An Excellent Ballad of George Barnwel an Apprentice in London,


An Excellent Ballad of George Barnwel an Apprentice in London,


who was undone by a Strumpet, who thrice Robbed his Master, and Murdered his Uncle in Ludlow.

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Magdalene College - Pepys Library, Shelfmark: Pepys Ballads 2.158-159; EBBA 20778

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A LL Youths of fair England, that dwell both far and near,
Regard my Story that I tell and to my Song give ear:
A London Lad I was, a Merchants Prentice bound,
My name George Barnwel, that did spend my Master many a pound.

Take heed of Harlots then, and their inticing trains,
For by that means I have bin brought to hang alive in Chains.
As I upon a Day was walking through the street,
About my Masters business, I did a wanton meet,

A gallant dainty Dame, and sumptuous in attire,
With smiling looks she greeted me, and did my name require:
Which when I had declar'd, she gave me then a kiss
And said if I would come to her, I should have more than this:

In faith my Boy (quoth she) such news I can you tell,
As shall rejoyce thy very heart, then come where I do dwell.
Fair Mistris, then said I, if I the place may know,
This evening I will be with you, for I abroad must go

To gather Monies in, that is my Masters due,
And e're that I do home return, i'le come and visit you.
Good Barnwel , then (quoth she) do thou to Shoreditch come,
And ask for mistris Milwood there, next door unto the Gun.

And trust me on my truth, if thou keep touch with me,
For thy Friends sake, and as my own heart thou shalt right welcome be.
Thus parted we in peace, and home I passed right,
Then went abroad and gathered in by six a Clock at night.

An hundred pound and one, with Bag under my arm,
I went to Mistris Milwoods house, and thought on little harm:
And knocking at the door, straightway her self came down,
Rustling in most brave attire, her Hood and silken Gown.

Who through her beauty bright, so gloriously did shine,
That she amaz'd my dazling eyes, she seemed so divine.
She took me by the hand, and with a modest grace,
Welcome sweet Barnwel, then (quod she, unto this homely place:

Welcome ten thousand times, more welcome then my Brother,
And better welcome I protest than any one or other:
And seeing I have thee found as good as thy word to be,
A homely Supper e're thou part, thou shalt take here with me:

O pardon me (quoth I) fair Mistris I you pray,
For why, out of my Masters house so long I dare not stay.
Alas good Sir she said, are you so strictly ty'd,
You may not with your dearest friend one hour or two abide?

Faith then the case is hard, if it be so (quoth she)
I would I were a Prentice bound, to live in house with thee.
Therefore my sweetest George, list well what I do say,
And do not blame a woman much, her fancy to bewray.

Let not affections force, be counted lewd desire,
Nor think it not immodesty I should thy love require.
With that she turn'd aside, and with a blushing red,
A mournful motion she bewray'd, by holding down her head:

A Handkerchief she had all wrought with Silk and Gold,
Which she to stay her trickling tears, against her eyes did hold.
This thing unto my sight was wondrous rare and strange,
And in my mind and inward thoughts it wrought a sudden change:

That I so hardy was, to take her by the hand,
Saying, sweet Mistris why do you so sad and heavy stand?
Call me no Mistris now, but Sarah thy true friend,
Thy servant Sarah honouring thee until her life doth end:

If thou would'st here alledge thou art in years a Boy,
So was Adonis , yet was he fair Venus love and joy.
Thus I that ne'r before of woman found such grace,
And seeing now so fair a Dame give me a kind imbrace.

I supt with her that night with joys that did abound,
And for the same paid presently, in money twice three pound:
An hundred Kisses then, for my farewel she gave,
Saying sweet Barnwel when shall I again thy company have:

O stay not too long my dear, sweet George have me in mind:
Her words bewitcht my childishness, she uttered them so kind.
So that I made a vow, next Sunday without fail.
With my sweet Sarah once again to tell some pleasant Tale.

