Burglary, French servants and Mrs Elliott’s aunt – a 1778 crime gone terribly wrong

Janet Edmondes was one of the constant presences in the life of the courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott.  She was Grace’s maternal aunt and by the late 1770s was on to her third husband, Colonel Thomas Edmondes.  Janet is mentioned frequently in our book An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott but the following is a little extra information, especially for the readers of our blog and containing some information not found in our book.

36 Old Queen Street via British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol10/pt1/plate-75
36 Old Queen Street via British History Online

The Edmondes’ London townhouse, no. 36 Old Queen Street, was the target of a burglary on the 14th March 1778. Janet had owned the house before her marriage to Colonel Edmondes, when she was the widowed Mrs Kelly, and she had taken over the house from the disgraced Reverend William Dodd, the Macaroni Preacher of whom we have written before (click here to read about him). Dodd had ended his days by swinging on the gallows at Tyburn, convicted of forgery.

© The Trustees of the British Museum
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Francis Lewis Crimison, alias Grimison had been hired by Colonel Edmondes in January of that year as a butler and master’s man. The Colonel had discharged the man employed as a footman soon after and had then left London (his brother died this month and it is likely that this is the reason for the Colonel’s departure) and so the only occupants of the house on the night of 14th March were Janet, three maids, including Mary Giles the cook, and Francis Lewis Crimison. Crimison had gained permission to go out and see his wife and he returned around 10 o’clock in the evening with Janet, after which the cook fastened the house up for the night and retired to bed. All was silent until the early hours of the morning when the night watchman knocked at the door. John Wadding, the watchman, had heard a pistol being discharged inside Janet’s house and on calling out heard a man inside the house cry that he had been attacked and was tied up. Constantia Jones, one of the maids, answered the door to the watchman.

Crimison claimed that three men had entered the house and he had fired a shot at one before they had tied him up, but the watchman could find no sign of any such shot in the room. The watchman stated that Crimison’s hands were tied but very loosely to his ankles and he could have easily freed his hands. A pane of glass was broken in a window, the shutters were open and a considerable amount of property had been stolen.

Sir John Fielding by Nathaniel Hone, 1762 © The National Portrait Gallery
Sir John Fielding by Nathaniel Hone, 1762
© The National Portrait Gallery

John Clarke, one of Sir John Fielding’s men, soon realised that the robbery must have been committed by someone in the house. By dint of examining the broken pane of glass and the shutters surrounding it, he came to the conclusion that what force had been used had been from the inside of the building and not the outside and, tellingly, a cobweb across the window had not been disturbed. Janet was reluctant to suspect any of her servants but once some of the missing goods were discovered at Crimison’s wife’s house the game was up for him. He took Clarke to the cistern at the Edmondes’ house where the rest of the goods were.[1]

The stolen goods are listed in full at the end of this article. They belonged to Colonel Thomas Edmondes, Charles Henry Mordaunt the 5th Earl of Peterborough (Janet Edmondes’ nephew and therefore Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s cousin) and the Right Honourable Lord George Germain (later the 1st Viscount Sackville), although all were in the house of Colonel Edmondes.

George Sackville Germain, 1st Viscount Sackville by Nathaniel Hone, 1760 © The National Portrait Gallery
George Sackville Germain, 1st Viscount Sackville by Nathaniel Hone, 1760
© The National Portrait Gallery

The London Evening Post asserted that ‘Francis Lewis Grimeson’ was a Frenchman and carried the following warning.

We hope this discovery will warm gentlemen against taking into their families foreign, or indeed any servants, without enquiring into their characters, which was the case here.  The superior confidence place by people of fashion, at this time, in foreign servants, is unaccountable, since every day’s experience proves how unworthy they are even of an equality with natives.[2]

Francis Lewis Crimison, alias Grimison, was tried at the Old Bailey on the 29th April 1778 and being found guilty was sentenced to death by hanging. On the 24th June 1778, he was taken from Newgate to Tyburn where he was executed.

Burglary - Newgate
Elevation of the front of the new prison, as it appeared before it was rebuilt following the 1780 riot; part of a larger plate with a further view of the New River Office; illustration to Maitland’s ‘The History of London’, 1772. © The Trustees of the British Museum

A little biographical information on Frances Lewis Crimison, alias Grimison and his wife follows. He married, as Francis Lewis Grimeisen, on the 4th November 1777 at St Peter and St. Paul in Mitcham, Surrey. His bride was Ann Ruth Lee of Clerkenwell St James.  Just a month before the burglary, in February 1778, Francis and Ann had baptised a daughter, Anna Maria Christiana Grimeisen at St. Clement Danes church.

Left a widow by his execution, Ann Ruth Grimeisen possibly married again as Ruth Grimeisen, a widow of St. Luke’s, Finsbury to William Gabriel on the 27th September 1780.


[1]Old Bailey Online

[2]London Evening Post, 17-19th March 1778.


And finally, for interest, the rather lengthy list of stolen goods:

a gold ring, set with diamonds, value £40

a silver pin, set with a diamond, value £10

a silver shirt buckle, set with diamonds, value £10

two pairs of silver shoe buckles, set with stone, value £5

a gold neckcloth slider, value 10 s. 6 d.

a silver cream pot, value 20 s.

two silver ragoo spoons, value 20 s.

a silver marrow spoon, value 10 s.

twelve silver tea spoons, value 24 s.

two pairs of silver sugar tongs, value 20 s.

eight silver table spoons, value 40 s.

a silver sugar basket, value 40 s.

two silver ale-cups, value £6

four silver scewers, value 20 s.

a silver strainer, value 15 s.

a silver strainer spoon, value 5 s.

a silver fork, value 10 s.

a cork-screw with a silver handle, value 5 s.

a silver tea-pot, value £5

a cane with a gold head, value 20 s.

a silver tea tray, value £50

a silver salver, value £10

two silver waiters, value £10

a pair of silver candlesticks, value £10

a silver sauce-boat, value 50 s.

two silver salts, value 20 s.

a silver mustard castor, value 35 s.

a silver mustard spoon, value 5 s.

a silver bread basket, value £10

two woollen cloth coats, value £3

2 woollen cloth waistcoats, value 20 s.

two pairs of woollen cloth breeches, value 20 s.

eleven pairs of silk stockings, value 50 s.

a woollen cloth coat, with gold-lace thereon, value 20 s.

a woollen cloth waistcoat, with gold-lace thereon, value 20 s.

a pair of woollen cloth breeches, value 10 s.

a gilt sword knot, value 20 s.


Header image: Attribution: Hallwyl Museum / CC BY-SA

More detail on Grace and her Aunt Janet can be found in our book, An Infamous Mistress.