Geagle Badcock Sniffs Out a Criminal

Geagle Badcock (c1724-1802) was the Cook of Pembroke College, Oxford for more than 50 years in the 1700s. I love his name, and imagine that even if he was an excellent chef, some cheeky scholar would have nicknamed him ‘Geagle Badcook‘.

In 1776, when he was about 47, Geagle placed an extraordinary advertisement in Jackson’s Oxford Journal, as follows (don’t miss the surprise ending!):

WHEREAS on Saturday Night last, the 2d of March instant, some evil-disposed Person or Persons stole into the Pantheon Garden, near the New Road (leading from St. Peter’s le Bailey Church to Ensham) belonging to Geagle Badcock; and there did wantonly and lasciviously take away and destroy the Cauliflower and Lettuce Plants from under the Hand-Glasses; and also removed, stole, and wounded, many Fruit Trees; likewise beheaded a large Quantity of Broccoli, and committed many other indecencies: Advice is hereby given, that in order properly to accommodate those Sons of Rapine for the future, the Owner of the aforesaid Garden will engage himself, on the shortest notice, to wait upon these Deadly Night Shades, and give them a warm Reception. But if the Tyler of that Lodge should not give them the Last Word, let them be particularly cautious how they descend the Walls, as Steel Traps and other Engines will be placed as commodiously as can be, for the Protection of Property. And as the said Robbery had been so scandalously perpetrated, any Accomplice, or other Person, who shall give the necessary Information for Conviction, shall receive a Reward of FIVE GUINEAS; and such Person or Accomplice so informing, will also be pardoned the Offence.
N.B. A Book of Songs and Glees, the Property of a young Surgeon, was also stolen; and an enormous Excrement left behind, which smelleth much like one of the Persons suspected. Statim intellexi, quid effet.

Yep! Not only did these vandals destroy the garden, they left a huge poo there as well! Geagle jokes drily that the poo smelled a lot like the person he suspects of making it. The Latin motto at the end was included in a Latin-English phrase book from 1673 (published in ‘Little Britain’ (!) – a London street dominated by book-sellers), and means ‘I quickly smelt it out’.


instant: of this month
Pantheon: The Pantheon was a fashionable public entertainment centre which opened on Oxford Street, London in 1772; perhaps naming his vegetable garden the Pantheon was a joke of Geagle’s, since it had been used as a place of entertainment by someone on that night.
Hand-Glass: a miniature green-house or cloche used to protect or speed up the growth of plants
Sons of Rapine: rapine is violent plunder, and this phrase, presumably of classical poetic origin, pops up in other writing of the era to describe both real and mythical villains, including in an Ode For His Majesty’s Birthday, by poet laureate Henry James Pye, in 1794.
Deadly Night Shades: this plant was well-known to be responsible for accidental and deliberate poisonings.
Tyler of the Lodge: the office of outer guard of a Masonic Lodge
Steel Traps: could have been animal traps or man-traps (snares); it was legal to use man-traps to ensnare poachers and trespassers until 1827. An ‘Engine’ was a mechanical device.
Five Guineas: Worth about £460 today

Geagle’s advertisement is brilliantly melodramatic, witty, poetic, and menacing. He was rather like Mr. McGregor, but with lethal man-traps rather than a rake! I really hope he caught the naughty and very anti-social Peter Rabbit who committed this crime.

Featured Image: Geagle Badcock’s ad, Oxford Journal, Saturday 9 March 1776 (

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