When she heard me say so, the tears fell from her eyes,
O George, quoth she, if thou dost fail, thy Sarah sure will dye.
Though long, yet loe at last, the 'pointed day was come,
That I must with my Sarah meet, having a mighty sum

Of Money in my hand, unto her house went I,
Whereas my Love upon her bed in saddest sort did lye,
What ails my hearts delight, my Sarah dear, quoth I ,
Let not my Love lament and grieve, nor sighing pine and dye,

But tell to me my dearest friend, what may thy woes amend,
And thou shalt lack no means of help, though forty pound I spend,
With that she turn'd her head and sickly thus did say,
O my sweet George my grief is great ten pounds I have to pay

Unto a cruel Wretch, and God knows quoth she,
I have it not, Tush rise quoth he, and take it here of me:
Ten pounds, nor ten times ten shall make my love decay,
Then from his Bag into her lap, he cast ten pound straightway.

All blith and pleasant then, to banquetting they go,
She proffered him to lye with her, and said it should be so:
And after that same time, I have her store of Coyn,
Yea, sometimes fifty pound at once, all which I did purloyn.

And thus I did pass on, until my Master then,
Did call to have his reckoning in cast up among his Men.
The which when as I heard, I knew not what to say,
For well I knew that I was out two hundred pounds that day.

Then from my Master straight I ran in secret sort,
And unto Sarah Milwood then my state I did report.
But how she us'd this Youth, in this his extream need,
The which did her necessity so oft with Money feed:

The Second Part behold, shall tell it forth at large,
And shall a Strumpets wily ways, with all her tricks discharge

The Second Part, to the same Tune.

Here comes young Barnwel unto thee sweet Sarah my delight,
I am undone except thou stand my faithful friend this night:
Our Master to command accounts, hath just occasion found,
And I am found behind the hand almost two hundred pound:

And therefore knowing not at all, what answer for to make,
And his displeasure to escape, my way to thee I take:
Hoping in this extremity, thou wilt my succour be,
That for a time I may remain in safety here with thee.

With that she nit and bent her brows, and looking all aquoy,
Quoth she, what should I have to do with any Prentice Boy?
And seeing you have purloyn'd & got your Masters goods away,
The case is bad, and therefore here I mean thou shalt not stay

Why sweet heart thou knowst, he said that all which I did get,
I have it and did spend it all upon thee every whit:
Thou knowst I loved thee so well, thou could'st not ask the thing,
But that I did incontinent the same unto thee bring.

Quoth she thou art a paultry Jack, to charge me in this sort,
Being a Woman of credit good, and known of good report:
A nd therefore this I tell thee flat, be packing with good speed,
I do defie thee from my heart, and scorn thy filthy deed.

I s this the love and friendship which thou didst to me protest?
Is this the great affection which you seemed to express?
Now fie on all deceitful shows, the best is I may speed.
To get a Lodging any where, for money in my need:

Therefore false woman now farewel, while twenty pound doth last,
My anchor in some other Haven I will with wisdom cast.
When she perceived by his words. that he had money store,
That she had gull'd him in such sort, it griev'd her heart full sore:

Therefore to call him back again, she did suppose it best.
Stay George quoth she, thou art too quick why man I do but jest;
Think'st thou for all my passed speech that I would let thee go?
Faith no. quod she, my love to thee I wis is more then so.

You will not deal with Prentice boys I heard you even now swear,
Therefore I will not trouble you, my George heark in thine ear.
Thou shalt not go to night quod she, what chance so e're befall,
But man we'l have a bed for thee, or else the Devil take all.

Thus I that was with wiles bewitcht and shar'd with fancy still.
Had not the power to put away, or to withstand her will.
Then wine and wine I called in, and cheer upon good cheer,
And nothing in the world I thought for Sarahs love too dear:

Whilst I was in her company in joy and merriment,
And all too little I did think, that I upon her spent.
A fig for care and careful thoughts, when all my Gold is hone,
I n faith my Girl we will have more, whoever it light upon.

