THE GOOD OLD DAYS (part 3):-
Early records of felony and violence connected with Highgate and its neighbourhood and extracted from The Middlesex County Records - Sessions Roll.
July 1783. — "A party of sailors passing through Highgate, one of them saw
standing at a farrier's shed a small white pony. He instantly vociferated to his companions, ' Shiver my timbers, if that is not the little white pony that Prince William used to ride upon in Jamaica ! ' So without enquiring to whom the pony belonged, they cast off his painter, as they termed it, took him up in their arms and carried him to the nearest public-house, procured a quartern loaf and a couple of pots of porter, which were messed together in a large earthen dish, and presented to the little favourite, who greedily devoured it, to the no small diversion of the onlookers.
" One of the honest tars, eager to show a greater zeal for his Prince, . . . threw into the dish a half-pint of gin, when with three cheers they drank to the health of the Royal Midshipman and his little white pony. They then tossed down some silver without counting it, and conducting the pony back to the farrier's shop, proceeded on their journey."
1785. — Six men on horseback one night entered the farmyard of Mr. Turner
at Crouch End (the father of Mr. Charles Turner, member of the Hornsey Local Board) and demanded £20 ; they were eventually satisfied with £10 and rode off, promising to repay it, — which they forgot to do !
July 1790. — " A very corpulent man ran for a wager of £20 from a public-house at Highgate to the Horse Guards, which is computed to be six miles. He was allowed forty minutes to perform it in, but did it in thirty-four ! "
1792. — " On Sunday evening the Earl of Burford was stopped on Highgate Hill by three footpads, who robbed him of a gold watch and a few guineas."
June 2nd, 1794. — " A grand Cricket Match was played on Highgate Common
between Highgate and Hampstead. Highgate 203, Hampstead 73"
1795. — "Mr. Thwaites, who was robbed a few evenings ago on the Highgate
road, had unsuspectingly rode two miles in company with the highwayman, with whom he exchanged some conversation, when the latter suddenly turned round, put a pistol to Mr. Thwaites' breast, and demanded his property. Mr. Thwaites was obliged to surrender a very valuable timepiece."
October lOth, 1795. — " H. P. Kuhft" died at Highgate: buried in St. Helen's Church ; described as an eminent London merchant."
1797.— "On Wednesday in the afternoon, as Mr. Huntley of Hatfield was
coming to town, he was stopped at the bottom of Highgate Hill by two footpads, who pulled him from his horse, turned him loose, and robbed him of four guineas, some silver and his watch, then ran off over the fields towards Hampstead Heath."
1797. — " On Sunday evening at ten o'clock, as Mr. Heaviside of George Street, Hanover Square, was returning from the Duke of Leeds' in Hertfordshire, to whom he had been sent for in the afternoon, he was stopped at the bottom of Highgate Hill by three footpads, one of which held a pistol to the post-boy while the other two opened the chaise doors. Before they asked for his money, one of them knocked down Mr. Heaviside's son, who was in the chaise with him, with the barrel of the pistol, and the other attempted to fire at Mr. Heaviside, but fortunately the pistol
did not go off. They then robbed him of his watch and purse, and made off."
1800. — "Thomas Williams and Henry Nerod were sentenced to death for
robbing Michael Hodgson, Esq., of Symond's Inn, in Maiden Lane, Highgate, when Mr. Rumley, and a servant on behalf of Miss Dominicus, gave evidence that they had been robbed in the same lane by the same men. Townsend, ' the Bow Street runner,' proved that they were brothers, and that Nerod was an assumed name."
1800. — "On Thursday evening, as David Scott, Esq., the Deputy Chairman of
the East India Company, was returning to his villa at Highgate, he was stopped by four footpads, two of whom held a pistol to his head. Mr. Scott, unluckily, had nothing valuable about him, but having presence of mind enough to state that he was going to his master's house with some coffee, of which a large quantity was in the carriage, the fellows, after stripping him of every article in his pockets, suffered him to depart with a whole skin."
1804. — "Yesterday Their Majesties in a post chariot, and followed by the
Princesses and Duke of Kent, in two coaches and four, took an airing in the neighbourhood of Hampstead and Highgate."
1804. — "On Sunday evening two young men riding for a wager down High-
gate Hill, one of the horses stumbled, and the rider broke his neck."
September 2d, 1806. — "William Hamilton was found guilty of a highway
robbery near Caen Wood."
1806. — "William Hawkins was found guilty of a highway robbery in Hampstead Lane"
September 30th, 1814. — "A gentleman was stopped in Maiden Lane by a foot-
pad with crape over his face ; assistance being near, he was apprehended and taken to the nearest public-house, when the robber was found to be the nephew of the person he had attempted to rob." — European Magazine, October 1814.
1818. — "James Lackington, of the Temple of the Muses, Finsbury Square, an
eminent bookseller, resided in Highgae in 1818."
October 4th, 1814. — A murder was committed in Millfield Lane ; the victim was Mrs. Dobbins, wife of a man employed by the Hampstead Water Company. The murderer, Thomas Sharpe, a tramp, fractured her skull with a poker, and was hung 31st October.
