Who proved that a Peruke-Maker does not make a good Highwayman, for his Career lasted only a Week. Executed 20th of December, 1704
JOHN SMITH was born at Winchcomb, within ten miles of Gloucester. He was a peruke-maker by trade, about twenty-three years of age, and carefully educated by his parents, to whose kindness he made but an ungrateful return, being very disobedient to them, and falling into many extravagances and debaucheries.
He said that the ill habits he had contracted in his younger years were greatly confirmed by his being, though but a little while, at sea, and that when he returned from thence he became acquainted with a peruke-maker in Chancery Lane, who proposed to him to go and rob on the highway; which being soon agreed on, they went out with that intent on Sunday, the 29th of October, and as they were waiting about Paddington for a booty, Smith rested himself on a stile over against the gallows at Tyburn, at the sight of which his heart misgave him, and he could not help thinking that at one time or another he should end his days near the place where he was beginning to rob; which he mentioned to his companion, and would have persuaded him to go home.
This the other refused to do, and encouraged him, saying: "What matters, it, Jack? It is but hanging, if thou shouldst come to that." So they proceeded on their design, and stole Mr William Birch's grey mare, which was the first robbery they committed.
On the following day Smith set out alone upon the mare and robbed three stage-coaches near Epping Forest.
On Wednesday, the 1st of November, he robbed three other stage-coaches and a hackney-coach on Hounslow Heath, and on the Saturday following he robbed three stage-coaches more near St Albans; in all which robberies he did not obtain more than twenty pounds.
And lastly, he robbed Mr Thomas Woodcock's coach, on Finchley Common, on Monday, the 6th of November, taking from Mr Woodcock's lady four guineas, two keys and a silk purse; for which he was apprehended.
At the Old Bailey a gentleman deposed that, as he and his servant were riding along, hearing that a robbery had been committed, they pursued the thief till he took refuge in a wood called Colefall; and that he directed his servant to ride into the wood while he rode round it, to observe if the prisoner attempted to make his escape out of it. That in their search they found a grey mare tied to a bush, soon after which seven or eight people came to their assistance, and at length a huntsman espied the prisoner lying under a tree, and advanced towards him with a blunderbuss, whereupon Smith desired him not to shoot him, and immediately shot off his pistols into the air.
Two men laying hold of him, he was conducted to Muswell Hill, where, being examined, there was found upon him the watch and purses mentioned in the indictment, a mask, some powder and shot, and some money; and that the prisoner then said he would have made his escape but that the mare was a jade.
The jury found him guilty, and he received sentence of death. He was executed at Tyburn, on the 20th of December, 1704.