Francis Williams, Matthew Chessey, Violent Theft > highway robbery, 1st May 1717.

Reference Number: t17170501-55
Offence: Violent Theft > highway robbery
Verdict: Guilty
Punishment: Death

Francis Williams , Matthew Chessey alias Cheshire , of Chiswick , were indicted for assaulting William Honour on the King's Highway, and taking from him one Strawberry Gelding, value 6 l. and one Black Gelding, val 10 l. the property of John Bowcher ,4 Mails, val.8 l. and 50 Leather Bags, val 5 l. the 23d of January last. To this Indictment Franscis Williams pleaded Not guilty. But Matthew Chessey refus'd to plead, unless he had a Tankard and some other things restored him, which he said were taken away from him (which, according to the Evidence, was his share of the 35 l Bank-Note which his wife and Hollyday's pot off, as below) but when he obstinately persisted in refusing to plead, the Executioner was call'd and order'd to bring Cords in order to force him to plead, by tying his Thumbs together and so drawing the Noose hard by violent pulling, which is the Forerunner of the Press. But before the Executioner came again, he at last told the Court he would plead if they would promise him afterwards that he should have them; to which he was answered, That he should have what was legally his: So at last he pleaded Not guilty.

William Honour the Post-boy deposed, That between Turnham-Green and Branford there follow'd him three men, that two of them pass'd by him; that one of them laid hold of him horse's bridle, and led the horse, and another drove him into a field, and there told him they wanted the Bristol and Exeter Mails, threatning him if he did not tell them which they were; then they cut the straps, and opening the Mail, took out the Western and Bristol Packets, and then bound him and carried them off. Hollyday deposed, that the prisoners and he met at the Harpin Grays-Inn-Lane, to console in order to rob the Mail, agreed upon it, and the pretence was to be, that they had a Commission from the Pretender, who was at Bristol; that it was to have been put in execution the Sunday before, but that they were disappointed of their Horses; that on Tuesday-night they met at about 9 a clock, took horse, and went towards Branford said till about 4 in the morning, and not seeing the Post-boy thought he had been gone by, and were for returning; but while they were covering their horses, he came by, and that they did at the Post-boy had before related, and brought the Packets to Chessey's house in Fetter-lane. Holiday's Wife deposed, that about 8 of the clock on Wednesday-morning one Smith went with her to Chessey's house; that she went up stairs, and found the Prisoners all over dirt, like frighted men, opening Letters; that Mr. Smith would not go up, upon which Williams said, G - d d - n him, why would he not came up? he has put us upon it, and now be will not be seen in it. Upon which they thought themselves unsafe there; and one of them saying he had a friend at the Black Dog in shoreditch, whom be had trusted very considerably, and believing they might be safe under his roof, the Letters were accordingly carried thither: That they found no booty in the Letters they opened on Wednesday: that one concern'd having business that he could not attend on Thursday, they were lock'd up at the Black Dog till Friday-morning; that on Friday-morning they met there, eat a Breakfast; till the man of the house was up; then they went up stairs, had a fire made, a large table set, and having hung up her Ridinghood against the key-hole, Chessey fetch'd out the bag, laid it down upon the table, and fell to opening the Letters, that they found 3 Chequer-Notes of an 100 l. each, and 3 Bank- Notes of 20 l. each, which they distributed equally; that there was likewise a Bank-Note of 35 l which being an odd sum, they sent her and Chessey's wife to lay it out in Plate, which they did, buying 2 Tankards,6 Spoons, and 3 Gold Rings, which also were divided amongst them; and that the Prisoners took each of them their parts of the Letters and carried them and dropt them in Moor-fields ,&c. Chessey's wife and she going before to see all safe; and that they found likewise a Bank-Note of 25 l. which her husband had to receive the money at the Bank, which he deposed he carried into Cannon-street to an Alehouse at the sign of the Cripple, and calling for a Porter, bid him go to the Bank to receive the money. Reeves the Porter deposed, that he plying at the corner of the street was called, and that Holliday gave him the 25 l. Note to go to the Bank to receive the money, which he did, and that there the Note and he were stopped (notice having been given of it before) and that the next morning came Holliday's Wife and one Peacock a porter along with her to the sign of the Cripple, and enquired for the Porter that a North-Country Gentleman had sent the night before with a Bank-Note, saying, that last night he got drunk, and so could not come for it himself. Peacock the Porter deposed, that he plying in Holbourn was called to Holliday and sent along with his wife to the sign of the Cripple on this errand. The Porter Reeves appeared that had carry'd the Note to the Bank, and told 'em, the Landlord of the house had the money in his hands, which they demanding he fetch'd down, and was telling it out to Peacok and the Woman, but telling it wrong, sometimes 19 for 20, and sometimes 22 for 20, on purpose to protract the time while he sent word to the Bank, some persons came from there and apprehended them; and the fact being charged home upon her, and some promises of indemnity to her husband. she at last discovered where he was; so they went to the Coach and Horses in Holbourn and apprehended him, and by his direction the Prisoners. It was sworn likewise, that Chessey had some of the Letters taken out of the Mail in his Pocket, when he was apprehended. Several of these things were confirmed by a variety of Evidences. The Prisoners deny'd the fact, Said they were innocent of it, and knew no more of it them the child unborn. Chessey deny'd he had been upon the back of a Horse or Mare for twelve months last past. Williams labour'd to invalidate the evidence of Holliday, saying he was a great Rogue, had been in all the Goals in England, was a perjur'd, Villain , and stood convicted of Felony, and so could not be a legal Evidence; he had been at charge to get the Copy of his Pardon produced in Court, which he pleaded in 1711, saying he had not fulfilled the Conditions of it, and so flood still convict. But he neither proving his Conviction, nor the Nonperformance of the Conditions of his Pardon it bore no weight with the Court, and the Jury found them both guilty of the indictment.

The Prisoners being asked what they had to say in Arrest of Judgement, Chessey insisted upon a promise of the Court that he should have the Tankard; but was answer'd, that he was promised so such thing, but only he should after Tryal have what was his Rights: That as he, being convict, had no legal Right to any thing, all being forfeited; much less had be any to the Tackard, which had been Purchased with part of the money gotten by the Robbery for which he stood convicted. Francis Williams owned he was concerned in the fact after the Robbery, but deny'd his being in it; and pleaded, that when they examined the Letters, the rest were all illiterate and could not read, and would have burnt all the Letters and Writings that they did not make use of, and that a great fire was made, to whose flames they were all to be committed, that they might not rise up in judgement against them; but he, being sensible of the consequences, and shock'd at the barbarity of their design, opposed it, saying that Children unborn, and Generation to come, would be bound to Curse them for so Villainous an Action, by which they should have their Titles to

Estates and Debts,&c. destroyed, asserting there were Packets of Bonds, Obligations and Deeds; and as he had been the person that prevented so great a calamity, that would have affected all the Western parts of England, even as far as the Land's End, he hoped the Recorder would represent him as an object of his Majesty's mercy. But he was answered, that tho' Writings should be by such accidents destroyed, persons did not therefore lose their Estates; nor was it credible that Deeds of Estates, or such like things, were, or could be sent inclos'd in Letters by the Post. However, he would represent to the King the case as it really was.

[Death. See summary.]


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