Lives Of The Most Remarkable Criminals Who have been Condemned and Executed for Murder, the Highway, Housebreaking, Street Robberies, Coining or other offences
by Arthur L. Hayward
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At length, having acquired so great a habit of laziness and so strong an aversion to business that he found it impossible for him to live longer in the country, he came up to London, that great receptacle of those who are either unable or unwilling to live anywhere else. Here he got into service as a footman with several persons of worth, and discharged his duty well (as indeed it was a kind of life which of all others suited him best), so that he obtained a tolerable reputation whereby he got into the service of one Mr. Fenwick, a gentleman of affluent fortune. Here it was that through desire of abounding in money he either drew in others, or was drawn in himself to commit that crime which cost him his life.

It seems that in Mr. Fenwick's family there was a great deal of plate used, which stood on a buffet. This tempted Cornwall, and it is highly likely gave him the first notion of attempting to rob the house. When he had once formed this project he resolved to take in one Rivers, a debauched companion of his, as a partner in the designed theft.

This Rivers was certainly easy enough prevailed on to join in the commission of this fact, and after several meetings to consult upon proper measures, Rivers at last proposed that their scheme should be put in execution as soon as possible; and that he might the more perfectly conceive how it was to be managed, he went home with Cornwall, and looked upon the house. Soon after this they held their last consultation, and Cornwall saying to Rivers that he must bring some other persons to assist him, Rivers made choice of one Girst, and coming with him at the appointed hour, Cornwall in his shirt opened the door and let them in. In the buffet there stood a lighted candle in a silver candle-stick, by which they were directed to the rest of the plate, which as soon as they had taken out, they placed all together upon the carpet, and fell next to rifling Mr. Fenwick's bureau, and took out a great quantity of linen, a lady's lace, the tea equipage, and two silver canisters. Then making it up in a bundle, it was carried to River's lodgings in Vinegar Yard, Drury Lane.

All this could not be performed with so little noise as not to disturb the family. Mr. Fenwick himself heard the noise, being awakened by his wife, who had heard it for some time, but it ceasing they fell asleep again until one of the servants came up in the morning, and told his master that the house had been robbed, the plate taken away, and a window in the back parlour left open, about which, as he could observe no marks of violence, he was led to suspect it was opened by somebody in the family; upon which Cornwall and a maid in the house were immediately thought to have a hand in. However, as there was no sort of proof, Mr. Fenwick forbore seizing them at that time, and contented himself with advertizing his plate; which advertisement coming into the hands of a pawnbroker, to whom a part of it had been pledged, he immediately gave notice that it was pawned to him by Rivers. A warrant being upon this obtained for the searching of River's lodging, a note was there found, directed to Thomas Rivers, Glover, in Guy's Court, Vinegar Yard, Drury Lane, in which were these words:

Dear Tom,

Let me see you at seven o'clock to-morrow morning, at the Postern Spring, Tower Hill, be sure.

Joshua Cornwall.

Upon this Cornwall was immediately taken up and Girst readily offered himself an evidence. In a few days after, sessions coming on, Joshua Cornwall and Thomas Rivers were indicted for burglariously breaking the house of Nicholas Fenwick, Esq., and taking thence divers pieces of plate, to the value of eighty-five pounds nineteen shillings, holland shirts to the value of twenty pounds, and other goods of the said Mr. Fenwick, on the 8th day of September, 1730. This indictment being fully proved, the jury found Thomas Rivers guilty thereof. But being dubious whether Joshua Cornwall, as a servant within the house of Mr. Fenwick, could be properly convicted of burglariously breaking into his said master's house, they found their verdict as to him special; which the judges having considered, they were unanimously of opinion that the crime was in its nature a burglary. Whereupon, at the following sessions at the Old Bailey, the criminal was brought to the bar, and being acquainted with their lordships' opinion, received sentence of death.

Under conviction, he behaved himself with great penitence, said he had not been guilty of many of those atrocious crimes commonly practised by such as come to that fatal end whither his folly had led him. At the place of execution he, with great fervency, justified the character of a young woman who had lived fellow-servant with him at Mr. Fenwick's. He declared, as he was a dying man, that she was not in the least privy to the injury done her master, and that he had no other than an acquaintance with her, without either having, or attempting any criminal conversation with her. Having done this justice, he seemed to die with much composure, in the twenty-second year of his age, on the 23rd of December, 1730.



The Life of JOHN TURNER, alias CIVIL JOHN, a Highwayman

One of the most dangerous passions which can enter the breasts of young people, though at the same time it be one of the most common, is the love of finery and a mean and foolish ambition to appear better dressed than becomes their station, in hopes of imposing upon the world as persons of much higher rank than they really are. This inconsiderate, ridiculous pride brings along with it such a numerous train of bad consequences that of necessity it makes the person inflamed by it unhappy and often miserable for life. In the case now before us a was still more fatal by adding a violent and ignominious death.

John Turner was the son of a person in tolerable circumstances, in the county of Cornwall, where he received an education proper for that condition of life in which he was likely to pass through the world. His father was a man of good sense, and of a behaviour much more courteous and genteel than is usual among persons of ordinary condition in a county so remote from London. He was extremely desirous that his son should be like him in this respect, and therefore he continually cautioned him against falling into that rough boorish manner of behaving which is natural to uneducated clowns, and makes them shocking to everybody but themselves. In this respect John was very compliant with his father's temper, and being put out apprentice to a peruke-maker, his obliging carriage endeared him so much, not only to his master and the family but also to the gentlemen on whom, as customers to the shop, he sometimes waited, that they took a peculiar liking to the boy and were continually giving him money as a reward for his diligence and assiduity.

But John's obliging temper took a turn very fatal to himself, as well as very little suspected by his friends and relations. For having been made use of by some young sparks at Exeter (the place where he served his time) to carry messages to their mistresses, he from thence conceived so strong an inclination to become a beau and a gallant that, in order to it, he broke open his master's escritoire and took away a considerable sum of money. With this he came up to London and went to live as a journeyman with an eminent peruke-maker at the Court end of the town. There his easy and obsequious temper made him very agreeable to everybody, and his behaviour was so just and open that nobody in the neighbourhood had a better character than himself. Yet he was far from giving over those extravagancies the earnest desire of committing which had brought him to town; for nobody in his station made so handsome a figure as Mr. Turner.

His amours with the wenches in the neighbourhood were very numerous, though out of a point of honour he was careful enough in endeavouring to conceal them. But as they naturally led him into an expensive way of living, which what he got by his trade could in no degree support, he quickly found himself obliged to take to new methods, and thought none so concise and convenient as going upon the road. This he did for some time without arousing the least suspicion, behaving himself towards those whom he robbed with such gentleness and good manners, putting his hat into the coach and taking what money they thought fit to give him, nay, sometimes returning a part of that, if the dress or aspect of the person gave him room to suspect that their wants were as great as his. From this extraordinary conduct he obtained the name of Civil John, by which he was very well known to the stage coachmen, wagoners, and other such persons who travelled the Western road.

Common fame, which ordinarily multiplies the adventures of men of his profession, circulated a multitude of stories about him which had not the least foundation in fact, and served only to make the poor man more remarkable, and consequently the more easy to be taken; which was, accordingly, the effect of those foolish encomiums which the vulgar bestowed upon so genteel a robber. About six weeks after he had taken to this unfortunate course of life; and while he yet preserved an unstained reputation in the neighbourhood in which he lived, he was apprehended for a robbery committed on Mr. Air, from whom he took but an inconsiderable sum; yet the fact being clearly proved against him at the next session at the Old Bailey, he was convicted, and having no relations capable of making interest sufficient to obtain a reprieve, he lost all hopes of life. Under sentence he conducted himself with much calmness, penitence, and resignation, confessing the truth of that charge which had been laid against him, acknowledging the justice of the Law in this sentence, and disposing himself to submit to it with much cheerfulness and alacrity.

This great change in his circumstance and manner of living, added to his own uneasy reflections upon those misfortunes into which vanity and ostentation had brought him, soon reduced him by sickness to so weak a state that he was incapable, almost, of coming to chapel alone. Notwithstanding this, he continued to frequent it, some of the people about the prison being so kind as to help him upstairs. As his vices arose rather from the imitation of those fine gentlemen on whom he had waited while a lad, so he did not carry them to that height which most of these unhappy persons are wont to do; on the contrary he was very sober, little addicted to gambling, and never followed the common women of the town. But dress, dancing bouts, and the necessary entertainments for carrying on his amours were the follies which involved him in these expenses, for the supply of which he thus hazarded his soul and forfeited his life.

