An Excellent Ballad of George Barnwel,


An Excellent Ballad of George Barnwel,


an Apprentice of London, who was undone by a Strumpet, who having thrice robbed his Master, and murdered his Uncle in Ludlow, was hanged in Chains in Polonia, and by the means of a Letter sent from his own hand to the Mayor of London, she was hang'd at Ludlow.

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British Library - Roxburghe, C.20.f.9.26-27; EBBA 30382; Also in Bodleian

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ALL youths of fair England, that dwell both far and neer,
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 who did spend my master many a pound.

Take heed of Harlots then, and their inticing trains,
For by that means I have been 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 dainty gallant Dame, and sumptuous in attire,
With smiling looks she greeted me
and did my name require.
Which when I had declard, she gave me then a kiss,
And said, if I would come to her, I should have more then this.
In faith my boy, quoth she, such news I can thee 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 money in, that is my masters due,
And ere that I do home return, ile come and visit you.
Good Barnwel then, quoth she, do thou to Shoreditch come,
And ask for Mrs. Milwood there, next door unto the Gun.
And trust me on my truth, if thou keep troth with me,
For thy friends sake, 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 five a clock at night:
A hundred pound and one, with bag under mine arm,
I went to Mrs. Milwoods house and thought on little harm:
And knocking at the door, straightway her self came down,
Ruffling in most brave attire, her Hoods and silken gown:
Who through her beauty bright, so gloriously did shine,
That she amazd my dazling eyes, she seemed so divine.
She took me by the hand, and with a modest grace,
Welcome sweet Barnwel than, quod she, unto this homely place:
Welcome ten th[o]usand times, more welcome then my brother,
And better welcome I protest, then any one or other:
And seeing I have thee found as good as thy word to be,
A homely supper er thou part, thou shalt here take 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. art thou so strictly tyd,
You may not with your dearest friend
one hour or two abide?
Fath 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 would thy love require.
With that she turnd aside,
and with a blushing red,
A mournful motion she bewrayd, by holding down her head.
A Handkerchief she had,
all wrought with silk and gold,
which she to stop her trickling tears against her eyes did hold.
This thing unto my sight, was wondrous rare and strange;
& 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 not Mistris now, but Sara thy true friend,
Thy servant Sara honouring thee, until her life doth end.
If thou wouldst here alledge thou art in years a Boy,
So was Adonis, yet was he, fair Venus love and joy.
Thus I that ner 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.
A 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 Sara once again, to tell some pleasant tale.
When she heard me say I, the tears fell from her eyes,
O George, quoth she, if thou dost fail thy Sara sure will dye:
Though long, yet loe at last, the pointed time was come,
That I must with my Sara 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 Sara dear, quoth he,
Let not my love lament and grieve nor sighing pain and dye.
But tell to me my dearest friend, what may thy woes amend,
& thou shalt lack no means of help, though forty pounds I spend:
With that she turnd 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 he knows, quoth she,
I have it not, tush, rise, quoth I, 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 pounds straight way.
All blith and pleasant then,
to banqueting they go,
She proffered him to lye with her, and said it should be so:
And after that same time, I gave 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 amongst his men.
The which when as I heard, I knew not what to say,
For well I knew that I was out, two hundred pound that day:
Then from my master streight, I run in secret sort,
And unto Sara Milwood then my state I did report:
But how she usd 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 willy ways
with all her tricks discharge.

The Second Part, to the same Tune.