My Father's rich, why then, quod I, should I want any Gold?
With a Father indeed, quoth she, a Son may well be bold.
I have a Sister richly wed, i'le rob her e're i'le want;
Why then, quod Sarah , they may well consider of your scant.

Nay more than this, an Uncle I have at Ludlow he doth dwell,
He is a Grasier, which in wealth doth all the rest excell:
E're I will live in lack, quoth he, and have no Coyn for thee,
I 'le rob his House, and murder him, why should you not, quoth she:

E're I would want were I a man, or live in poor Estate,
On Father, friends, and all my Kin, I would be Talons grate:
For without money, George, quod she, a Man is but a Beast,
And bringing Money thou shalt be always my chiefest Guest.

For say thou should'st pursued be with twenty Hues and Crys,
And with a Warrant searched for with Argus hundred Eyes:
Yet in my House thou shalt be safe, such privy ways there be,
That if they sought an hundred years they could not find out thee.

And so carousing in their Cups, their pleasures to content,
George Barnwel had in little space his money wholly spent.
Which being done, to Ludlow then he did provide to go,
To rob his wealthy Uncle then, his Minion would it so

And once or twice he thought to take his Father by the way,
But that he thought his master had took order for his stay.
D irectly to his Uncle then he rose with might and main,
Where with welcome and good cheer he did him entertain:

A Sennets space he stayed there, until it chanced so,
His Unkle with his Cattle did unto a market go:
His Kinsman needs must Ride with him, and when he saw right plain,
Great store of money he had took, in coming home again,

Most suddenly within a Wood he struck his Uncle down,
And beat his brains out of his head, so sore he crackt his crown:
And fourscore pound in ready coyn out of his Purse he took,
And coming into London Town, the Country quite forsook.

To Sarah Milwood then he came, shewing his store of Gold,
And how he had his Uncle stain, to her he plainly told.
Tush, it's no matter George, quod she, so we the money have,
To have good chear in jolly sort, and deck us fine and brave.

And this they liv'd in filthy sort, till all his store was gone,
And means to get them any more, I wis poor George had none.
And therefore now in railing sort, she thrust him out of door,
Which is the just reward they get, that spend upon a Whore.

O do me not this foul disgrace in this my need, quoth he,
She call'd him Thief and Murderer, with all despight might be.
And to the Constable she went to have him Apprehended,
And shew'd in each degree how far he had the Law offended.

When Barnwel saw her drift, to Sea he got straightway,
Where fear & dread & conscience sting upon himself doth stay:
Unto the Mayor of London then, he did a Letter write,
Wherein his own and Sarahs faults he did at large recite.

Whereby she apprehended was, and then to Ludlow sent,
Where she was judg'd, condemn'd and hang'd, for murder incontinent.
And there this gallant Quean did dye this was her greatest gains:
For Murder in Polonia, was Barnwel hang'd in Chains.

Lo, here's the end of wilful youth, that after Harlots haunt,
Who in the spoil of other men, about the streets do flaunt.

Method of Punishment

hanging, hanging in chains


robbery, murder


Execution Location

Ludlow and Polonia

Printing Location

Printed for J. Clarke, W. Thackeray, and T. Passinger.


For more on this ballad and the tune it is set to, see Research by Una McIlvenna: ‘The Rich Merchant Man, or, What the Punishment of Greed Sounded Like in Early Modern English Ballads’, Huntington Library Quarterly 79, no. 2 (Summer 2016) Special Issue: 'Living English Broadside Ballads, 1550-1750: Song, Art, Dance, Culture', eds. Patricia Fumerton and Megan Palmer-Browne: 279-299




“An Excellent Ballad of George Barnwel an Apprentice in London,,” Execution Ballads, accessed May 30, 2024,

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