothes and a fur cap belonging to the baker Edward Hill. Alexander and Theodore took the clothes home and divided them between themselves. It consisted of the following;

Two shirts value 9 /-
One waistcoat value 3/-
Two pairs of stockings value 2/-
Three handkerchiefs value 3/-
Three collars value 2/-
One nightcap value 1/-

Total value of clothing One pound

Also included was the fur cap of Edward Hill valued at 2 shillings.

About 10pm the other boy returned to the bakery to get the potatoes re-heated. Soon afterwards Downes, the silversmith returned and missed his bundle of clothes which he had left on the counter. Hill also noticed his cap was missing.

The next morning Mary Mc Mellon who lived at the bakery recalled that the boys had been on the premises and reported them to Richard Miller of No 2 Cow Cross St, the local constable. Miller and James Terry went to the house where the boys lived and found them still in bed. Most of the clothing was found in Alexander's box and the rest was in Theodore's. The boys claimed that the clothing belonged to them and Theodore said he cold take them to the person who had made them. He also said that he had purchased the cap in Tottenham Court Road.

Alexander aged 13 and Theodore aged 14 were found guilty at the Old Bailey on 15th January 1829 and were sentenced to one month's gaol and a whipping.

It is most likely that Alexander and Theodore lived away from home. Was there a home after the death of their father? They probably resided in or near Cow Cross Street Smithfield one of the poorest parts of London. Cow Cross Street was so named because the cattle destined for market at Smithfield were driven down this street. The boys were known to Miller the constable but not to Robert Downes who lived two streets away. Their residential proximity to the bakery can also be measured in terms of the time it takes a baked potato to go cold in London on a mid winters night.

After their release from prison on or about 15th February Alexander and Theodore stayed out of trouble, or at least Theodore did. On 6th March 1830 Alexander was walking past the shop of Frederick Hilder, a butcher. It was about 11.30pm and Hilder was putting the meat away. Alexander dropped a handkerchief over a piece of meat weighing 4lb, and valued at 1/8d and took it. He was apprehended by the butcher and taken into custody by a magistrate. Alexander obviously needed the meat to make meat pies. He was tried at the Old Bailey on the 15th April and Richard Miller came forward identifying him as the same person who had stolen clothing fifteen months before. Alexander was transported for life.

He found himself back in Newgate prison. The prison was a building about fifty years old. The mens' quadrangle was divided into three. Alexander was in the middle one for poor felons who could not afford the 3/6d per week to rent a bed. He slept on the stone floor which can only have been bitterly cold. He was then taken in a guarded cart eastwards to Chatham 25 miles downstream on the Thames. He was then removed to the convict hulk Euryalus, named after the sister of Medusa the Gorgon. He lived on the rat infested hulk for about four months and worked on shore by day.


On 27th August 1830 he embarked with 29 others on the convict transport the York (shown top left). This ship had been built at Southwick in 1819, was classed E1 and weighed 429 tons. She was fitted out at Deptford Dockyard as a transport in 1830. The master of the ship was Daniel Leary, the Surgeon Campbell France and there were 200 convicts on board.

According to another source Alexander embarked on the York on 3rd September 1830 together with William Wallis, Henry Wright Smith, Henry Tyler and Philip Riley with whom he had been delivered from London Gaol.

Alexander's indent describes him thus;

Standing number of convict 31.91
Indent number 92
FOX Alexander
aged 18 can read but not write
Protestant single native of London
Pastrycook and confectioner two years
Offence stealing meat
Convicted Middlesex Gaol Delivery 15th April 1830
Sentence Life
Former conviction 1 month
Description Height 5'0 ½" ruddy complexion
Light brown hair, brown eyes, scar on outer corner of right
and over left eye, scar under left jaw.

Source - Ian James Thomas