When the death warrant came down his sickness had brought him so low that Nature seemed inclined to supersede the severity of the Law; but too short a time which intervened between it and its execution, and so he came to suffer a violent death at Tyburn a day or two before, perhaps, he would otherwise have yielded up his breath in his bed. Little could be expected of a person in his weak condition, at the place of execution, where, when he arrived he was utterly unable to stand up. However, with a faint voice he desired the prayers both of the minister who attended them and of the spectators of his execution, which happened on the 20th of November, 1727, in the twenty-sixth year of his age.

The Life of JOHN JOHNSON, a Coiner

In excuse of taking base measures to procure money there is no plea so often urged as necessity, and the desire of providing for a family otherwise in danger of want. The reason of this is pretty evident, since nothing could be a greater alleviation of such a crime. But the word necessity is so equivocal that it is hard to fix its true meaning, and unless that can be done, it will be as hard to judge of the reasonableness of such an excuse.

John Johnson, the criminal on whose life we are next to cast an eye, was born of a very honest and reputable family in the county of Nottingham, and received in his youth the best education they were capable of giving him. By this he became able to read tolerably and write well enough for that business to which he was bred, viz., a tailor. Throughout his apprenticeship he behaved himself virtuously and industriously, and left his master with the character of a faithful and deserving young man. When his time was out, and he had wrought for some time as a journeyman in the country, the common whim of coming up to London seized him; and after he had spent some time in town in working hard at his trade, he married a wife with whom he lived in good correspondence for many years, with the esteem and respect of all who knew him. But his family increasing and he consequently finding the charge of maintaining them rise higher than formerly, and, what was worse, that all he was capable of doing could not maintain them, he grew very melancholy.

After considering several projects for making his circumstances more easy, he at last pitched upon going into Lincolnshire, as a place where the cheapness of provisions might balance the number of mouths he had to feed. But he had not been long there before he discovered his mistake, for the smallness of wages made everything rather dearer than cheaper, which plunged him into new difficulties, and rendered him incapable of ease or satisfaction. While his wits were thus on the rack, and his invention stretched to the uttermost in order to find out some means or other to recoup his pockets, he unfortunately fell into the company of a man who, under the pretence of being his most zealous friend, became, though perhaps unwittingly, the instrument of his utter ruin. For his appearing ever disconsolate and melancholy gave the countryman an opportunity of prying into the cause of his concern, which he soon discovered to be the narrowness of his circumstances. As we naturally find ease in communicating our afflictions to others, so Johnson was ready enough to inform him of the truth of his affairs, and the man no less assiduous in endeavouring to help him out of these straits into which he had fallen.

At last, his Lincolnshire acquaintance told him there was but one way of recovering his misfortunes and living like a man without labour, to which Johnson began now to have a great aversion, and therefore he eagerly desired to be acquainted with this delightful way of getting on. With a grave face his associate told him that what he was about to propose could not be effected without some risk, but that a man could not expect to live without trouble or without hazard. Johnson said it was true, and desired only to be informed wherein the hazard consisted, as he would make no scruple of running it, for he lacked courage as little as any man.

Upon this his companion opened to him his whole scheme, which consisted in a method of counterfeiting the silver coin to a tolerable degree of likeness. Johnson was easily drawn in, for he thought there could be no speedier way of getting money than making it. His country friend helped him to the necessary implements, and Johnson applied himself with such earnestness to his new occupation that in a very short time he greatly outdid his master, giving the false money he had made so perfect a similitude to the specie for which he made it that it was impossible to distinguish it by the eye. But thinking it much more hazardous to attempt putting off in the country than it would be in London, and his fellow labourer being of the same opinion, they first went to work and coined a considerable sum according to their method, and they came up to dispose of it, as Johnson had proposed.

By this time misfortune and remorse had taught the poor man whose life we are writing to addict himself too much to drinking, especially to strong liquors, so that the first experiment he made of the practicability of getting rid of his false money was in putting off two sixpences to a distiller for gin, in which he succeeded without being suspected. But going to a shoemaker's and buying there a ready-made pair of shoes, he was seized for attempting to pay the man with two bad half-crowns, which though they looked pretty well to the eye, were nevertheless much too light when they came to be weighed against the metal that it was intended they should pass for.

When carried before a Justice his heart soon failed him and almost as soon as he was asked he revealed the whole truth of the matter, impeaching both the countryman who had taught him and a person with whom they had trusted the secret here in town. However, his confession was of little benefit to him, for at the next sessions he was capitally convicted and from thenceforward cast off all hopes of life. As he was a man who did not lack good natural parts, during the short time he had to live he endeavoured to make his prayer to God for the forgiveness of the many errors of his life, attending also constantly at the time of public devotion. Yet for all this he could not be persuaded that there was any great degree of guilt in what he had done, but imagined on the contrary that he was much more innocent than his fellow malefactors, regretting, however, the heavy misfortune he had brought upon himself and family, two of his children dying during the time of his imprisonment, and his wife and third child coming upon the parish. In which sentiments he continued until the day of his execution, which was on the same with the before-mentioned John Turner, this criminal being then about fifty years of age.

The Lives of JAMES SHERWOOD, GEORGE WEEDON and JOHN HUGHS, Street Robbers and Footpads

Amongst the many artifices by which vice covers itself from our apprehension, there is no method which it more commonly takes, and yet better succeeds in, than by putting on a mask of virtue and thereby imposing the most flagitious actions upon us as things indifferent, sometimes as things which may gain applause.

This was exactly the case with the persons whose lives we are now about to write, who were all of them young men of tolerable education, but giving way to their vicious inclinations, they associated themselves together for the better carrying on those evil practices by which they supported their extravagances, into which lewd women especially had betrayed them.

James Sherwood, who was the eldest of them, and also went by the name of Hobbs, was the son of but mean parents, who, however, took all the pains that were in their power to educate him in the best manner they were able. When he grew up they put him out apprentice to a waterman, with whom he served his time, and was afterwards a seaman in a man-of-war. When at home he spent his time in the worst company imaginable, viz., idle young men and lewd, infamous women. As he had naturally a good understanding and quick apprehension, he quickly became adroit in every mystery of wickedness to which he addicted himself. However, Justice soon overtook him and his first companions in wickedness; upon which he turned evidence and saved his own life by sacrificing theirs. He was transported soon afterwards, but upon his finding it difficult to live abroad without working (a thing, for which he had an intolerable aversion) he took the first opportunity that offered of returning home again.

When he returned he fell to his old practices, taking up his lodgings at the house of one Sarah Payne, a most infamous woman who was capable of seducing unwary youths for the commission of the greatest villainies, and then ready to betray them to death, either to benefit or secure herself. By hers and Sherwood's means George Weedon was drawn in, a young man of very reputable parents, who had been brought up with the greatest care in the principles of virtue and true religion. It seems, however, that having contracted an acquaintance with a lewd and artful woman, who drew him into an excessive fondness for her, he yielded to the solicitations of Sherwood and his landlady, and took to such courses as they suggested, in order to supply himself with money for the entertainment of that strumpet who was his ruin. It was but a few days before his apprehension that he had been induced to quit the house of his mother, who had ever treated him with the greatest tenderness and affection, and instead thereof had taken lodging with the before-mentioned Payne, who continually solicited him to commit robberies and thefts.

At length John Hughs, alias Hews, another young man, joined them. Though bred up carefully to the trade of a shoemaker by his father, who was of the same profession, yet for many years he had addicted himself to picking pockets and such other low kinds of theft, but had never done any great robbery until he fell into the hands of Sherwood and Weedon; with whom he readily agreed to associate himself, and to go with them out into Moorfields and such other places near Town as they thought most convenient in order to waylay and rob passengers, and at other times, when such opportunities did not offer, to break open houses, and to divide their profits equally amongst them. These designs were hardly made before they were put into execution and a very short space elapsed before they had committed many robberies and burglaries, always bringing the booty home and spending it lewdly and extravagantly in the house of that abandoned monster, Sarah Payne.

