A Daring Shop-Robber, who was executed at Tyburn On 27th of March, 1728
THIS malefactor was a native of London, and served his time to a tailor; but his apprenticeship was no sooner expired than he associated with some women of ill-fame, and became a thief in order to support their extravagance. His commencement in the art of theft was with a number of young pickpockets, and he soon became an adept in the profession. From this business they advanced a step further. They used to go, three or four in company, to the shops of silversmiths in the evening, and while one of them cheapened some article of small value, his companions used to secrete something of greater. It was likewise a practice with them to walk the streets at night, and, forcing up the windows of shops with a chisel, run off with any property that lay within their reach.
Having followed this infamous business about three years, he forged (an offence not then capital) a note, by which he defrauded a linen- draper of money to a considerable amount. Being taken into custody for this forgery he was lodged in Newgate, but discharged without being brought to trial, his friends having found means to accommodate the matter with the injured party.
A short time after he left Newgate he made connections with Jonathan Wild, who used frequently to borrow money from Mr Wildgoose, who kept an inn in Smithfield; and Bellamy, wishing to become acquainted with a man whom he thought he could make subservient to his interest, applied to Jonathan to recommend him to Wildgoose, but this the famous thief-taker absolutely refused.
Having often gone with messages and notes from Jonathan to Wildgoose, and being well acquainted with the hand- writing of the former, he forged a draft on the latter for ten guineas, which Wildgoose paid without hesitation; and as soon as Bellamy had got the money he omitted to pay his usual visits at Wild's office.
A few days after this transaction Wild went to his acquaintance to borrow some money, when Wildgoose told him he had paid his draft for the above-mentioned sum, and producing the note, Jonathan could not be certain that it was not his own handwriting otherwise than by recollecting that he had never given such a draft. Wildgoose was unacquainted with Bellamy's name; but by the description of his person Jonathan soon found who had committed the forgery, on which he ordered his myrmidons to be careful to apprehend the offender.
Bellamy was soon found in a lodging in Whitefriars, and Jonathan's men sent word to their master that they had him in custody, and begged he would give orders how they should dispose of him. In the interim Bellamy, who expected no mercy from the old thief-taker, seized the advantage of the casual absence of his attendants from the room, fixed a rope to the bar of the window, and let himself into the street, though the room was three storeys high.
He now entertained thoughts of accommodating the affair with Wild, imagining he should be treated with the utmost severity if he should be reapprehended; but before he had proceeded in this negotiation Wild's men seized him at a gin-shop in Chancery Lane, and sent to their master for instructions how to act. To this message Jonathan returned an answer that they might give him his liberty on condition that he should come to the office and adjust the business with himself.
Thereupon Bellamy was discharged: but, knowing how dangerous it would be to affront Wild, he went the following morning to a public-house in the Old Bailey, where he sent for Jonathan to breakfast with him; and, the latter sending for Wildgoose, Bellamy gave him a note for the money received, and no further steps were taken in the affair.
As soon as this business was adjusted, Bellamy renewed his former plan of making depredations on the public, and committed an immense number of robberies in the City of London. He and one of his gang having broken the sash of a silversmith's shop in Russel-court, Drury-lane, a person who lay under the counter fired a blunderbuss at them, which obliged them to decamp without their booty. This attempt failing, they went to the house of another silversmith, which they broke open, and finding the servant-maid sitting up for her master, they terrified her into silence, and carried off effects to a large amount.
Not long after this robbery, they broke open the shop of a grocer near Shoreditch, in the expectatton at finding cash to a great amount; but the proprietor having previously secured it, they got only about ten pounds of tea, and the loose money in the tin.
Their next attempt was at the house of a hosier in Widegate alley, from whose shop they carried off some goods of value, which they sold to the Jews on the following day.
From the shop of a silversmith in Bride-lane, they carried off plate to the amount of fifty pounds; and from the house of a haberdasher in Bishopsgate-street, a load of various articles, the whole of which they disposed of to the Jews.
On another occasion, they broke open a tea shop near Gray's-Inn- lane; having removed the shutters, by cutting away part of them with chisels, they were going to lift up the sash, when a person from within hearing them, cried out thieves! on which they ran off without their booty.
Having broke into a tea-warehouse near Aldgate, they had packed up a valuable parcel of goods, when the maid servant came down stairs, undressed, and without a candle. Having gone into the yard, she returned, without knowing that they were in the house; but when she came into the shop, Bellamy seized her, and obliged her to lay on the floor, while they went off with their booty; and the same night they broke open the shop of a mercer in Bishopsgate-street, whence they carried off goods to a large amount.
Their next robbery was at the house of a grocer in Thames street. The watchman passing by as they were packing up their booty, Bellamy seized him and obliged him to put out his candle, to prevent any alarm being given. Having kept him till they were ready to go off with their plunder, they took him to the side of the Thames, and threatened to throw him in, if he would not throw in his lanthorn and staff. It need not be said that the poor man was obliged to comply with their injunctions.
Soon after this they stole a large sum of money, and a quantity of goods, from the house of a grocer which they broke open in Aldersgate-street. A neighbour saw this robbery from his window, but was too much frightened to take any measures for the detection of the villains.
Their next exploit was at an old clothes-shop, kept by a woman in Shadwell, whence they carried off every valuable article; and after this they robbed the shop of a hosier in Coleman-street, and took away goods to the amount of seventy pounds, which the thieves divided into shares, and sold them to their old acquaintance the Jews.
They were disappointed in their next attempt, which was to break open the house of a linen-draper in Westminster: for some people coming up before they had completed their operations, they were obliged to decamp with precipitation.
On the evening after this transaction, observing the door of a shop shut in St. Clement's churchyard, they made it fast with a cord on the outside, and throwing up the sash, stole a very large number of silk handkerchiefs, while the woman in the shop made many fruitless attempts to open the door; and they stole a variety of plate, wearing apparel, and other effects, the same nigh; from two houses in Holborn.
While they were thus rendering themselves the mere pests of society they became intimate with an old woman who had opened an office near Leicester Fields for the reception of stolen goods, something on the plan of that of Jonathan Wild. To this woman Bellamy and his companions used to sell much of their ill-gotten effects; but she having, on one occasion, given a smaller price than they expected, Bellamy determined on a plan of revenge; in pursuance of which he went to her office with a small quantity of stolen plate, and while she was gone with it to a silversmith he carried off her cash, to a large amount. At length he robbed a shop in Monmouth Street.
But by this time he had rendered himself so conspicuous for his daring villainies that a reward of one hundred pounds was offered for apprehending him; in consequence of which he was taken, near the Seven Dials, on the following day, and committed to Newgate.
For this last fact he was tried, convicted, and received sentence. Form this time until the arrival of the warrant for his execution, he affected a cheerfulness of behaviour, and said, that he would be hanged in his shroud. But the certainty that he should suffer, and the sight of his coffin, excited more serious ideas in his mind; and he received the sacrament before his death, with evident marks of repentance for the many crimes of which he had been guilty.
He was executed at Tyburn; and just before he was turned off made a speech to the surrounding multitude, in which he confessed his numerous offences, and acknowledged the justice of his sentence.