The magistrate at Guildhall on July 17 1829 must have wished it was someone else’s turn to sit the justice room when James Yandall was brought before him. Yandall was described as a ‘singular looking diminutive old man, with white hair’. He came in clutching a box that was strapped to his front and seemed to contain candle snuffers.
Far from being what he at first appeared – a candle extinguisher street vendor – Yandall was actually a fire-brand Presbyterian preacher. The street-keeper of St. Sepulchre’s in the City of London had fetched him in for obstructing the pathways around Newgate prison by drawing a crowd.
The street keeper, a man named Gittens, had tried to move the fellow on but had been told, in no uncertain terms, that he was standing on his ‘Father’s ground, and he would not move for anybody’.The alderman magistrate warned him that if he ‘persisted in assembling mobs on the pavement, it would be necessary to put an extinguisher on him‘.
Yandall was not in the least bit cowed by the justice’s words and retaliated. He announced to the court that he had no fear of ‘dust and ashes, but only of hell’. As far as he was concerned he was doing God’s work and no man, not even those of the la, could or should intervene. He was, he continued, ‘a joint heir to the use of the ground given by his Heavenly Father, and he should stand upon it where and when he pleased’.
The alderman threatened to fine him £5 if he gathered ‘mobs in the City’ again. Yandall replied that it would the justice that paid, not him. ‘Then I will lock you up’ the magistrate told him. ‘If you lock me up, you cannot lock out God’ was the prisoner’s response.
While the magistrate thought about the issue the preacher was quietly led away.
[from The Morning Chronicle, Friday, July 17, 1829]