It may not be amiss to take notice here how common a thing it is for such wicked old sinners as this woman was, to set up houses of resort for lewd and abandoned women of the town, who, first getting young men into their company on amorous pretences, by degrees bring them on from one wickedness to another, till at last they end their lives at the gallows, and thereby leave these wretches at liberty to bring others to the same miserable fate. These agents to the Prince of Darkness are usually women who have an artful way of flattering and a pleasing deceitfulness in their address. By this means they, without much difficulty, draw in young lads at their first giving way to the current of their lewd inclinations, and before they are aware, involve them in such expenses as necessarily lead to housebreaking or the highway for a supply. When once they have made a step of this kind, by which their lives are placed in the power of those old practitioners in every kind of wickedness, they are from thenceforward treated as slaves and forced to continue, whether they will or no, in a repeated course of the like villainies until they are arrested by the hand of Justice. Then, none so ready to become evidences against them as those abominable wretches by whom they were at first seduced.

Such was the fate that befell these three unhappy young men, of whose courses information being given, they were all apprehended and committed close prisoners to Newgate, and at the next ensuing sessions not a few indictments were found against them. The first indictment they were all three arraigned upon was for felony and burglary in breaking open the house of one William Meak, in the night-time, and taking from thence twelve Gloster cheeses. But the evidence appearing clear only against Sherwood, alias Hobbs, he alone was convicted and the other two acquitted. They were then indicted a second time for breaking open the house of Daniel Elvingham, in the night-time, and taking out of it several quantities of brandy and tobacco; upon which both Sherwood and Weedon were, from very full evidence, convicted. On a third indictment for breaking into the house of Elizabeth Cogdal, and taking thence eight pewter dishes and twenty pewter plates, they were all found guilty; Sherwood and Weedon also being a fourth time convicted for a robbery on the highway, which was proved upon them by the testimony of their landlady, Sarah Payne.

Under sentence of death they all testified great sorrow for the offences of their misspent lives. Weedon was of a better temper than the two other, retained a greater sense of the principles of religion upon which he had been brought up in his youth and exceeded his companions in seriousness and steadiness in his devotions. Sherwood had been a much longer proficient in all kinds of wickedness than the other two, having practised several kinds of thefts for nearly eighteen years together, and this had habituated him so much to sin that he showed much less penitence than either of his companions. Hughs had been a thief in a low degree for some years before he fell into the confederacy of Sherwood and Weedon, to which, as he frankly owned, he was drawn by his own previous inclination rather than the persuasions of any of his companions.

As the time of their death approached they seemed much more affected than formerly they had been; in which frame of mind they continued till they suffered, which was on the 12th of February, 1728, Sherwood being in his twenty-sixth year, Hughs in the twenty-third, and Weedon in the twenty-second year of his age.

The Life of MARTIN BELLAMY, a Notorious Thief, Highwayman and Housebreaker

This criminal was amongst the number of those whom long practice had so hardened in his offences that he took up the humour of glorying in them, even under his confinement, and persisted in it to the hour of his death, drawing up, when under sentence (or at least giving instructions by which it was drawn up) an account of the several street-robberies, burglaries, and other crimes which he had committed, in a style which too plainly showed that nothing in his miserable condition afflicted him but the thought of his ignominious death he was to suffer, not even the reflection of those crimes which had so deservedly brought him to his fate. By trade he was a tailor and a good workman in his business, by which he lived in good credit for some time. It seems he married a woman whose friends, at least, were very honest people, and highly displeased with the villainous course of life he led. Insomuch that upon his being apprehended and sent to Bridewell on suspicion, his wife's brother came to him there in order to know where the prosecutor lived, that, as he said, he might go and make some proposals for making up the affair. Bellamy gave him the best account he could, and the man finding out the person, advised him to prosecute Martin with the utmost severity, in hopes, no doubt, that he should in this way rid his sister of a very bad husband. However, Bellamy was so irritated by the attempt that he would never cohabit with her afterwards, but with implacable hatred pursued her and her family with all the mischiefs he was able.

The methods which he and his gang mostly took in robbing, according to the account which, as I have before said, he has left us of himself, were chiefly these: the gang having met together in the evening used to go, three or four in a company, to visit the shops of those tradesmen who deal in the richest sort of toys[78] and other goods that are portable and easily conveyed away. Then one of the company cheapens something or other, making many words with the shopkeeper about the price, thereby giving an opportunity to some of his companions to hand things of value from one to another till they were insensibly vanished, the honest shopkeeper being left to deplore the misfortune of having such light-fingered customers find the way to his shop. Another practice of theirs, to the same laudable purpose, was carried on after this manner: three or four of them walked up and down several streets, which by observation they had found fitted for their purpose, and on perceiving things of any value lying in a parlour, they, with an engine contrived for that purpose, suddenly threw up the sash; and notwithstanding there being persons in the room, they would venture to snatch it out and often get clear off before the people who saw them could recover themselves from the surprise. But if there was nobody in the way, then one of their associates, slipping off his shoes, stole softly into the room and handed out whatever was of most value to his companions without doors.

But Bellamy was not only adroit in these ordinary practices, but was also perfectly acquainted with the art and mystery of counterfeiting hands; and as an instance thereof, upon which he much valued himself, he used to relate a trick of that sort which he put upon the late Jonathan Wild, after this manner: having accustomed himself for some time to frequent the levee of that infamous agent of thieves, he became so well acquainted with Jonathan's manner of writing and also with the persons who gave him credit on particular occasions when money was low. Whereupon he took occasion to forge a note from the said Wild to one Wildgoose, servant at an inn, who used to be Jonathan's banker upon emergencies, who, on receipt of the note, paid Bellamy the contents thereof without hesitation. A few days after, Mr. Wild and his correspondent met. The forgery was soon detected and Jonathan immediately gave directions to that infamous band of villains who were always in his pay and under his direction, to leave no means untried for the apprehending Bellamy, who from Wildgoose's description he knew to be the man who had been guilty of the forgery.

In the search after him they were so assiduous that in a very short space they surprised him at a house in Whitefriars, where he was forced to fly up to a garret in order to conceal himself. His pursuers thinking they had now lodged him pretty securely, sent notice of it to their master. But Martin perceiving a long rope lying upon a bed in the room where he hid himself, resolved for once to venture his neck; and having fastened it as well as he could, he slipped down by it into the street, with so great agility that none of his attendants perceived it till he was in the street, by which time he got so much the start of them that they found it but in vain to pursue him, and therefore laid by all thoughts of catching him until another opportunity.

However, the trick he had played them made them so diligent in pursuing him that it was but a very short time before they surrounded him in a brandy-shop in Chancery Lane, seized him and brought him in a coach to the Elephant and Castle alehouse, Fleet Street, from whence they dispatched advice to Jonathan of his apprehension. It happened that that great man was gone to bed when the message arrived with this news; however it was carried up and Jonathan with an air of generosity bid the fellow return and inform his people that he would take Mr. Bellamy's word, and that he might meet him with safety the next morning at his levee. Bellamy, who well knew the temper of the man, failed not to pay his court at the time appointed and adjourning to the Baptist Head tavern in the Old Bailey, after drinking a refreshing bottle, he presented Mr. Wild with five guineas, by way of atonement for the offence which he had committed against him. Jonathan was so well appeased by the intervention of the golden advocates that he promised not only to forgive him, himself, but also to prevail with Mr. Wildgoose to do the same, provided he entered into a bond for the repayment of the ten guineas. This was a condition easily submitted to by Martin in his present circumstances. This danger thus got over, he returned to his old profession without running any further hazard of Jonathan's interruption.

About this time the gang to which he belonged entered upon a new method of housebreaking, which they effected by stealing the keys which fastened the pins in shopkeepers' window-shutters and thereby removing the greatest difficulty they had of getting in. This trade they carried on successfully for a good space; though now and then they miscarried in their attempts, particularly at a goldsmith's shop in Russell Court, where, having got into the shop and being about to remove a show-glass, a man who lay in the shop suddenly started up and presenting a blunderbuss with a great presence of mind told the thieves that he was tender of shedding their blood and therefore advised them to get off as soon as they could. They took his advice and withdrew accordingly, with great confusion. But the same night they had, as Mr. Bellamy expresses it, much better luck at a toy-shop not far from the same place, where, entering the house, they found the maid sitting by the fire. She at first screamed, but they soon made her silent, and then proceeded to carry off the show-glass, with all the boxes that were contained in it.

