JACK SHEP­PARD 1702-1724

No prison can con­tain a bur­glar with a tal­ent for es­cape!


Ap­pren­tice car­pen­ter Jack Shep­pard’s ex­pen­sive tastes led him into a life of crime and he had fool­proof method: work­ing in a house dur­ing the day and re­turn­ing later to rob it.

Ar­rested in 1724, Shep­pard es­caped St Giles’s Round­house by fash­ion­ing his bed­clothes into a rope. Then he broke through the roof and low­ered him­self to safety. His next es­cape came later that same year when he and his wife were de­tained in Clerken­well. Even chains couldn’t hold Shep­pard and the cou­ple filed through their man­a­cles, knot­ted their bed­clothes, and were soon free all over again.

Shep­pard’s es­capes made him a folk hero. Clapped in irons in New­gate, he slipped his hand­cuffs and, still in leg irons, climbed up the chim­ney, broke through sev­eral re­in­forced doors and once again used his favourite bed­clothes method to make it safely to solid ground. Shep­pard’s luck ran out a fort­night later. This time there was to be no es­cape from New­gate, nor the 300 pounds of iron that held him down, but he went to the scaf­fold as a hero.

John Gay cel­e­brated him as Macheath in The Beg­gar’s Opera (1728), a prison es­capee with a comely lover and a dis­like for vi­o­lence, much like the man who in­spired him!

Ever the gen­tle­man, Jac wouldn’t leave his wi be­hind when the pair we man­a­cled in Clerkenwe

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