1821. — "On 25th August, Edward Sell, a private watchman in the employ of
Thomas Hale, Esq., of Hornsey Lane, Highgate, was murdered under very barbarous circumstances. A man named Barrett and his wife were apprehended on suspicion ; upon searching their house a vast quantity of valuable property was discovered, enough to fill a waggon, the linen alone being valued at £lOO, which, it was proved, had been stolen from Mr. Rothschild's house on Stamford Hill, where Barrett's wife has been employed as a servant for two years, and was afterwards an occasional visitor."
In the result the prisoners were not found guilty of the capital charge,
but were convicted of the robbery. The following is a more circum-
stantial account of this barbarity : —
" Between the hours of two and six o'clock on the morning of Friday, the 24th August, 1821, Edward Sell, private watchman to Thomas Hale, Esq., of Hornsey Lane, Highgate, was wilfully murdered. The deceased and the premises of Mr. Hale' were robbed, on the night of the murder, of the following articles : — An old-fashioned silver watch, the outer case worn through, the maker's name Uphohn ; an old-fashioned metal chain, and two metal keys; one white cambric nuisliii dress; six white jaconet muslin frocks ; three white pocket-handkerchiefs."
The following notice appeared in the Loudon Gazette for Sept. 4th : —
" Whereas it hath been humbly represented unto the king that on the night of Thursday, the 23rd inst., or early on the following morning, Edward Sell, a private watchman in the employ of Thomas Hale, Esq., of Hornsey Lane, in the County of Middlesex, was inhumanly murdered :
" His Majesty, for the better apprehending and bringing to justice the person or persons concerned in the said atrocious murder, is hereby pleased to promise his most gracious pardon to any one of them (except the person or persons who actually
perpetrated the same) who shall discover his, her, or their accomplice or accomplices therein, so that he, she, or they may be apprehended and convicted thereof.
"As a further encouragement, a reward of twenty guineas is hereby offered by the said Thomas Hale; and a further sum of one hundred guineas by the inhabitants of the parish of Highgate, to be paid on conviction, by the Rev. Dr. Owen, to any person except as aforesaid, who shall make such discovery as aforesaid."
So great was the consternation at the time of the murder, that the
inhabitants of Highgate formed themselves into a committee, and in
rotation two of them went out to watch every evening. The perpe-
trators of this foul and atrocious deed were never brought to jus-
tice, notwithstanding the large rewards that were offered for their
April 5th, 1829. — "Mr. L. Neuniegen of Highgate, who kept a school for
Jewish boys [in the house now occupied by the Literary and Scientific Institution], was concerned in a curious case relating to a valuable emerald ring, which had been stolen from him, and found in the possession of a young Jewish lady, to whom, it was said, it had been presented by Lord Audley."
1831 — "Bishop [Bishop and Williams, the notorious burkers and body-
snatchers], hung in December 1831 for murdering an Italian boy for the sake of his teeth, was a Highgate carrier. Cokeham of North Hill was the successor to the business. Bishop confessed to two other murders, and the sale of some five hundred bodies to the surgeons, for which his carrier's cart gave him great facility for removal."
The murder of the Italian boy was in Nova Scotia Gardens, Bethnal
Green, — the spot now covered by Columbia Market.
In allusion to the desolate appearance of Finchley Common and the
outskirts of Highgate a few years since, the following extract from the
Times of August 25th, 1842, will perhaps not be uninteresting : —
" Discovery of the Relics of a Highwayman. — At the latter end of last week, as a labouring man was engaged in digging up some grown potatoes, upon one of the side slips of ground which have been taken out of the waste, and which border upon Highgate Woods near the village of Finchley, he turned up an old rusty bit, an iron bit,similar to a martingale brace, an old pistol-lock, and a silver coin of the reign of King George II.
" It is rumoured by persons living in the neighbourhood, that this spot about a century ago was a noted rendezvous for hordes of desperate highwaymen, who infested these parts, more especially Finchley Common, upon which, when convicted and executed, they were gibbeted in chains. From time to time, several relics of highwaymen have been found near this place, and not long since, as some woodmen were grubbing up the roots of timber, they alighted upon an oaken chest, which was found to contain old pistols, rusty steel buttons, and other like perishable relics of bygone highwaymen."
From the traditions which have been handed down by old inhabitants
who recollect Finchley Common before it was enclosed, and when it was
a dreary waste and dangerous to traverse without attendants, for fear of
highwaymen and footpads, this quotation from the Times is amply
confirmed ; and there is another place near Highgate which took its
name from a notorious robber who infested it, and committed numerous
atrocious deeds, viz., Duval's Lane, now called the Hornsey Road.
Duval's house, surrounded by a moat, was in existence a few years
since, but many years have elapsed since he expiated his crimes at
Ring Cross, Holloway.
And in further confirmation Townshend, the celebrated Bow Street officer, in his evidence states : " There is one thing which appears to me most extraordinary when I remember that very likely in one week there would be from ten to fifteen robberies. We have not had a single highway robbery lately, — I speak of persons on horseback ; formerly there were two, three, or four highwaymen on Hounslow Heath, on Wimbledon Common, on Finchley Common, and on the Romford Road." '