Not long after this they broke off the padlock from a toy-shop in Swithin's Alley, in Cornhill. Not being able afterwards to enter the house they fell to work next upon the thick timber that supports the shutters, and after labouring at it about an hour, forced it off, whereupon all the shutters dropping down at once into the court, made so great a clatter that they doubted not that all the neighbourhood was alarmed, and thought it would be no ill night's work if, after such an accident, they had the good luck to escape. Upon which they endeavoured to shift, everyone for himself. However, seeing nobody alarmed at the noise of the falling of the shutters and that during two hours' time the watch had never passed that way, they took courage at last: and returned, entered the house, and putting up the most valuable goods, went off without any molestation.

A multitude of robberies of the same kind he confessed, but as they are narrated in the account we have so often mentioned, it would be a kind of imposition on our readers to transcribe those accounts there. Wherefore, in the following articles concerning him, we shall make no use at all of any that is to be found there.

During the space he led this life he cohabited with one Amy Fowles, who passed for his wife and bore him several children. At last, though he had so often escaped, he was apprehended for a burglary committed on the house of Mr. Holliday, in Bishopsgate Street, and upon very full evidence was convicted at the ensuing sessions at the Old Bailey. After his commitment to Newgate he entered, it seems, into a treaty with a certain Justice of the Peace for making a full discovery of all his accomplices, which might at that time have contributed very much to the public advantage; but in the interim some person had talked thereof too openly, it came to the ears of one who collected news for a daily paper. This man thereupon went to Bellamy, making the poor fellow believe that he came to him by the direction of some persons in power (a thing not at all unlikely, considering that a proclamation had been issued but very little before for the better encouraging the discovery of and bringing first offenders to justice). And having by this means drawn the poor fellow into a confession of several robberies and burglaries, he digested it, or got somebody to do it for him, into proper paragraphs which were inserted the next day in a newspaper and gave thereby an opportunity to the persons impeached, of making their escape. This rogue, therefore defeated Bellamy of all hopes of pardon and hindered the public from receiving any benefit from his confession. All which enormous villainies were perhaps perpetrated for the sake of a poor crown, the utmost that could be expected by the collector for procuring this extraordinary passage big with so much mischief, and which in its consequences produced little better than a murder, since it is possible that Bellamy's life might have been saved if a right use had been made of his confession.

At his trial he behaved with great impudence and during the time he lay under sentence continued to affect that gaiety which amongst persons of his profession is too often mistaken for bravery and true courage. But when the fatal day approached he, as is common with most of them, sank much in his spirits and had a great deal to do to recover himself so as to be able to read the following paper, which he had written for that purpose and brought with him to the tree, which, as the words of a dying man, I publish verbatim:

A Copy of the paper read by Martin Bellamy at the Place of Execution

Gentlemen, I am brought here to suffer an ignominious death for my having wilfully transgressed against the known laws of God and my country. I fear there are too many here present who come to be witnesses of my untimely end rather out of curiosity than from a sincere intention to take warning by my unhappy fate. You see me here in the very prime of my youth, cut off like an untimely flower in the rigorous season, through my having been too much addicted to a voluptuous and irregular course of life, which has been the occasion of my committing those crimes for which I am now to suffer. As the laws of God as well as of men call upon me to Lay down my life as justly forfeited by my manifold transgressions, I acknowledge the justice of my sentence, patiently submit to the same without any rancour, ill-will or malice to any person whatsoever; hoping through the merits of Christ Jesus (who laid down His life for sinners, and who upon the cross pronounced a pardon for the repenting thief under the agonies of death) to be with Him permitted to partake of that glorious resurrection and immortality He has been so graciously pleased to promise to the sincere penitent. I earnestly exhort and beg of all here present to think seriously of eternity—a long and endless eternity!—in which we are to be rewarded or punished according to our good or evil actions in this world; that you will all take warning by me and refrain from all wilful transgressions and offences. Let a religious disposition prevail upon you, and use your utmost endeavours to forsake and fly from sin. The mercies of God are great, and He can save even at the last moment of life. Yet do not therefore presume too much, lest you provoke Him to cast you off in His anger, and become fearful examples of His wrath and indignation. Let me prevail upon you to forget and forgive me all the offences and injuries I have committed or promoted in action, advice or example; and entreat your prayers for me that the Lord would in mercy look down upon me in the last moment of my life.

His Prayer

Look down in mercy, O God, I beseech Thee, upon me a miserable, lost, and undone sinner. Number not my transgressions nor let my iniquities rise up in judgment against me. Wash me and I shall be clean; purge me and I shall be free from offence. Though my sins be as scarlet, they shall be whiter than snow if Thou pleasest but to receive me amongst those whom Thou hast redeemed, that I may sing praises to the Most High and extol Thy Holy Name in the courts of Heaven for ever and ever more. Amen.

He suffered on the 27th of March, 1728, being then about eight-and-twenty years of age.


[78] Trinkets and such trifles, not children's playthings.

The Lives of WILLIAM RUSSELL, ROBERT CROUCH and WILLIAM HOLDEN, Street-Robbers, Footpads

Although the insolency of those street-robbers to whose gang the malefactors we are now speaking of belong be at present too recent a fact to be questioned, yet possibly in future times 'twill be thought an exaggeration of truth to say that even at noon-day, and in the most open places in London, persons were stopped and robbed. The offenders for many months escaped with impunity, until those crimes became so frequent and the terrors of passengers so great that the Government interposed in an extraordinary manner, a royal proclamation being issued offering one hundred pounds reward for apprehending any offender, and also promising pardon to any who submitted and revealed their accomplices. This brought numbers of young rash youths who had engaged in this wicked course of life to a violent and ignominious death.

William Russell was descended from persons of honourable family and unblemished reputation. In his youth he had received a tolerable education, which even in his misfortunes rendered him more civilized than any of his companions. He was a young fellow of tolerable good sense, ready wit, and great courage; he always spoke frankly of the wickedness of his own life and acknowledged that sensual pleasures were only what he aimed at in the course of life he led; yet he had never been able to reap any satisfaction in them, but had been always miserable in his own mind, from the time he pursued those base methods of gaining money. His father being gone over to Ireland, and he left at liberty to pursue what methods he thought best, evil women and bad company soon prevailed with him to fall into those methods which afterwards led him to the gallows.

Robert Crouch, the second of these criminals, was born at Dunstable, of very honest parents who afforded him as good an education as it was in their power to give; and then, upon his own inclination to follow the business of a butcher, bound him to one in Newgate Market, with whom he served his time. But as soon as he was out of it he addicted himself to gaming, drinking and whoring, and all the other vices which are so natural to abandoned young fellows in low life. Dalton, who was an evidence against him, was one of the chief persons of his gang, and specially persuaded Crouch to join with him, though he had very little occasion to fall into such ways of getting money, since his father was a man in very good circumstances, who designed to set his son in his trade in a short time, having not the least suspicion that this melancholy accident would intervene.

William Holden, the third of these unhappy persons, was born of very mean parents, had little education, and had followed no particular trade, but had sometimes gone to sea, and at other times driven a hackney coach; so that throughout the whole course of his life he had been continually plunged in the grossest debaucheries, whereby he became ripe for such practices as he and his associates afterwards went upon.

It does not appear, from the papers that I have, that any of these criminals had followed that infamous course of life for above a year, when Dalton, to save his own life, surrendered and made a confession by which these and the rest of ms associates were quickly apprehended and committed dose prisoners to Newgate. At the ensuing sessions at the Old Bailey they were all indicted for assaulting one Martha Hide on the highway, and taking from her a broad-cloth coat, value forty shillings; a looking-glass, value thirty shillings; a woman's nightgown; and other goods, to the value of thirty shillings more. To prove this charge James Dalton was produced, who swore that about nine o'clock at night himself and the prisoners overtook the prosecutor, Martha Hide, in Fleet Street; and observing that she had a bundle they resolved to take it from her. In order to accomplish their design they followed her into Lincoln's Inn Fields, where Robert Crouch, alias Bob the Butcher, knocked her down and Russell took up the bundle and ran away with it. Upon their opening thereof the looking-glass fell out and was broke all to pieces. The rest of the things they sold to one Sarah Watts, who made it her business to buy stolen goods and kept what in their cant is called a 'lock', that is a place for the receipt of such things. Dalton swore, moreover, that not having carefully examined the things, they were extremely mortified to hear afterwards that there was forty shillings in specie wrapped up in a rag, which the woman that bought them got into the bargain.