HEre comes young Barnwel unto,
sweet Sara his delight,
I am undone, except thou stand my faithful friend this night:
Our Master to command accounts, hath just occasion found,
And I am come 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 extreamity thou wilt my succour be,
That for a time I may remain in secret here with thee.
with that she knit & bent her brows and looking all aquoy,
Quoth she, what should I have to do with any Prentice-boy?
And seeing you have purloynd and got your Masters goods away,
The case is bad, and therefore here,
I mean thou shalt not stay.
why sweetheart thou knowst, I said, that all which I did get;
I gave it, and did spend it all, upon thee every whit.
Thou knowst I loved thee so well, thou couldst not ask the thing,
But that I did incontinent the same unto thee bring.
Quod she, thou art a paultry Jack, to charge me in this sort,
Being a Woman of credit good, and known of good report;
And therefore this I tell thee flat, be packing with good speed,
I do defie thee from my heart, and scorn thy filthy deed.
Is this the love & friendship which thou didst to me protest?
Is this the great affection which you seemed to express?
Now fie on all deceitful shews, the best is I may speed,
To get a lodging any where, for money in my need:
Therefore false woman now fare-well 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 gauld him in such sort it grievd her heart full sore:
Therefore to call him back again she did suppose it best,
Stay George, quod she, thou art too quick why man I do but jest.
thinkst thou for all my passed speech that I would let thee go?
Faith no, quoth 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 herk in thine ear,
Thou shalt not go this night quod she what chance so er befall,
But man wel have a bed for thee, or else the Devil take all.
Thus I that was with Wiles be-witchd & snard 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 or careful thought when all my gold is gone,
In faith my girl we will have more, whoever it light upon:
My fathers rich, why then, quoth I should I want any gold?
With a father indeed (quoth she) a Son may well be bold:
I have a Sister richly wed, that ile rob ere ile want;
Why then quod Sara they may well consider of your scant:
nay more then this an Uncle I have at Ludlow he doth dwell,
He is a Grasier, which in wealth, doth all the rest excell.
Ere I will live in lack (quoth he) and have no coyn for thee,
Ile rob the churl and murder him, why should you not (quoth she.)
Ere I would want were I a man, or live in poor estate,
On father, friends, and all my kin, I would my talents grate.
For without mony, George, (quod she) a man is but a beast,
And bringing money thou shalt be always my chiefest guest:
For say thou shouldst pursued be with twenty hues and cries,
And with a Warrant searched for with Argos hundred eyes:
Yet in my house thou shalt be safe, such privy ways there be,
That if they sought an 100 years, they could not find out thee.
And so carousing in their cups, their pleasure 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 there took order for his stay.
Directly to his Uncle then, he rode with might and main,
where with good welcome, and good cheer he did him entertain:
A Sennets space he stayed there, until it chanced so,
His Uncle with fat Cattel 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 comming unto London strait, the Country quite forsook.
To Sara Milwood then he came, shewing his store of gold,
And how he had his Uncle slain, to her he plainly told.
Tush, tis no matter George, quod she so we the money have,
To have good cheer in jolly sort, and deck us fine and brave.
And thus they livd 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 vile disgrace, in this my need (quoth he)
She calld him thief and murderer with all the spight might be.
And to the Constable she went, to have him apprehended,
And shewd in each degree how far, he had the law offended.
When Barnwel saw her drift, to sea he got straightway,
Where fear and dread, & conscience sting, upon him still doth stay.
Unto the Mayor of London then, he did a Letter write,
Wherein his own and Saras faults he did at large recite.
Whereby she apprehended was,
and then to Ludlow sent,
Where she was judgd, condemnd & hangd for murder incontinent,
and there this gallant quean did die this was her greatest gains,
For murder in Polonia
was Barnwel hangd in chains.
Lo heres the end of wilful youth, that after Harlots haunt,
Who in the spoyl 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 F. Coles, T. Vere J. Wright, and J. Clarke


see also: (1780-1812)


Cf. The Unfaithful Servant: 17. For George Barnwell as black-letter ballad see Coles, F, Vere, T and Gilbertson, W in Bodleian Allegro archive as Wood 401(77); for other printings, same source, Aldermary Church Yard as Harding B 1(17), from c.Brown in London as Douce Ballads 3(40a), J. Evans in London (41 Long Lane), same source, as Harding B. 1(18) and Keys in Devonport, same source, as Firth b. 25(503).




“An Excellent Ballad of George Barnwel,,” Execution Ballads, accessed May 20, 2024,

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