Who, getting literally hooked as a Pickpocket, turned House-breaker. Executed 18th of December, 1691, for using Arson as a means to Theft
TOM TAYLOR, a parson's son, was born at Colchester, in Essex; who, accustoming himself to gaming from twelve years of age, was so addicted to idleness that he would not be brought up to any honest employment. Furthermore, rejecting the good counsel of his parents, and joining himself to bad company, he soon got into a gang of pick- pockets, with whom he often went out to learn their evil profession and find the ready way to the gallows. Going once, with three or four of these diving sparks, to Guildford, a market-town in Surrey, where there was next day a fair to be kept, and fearing to be discovered in that concourse of so many people, they resolved to do their business that very evening, when the people were very busy in fitting up their stalls, and some little trading was stirring besides. Their first consultation was how to draw the folks together to make one job of it, which was agreed on in this manner. Tom Taylor, pretending to be an ignorant clown, got his head into the pillory, which was elevated near the market-house, as if he had only a mind to be laughed at. The noise thereof causing the whole town to run together to see this spectacle, his companions so plied their work, while the people gazed, laughed and stared, that they left but few of them any money in their pockets. Nay, the very keeper of the pillory, who was as well pleased at this curious sight as anybody, was served in the same manner with the rest.
Tom seeing the work was done, and having the sign given him that his comrades were departing, came down from his wooden machine; whereupon the company dispersed themselves. A little while after, some of them clapping their hands into their pockets, they cried out with one voice that their pockets were picked, while in the confusion Tom slunk away to his companions, who were out of the reach of apprehension.
At last, Taylor being pretty expert at picking of pockets, he set up for himself; and one day going to the playhouse in Drury Lane, very well dressed, he seated himself by a gentleman in the pit, whose pocket he picked of about forty guineas, and went clean off. This good success tempted Tom to go thither the next day in a different suit of clothes, when, perceiving the same gentleman in the pit whose pocket he had picked but the day before, he takes his seat by him again. The gentleman was so sharp as to know his face again, for all his change of apparel, though he seemed to take no notice of him; whereupon putting a great quantity of guineas into the pocket next Tom, it was not long before he fell to diving for them. The gentleman had sewed fishing- hooks all round the mouth of that pocket, and our gudgeon venturing too deep, by unconscionably plunging down to the very bottom, his hand was caught and held so fast that he could in no manner of way disentangle it.
Tom angled up and down in the pocket for nearly a quarter of an hour; the gentleman, all the while feeling his struggling to get his hand out, took no notice, till at last Tom, very courteously pulling off his hat, quoth: "Sir, by a mistake, I have somehow put my hand into your pocket instead of my own." The gentleman, without making any noise, arose and went to the Rose Tavern at the corner of Bridget Street, and Tom along with him, with his hand in his pocket, where it remained till he had sent for some of his cronies, who paid down eighty guineas to get the gudgeon out of this dry pond. However, the gentleman, being not altogether contented with this double satisfaction for his loss, most unmercifully caned him, and then turning him over to the mob, they as unmercifully pumped him and ducked him in a horse-pond, and after that so cruelly used him that they broke one of his legs and an arm.
Tom meeting with such bad usage in his first setting up for himself, he was so much out of conceit with the trade of picking pockets that he left it quite off and followed house-breaking; in which kind of villainy he was so notorious that he had committed above sixty felonies and burglaries in the county of Middlesex only in less than fourteen months. He reigned eight years in his crimes; but at length, setting a barn on fire betwixt Brentford and Austirly, a little village lying about a mile north from that town, while the servants came from the dwelling-house to quench it he ran up into a chamber, pretending to help to preserve the goods, but ran away with a trunk in which was a great deal of plate and a hundred and forty pounds in money. He was apprehended before he got to Hammersmith, where, being carried before a magistrate, he was committed to Newgate; and receiving sentence of death at the Old Bailey, when about twenty-nine years of age, he was hanged at Tyburn on Friday, the 18 th day of December, in the year 1691.