The Life of JOSEPH SHREWSBERRY, alias SMITH
a Robber, etc.
This unhappy criminal of whom we are now to speak was the son of parents in so mean circumstances that they were not able to give him any education at all; yet they were careful in carrying him constantly to church with them, and instructing him as far as they were able in the principles of the Christian faith, and did everything that narrow capacity would give them leave, in order to enable him to get his bread in some honest employment. Then they put him out apprentice to a tanner in the neighbourhood, a very honest, considerate man, who treated him with all the indulgence and kindness he could have wished throughout the time of his apprenticeship. But he was so unfortunate as to fall into the company of a set of giddy young people who were totally addicted to merry-making and dancing, which when he had once got into the road of, he so neglected his business that his master, after abundance of reproofs, was obliged to part with him.
He had not at that time any designs of doing anything like the fact for which he afterwards suffered, but continuing still to frequent his dancing-mates' company, they promised to put him into a road to supply him with money enough to live without working, provided he had courage to do as they would have him; and he, without considering what he did, giving consent to their motions, went out one evening with David Anderson, Country Will and Jenny Austin, and after a while they stripped one Thomas Collier, and robbed him of his coat and waistcoat, hat, and a pair of silver buckles and other things, with a half guinea in gold, and twenty-five shillings in silver. For this offence he was quickly after committed, apprehended, and sent to Newgate, where, upon a plain proof of the fact, he was convicted and ordered for execution.
When the poor man was under sentence of death, he sufficiently repented those idle hours he had consumed in dancing, and in the other merriments into which he had been led by his companions. He was now sensible how easily he might have lived if he had taken the advice of his kind master, who with so much pains endeavoured not only to instruct him in his profession, but also to reclaim him from those follies in which he saw him engaged. The thoughts of death threw him into violent agonies from whence his natural sense (of which he had a great deal) at last in some measure recovered him; and when upon the coming down of the death warrant, he saw there were no hopes left for him in this life, he applied himself with very great ardency to secure happiness in the next.
He declared that the fact for which he died was the first he ever committed, and that the depositions against him were not exactly conformable to truth. A day or two before his death, he appeared to be very calm and very cheerful, submitted with a perfect resignation to the lot which had befallen him, and at the place of execution exhorted the people not to let their curiosity only be satisfied in the sight of his wretched death, but he warned them also from the commission of such crimes as might bring them to a like fate. He suffered on the 3rd of November, 1726, at Tyburn, being then about twenty-two years of age.
Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals