Took to the Highway because he was ruined by a Fire. Executed at Cambridge Castle in March, 1713
EDWARD BONNET was born of very good and reputable parents in the Isle of Ely, in Cambridgeshire, who bestowed some small education upon him, as reading, writing and casting accounts. He set up as a grocer in the country, being at one time worth above six hundred pounds.
He was ruined by a fire, which burned all his goods and house to the ground; and not being in a condition to retrieve his loss he came up to London, to avoid the importunate duns of creditors, where, lighting into a gang of highwaymen, he took to their courses, to raise himself, if possible, once more. Having been upon several exploits, wherein he was successful, the sweet profit of his enterprises made him so in love with robbing on the highway that he devoted himself wholly to it, and committed above three hundred robberies, particularly in Cambridgeshire, insomuch that he was much dreaded by the people in that country.
One time Ned Bonnet, in a rencounter on the road, met with the misfortune of having his horse shot under him; whereupon he was obliged to follow his trade on foot till he could get another. But it was not long before he took a good gelding out of the grounds of a man who since kept the Red Lion Inn in Hounslow upon which, riding straight into Cambridgeshire, a gentleman one day over took him on the road who was like to have been robbed. Hearing Ned Bonnet to be tuning something of a psalm, he thereupon took him to be a godly man, and desired his company to such a place, to which he said he was also going (for a highwayman is never out of his way, though he is going against his will to the gallows).
But at length, Ned, coming to a place convenient for this purpose, obliged the gentleman to stand and deliver his money; which being above eighty guineas, he had the conscience to give him half a crown to bear his charges till he had credit to recruit himself again. This gentleman ever after could not endure the tune of a psalm, and had as great an aversion against Sternhold, Hopkins, Tate and Brady as the devil has to holy water.
At length one Zachary Clare, whose father kept a baker's shop at Hackney, being apprehended for robbing on the highway and committed to Cambridge Jail, to save his own bacon made himself an evidence against Ned Bonnet, who, being secured at his lodging in Old Street, was sent to Newgate, and remaining till the assizes held at Cambridge, before Mr Baron Lovet, was carried down thither, and executed before the castle, on Saturday, the 28th of March, 1713, to the general joy and satisfaction of all the people in that country.