Martha Hide, herself, deposed that crossing Lincoln's Inn Fields she was knocked down and the bundle taken from her as Dalton had before related. One Solomon Nicholas deposed that not long after, Russell and Crouch quarrelling between themselves at a brandy-shop, Russell said to his companion, If you offer to meddle with Nicholas I'll cut the coat off your back, for it's the woman's coat that we knocked down in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and I have as much right to it as you have. It appeared, also, by another witness, that Crouch pawned an old coat to pay for the altering of this, and after taking off a cloth cape which it had at the time of its being stolen, he caused a velvet one to be sewn on in its room. Mr. Willis, the constable, was the last witness called for by the prosecutor. He swore that at the time that he apprehended the prisoner Russell, he acknowledged that the goods before-mentioned were stolen and sold for one pound two shillings, but said he did not value it, since he should die in the company of such brave fellows.

The jury withdrawing after hearing this evidence, returned soon after and found them guilty, and sentence of death was passed upon them, at one of the fullest sessions which had happened for many years at the Old Bailey, there being twenty-two men and seven women capitally convicted.

As these unhappy men could have little hope of life, considering the nature and notoriety of their offences; they ought certainly to have laid aside all other thoughts and have applied themselves strictly, beseeching pardon of God for their numberless offences against Him. Instead of this, there appeared too much affectation of unconcernedness in all of them, especially in Russell, who, being confined in the same cell with Holden, said to his companion a day or two before his death, with an air of indifference, I'll undertake, Will, to procure a coach to carry off our bodies from the place of execution; but I must leave it to the care of your fraternity (meaning the hackney coachmen) to prevent their being seized on by the surgeons. Holden heard all this very gravely, assented to the proposition without altering his countenance or giving any other mark of his concern for that infamous death which shortly they were both to suffer.

Russell also took a certain pleasure in speaking of the state of street-robbing at the time they left the world. He averred that the town was much mistaken in imagining that the king's proclamation had effectually crushed their fraternity, into which opinion they perhaps might be drawn by seeing so many of them perish in so short a time; which, he said, did not lessen their society, but would, notwithstanding that, put all that remained of them upon bolder exploits than ever, to show that they were yet unhanged. In which conjecture he was not very much out. However, he said, gentlemen might now safely walk the streets without fear of having their pockets picked, for that Benjamin Branch, who died the last sessions, and Isaac Ashley, who was to suffer with him, were the two neat masters in that way, and were capable of earning fifteen or sixteen shillings by it in two or three hours' time; sorting the fruits of their industry into several parcels, from the value of sixpence to half a crown apiece as dexterously as any milliner in London.

After the coming out of the death warrant Russell laid aside much of his boldness, appeared with more gravity at prayers and expressed greater sorrow for his misspent life than he had done before. Crouch carried himself very quietly all along, but could not forbear being unseasonably merry and jocose upon several occasions, smiling at chapel and affecting to talk with greater gaiety than became his condition. He himself owned that this was very unbecoming in a person so near an ignominious death, but he said it was in his temper, and he could not help it. He frankly acknowledged the enormity of that course of life which for some years past he had led, acknowledged that on the coming out of the king's proclamation he had resolved on a four years' voyage to sea, but was prevented from putting it in execution by Dalton's information. As the time of their death drew near he became more and more sensible of his miserable condition and the danger there was of losing his soul as well as his body.

William Holden at first denied very strongly his being in any degree guilty of the fact for which he died; but when he heard that Russell had owned it and at the same time confessed that he was concerned in it, thinking it no further use to adhere to that denial he retracted it and acknowledged that he had been a great sinner, and had committed several thefts before that for which he died. In a word, these three, as they had been companions together in wickedness and fellow-sufferers in the punishment which their crimes had drawn upon them, so they appeared to be all of them sensibly touched with sorrow and remorse for that multitude of crimes which they had committed, endeavouring to merit the pardon of God by hearty prayers and a sincere repentance. Russell, however, declared but a day or two before his execution that Dalton, the evidence, had proposed to him to join in that information he gave against their companions, but that he scorned to save his life by so mean a practice as betraying those who had received him into their friendship.

Their deportment at the place of execution was resolute without obstinacy or impenitence, and the last moments of their lives were full of seriousness, without any marks of timorousness or confusion. Russell was about twenty-five, Crouch about twenty, and Holden somewhat more than twenty-eight years of age at the time they suffered, which was on Monday, 20th of May, 1728.


Although the several criminals whose lives we are now going to relate do not so well tally with one another, they having been of different gangs and dying for various offences, yet as they were all apprehended in consequence of the before-mentioned proclamation, were street-robbers and most of them not unknown to each other, I thought it would be better to speak of them here all at once rather than divide them into several lives. I have very little to say of any of them worthy the attention of the reader.

To begin, then, with Christopher, alias Thomas Rawlins. He was the son of very honest parents here in town, who brought him up as well as their circumstances would permit, and when he grew big enough to go out to a trade put him apprentice to a silversmith with whom he served out his time with tolerable reputation. But being a lad of great gaiety and spirit, having much addicted himself to the company of young fellows of a like disposition, frequented dancing meetings, and taken delight in everything but his business, such inclinations as these easily betrayed him to the commission of the greatest crimes and a certain alertness in his temper made him very acceptable to those debauched young fellows who were his usual companions to such places. Whether he was at first seduced by the persuasions of others to the committing thefts and robberies, or whether those necessities to which their extravagancies had reduced them put him and his associates on taking such measures for filling their purses, is hard to be determined. But certain it is that for some time before his being apprehended he had been very busy in committing such exploits and for his courage and dexterity was looked upon as one of the chief of the gang.

Isaac Ashley, who was Rawlins's companion, and who went commonly amongst them by the nickname of Black Isaac, was a fellow of a very different cast. His parents were poor people, who had, indeed, taken as much care as was in their power of his education and afterwards provided for him as well as they were able, putting him out to a weaver in Spitalfields. But he made them a very ill return for all their care and tenderness, proving an obstinate, idle and illiterate fellow, willing to do nothing that was either just or reputable, and who, except for his dexterity in pocket-picking was one of the most stupid, incorrigible wretches that ever lived. He followed the practice of petty thieving for a considerable space, but though he got considerably thereby, he lost his money continually at gaming, and so remained always in one state, viz., very poor and very wicked; which is no very uncommon case amongst such sort of miserable people, who lavishly waste what they hazard their souls and throw away their lives to obtain.

John Rouden, alias Hulks, the latter being his true name, had the advantage of a very tolerable education, the effects of which were not obliterated by his having been many years addicted to the vilest and most flagitious course of life that can possibly be imagined. The principles with which he had been seasoned in his youth served to render him more tractable and civilized when under his last misfortunes, unto which he fell with the two afore-mentioned malefactors; they being all indicted for assaulting one Mr. Francis Williams on the highway, and taking from him a silver watch value three pounds, two guineas and a moidore,[79] on the 28th of February, 1728. The prosecutor deposed that going in a hackney coach, between Wading Street and St. Paul's School he heard the coachman called on to stop; immediately after which a man came up to the side of the coach, presented a pistol and demanded his money. Four more presented themselves at the coach windows, offering their pistols and saying they had no time to lose. One of them thereupon thrust his hand into his fob and took out his money and his watch. Jones next produced the watch to the Court and said he had it from Dalton, who was the third witness called to support the indictment. He deposed that himself, the three prisoners at the bar, and another person not yet taken, were those that attacked the coach; that himself came up first and Rouden afterwards, who took the watch, as himself did the money, Rawlins and he secreting one guinea from their companions and afterwards pawning the watch for two guineas more.

Mr. Willis, the constable, swore that having received information of certain disorderly persons, he thereupon went and apprehended Dalton, the evidence, who, making an ingenious confession, told him of the robbery committed on Mr. Williams and where the prisoners then were; whereupon he went immediately to apprehend them also. Dalton produced a pistol after he was apprehended, and declared that Rawlins had the fellow to it which was loaded with a slug. When they came to the place where the prisoners were, Rawlins and Rouden made an obstinate defence, sword in hand, and were with great difficulty taken, while Ashley hid himself under the bed, in hopes of making his escape in the confusion. Mr. Willis's brother swore to taking a pistol from Rawlins, such as Dalton had described, and which was loaded with a slug.

The prisoners had nothing to say in their defence except flatly denying everything, and averring that they did not so much as know Dalton. But Mr. Wyatt being produced, swore to the contrary of that, affirming that they were very intimate and that they all lodged together at his house. The jury having received their charge from the judge, took but a small time to consider, and then returning, brought in their verdict that they were all guilty; whereupon at the close of the sessions they received sentence with the rest.

