John Wilks, Violent Theft > highway robbery, 14th September 1752.

Reference Number: t17520914-5
Offence: Violent Theft > highway robbery
Verdict: Guilty
Punishment: Death

404. (M.) John Wilks was indicted, for that he, on the king's highway, on Elizabeth Holt , widow , did make an assault, putting her in corporal fear and danger of her life, and stealing

from her person one gold watch, val. 5 l. one thread purse, val. 3 d. two silver medals, one half crown, and six shillings in money number'd , June 17 .

William Smith . I have known the prisoner from about February or March. I was clerk to one Mr. Bridgewater, in Pope's Head Alley. The second time he saw me, he ask'd me to drink some bumboe, and where my master was. I said at the other end of the town; he took me to an alehouse, and gave me three six penny worths of bumboe. The next time I saw him was the 17th of June, in Rotherhith; we had some cyder and brandy. Then I left him in King-street at the Duke of Cumberland's head ; I staid about a quarter of an hour, then went to him, and had some more cyder and brandy. Then we went with a man and played at skittles, and about eight o'clock we went away to his house, in Barnaby-street; but his wife was not at home. Then he took me to a house he had taken, up in a court near that place; there he took a pistol off the mantle-piece, and bid me down on my knees, and take my oath of what he was going to say, and then said, if ever I told Bridgewater my master, or any body else, what he was going to say, he'd be revenged. Said he, I owe my landlord rent, and you must go with me to rob coaches to pay it, and we shall be made men of in a night or two's time. We went out about eleven o'clock, to bid his wife a good night; she was at an alehouse, and he said he should not be at home that night. We went to Mr. Graunt's, on London Bridge, and had a quartern of rum. I had half of it; he asked Mr. Graunt to change half a guinea. Then we went to a house in a court close by Ludgate, on the right hand. We got there about half an hour after eleven. He put one pistol in his pocket, and an empty one in mine. I said I suppose you want me to be taken; he replied I have got a loaded one, if there is any danger call me. I saw him put it in his pocket; we stayed about a quarter of an hour, and then went up the Haymarket together. He heard a coach, and said now is your time. This was near twelve o'clock, in either Shug-lane, or Silver-street; he said, go up to it, and see what you can do. Said I, my heart fails me, I don't know how to go about it; if we must do it, you must go first. He said he would, and do you look out. He went up, and stopped it as it was at a corner. I stood about thirty yards off. It was a hackney coach; he bid the coachman stop, he did directly. He went and said, Deliver, and swore a great oath. I saw him put the pistol into the coach, and hold out his left hand to take what they'd give him. He came to me in about a minute; said he, I have made a prize; I believe I have got some gold, and shook a purse, and put it into his waistcoat pocket. After that there came three more coaches, but they were all empty; then the prosecutrix's coach came down Shug-lane, a hackney coach. Said he, I hope you will not deny it is your turn. I said, if I must, I'll go and try at once. I went up, and bid the coachman stop; he did not directly. Then I bid him again, and put the pistol into the coach, but gave a reel, and my heart failed me. The lady, as I thought, looked very cross and harsh. I ran up Piccadilly into a court, and call'd, Jack, come along. He was near the front of the horses, but I did not see him till he came after a good while, and shewed me a gold watch, a chain and seal, and said, See what I have done; we shall do for ourselves presently. He put it into his waistcoat pocket, and said, here is another coach; I said I'd not go. Then we went into Darkhouse-lane, to the Green Man and Bell. After we had drank three six pennyworths of bumboe, we went and lay down; but I was so uneasy, I got up again. He gave me a Spanish dollar, which I sold for 4 s. 7 d. and said, that he had it of the lady he robbed last; it was a white net purse. He gave me the watch to take care of. I saw another foreign piece, which I took to be a Duke of Cumberland's piece. He said he'd keep that. There did not appear to be much in the purse; it was a little gold watch, plain, and the box and case in one, with a long pinchbeck chain, a seal and key. We stayed there till about four or five o'clock in the morning, and then I went and sold the watch about noon, to Mr. Winstanley, a silversmith, in Lombard-street, for four guineas. I gave him two guineas. The dollar was sold to Mr. Winstanley. I went there alone.

Question from prisoner. Did I go any farther than Mr. Garret's in Darkhouse Lane, after we had supped?

Smith. Yes, you went to Mr. Graunt's, on London-Bridge.

Elizabeth Holt . On the 17th of June in the morning, I went to my Lady Head's, in Vere-street, between twelve and one. I went home in a hackney coach, with my two boys. I live in Spring Garden; I had two medals, and half a guinea, with some silver. We were stopped and robbed in Shug-Lane ; one came up to the coach door; it was moon light, the person look'd pale. He swore an oath, and bid us deliver; I was so affrighted, that I gave my son my purse to deliver it. I can't tell whether he that came up

first was the man to whom the purse was delivered, but saw my son give it. I can't tell whether there were more than one.

Q. Look at the prisoner; do you think he was there ?

Holt. I can't tell, I was so affrighted. I had a footman behind the coach; he gave the man a rap on the pate. The watch was my son's. The medals were, one a German medal, the other a Spanish piece. The watch produced in court, and deposed to. I had it, by advertising it, of Mr. Winstanley.

Q. What cloaths had the man on that robbed you?

Holt. He had a white coat, and a striped waistcoat.

Prisoner. The evidence used to wear such cloaths, but has changed them.

William Cob b. I am Mrs. Holt's servant; I was along with her the 17th of June. She was stopp'd at the bottom of Shug Lane, by one man; I saw no more. He look'd more on the coachman than at me. I saw but a little of the side of his face. He was about the size of the prisoner. I can't be sure he was not the evidence. He swore a great oath, and bid them deliver. I was behind the coach, and saw the barrel of a pistol shine by the moonlight. I think he had a light colour'd coat and striped waistcoat. I did not see what was delivered to him.

Peter Winstanley . (Looks at the watch.) I live in Lombard-street, am a goldsmith. This watch was brought to me the 18th of June by William Smith , who came and said he was sent to know the most I would give for it. There is above three guineas of gold in it; I weighed it separate. This was in the forenoon; in the afternoon, I believe about 3 or 4, he came again and ask'd if I would give any more for it. I said no, and so gave him four guineas for it. I can't say there was a chain to it, but believe not. I knew him to live with an attorney, and thought he lived there then. I believe in the forenoon I bought a Spanish dollar. Two or three days after, the prisoner came into my shop, and asked me if I had bought a gold watch. I ask'd what sort of one. He said a small one in a single case. I said I had. He desired to know what I gave for it. I told him four guineas. He said he was told so: it was honestly came by. I said I did not dispute it, and knew the person that I had it of. He said it was a sailor's watch that came home, and since that his buckles were gone also. I did not shew it him. Two or three days after that, a person saw it, and said he believed he could sell it. He took it, and brought word it was advertised. Then on the next morning, being Friday, I went to Pope's Head Alley, and found he was gone, and was at his mother's by the old Swan in Thames-street. I found her; she and I went to the lady's house in Spring Gardens. She said it was her watch. We went to justice Fielding; she made affidavit it was hers. The next morning I received a letter, desiring I'd endeavour to take John Wilks , of Farthing Alley, Bermondsey-street; two or three days after this, John Wilks brought me a silver watch to sell. I recollected he was the man that had enquired about the gold watch. He said his name was John Wilks , and lived in Farthing Alley, Barnaby-street. He owned he was the person that came to enquire about the little gold watch. I said to him he might know it was stole, by asking the question; he said there might be a hundred stole, and he know nothing of the matter; and said he knew the man, and could fetch him in five minutes. I followed him about a hundred yards, but found he did not go. I stepped after him, and brought him back; so had him before Sir Joseph Hankey , and he was committed. I never saw Smith and he together: he did not mention his name.

Q. What dress was the prisoner in?

Winstanley. He was clean, but I can't tell.

Mr. Graunt. I live on London Bridge, and keep a publick house. I have seen the prisoner several times, as he pass'd by; he very often call'd in an evening. I can't say I know the evidence; the prisoner generally wore a brown coat.

Francis Gaines . I am a prisoner in the Poultry Compter; the prisoner came in there the day before I did; he wore a whitish frock, and a sort of a striped cotton waistcoat, a pale blue. He lay in the same room where I did; he changed them for a coarse cloth waistcoat. He used to tell me and other prisoners what they used to do, and I have heard him speak of this robbery. I asked him what sort of a man he had with him; he said it was a boy, half a fool; and that he gave him a pistol in his hand to go with him. I never saw that boy before.

Prisoner's Defence.

I never said any thing to that witness in my life; nor never wore a white coat or striped waistcoat. I was with Smith on that day, and drank as he has said; but I lay at Mr. Graunt's, on London Bridge, and he went to lie down by me; but

when I awaked, he was gone, and the next morning I saw him with a gold watch.

Jane Lane. I live at the Half Moon and Crown, just by Ludgate, a publick house. He has used our house these three years, and I never saw any harm by him; he drank bumboe and drams there. I don't know I ever saw the evidence before; there was a man drank either two or three sixpennyworths of bumboe with him, at about ten or eleven o'clock one night. He used sometimes to come in short clothes, and sometimes in a sort of a cinnamon colour'd great coat.

Joseph Callow . I live at Mrs. Lane's, and have known the prisoner about three years; he behaved exceeding well. I don't know I ever saw the evidence in my life. About six weeks or two months ago, he was drinking with a man at our house. He used to wear a brown sort of a coat.

Thomas Halder . I live in Fleet-lane, and have known him about three years. He has been in my company several times, and always behaved very well.

Guilty Death .

There was another indictment against him for a highway robbery.


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