Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Lives of Remarkable Criminals: John Everett


a Highwayman

This unfortunate man, who, in the course of his life, made some noise in the world, was the son of honest and reputable parents at Hitchen, in Hertfordshire. They gave their son all the education necessary to qualify him for such business as he thought proper to put him to, which was that of a salesman; but before his time was expired he went over to Flanders, and served in the late War there, in several sieges and battles; where he behaved so well as to be preferred to the post of a serjeant in the Honourable General How's regiment of foot. But returning to England upon the peace, and being quartered at Worcester he there purchased his discharge.

Coming up to London he betook himself, for bread, to the office of a bailiff in Whitechapel Court, in which station he continued for about seven years until he fell into misfortunes, chiefly through the means of one C----th. To shelter himself from a gaol, which threatened him at that time, he was forced to go into the Foot Guards, where he served in the company commanded by the right Honourable the Earl of Albemarle; but unluckily for him, having commenced an acquaintance with Richard Bird at the aforesaid Mr. C----th's, Bird told him he perceived they were much in a case, that is, they both wanted money, and that therefore looking upon him (Everett) to be a man who could be trusted, he would propose to him an easy method for supply. This method was neither better nor worse than robbing on the highway.

To this proposition Everett readily agreeing, they immediately joined, provided proper utensils for their co-partnership, and soon after practised their trade with great success in the counties of Middlesex, Essex, Surrey and Kent, particularly robbing the Dartford coach, from the passengers of which they took a portmanteau, wherein was contained jewels, money and valuable goods to a very great amount. But spending as fast as they got it, they were never the better for the multitude of facts they committed, but were in a continual necessity of hazarding body and soul for a very precarious subsistance.

A short time after, they robbed the Woodford stage-coach and found in it only one passenger worth plundering. From him they took a gold watch and some silver, but the gentleman expressing a great concern at the loss of his watch, they told him if he would promise faithfully to send such a sum of money to such a place, they would let him have it again. On Hounslow Heath they attacked two officers of the army, who were well mounted and guarded with servants armed with blunderbusses. They took their gold watches and money from them, though the officers endeavoured to resist, but they forced them to submit to the well-known doctrine of passive obedience before they acquitted them. The watches (pursuant to a treaty they made with them on the spot) were afterwards left at Young Man's Coffee House, Charing Cross, where the owners had them again on payment of twenty guineas, as stipulated in the said treaty between the parties.

Another robbery they committed was on Squire Amlow (of Bream's Buildings, Chancery Lane), in Epsom Lane, turning up to Epsom. When he was attacked he drew a sword and made several passes at them as he sat in an open chaise; but notwithstanding his resolution in opposing them, they by force took two guineas, a silver watch, and his silver-hilted sword, and some parchment writings of a considerable value. On his submission and request for his writings, they accordingly delivered them up, let him pass and helped him to his watch again, being in the hands of Mr. Corket, a pawnbroker in Houndsditch. They also took opportunities to rob all the butchers and higlers from Epping Forest to Woodford, particularly one old woman, who wore a high crowned hat of her mother's as she said, which hat they took and searched, and out of the lining of it found three pounds and delivered her the hat again. On Acton Common they also met two chariots with gentlemen and ladies in them and robbed them in money, watches and other things to the value of forty pounds.

My readers, from these instances, must have a tolerable notion of Everett's humour, it may prove entertaining, therefore, to give them a specimen of his own manner of relating his adventures, and therefore I insert the following ones in his own words.

Soon after our last achievement, my old comrade Dick Bird, and I, stopped a coach in the evening on Hounslow Heath, in which (amongst other passengers) were two precise, but courageous Quakers, who had the assurance to call us Sons of Violence; and refusing to comply with our reasonable demands jumped out of the coach to give us battle. Whereupon we began a sharp engagement, and showed them the arm of flesh was too strong for the Spirit, which seemed to move very powerful within them. After a short contest (though we never offered to fire, for I ever abhorred barbarity, or the more heinous sin of murder) through the cowardly persuasions of their fellow-travellers they submitted, though sore against their inclinations. As they were stout fellows and men every inch of them, we scorned to abuse them, and contented ourselves with rifling them of the little Mammon of unrighteousness which they had about them, which amounted to about thirty or forty shillings and their watches. The rest in the coach, whose hearts were sunk into their breeches, Dick fleeced without the least resistance.

There was one circumstance of this affair which created a little diversion, and therefore with my readers leave, I will relate it. The Precisions for the most part, though they are plain in their dress, wear the best of commodities, and though a smart toupee[1] is an abomination, yet a bob-wig, or a natural of six or seven guineas' price, is a modest covering allowed by the saints. One of the prigs was well furnished in this particular, and flattering myself it would become me, I resolved to make it lawful plunder. Without any further ceremony, therefore, than alleging exchange was no robbery, I napped his poll, and dressed him immediately in masquerade with an old tie-wig, which I had the day before purchased of an antiquated Chelsea pensioner for half-a-crown. The other company, though in doleful dumps for the loss of the coriander seed, could not forbear grinning at the merry metamorphis, for our Quaker now looked more like a devil than saint. As companions in distress ever alleviate its weight, they invited him with a general laugh into their leathern convenience again, wished us a goodnight, and hoped they should have no farther molestation on the road. We gave then the watch-word, and assured them they should not, then tipped the honest coachman a shilling to drink our healths, and brushed off the ground.

About a week or ten days later, my brother Dick and I projected a new scheme more nimble than the former, to take a purse without the charge of horse hire. Millington Common was determined to be the scene of action. We sauntered for some time upon the green and suffered several to pass by without the least molestation, but at last we espied two gentlemen well-mounted coming towards us, who we imagined might be able to replenish our empty purses, so we prepared for an attack. After the usual salutation, I stopped the foremost and demanded his cash, his watch and other appurtenances thereunto belonging, and assured him I was a brother of an honourable but numerous family; that to work I had no inclination and to beg I was ashamed, and that I had at present no other way for a livelihood, if such a demand at first view ought appear a little immodest or unreasonable, I hoped he would excuse it, as necessity and not choice was the fatal inducement.

My brother Dick was as rhetorical in his apologies with the hindermost, whom he dismounted. We used them with more good manners and humanity than the common pads, who act for the most part rather like Turks and Jews than Christians, in such enterprises, to the eternal scandal of the profession. We contented ourselves with what silver and little gold they had about them, which to about three or four pounds, and their gold watches, one of which, as well I remember, was of Tompion's make, and which I afterwards pawned for five guineas to a fellow that the week after broke, and ran away with it, so that I had not the opportunity of restoring it again to the proper owner, for which I heartily beg his pardon. As we must own the gentlemen behaved well and came unto our measures without the least resistance, so they must do us the justice to acknowledge that we treated them as such and neither disrobed nor abused them. We thought it, however, common prudence to cut the girths of their horses' saddles, and secure their bridles for fear of a pursuit.

Thus flushed again with success, we made the best of our way to Brentford, and there took the ferry; but Fortune, though she is fair, yet she is a fickle mistress, her smiles are often false and very precarious. Before we had got ashore, we heard the persons had got scent of us, and our triumph had like to have ended in captivity. When we were three parts over, and out of danger of drowning, we told the ferrymen our distress, gave them ten shillings, and obliged them to throw their oars into the Thames. The agreeable reward and the fears of being thrown in themselves in case of a denial, made them readily consent. In we plunged after them, and soon made the shore. Though we looked like Hob just drawn out of the well, those that saw us only imagined it was a drunken frolic. Our expeditious flight soon dried our clothes, and without catching the least cold, we both arrived safe that night at London.

We congratulated each other, you may imagine on our happy and narrow escape, and solaced ourselves after the fatigue of the day, with a mistress and a bottle.

I have copied these pages from Mr. Everett's book that my readers might have a clear and just idea of those notions which these unhappy men entertain of the life they lead, and hope they may be of some use in giving such youths as are too apt to be taken with their low kind of jests, a just abhorrence of committing villainy, merely to divert the mob, and make themselves the sole topic of discourse in alehouses and cellars.

But to return to Everett. He was taken up on suspicion and committed to New Prison, where he continued three years, behaving himself so well in the prison that the justices ordered him his liberty, and he was thereupon made turnkey of that place. In this post he continued to act so honestly that he got a tolerable reputation, taking the Red Lion alehouse, in Turnmill Street, Cow Cross, in order to live the better; resigning his place as turnkey as soon as he was settled in it.

He who succeeded him was a footman to the Duchess of Newcastle's and not being very well acquainted with the nature of his new office, he was very industrious to prevail with Everett to return to his former condition, and accept the key from him. Promises and entreaties were not long made in vain. Everett was sensible there was money to be got,[2] and therefore, upon the fair promises of the new keeper, became turnkey again. But when he had shown his master the art of governing such a territory as his was; when he had instructed him in the secrets of raising money, and shown him the methods of managing the several sorts of prisoners that were committed to its care, his superior quickly gave him to understand that he had now done all he wanted, and the next kind office would be to quit this place; for it is with those sort of people as with some in a higher station, though they at first caress men who are better acquainted with affairs than themselves, in order to improve their own knowledge, yet no sooner do they think themselves qualified to go on without their assistance, but they grow uneasy at such services, and are never quiet until they are rid of men whose abilities are their greatest faults.

A little after Everett was turned out to make room for the keeper's brother, he had the additional misfortune to keep an account with a person who too hastily demanded his money, and John, not being able to pay it, therefore upon arrested him, and threw him into gaol. He quickly turned himself over to the Fleet, where he first took the rules, and then got into the Thistle and Crown Alehouse, in the Old Bailey. There he lived for a while and afterwards took the Cock in the same place, where he lived for three years with an indifferent reputation, until he was prevailed on to take the Fleet Cellar[3], and became very busy in the execution of the then Warden's project, until the committee of the House of Commons thought fit to commit both of them to Newgate.

This effectually undid him, for while he was a prisoner there, the brewer made a seizure of his whole stock of beer, to the value of three hundred pounds, and this it was, as he himself said, which posted him out upon the highway again. Whether we may depend upon those protestations he had made that he should never otherwise have gone upon the road again, but have lived and died free, at least from that sort of wickedness which indeed he had reason to dislike, since he had saved his life by impeaching Bird his companion, who was hanged at Chelmsford at the assizes held there for the County of Essex. When he had once taken this resolution in his head, it was not long before he equipped himself with necessaries for his employment.

The first robbery he committed was upon a lady in a chariot, and the lady desiring that he would put up his pistol for fear of frightening a child of six years old in the coach with her, he did so, and took from her a guinea and some silver, without touching her gold watch, or any other valuable things that she had about her. He had scarce committed the robbery, before the lady's husband and another gentleman and his company came up, and the accident being related to them, they immediately pursued him as hard as their horses could gallop; and came so close up with him, that he was hardly got into the Globe Tavern, in Hatton Garden, and sent away his horse, before they passed by the door. As soon as he thought they were out of sight, he slipped away with all the precaution he was able, and got into a little blind alehouse in Holborn, where he had scarce lit a pipe, and called for a tankard of drink, before he perceived both the gentlemen looking very earnesty about, though he now looked upon himself as out of all danger.

It was a very short time after, that he committed the last fact, which was the robbing of Mrs. Manley[4], and a lady, who was in a chariot with her, a black boy being behind in the coach. He got safe enough off and into town, after this robbery; but how it was I cannot tell, his neighbours suspected him, and talked of him as a highwayman, and reported very confidently that he was taken up, as it seems he was, but was discharged again for want of evidence. He was speedily seized again, and being committed to Newgate, was brought to his trial at the Old Bailey for the said fact.