Edward Benson was the son of very reputable persons in the City of London, who had taken all due care in providing him a suitable education with respect both to the principles of learning and of religion; and when he was at years of discretion, they put him out apprentice to a silver-wire-drawer. In himself he was a young man of good understanding, of a sweet temper and but too tractable in his disposition, which seems to have been the cause of most of his misfortunes. For during the time of his apprenticeship, being so unlucky as to fall into bad company, he was easily seduced to following their measures; although he was far enough from being naturally debauched, and seemed to have no great vice but his inclination to women, which occasioned his marrying two wives, who notwithstanding lived peaceably and quietly together. The papers I have do not give any distinct account of the manner in which he first came to join in the execrable employment of plundering and robbing in the streets, and therefore it may be presumed he was drawn into it by his companions whom we are next to mention.

George Gale, alias Kiddy George, was a perfect boy at the time of his suffering death, and though descended of very honest parents, who no doubt had given him some education in his youth, yet the uninterrupted course of wickedness in which he lived from the time of his being able to distinguish between wrong and right had so perfectly expunged all notions of justice or piety, that never a more stupid or incorrigible creature came into this miserable state. Thomas Neeves[80], who had been their associate in all their villainies, was the person who gave information against him, Benson, and several other malefactors we shall hereafter speak of. Gale, as is common with such people, complained vehemently against the evidence who had undone him. As death approached he shed tears abundantly, but was so very ignorant that he expressed no other marks of penitence for his offences.

Thomas Crowder was a young man of an honest family and of a very good education. His friends had put him out apprentice to a cabinet-maker. Before he was out of his time he thought fit to go to sea, where, for aught appears by our papers, he behaved himself very honestly and industriously. Coming home from a voyage, a little before his death, he was so unfortunate as to fall into the company of Neeves, the evidence, who, pretending to have money and an inclination to employ it in the Holland trade, prevailed on poor Crowder to attend him three or four days, in which space Neeves was married and had great junkettings with his new wife and her friends. In the midst of this they were all apprehended, and Neeves, with how much truth must be determined at the Last Day, put this unhappy man into his information and gave evidence against him at his trial, when Benson, Gale and this Crowder were indicted for assaulting James Colver on the highway, and taking from him a watch value forty shillings, and five shillings in money. For this offence, chiefly on the oath of Neeves, they were all capitally convicted.

James Toon was another of those unhappy persons who suffered on the oath of Neeves. He had spent his time mostly upon the water, having been a seaman for several years, and after that a bargeman. He was a young man of tolerable good sense, very civil in his behaviour and in nothing resembling those who are ordinarily addicted to robbing and thieving. His parents were persons in tolerable circumstances, and had taken a due care of his education. The particular crime for which he died was assaulting James Flemming, in the company of George Gale and Edward Brown, alias Benson, and taking from him, the said Flemming, a silver watch value forty shillings, and two guineas in money, the third of April.

John Hornby had been bred for some time at school, being descended of honest parents, who put him apprentice to a joiner. But being naturally inclined to idleness and vice, in a short time he had occasion to take base and illegal methods to acquire money. His necessities were also increased through foolishly marrying a woman, while he was yet a perfect boy and knew not how to maintain her. Picking pockets was his first resource, and the method of thieving which he always liked best and got most money at; but being of a very easy temper, his companions found it no hard thing to persuade him into taking such other methods of robbing as they persuaded him would be more beneficial, and in this Benson seems to have been one of his chief advisers. In himself, Hornby was good-natured and much less rude and boisterous than some of his companions. He had been but a very short time engaged in the street-robbing practice and did not seem to have courage or boldness sufficient to make himself considerable amongst his companions in those enterprises, which in all probability was the reason that while under confinement they treated him but very indifferently, and sometimes went so far as to give him ill names and blows, which he endured without saying much, and seemed perfectly resigned to the several punishments which his own iniquities had brought upon him. The crime for which he died was a robbery committed on the highway, upon the person of one Edward Ellis, from whom was taken a silver watch, value four pounds, and two guineas in money.

William Sefton was born in Lancashire, and during the life-time of his father received a tolerable education. But on his mother's marrying another husband, Sefton, who had been bred a barber and peruke-maker, finding things not to go to his mind, came up to London. But changing place did not seem to make him much easier, so that after having led an unsettled life for a considerable space, he became at length a common soldier. 'Twill be easily imagined that this choice of his did not much better his fortunes and possibly the company which his military life obliged him to keep served only to increase his courage so far as to enable him to take a purse on the highway; a practice he had pursued with pretty good success a considerable time before he was taken. But being a naming, close fellow, he robbed with so much precaution that he was little suspected until taken up for the offence for which he died, which was for assaulting Henry Bunn on the highway, and taking from him a silver watch, two pieces of foreign gold, and two pounds eleven shillings in money.

Richard Nichols was a man in the middle age of life, of a grave and civil deportment, of good character, and who was a barber and peruke-maker. He had lived by his profession without the least suspicion of his being guilty of any such crime as that for which he died. He was convicted, chiefly on the evidence of Neeves, for feloniously stealing nine silver watches and a gold watch, the property of Andrew Moran and others in the dwelling-house of the said Moran. As there was nothing remarkable in this man's life, and as it did appear that he was not flagrantly guilty of any other vice except drinking and wasting his own money, so it would be needless to dwell longer upon his adventures prior to his condemnation; therefore we shall go on to speak of the behaviour of these criminals while they remained under sentence of death.

Christopher Rawlins seemed to retain much of his old boisterous temper, and though he would bring himself to speak with more decency concerning the great duty of repentance which now alone remained for them to practise, yet in a little time he would fly out into strange and blasphemous expressions, for which being reproved by William Russell, whom we have before mentioned as being under sentence at the same time, he answered, What does it signify to prepare ourselves, since we have passed through so wicked a life in this world and have now so short a time to remain in it? He frequently expressed a despair of God's mercy though after the death warrant came down he appeared somewhat more easy, and in a better disposition to offer up his prayers to the Almighty. As to the crimes for which he suffered, he readily and ingenuously confessed them, owning the justice of the sentence which had been passed upon him and expressed this sense of the multitude of offences which he had committed, such as he acknowledged deserved no mercy here, nor, without the interposition of the mercy of God hereafter. Yet in the midst of these expressions of penitence he could not forbear doing something in his old way, and a few days before his execution actually cut the tassels from the pulpit cushion in the chapel.

Ashley was very frank in his confessions of numberless thefts which he had committed in the course of his wicked and licentious life; but he peremptorily denied that he had any concern whatsoever in the robbery for which he was to die, and this was confirmed by Rawlins and Benson, who said that they, indeed, committed it, but that Ashley was no ways concerned therein. However, as far as his stupid disposition would give him leave, he sometimes expressed great penitence for the deeds which he had committed. Yet the Sunday before his death he stole five or six handkerchiefs at chapel, of which when the Ordinary spoke to him at the place of execution, he only said that it was true, but that he must have something to subsist on.

Rouden acknowledged the justice of his sentence, that he was guilty of the crimes laid to his charge, and behaved in every respect like a true and sincere penitent. Benson showed the same easiness and sweetness of temper which he had always been remarkable for, even to the last moment of his life. He expressed, indeed, much sorrow for his having lived deliberately in a continued course of adultery with two women who both of them averred that they had been lawfully married to him. He frankly confessed his own guilt, and that the sentence of the Law was just, dying, as far as we are able to judge, in a composed and penitent disposition of mind.

George Gale, though he owned he had for some time been a thief, yet he absolutely denied his having any concern in the robberies before mentioned; but he averred that Neeves, knowing his character, took the advantage of putting him in the information, as knowing that he had neither friends nor interest to make his innocence appear. Indeed, Benson did so far confirm what Gale had said that he owned he alone committed the robbery for which he was convicted, and to this they both adhered to their last moments at the place of execution, where Gale wept bitterly, and with all outward tokens of sorrow confessed the multitude of sins he had committed throughout the whole course of his life.

Thomas Crowder persevered even to death in denying any concern with Neeves, further than his being deluded with the hopes of joining with him in a trade to Holland and France; yet the Ordinary tells us in his account of these criminals that he had reason to believe that Crowder, notwithstanding this, was guilty, because a gentleman averred that he had owned as much to him in the chapel the very day he died.

