The Thieves of Tyburn Square is an historical fiction of one hundred thirty-one pages. Published in 1995 by Bethany House Publishers, The Thieves of Tyburn Square was written by Dave and Neta Jackson and illustrated by Julian Jackson.

This story takes place in 1817 in London, England. Elizabeth Fry is the only historical character in the novel, which is concerned with Mrs. Fry’s effect on the prison conditions of nineteenth century England. The main characters of the story are Betsey Maxwell (age 10) and her older brother Loren (age 12).

Betsey and Loren Maxwell were orphaned when their mother was sentenced to seven years in the prison colony of Australia after she had tried to steal in order to feed her children. Since the children had no parents or relatives to take care of them, they were moved to a workhouse. Upon arrival at the workhouse, the children were separated. Unforgiving work hours and insufficient food and clothing at the factory drained the children. For four years Betsey and Loren were forced to live in the workhouse. But this did not last, seizing the first opportunity, the children made their escape to freedom. On the first day of their liberation, Loren decided that the best way to provide for him and his sister was to pick pockets. So, the children made their way to the bustling Tyburn Square to cultivate Loren’s new found occupation. Loren would pick pockets and Betsey would hide the wallets in her dress. Sadly, the budding criminals did not have the proper training needed to be successful pickpockets, and were caught and sent to Newgate Prison to await their trial. Separated again, Betsey soon realized that the workhouse was a haven in comparison to Newgate Prison.

In Newgate Prison, Betsey made here first friend, a young pregnant woman named Flori. During the first few weeks, Betsey lived deep in despair, deathly afraid of the other inmates and uncertain of her own fait. But, a Quaker woman named Elizabeth Fry began to visit the prison. After gaining the trust and respect of the women of Newgate Prison, Mrs. Fry began to help the convicts by providing materials to keep their living quarters clean. Eventually Mrs. Fry even started a school for the children of the mothers in Newgate prison. This not only gave the inmates something to do, but it also gave them a sense of worth and purpose. The time for Betsey and Loren’s trial did come. Loren was found guilty of stealing and sentenced to seven years in Australia. As for Betsey, Elizabeth Fry convinced the judge to send the young girl to a home that Mrs. Fry and several of her Quaker friends had set up for girls like Betsey. Betsey went to the girls home with the hope to see her mother and brother again and the hope for a fresh and honest start.

The Thieves of Tyburn Square is an interesting novel intended for those in the age range of eight to twelve years. Dramatically retelling the true story of Elizabeth Fry from the supposed view point of one of the many girls she helped, The Thieves of Tyburn Square is an easy read for anyone interested in learning about historical figures.