1 September 1773 – William Field
The highways and byways were slightly safer after our next man hit the gallows. William Field was strung up for a range of robberies on the streets on London.
He started off well enough as a footman, but soon people got wise to his ill-gotten ways and wound up where no-one would touch him because he was so dodgy. So, jobless Field picked the highway as his source of income. His past life still came in handy though, because he’d made friends while working as a footman – and they fed him valuable nuggets of information, ie who was carrying what and where they were going.
They even lent him horses so he could carry out his daylight robberies and according to the Newgate Calendar, he spent his spoils on wild night with wanton women. And when he wasn’t with prostitutes he was benevolently subbing other servants who’d been thrown on the scrapheap.
But he couldn’t evade the law forever and they finally apprehended him – and unusually he got off very lightly at a time when they would string you up as soon as look at you. He was sentenced to seven years of slavery in America.
Needless to say, Field wasn’t having a bar of it and it wasn’t long before he’d wormed his way out of his shackles and escaped back to Old Blighty, where he docked in Dorset. But he couldn’t afford to hang around long in Poole. The real money was to be had in London, so he carted himself off to the capital to amass other people’s money.
Finchley, Blackheath and Putney, nowhere was safe until he was finally taken into custody again. It may have been tempting to deport him, seeing as he technically still had to see out his sentence, but he was tried again for his recent misdemeanours and found guilty.
This time there was to be no leniency and as a result he was hanged at Kennington.