Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Lives of Remarkable Criminals: Humphry Angier


a Highwayman and Footpad

From the life of Roche, the course of those papers from which I extract these accounts leads me to mention this criminal, that the deaths of malefactors may not only terrify those who behold them dying, but also posterity, who, by hearing their crimes and the event which they brought on, may avoid falling into the one, for fear of feeling the other.

Humphry Angier was by birth of the Kingdom of Ireland, his father being a man in very ordinary circumstances in a little town a few miles distant from Dublin. As soon as this son was able to do anything, he sent him to the city of Cork, and there bound him apprentice to a cooper. His behaviour while an apprentice was so bad that his master utterly despaired to do any good with him, and therefore was not sorry that he ran away from him. However, he found a way to vex him sufficiently, for he got into a crew of loose fellows, which so far frightened the old cooper that he was at a considerable expense to hire persons to watch his house for the four years that Angier loitered about that city. At last his father even took him from thence, and brought him over into England where he left him at full liberty to do what he thought fit; resolving with himself that if his son would take to ill-courses, it should be where the fame of his villainies might not reflect upon him and his family.

He was now near eighteen years of age and being in some fear that some persons whom he had wronged might bring him into danger, he listed himself in the king's service, and went down with a new raised regiment into Scotland, where he hoped to make something by plundering the inhabitants, it being in the time of the Rebellion[1]. But he did not succeed very well there, and on his return fell into the company of William Duce, whom we have mentioned before. His conversation soon seduced him to follow the same course of life, and that their intimacy might be the more strongly knit, he married Duce's sister. Then engaging himself with all that gang, he committed abundance of robberies in their company, but was far from falling into that barbarous manner of beating the passengers which was grown customary and habitual to Mead, Butler, and some others of his and Duce's companions.

Angier told a particular story of them, which made a very great impression upon him, and cannot but give my readers of an idea of that horrible spirit which inspired those wretches. Mead and Butler came one evening to him very full of their exploits, and the good luck they had had. Mead particularly, having related every circumstance which had happened since their last parting, said that amongst others whom they had robbed they met a smooth-faced shoemaker, who said he was just married and going home to his friends. They persuaded him to turn out of the road to look in the hedge for a bird's nest, whither he was no sooner got, but they bound, gagged and robbed him, and afterwards turning back, barbarously clapped a pistol to his head and shot out his brains. After this Angier declared he would never drink in the company of Mead, and when Butler sometimes talked after the same manner, he used to reprove him by telling him that cruelty was no courage, at which Butler and some of his companions sometimes laughed, and told him he had singular notions of courage.

After this, he and his wife (Duce's sister) set up a little alehouse by Charing Cross, which soon against his will, though not without his consent, became a bawdy-house, a receptacle for thieves, etc. This sort of company rendered his house so suspicious and so obnoxious to the magistrates for the City of Westminster, that he quickly found the necessity of moving from thence. He then went and set up a brandy-shop, where the same people came, though as he pretended much to his dissatisfaction. While he kept the alehouse, there were two odd accidents befell him, which brought him for the first time to Newgate. It happened that while he was out one day, a Dutch woman picked up a gentleman and brought him to Angier's house, where, while he was asleep, she picked his pocket and left him. For this Angier and his maid were taken up, and tried at the Old Bailey. He was also at the same time tried for another offence, viz., an Irishwoman coming to his house and drinking pretty hard there, he at last carried her upstairs, and throwing her upon a bed pretended a great affection for her person; but his wife coming in and pretending to be jealous of the woman, pulled her off the bed and in so doing picked her pocket of four guineas. But of this there being no direct evidence against him, he was also acquitted. However, it ruined his house and credit, and drove him upon what was too much his inclination, the taking money by force upon the road.

He now got into an acquaintance with Carrick, Carrol, Lock, Kelly, and many others of that stamp, with whom he committed several villainies, but always pretending to be above picking pockets, which he said was practised by none of their crew but Hugh Kelly, who was a very dextrous fellow in his way. However, when Angier was in custody, abundance of people applied to him to help them to their gold watches, snuff-boxes, etc.; but as he told them, so he persisted in it always, that he knew nothing of the matter; and Kelly being gone over into America and there settled, there was no hopes of getting any of them again.

One evening he and Milksop, one of his companions, being upon the road to St. Albans, a little on this side of it, met a gentleman's coach, and in it a young man and two ladies. They immediately called to the coachman to stop, but he neglecting to obey their summons, they knocked him off from the box, having first prevented him from whipping off, by shooting one of his horses. They then dragged him under the coach, which running over him hurt him exceedingly and even endangered his life. Then they robbed the young gentleman and the ladies of whatever they had about them valuable, using them very rudely and stripping things off them in a very harsh and cruel way. Angier excused this by saying at the time he did it he was much in liquor.

In the beginning of the year '20, Angier, who had so long escaped punishment for the offences which he had committed, was very near suffering for one in which he had not the least hand; for a person of quality's coachman being robbed of a watch and some money, a woman of the town, whom Angier and one of his companions had much abused, was thereupon taken up, having attempted to pawn the fellow's watch after he had advertised it. She played the hypocrite very dexterously upon her apprehension, and said that the robbery was not committed by her, but that Angier, Armstrong and another young man were the persons who took it, and by her help they were seized and committed to Newgate. At the ensuing sessions the woman swore roundly against them, but the fellow being more tender, and some circumstances of their innocence plainly appearing, they were acquitted by the jury and that very justly in this case in which they had no hand.

During the time he lay under sentence, he behaved himself with much penitence for another offence, always calling earnestly to God for His assistance and grace to comfort him under those heavy sorrows which his follies and crimes had so justly brought upon him.

At the place of execution he did not appear at all terrified at death, but submitted to it with the same resignation which for a long space he had professed since his being under confinement. Immediately before he suffered he recollected his spirits and spoke in the following terms to that crowd which always attends on such melancholy occasions.

Good People,

I see many of you here assembled to behold my wretched end. I hope it will induce you to avoid those evils which have brought me hither. Sometime before my being last taken up, I had formed within myself most steady purposes of amendment, which it is a great comfort to me, even here that I never broke them, having lived at Henley upon Thames, both with a good reputation, and in a manner which deserved it. I heartily forgive and I hope God would do the same to Dyer, whose evidence hath taken away my life. I hope he will make a good use of that time which the price of my blood and that of others has procured him. I heartily desire pardon of all whom I have injured and declare that in the several robberies I have committed, I have been always careful to avoid committing any murder.

After this he adjusted the rope about his own neck, and submitted to that sentence which the Law directed, being at that time about twenty-nine years of age. He suffered on the 9th of September, 1723.


[1] The Jacobite rising of 1715.

Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals