Executed near Wells, in Somersetshire, 21st of September 1739, for robbing the Mail.
FROM serving as a messenger some years to the General Post Office, this man formed the dangerous resolution of robbing the mails. At that time the vast property in circulation by means of the post was not, as at present, secured from being plundered by any lurking thief upon the road.
On the 21st of February, 1738, this public plunderer began his depredations by stopping the post-boy bringing the Bath and Bristol mails, about seven o'clock in the evening, at the end of Sunning Lane, two miles north of Reading, in Berkshire.
For the apprehension of the robber the Postmaster-General offered a reward of two hundred pounds, over and above the reward by Act of Parliament for apprehending highwaymen; or if any accomplice in the said robbery should make a discovery of the person who committed the fact, such accomplice should be entitled to the reward of two hundred pounds, and also receive his Majesty's most gracious pardon.
The advertisement described the robber to be a middle-sized man, wearing a great riding-coat, with a white velvet or plush cape.
No sooner had Lympus rifled the bags of their most valuable contents than he determined upon attempting to make his escape to France. For this purpose he hastened to the nearest seaport, and actually landed there, but not before the officers of justice got information of his flight. They pursued him to France, and demanded him to be delivered up to them as a national robber; but on flying to the sanctuary of the Church, and declaring himself a Roman Catholic, he received protection, and for a while evaded the official laws of his own country.
There is ever to be found in such as fly for a heinous crime, after some time passed abroad in safety, a desire to return, which in vain they struggle to suppress. So it was in some measure with T. Lympus, who could not rest with his booty in France, but returned in a short time for further plunder, and immediately committed another mail robbery, for which he was apprehended and brought to trial.
It appeared by the evidence of the post-boy that he was stopped by the prisoner on horseback between the towns of Crewkerne and Sherborne, who compelled him to dismount, then bound him hand and foot, and rode off with the mail, containing twenty- four bags, from as many post towns.
Having taken out the bank- notes, he again contemplated an escape to France, and for that purpose again embarked; but the winds were no longer propitious to his hopes, for the vessel was driven back, and obliged to put into Dartmouth.
Here he offered one of the stolen notes in payment, endorsed by one Follet, of Topsham, and it being described in the account of the robbery he was suspected of being the robber. Apprehending himself to be in danger he immediately decamped, making the best of his way towards Kingsbridge; but he was pursued by seven men, who took him on a warrant being granted for that purpose.
He was convicted of this robbery, and after much equivocation, confessed, since sentence of death, having robbed the Bristol mail a little more than a year before, and impeached one Patrick, a dealer in hops, as his accomplice.
He was executed on the top of Dunkit Hill, within a mile of Wells, in Somersetshire, Sept. 21, 1739, and affected to die professing the religion he had adopted in France.
The security now given to our mail-coaches rendering an open attempt on them impracticable, unless sustained by a whole band of robbers, recourse has been frequently had to artifice in order to get possession of the mail. One of these tricks was thus played off with success.
It was customary to deposit the mail-bags at a private house in Castle Street, Reading, near to which the horses belonging to the mail were changed. The guard announced the approach of the mail to the inn, by sounding his horn, and, whilst the horses were putting to, he went to the receiving-house to exchange his bags. A horn was sounded in the street, quite late in the evening of the 26th of January, 1806, and soon after a man called for the downward bag, which was delivered to him, as usual, out of a window, and in return for which he gave a bag, which was afterwards found to contain shavings. The robbery was discovered soon after by the arrival of the mail, but not till the villains had effected their escape.