James Toon continued to behave with a uniform submission to the decrees of Providence, absolutely denied his being guilty of the fact for which he was convicted, yet acknowledged that he had led a very sinful life, and therefore looked on it as a great mercy of the Providence of God that he had so much time to reflect and repent in. Hornby wept and lamented grievously for the miseries which he had brought on himself and those who were related to him, said he had for a long time been guilty of illegal practices, but would not acknowledge that he had been guilty of that for which he was condemned.

Sefton appeared under condemnation to have a very just idea of the wretched state he was in, the necessity there was of preventing, by a thorough repentance, a yet more severe judgment than that under which he then lay. He acknowledged the crime for which he died, said he had been drawn to the commission of it by the persuasion of a person whom he named, and at the place of execution declared he died sorry for all his sins and in charity with mankind. He had hardly been turned off a minute before the rope broke and he fell to the ground, but the sheriff's men laying hold on him, he was soon tied up again and so executed in pursuance of his sentence.

Richard Nichols, as he always behaved with great decency and was of a sober, serious and religious disposition, so he constantly affirmed (though without vehemence or any signs of passion) that he knew nothing of the robbery whereof he stood convicted, but that his life was basely sworn away by Neeves the evidence, without the least grounds whatsoever, he having never associated himself with street-robbers or been concerned in any sort of thieving whatever. In this he persisted to the time of his death, repeating it and averring it at the place of execution; and, indeed, there is the greatest reason to believe that he spoke nothing but the truth, because Thomas Neeves, the witness, when he came afterwards to die at Tyburn, did acknowledge that he knew nothing of Nichols, nor had ever seen him before his being committed at the Justice's, and begged that God would pardon his crying sin of perjury and murder in taking the life of an innocent man.

These malefactors suffered on the 20th of May, 1728; Rawlins being twenty-two, Ashley, twenty-six; Rouden, twenty-four; Benson, twenty-four; Gale, seventeen; Crowder, twenty-two; Toon, twenty-five; Hornby, twenty-one; Sefton, twenty-six; and Nichols, forty years of age.


[79] A Portuguese gold coin current in England, worth about 23s.

[80] See page 463.

The Lives of RICHARD HUGHS and BRYAN MACGUIRE, Highwaymen and Footpads

Idleness, lewd women and bad company are the sum total of those excuses urged by criminals when they come to be punished, even for the most flagrant offences. With just reason Richard Hughs exclaimed on them all, for from youth upwards he had ever addicted himself to laziness and a dislike to that business to which he was bred, viz., that of a bricklayer. Following loose women was the thing in which he took most delight, and was probably the occasion of his subsequent misfortunes. The immediate cause of them was his acquaintance with William Sefton before-mentioned, with whom he joined in a confederacy to rob on the highway, a thing to which his necessities in some measure drove him, since he had squandered all he had in the world on those abandoned women with whom he conversed, and had contracted so bad a reputation that he found it hard to be employed in his business.

Into this wretched confederacy entered also the other offender, Bryan Macguire, an Irishman born in the county of Wicklow. He had been bred a sawyer, but was never very well pleased with the trade which required so much hard labour. However, he worked at it some time after he came to England, but some of his countrymen persuading him that it was much easier to live by sharping, a practice they very well understood, he readily fell into their sentiments and soon struck out a new method of cheating, which brought them in more and with less hazard than any of the ways pursued by his associates. The artifice was this: by repeated practice he found a way to pull his tongue so far back into his throat that he really appeared to have none at all, and by going to coffee-houses and other places of public resort for the better sort of people, he, by pretending to be dumb and then opening his mouth and showing them what looked only like the root of a tongue, obtained large charities. He had great success in this cheat for a long time, but at last was discovered by a gentleman's blowing some snuff into his throat, which, by setting him a-coughing, detected the imposture.

Then, being very straitened, he fell in with Sefton and Hughs with whom having cheated and tricked for a little space, they at last came all to an agreement of going together upon the highway and sharing their booty equally amongst them. However, their partnership was of no very long continuance, for in nine or ten days they were all apprehended and brought to condign punishment. Hughs had been a soldier as well as Sefton, and had quitted the Army to go upon the highway, which was a very luckless occasion for him. Being quickly apprehended he was charged with five several capital indictments, to all of which, when he came to be arraigned, he resolutely pleaded guilty; and when admonished by the Court that the crimes with which he was charged were felonies without benefit of clergy, he persisted therein, saying that he would not give the judge nor the gentlemen of the jury unnecessary trouble.

Macguire was indicted on four of the indictments which had been preferred against Hughs, and capitally convicted upon them all. He was no sooner under sentence than he declared himself to be of the communion of the Church of Rome. However, he attended constantly at the chapel, seemed to listen earnestly to what was said there, and made responses very regularly to the several prayers, a thing which Papists very seldom comply with. However, Bryan appeared to be a very reasonable man in this respect, saying that he hoped God would be satisfied with that imperfect atonement which he was able to make for his offences, and would not impute it to him as a sin that he had taken all occasions which offered of presenting his petitions for remission. In this disposition he continued until the day of his execution, when both he and Hughs appeared very composed and penitent, desiring the prayers of those who were witnesses of their death, submitting thereto with all exterior marks of proper resignation, on the 26th day of June, 1728; Hughs being twenty-four and Macguire twenty-eight years of age or thereabouts.

The Life of JAMES HOW, alias HARRIS, a notorious Highwayman and Thief

Though, generally speaking, the old saying holds true that nobody becomes superlatively wicked at once, yet it may be also averred that a long and habitual course of vice at last so hardens the soul that no warnings are sufficient, no dangers so frightful, nor reflections so strong as to overcome lewd inclinations, when their strength has become increased by a long unrestrained indulgence.

The criminal of whom we are now to speak was a native of the town of Windsor, in the county of Berks. His parents were honest people in middling circumstances, who yet took such care of his education that he was fit for any business to which he would have applied himself. But he, on the contrary, continuing to lead a lazy and indolent course of life, sauntering from one place to another, and preferring want and idleness to industry and labour, at last became so burdensome to his relations that with much ado they sent him to sea. There being of a robust constitution and of a bold, daring spirit, he quickly gained some preferment in the ship on board of which he sailed and might possibly have done very well if he had continued at sea for any time, having the good luck to serve on board the admiral's vessel, and to be taken notice of as a sprightly young fellow, capable of coming to good.

But alas! James soon blasted this prospect of good fortune, for no sooner was he on shore than laying aside all the views he had formed of rising in the Navy, he associated himself with some of his old companions. They persuaded him to take a purse, as the shortest and easiest method of supporting those expenses into which his inclinations for sensual pleasures naturally plunged him. He too easily listened to their persuasions and from that time forward he left nothing unstolen upon which he could lay his fingers.

Punishment did not pursue his crimes with a leaden pace; on the contrary, he had scarce offended ere she made him sensible of the offences. Bridewells, prisons, duckings, lashings, and beatings of hemp were made familiar to him by his running through them several times in the space of a few years. At length, as he increased the guilt of his crimes, so he added to the weight of his sufferings; for after having been at Newgate several times for lesser offences, he was at last committed for a felony, and being convicted thereof, was ordered for transportation. Rightly conceiving that if he was carried into the Plantations he would be obliged to work very hard, which he most dreaded, in order to escape he forged a letter as from a certain man of quality directing that he should be set at liberty in order to serve as a good hand on board of one of his Majesty's ships. His old ill luck pursuing him, the forgery was detected and he was thereupon ordered to remain two years at hard labour in Bridewell; but when he was brought thither, the keeper absolutely refused to have anything to do with him. They knew him of old and said that he was a fellow only fit to make the other criminals who were there unruly, by projecting and putting them into way of making their escape. Upon this he was carried back to Newgate and remained a prisoner for that space of time.

How he came by his liberty again I cannot take upon me to say; all that appears from my papers is that he made a very ill use of it as soon as he obtained it, returning immediately to the commission of those crimes for which he had before forfeited it. At length turning housebreaker he was committed for feloniously stealing five pounds out of the house of John Spence, for which fact, at the sessions following, a bill of indictment was found against him, and he was thereupon arraigned.

At first he insisted that overtures had been made in order to procure discoveries from him, and therefore he desired that he might be admitted an evidence. The Court informed him that they would enter into no altercations with a prisoner at the bar; that he had heard the nature of the charge preferred against him; and that now they could hear nothing from him unless he pleaded guilty or not guilty. He persisted obstinately in his first demand, and in consequence thereof obstinately refused to plead. Whereupon he was told from the Bench that such behaviour was not a proper method to excite the mercy of the Court, that it was not in their power to comply in any degree with what he desired, but that on the contrary they should proceed to pass sentence upon him as a mute, by which be would be subjected to a much greater and more grievous punishment than if he were found guilty of the crime of which he was accused. All this made no impression upon the criminal; he said he could but die, and the manner in which he died was indifferent to him. And so sentence, as is usual in such cases, was pronounced upon him, and he was ordered to be carried back and put into the press. But when he had carried it so far, and found there was no avoiding that cruel fortune which was appointed for such obstinate persons as himself, he desired time till the next morning to consider his plea, which being permitted him, he that time pleaded guilty.

While under sentence of death something very extraordinary occurred in relation to this malefactor. It seems that one Mrs. Dawson had a parcel of plate, consisting of two silver tankards, two silver mugs, a silver cup and a punch ladle, seven pounds sixteen shillings in money, and a great quantity of papers of considerable value, stolen out of her house. She suspected one Eleanor Reddey, and caused her to be apprehended, who thereupon confessed that she opened the door of her mistress's house in the night-time and let in one William Read; that she saw him take away the plate and watched, in the meantime, to observe if anyone came. Upon this confession she herself was convicted, but no evidence appearing against William Read, who was tried with her, he was acquitted.

After she received sentence of death she declared herself absolutely innocent of the fact for which she was to die, affirming that as soon as she was taken up some neighbours persuaded her to make such a confession, and to charge William Read with stealing the things, assuring her that if she did so, she would preserve herself by coming a witness against him. Being a silly timorous creature in herself, and terrified by their suggesting that if she did not take the method they proposed, somebody would infallibly swear against her, she with much ado assented; and being carried before Justice Jackson, made and signed such a confession as is before mentioned.

But How, alias Harris, whose life we are now writing, declared that he, himself, robbed Mrs. Dawson, and that he had a considerable quantity of the plate and most of the papers in his power, offering to restore them if the said Mrs. Dawson had interest enough to procure a pardon either for himself or Eleanor Reddey. But the Ordinary assured him that Mrs. Dawson could do no such thing, and at the same time exhorted him to make what restitution was in his power, since otherwise his repentance would remain imperfect and small hope could be given him of his meeting with forgiveness from an offended God. At first this seemed to have little or no weight with the criminal; he expressed himself very civilly when spoken to on that head, but peremptorily refused to do anything towards making satisfaction to Mrs. Dawson, unless she could do something for him or the woman.

But when death approached nearer he began to relent, sent for the Ordinary and told him that, as for the plate, it was indeed out of his power, but for that the papers, he had caused them to be brought in a box which he delivered and desired they might be kept carefully, because he was sensible that they were of great value to their owner.

At the place of execution he seemed desirous only of clearing his wife from any imputation of being concerned with him in any of his villainies and then suffered with much resignation, on the 11th of September, 1728, being near thirty-eight years of age.

The Lives of GRIFFITH OWEN, SAMUEL HARRIS, and THOMAS MEDLINE, Highwaymen and Footpads

Griffith Owen, the first of these unhappy criminals, was the son of very honest parents who had given him a very good education in respect both of letters and religion. When he was grown up they put him out apprentice to a butcher in Newgate Market, with whom he served his time, though not without committing many faults and neglecting his business in a very marked degree, addicting himself too much to idle company, the usual incitements to those crimes for the commission of which he afterwards suffered.

His companion Harris, if Owen were to be believed, first proposed robbing as an expedient to the supply of their pockets, to which he too readily gave way; and having once ventured to attack he never suffered himself nor his companions to cool. For the space of about six weeks, keeping themselves still warm with liquor, they committed five or six robberies, for which at last they were all apprehended. And as they had been companions together in wickedness, so they shared also in imprisonment and death as the consequences of those offences they had committed.

Samuel Harris, though he had received a very tolerable education as to reading and writing, yet he never applied himself to any business, but served bricklayers as a labourer, in company with his fellow-sufferer Medline. But having been all his life addicted to lust and wickedness, he proposed robbing to his companions as the most feasible method of getting money wherewith to support their debauches and the strumpets who used to partake with them at their houses of resort. He confirmed what Owen had said, and acknowledged that during the time they continued their robberies, never any people in the world led more profligate and more uneasy lives than they did; being always engaged in a continual circle of drunkenness, violence and whoredom; while their minds were continually agitated with the fear of being apprehended, so that they never enjoyed peace or quiet from the time of their betaking themselves to this course of life unto the day of their apprehension and coming to the gallows.

Thomas Medline was born more meanly than either of his companions, and had so little care taken of him in his youth, that he could neither read nor write. However, he applied himself to working hard as a labourer to the bricklayers, and got thereby for some time sufficient wherewith to maintain himself and his family. At last, giving himself over to drink, he minded little of what became of his wife and children, and falling unhappily about the same time into the acquaintance of the before-mentioned malefactor Harris, he was easily seduced by him to become a partner in his crimes and addicted himself to the highway.

It was but a very short space that they continued to exercise this their illegal and infamous calling, for venturing to attack one Mr. Barker, on the Ware Road, and not long after Dr. Edward Hulse,[81] they were quickly apprehended for those facts, and after remaining some time in Newgate, were brought to their trials at the Old Bailey.

There it was sworn by Mr. Barker, that he observed them drinking at an alehouse at Tottenham, the very evening in which he was robbed; and that apprehending them to be loose and disorderly persons he took more than ordinary notice of their faces; that about a mile from Edmonton church they came up with him, and notwithstanding he told them he knew them, they pulled him off his horse and robbed him of five pounds and sixpence; that returning the next day to the place where he was robbed, he found sevenpence, which he supposed they had dropped in their hurry.

On the second indictment it was desposed by one Mr. Hyatt that he suspected the prisoners, from the description given by Mr. Barker and Doctor Hulse, to be the persons who had robbed them; he thereupon apprehended them upon suspicion, and that Mr. Barker, as soon as he saw them, swore to their faces.

Doctor Hulse deposed that they were the persons who robbed him of his watch and money, and that he had particularly remarked Owen as having a scar on his face. Thomas Bennett, the doctor's coachman, swore that Owen was the man who got upon the coach-box and beat him, and afterwards robbed his master; that not contented therewith, they beat the witness again, knocked out one of his teeth, and broke his own whip about him. Henry Greenwood confirmed this account in general, but could not be positive to any of the faces except that of Owen. The jury, in this proof, without any long stay found them all guilty.

While under sentence of death they all behaved themselves with as much penitence and seeming sorrow for their offences as was ever seen amongst persons in their condition. They attended as often as Divine Worship was celebrated in the chapel, and appeared very desirous of instruction as to those private prayers which they thought necessary to put up to God, when carried back to their several places of confinement.

Harris seemed a little uneasy at the Ordinary's remonstrating with him that he was more guilty than the rest, inasmuch as he first incited them to the falling into those wretched methods by which they brought shame and ruin upon themselves. He answered that there was little difference in their dispositions, having been all of them addicted for many years to the greatest wickedness which men could practise; that his companions were no less ready than he to fall upon such means of supporting themselves in sensual delights. As he averred this to their faces they did not contradict it, but seemed to take shame to themselves and to sorrow alike for the evils they had committed.

They ended their lives at Tyburn, on the 11th of September, 1728, with all outward signs of true repentance; Owen being twenty, Harris twenty-nine, and Medline thirty-nine years of age at the time of their execution.


[81] An eminent Whig doctor who was later appointed physician to George II. He was created a baronet in 1739.

The Lives of PETER LEVEE, JOHN FEATHERBY, STEPHEN BURNET, alias BARNET, alias BARNHAM, and THOMAS VAUX, Street-Robbers, Footpads, Thieves, etc.

In the course of these memoirs I have more than once remarked that a ridiculous spirit of vainglory is often the source of those prodigious mischiefs which are committed by those abandoned persons, who addict themselves to open robberies, and the carrying on, as it were, a declared war against mankind. Theft and rapine may to some appear odd subjects for acquiring glory, and yet it is certain that many, especially of the younger criminals, have been chiefly instigated in their most daring attempts from a vain inclination to be much talked of, in order to which this seemed to them the shortest course. But these observations that I have made will be better illustrated from the following lives, than they could have been any other way.

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