About the debtors

The history detectives investigated the cases of individual debtors.  Unfortunately they were not able to find records of any of the prisoners who had signed the petitions held by the Parliamentary Archives.

Thomas Knott

Thomas Knott was a weaver and a former resident of Norwich who fled to South America to avoid payment of his debts. In 1779 he surrendered himself to Norwich city gaol to benefit from the 1778 relief Act. Knott’s case was heard in court in 1780 when he was discharged.

John French

John French lived in Great Yarmouth. According to an oath sworn by French his creditor was Stephen Godfrey to whom £30 was owed.  He had also lent money to William Cooper who was also in the city gaol.  A schedule of his goods detailed his goods and chattels in a well furnished house. His possessions, including a Fishing Boat, were sold at Public Auction.

William Cooper

William Cooper was formerly resident of City of London, later of St Stephens Norwich and his creditors were William Thurtell (£32) and William Russell (£20). Cooper also owed fellow prisoner John French money.  He had debts due to him from other prisoners and also sold his personal items to support his stay in prison.

William Margetson

William Margetson was a Grocer and Tallow Chandler who later became a Baker and Shop Keeper.  He was formerly of Norwich but moved to Martham in Norfolk. His creditor was John Loades of Norwich, hosier.  His Schedule of Household Goods indicated items of value such as China and Silver.  His household furniture included a baby’s cradle, which could indicate he was a family man and anxious for discharge.  Margetson took advantage of a Relief Act and and at a court hearing in October 1781 was discharged.

Also in this section

Find out more about the role of Parliament in the wider history of prisons, law and order.

Living Heritage: Law and order

Meet the history detectives on flickr

Related information

Find connections, past and present, between Parliament and your town

Parliamentary Archives

Parliamentary Outreach