British Executions

William Joyce

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Crime: highway robbery

Date Of Execution: 1 Jul 1696

Crime Location:

Execution Place: unknown

Method: hanging

Executioner: unknown



A Chawbacon who, coming to London, was fleeced, so took to fleecing Others. Executed in July, 1696

 THIS unhappy criminal was the son of an honest farmer, born at Nantwich, in Cheshire, and brought up to his father's occupation; but at about twenty years of age, being very desirous to see London, he having scarce ever been ten miles from home, his father, who was a wealthy man, put twenty-five guineas into his pockets, and he set out to visit the metropolis of the nation. The father and son might have now taken their last farewell of each other, for they never saw one another any more.

 The very first day he came into London, which was in the forenoon, taking, after dinner, a walk into Moorfields to see the lunatics in Bedlam, a couple of women of the town, perceiving by his garb and mien that he was no small country fool, picked him up, and carrying him to a vaulting school they there had a very pretty collation both of eating and drinking; after which sweet William, being a brisk young fellow, had a game at hey grammar-cook with them both, in which he lost all the money he had in his breeches. He began to be uneasy at his loss, but they coaxing him up with promises of his having or finding his money again, then drank him to a pitch of being non compos mentis, when, falling asleep, they left him to pay the reckoning of four pounds odd money.

 Then he roved down to the waterside, where, seeing a waterman taking a good heavy trunk into his boat to carry to Fulham, without any company, he told the waterman, whose name was William Bennet, that he had business at Fulham too, and asked what he must have to carry him thither. The waterman demanded a shilling, to which he consented; so into the boat he steps. It being night before they arrived within a mile of the place, what does Joyce do but, with a good oaken plant he had in his hand, give the waterman such a shrewd blow under the ear that, being stunned, he fell all along backwards. Joyce followed it with another sharp blow on the head, then presently tied his hands and feet with his garters, crammed a handkerchief into his mouth, and rowing the boat to Barn Elms there breaks open the trunk. He found a great deal of good clothes, which he would not meddle with; but searching to the bottom, he found a hundred pounds in silver in a bag, forty guineas in a green purse, a gold watch, and a silver box in which were four rich diamond rings.

 With this booty he went ashore, and lived riotously up and down the country till it was almost consumed; and being then at Chatham, he there happened into the company of one James Corbet, a young reformade, just come ashore from on board the Royal Oak. Now, understanding that he had about fifty or sixty guineas about him, and that he was to ride post to London next morning, Joyce was resolved to make himself master of this money that night. In order thereto, pretending that he was invited to one Captain Mosely's house, about a mile off, to supper, where they should have also a most noble bowl of punch, he told the poor sailor that he should be very glad of his good company, and would undertake for his being as welcome as himself. Corbet knowing there was such a captain, and Joyce seeming a man of fashion (for he was well clothed, had a good watch in his fob, a diamond ring on his finger, and five or six guineas in his pockets, out of which he paid his own and Corbet's reckoning too), he condescended to go along with him. Over the fields they went, but were not got above half-a-mile out of Chatham ere a convenient place offered for Joyce to execute his design; so pulling out a couple of pistols he demanded Corbet's money, who, knowing it was impossible to parry bullets with a sword (which he also lost as it was a silver-hilted one), complied with his demands, and also suffered himself to be tied neck and heels. One time Joyce, meeting with one John Hicks on Putney Heath, commanded him to stand and deliver; but he being as stout a fellow as the highwayman a fight ensued betwixt them, in which they discharged several shots at one another without doing any damage. Joyce, admiring the courage of Hicks, said that if he could put so much confidence in him to think he would not betray him he should be very glad to drink a glass of wine with him in the town of Putney. Hicks being a generous-spirited man promised upon honour he would not discover him. To the tavern they went, and having passed the time away for an hour or two in chat, the highwayman paid the reckoning, presented Hicks with five guineas, and then they parted. But ere Joyce went far, meeting with one Robert Williams, a goldsmith, living in George Yard at Westminster, and one Samuel Winfield) a blacksmith, living in Southwark, he took from them four pounds towards defraying the charges of his late conversation with John Hicks.

 Afterwards he went to Bristol, where, marrying a citizen's daughter, with whom he had about five hundred pounds, he was by marrying her made (according to the custom of that city) free thereof. Now pretending he was a linen-draper by trade, and had fifteen hundred pounds to receive of his own father, he takes the lease of a great house next to an eminent goldsmith in the High Street. The key being delivered to him, he took some of his accomplices with him the same night into this house, which yet was empty, and with iron instruments forcing a hole through the party wall of the goldsmith's shop, they cleared, without going into it, all the plate off the shelves quite along that side they had made an entrance.

 They were carrying off their prize in hampers on a couple of horses when, being stopped by the watch at Laifford's Gate, he and two others were apprehended and sent to Newgate, and in some short time after, being tried and condemned for this fact, they were sentenced to be hanged. Accordingly they were executed (though great intercession in particular was made for Joyce) in July, 1696.