Mrs. Ellis deposed that the prisoner was the person who robbed the coach, and that she observed him follow it when they came out of town. Mrs. Manley deposed also to his being the person who robbed them, and William Coffee, a negro boy, who was behind the coach, swore positively to his face. Several men who were present at his being apprehended, swore that he had a pistol, dagger, six bullets, a flint and powder horn about him, under a red rug coat.

His defence was very trivial, and the jury upon a short consultation, found him guilty. Under sentence of death, he behaved very indifferently, sometimes appearing tolerably cool, at others in a grievous passion, especially at the keepers, if they refused him such liberties as he thought fit to ask. When he was first condemned, he flattered himself with hopes of life, if it were possible for him to prevail on the ladies whom he had robbed to petition in his favour; in order to induce them to which, he wrote the following letter, though to no purpose, for the death warrant came down suddenly and he was included with the before-mentioned prisoners.



I crave leave, with all humility and respect, to address you and Madam Ellis, and with the utmost submission and concern, do humbly beg your pardons for the fears and surprise my misfortunes reduced me to put you and the children into, whose cries moved so much compassion in me that I had not power to pursue with any rigour my desperate designs, which your ladyship must have perceived by the consternation I was struck into on a sudden. My sole intention was, if I could have got L50 to settle myself in a public house, and to take up an honest course of life, and do own at best it is a very heinous crime. Yet, madam, you will recollect after what manner I treated you, and at the same time consider the methods taken by others on the like occasion. This necessity I was drove to, by adhering to a certain master I lately served, and to obey his wicked and pernicious commands, in following his wicked and pernicious counsels, brought me to poverty, and consequently to this unhappy state I now labour under, and was become almost as much as himself, the scorn and hatred of mankind. I say, madam, if you will be so good as to consider all these unhappy circumstances, and that necessity admits of no contradiction, they will, I am persuaded, inspire compassion in generous souls (a character you both deservedly bear); and as a fellow-creature, I beg mercy at your ladyship's hands, by signing a petition to the Recorder for me, to the end, he may be induced to make a favourable report, and thereby move his most sacred Majesty to clemency, by the sentence to some other corporal punishment, and shall dedicate the rest of my days in praying for both your happiness and prosperity in this world, and eternal felicity and bliss in that to come, and crave leave, with due deference, madam, to subscribe myself,

Your ladyship's most devoted, Afflicted humble servant, John Everett

The Ordinary of Newgate, in the account he has given of this prisoner, has drawn as bad a character as he is able, and in order to it, has gathered together all the ill-terms he could think of, even though some of them are contrary to one another. The truth is, that the fellow in himself had abundance of ill-qualities, with some good ones, and especially good nature of which he had a very large share. Lewd women were what brought him to his ruin, for to their company he continually addicted himself, and with his low intrigues amongst them is the book I have mentioned stuffed from one end to the other.

As to religion, it is certain he had very little of it before he was confined, so it is not very likely that he should make any great proficiency while he remained there. He was careless, indeed, under his misfortunes, but did not give himself up to any loose or profane expressions, but on the contrary attended at Chapel with decency at least, if not with devotion.

Some attempts were made to save his life, by engaging him to make discoveries in an affair of high concern, but all was ineffectual, and he suffered on the 20th of February, 1729-30, with less apprehension than might have been expected from a man under his unhappy circumstances. The executioner, to put the prisoner sooner out of his pain, jumped upon his shoulders, and thereby broke the rope, but he was soon tied up again, and there remained until the rest were cut down.

At the time of his execution, he was forty-four years of age or thereabouts.


[1] This was a small wig covering only the top of the head; a bob-wig was short and tied at the back with a large bow; a natural was a large, full wig, in which the hair was made to look like natural locks.

[2] The scandalous system of bleeding prisoners for every little necessity and comfort made gaoloring a very profitable trade.

[3] That is, managed the sale of liquor in the Fleet.

[4] Author of "The New Atlantis" and sundry political pamphlets and libels, plays and novels.

Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals