John Preston, John Dison, Theft > burglary, 4th December 1754.

Reference Number: t17541204-13
Offence: Theft > burglary
Verdict: Guilty
Punishment: Death

16, 17. (M.) John Preston and John Dison were indicted, for that they on the 9th of October , about the hour of one in the night on the same day, the dwelling-house of Benjamin Huffham , Esq ; did break and enter, and one gold watch, value 10 l. one gold seal, one silver snuff-box, two pair of silver shoe-buckles, one pair of silver knee-buckles, one silver stock-buckle, two silver spoons, one pair of silver-spurs in the dwelling-house of the said John did steal , &c. *

Benjamin Huffham. I live at Ealing ; on the 9th of October I went to bed between eleven and twelve, and hung up my watch at my bed's head, and put my cloaths at the bed's feet on a chair. In the morning when I got up I could find no watch. I missed my snuff-box out of my coat-pocket; after breakfast I inquired after them, but the boy going down into the cellar, brought up this handkerchief, knife, and bludgeon; ( producing them ) the bludgeon was cut out of a stable-broom. There were meat and bread in the handkerchief. Upon examination I found all the doors fast.

Q. Did you know either of the prisoners before?

B. Huffham. Preston had been my servant, and had left me, as near as I can recollect, that day month; upon searching below, I missed out of a buroe in my parlour, which I found open, two pair of shoe-buckles, one pair of knee-buckles, a silver stock-buckle, and a couple of spoons, and in a closet I missed a pair of silver spurs. There is a confession in court which will open the whole affair. ( Charles Steward Grubb produced the confession of Dison in court.)

Q. Did you hear him examined?

Charles Steward Grubb . I did, before two justices of the peace, Mr. Thomas Bishop and Mr. Robert Mayne in the county of Berks; Preston was not before them at that time, but he was afterwards.

Q. Who wrote this confession?

C. S. Grubb. The town-clerk of Wallingford. I heard it read to him.

Q. Were there any threats or menaces, or the like, made use of in order to bring him to a confession?

C. S. Grubb. No, my lord, there were not; I believe the constable mentioned to him that he would save his neck by confessing; this was after he would not confess going from the gaol to the justice's; then he returned back and made this confession.

The confession read to this purport.


'' The voluntary confession of John Dison made '' before us, Thomas Bishop , Mayor, and Robert '' Mayne, two of his majesty's justices of the '' peace for this Borough, the 17th of October, '' 1754; that on Wednesday the 9th of October '' Richard Preston persuaded this deponent to '' break open Benjamin Huffham 's house at '' Great-Ealing in Middlesex, which he refused '' to do, and told him if he did it, it would be a '' hanging matter. Preston said, why are you '' such a fool, for I can do it without being found '' out; for he knew where Mr. Huffham's key '' lay that opened his chamber-door, and knew '' where his money lay, and swore he would have '' it before he got out of the house; and on

'' Wednesday evening they went to see if Mr. '' Huffham's family were gone to bed, and found '' they were; and Preston and this examinant got '' into the cellar, at the window, and Preston '' went up the cellar-stairs, and unlocked the '' door with a key which he had i n his pocket, '' and unbolted the door by means of a hole '' which he had made when he lived in the family; '' and then the said Preston went up into '' Mr. Huffham's room, and took his gold watch '' and seal, and this examinant stood upon the '' stairs; and then Preston came down, and '' brought the watch and seal with him; and '' that he, this examinant, went into the parlour, '' and Preston opened the desk, and took from '' thence two pair of silver shoe-buckles, a pair/ '' of knee-buckles, a pair of silver spurs, and '' then Preston and the informant went out of '' the house, and went to Windsor the next day, '' where they sold all the buckles for nine shillings '' lings to a barber in Thames-street, who sold '' ale, and keeps a shop; and that night Preston '' and this examinant came to Reading, where '' they sold the spurs to a man that keeps an inn '' there; and the next day they went to Wallingford, '' where they, were apprehended in '' offering the watch and seal to sale.''

The mark X of John Dawson .

Q. from Preston. Did you ever see me loitering about your house after you had paid me?

B. Huffham. No, I did not. (Dawson asked the same, to which he answered, No.)

Jos. Cross. I am a servant in Mr. Huffham's family; when we went to bed over-night betwixt eleven and twelve o'clock, I locked the cellardoor and bolted it, and carried the key into my master's room. The next morning, about nine o'clock, I went down to draw myself some beer, and found that stick, with the handkerchief and victuals in it, and a knife tied up in the middle of it.

Q. How did you find the lock and bolt to the door?

J. Cross. It was locked, as for the bolt I can't say; I found a hole bored in the door, exactly against the bolt.

John Simons . I live at Wallingford, am a barber and peruke-maker; I went into a neighbour's house on the 12th of October last, about nine or ten in the morning, there were the two prisoners. A neighbour of mine said to one of them, if you have a mind to do any thing in that affair, let the other sell his watch, which was Preston. I found there had been a man about buying it of him. I asked to see it; Preston pulled it out, and I looked upon it, and asked him how he valued it, he said at 3 l. I asked, what do you sell it for, gold or Pinchbeck? he said, d - n his blood, or some such words, if it was gold he would not sell it for 3 l, I looked upon it to be gold, so took them up on suspicion of stealing it. I took them before a justice, who sells gold rings and silver things; he looked upon the watch, and said it was gold. Then I went to the mayor of Wallingford and told him of the affair, and he ordered me to bring them before him, which I did. Preston told the mayor one Duke Dorril died, and left the watch to him for his wages. Then they were both committed on suspicion of stealing it. (The watch produced in court by William Tuckwell , the constable.)

Q. to Simons. Do you know this watch?

J. Simons. This is the watch Preston offered to me for sale; I know it by the bruises on the inside case. I laid it down before the mayor, and he ordered it to be delivered to the constable.

Q. to prosecutor. Is this your watch?

Prosecutor. It is; it was taken from my bed'shead as before mentioned; the seal has my coat of arms on it.

Q. to Simons. Was this seal to it when he offered it to you to sell?

J. Simons. It was not.

Tuckwell. Preston delivered the seal to me before the justice, and he was committed to Reading gaol. I put it to the watch after that there was an advertisement in the news-paper about a robbery at Ealing, by which means we found the owner.

John Timbeley . I live at Windsor; I was sitting at my neighbour's door; the two prisoners were coming up the street about a quarter of a year ago; they inquired for a silversmith; they said they wanted to sell a pair of silver buckles. I said I'll buy them if I like them; they produced a pair of silver shoe-buckles, a pair of kneebuckles and a stock-buckle, all which I bought for nine shillings and five-pence; (producing them) after that, they inquired the way to Reading.

Q. to prosecutor. Look at these, are they your property ?

Prosecutor. They are.

Prisoner's defence.

I was never in the house after I went from my master.

Dison's defence.

I was never in the house.

Both guilty , Death .

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