Crime: highway robbery
Date Of Execution: 20 May 1738
Execution Place: unknown
The parents of John Toon were respectable inhabitants of Shoreditch, who having bestowed on him a liberal education, apprenticed him, to a capital ironmonger, who had married his sister; but not being happy in this situation, his father sent him to sea at the expiration of three years. After two voyages to Barbadoes, he grew tired of the life of a seaman, which he quitted to live with his uncle, who was a carman, and in whose service he behaved so unexceptionably, that on the death of the uncle; which happened soon afterwards, he took possession of four hundred pounds, which his relation had bequeathed him, as the reward of his good conduct.
Soon after becoming possessed of this money, he married the sister of Edward Blastock, and began to live in a most extravagant manner. When he had dissipated half his little fortune, Blastock proposed that they should go into Yorkshire, and embark in public business. This proposal being accepted; they took an inn in Sheffield, the place of Blastock's birth; but both of the landlords being better calculated to spend than to get money, Toon soon found his circumstances embarrassed.
Thus situated, he reflected on Blastock for advising him to take the inn; and the other recriminated; by recounting the faults of Toon. In consequence of this dissention, Blastock brought, his wife to London, whither Toon and his wife soon followed, after selling off their effects.
Toon, who was totally reduced, met his own elder brother one day in Cheapside. This brother, who was a dyer in Shoreditch, took little notice of the other, but as Toon imagined he was going out for the day, he went to his house, and met with his wife, who entreated him to stay dinner; to which he consented, and in the mean time he went to see the men at work, and finding one among them of genteel appearance, whom he learnt was his brothers book-keeper, he became extremely enraged that his brother should employ. a stranger in this station in preference to himself, at a time that he was in circumstances of distress.
In this agitation of mind he returned into the house, and: whilst his sister-in-law was gone into another room, he stole a small quantity of silver-plate, and decamped: and having soon spent the produce of this theft, he determined on the dangerous and fatal resource of the highway.
His first expedition was to Epping. Forest, where he waited along time in expectation of a booty; and at length observing a coach come from Lord Castlemain's seat, he used the most dreadful imprecations to compel the coach-man to stop, and robbed two ladies of near three pounds, with a girdle-buckle, and an etwee-case.
He now imagined that he had got a valuable prize: but he, at length pawned the buckle and etwee for twelve shillings; finding that the latter was base metal; though he had mistaken it for gold, and the former was set with crystal stones instead of diamonds, as they had appeared to his eye.
He soon spent his ill-gotten treasure, and going again on the highway, stopped and robbed several persons, among whom was a gentleman named Currier, who earnestly exhorted him to decline his present course of life, not only from the immorality, but the danger of it. The robber thanked the gentleman for his advice; but said that he had no occasion for it, as he was sufficiently apprized, of his danger, but he must have his money, on pain of instant death; and having robbed him of three guineas, he decamped with the utmost expedition
One of his next robberies was on Epping Forest, where he dispossessed a gentleman of his money and a gold watch; which he left in the hands of a receiver of stolen goods, to dispose of to the best advantage, but the watch being of value, and in high estimation with the Owner, he advertised it, with a reward of eight guineas, on which the receiver delivered it, and took the money, but gave Toon only seven of them, pretending that was all he could obtain.
Toon not having read the advertisement, was ignorant of the trick that had been put upon him; but being some days afterwards upon Epping Forest, and having in vain waited some time for a booty he went to the Green Man by Lord Castlemain's house, where he heard one, of his lordship's footmen recounting the particulars of the robbery, and saying that the watch had been recovered on giving eight guineas for it.
This circumstance determined Toon never to lodge any of his future booties in the hand of this man. But. it will now be proper to say something of the other malefactor, whose story makes part of this narrative.
EDWARD BLASTOCK was a native of Sheffield, in Yorkshire, and was apprenticed in London to a peruke-maker in the temple; and his master dying when he had served about five years, his mistress declined trade; and gave the young fellow his indentures, on the representation of the gentlemen of the law, that they wished him, rather than any other, to succeed her late husband.
But the rent of the house being high, Blastock was afraid to enter on business so early in life, as he, was at that time only eighteen years of age: on which he took two rooms in White Friars, where he began to practise in his business, and met with great success.
Coming by this means into the possession of money before he knew the value of it, he attached himself to the fashionable pleasures of the town, by which he soon incurred more debts than he could discharge; and consequently was obliged to decline business, and have recourse to the wretched life of a strolling player; refusing to accept of a good situation which was offered him by a gentleman of the Temple.
Soon afterwards Blastock married, had several children, and being reduced to great distress, went into Yorkshire with Toon, as has been already mentioned. On his return from Yorkshire, he again engaged himself as a strolling player and after some time, casually meeting with Toon, the latter represented the advantages to be made by the life of a highwayman, and wished him to embark in that business; which he declined on the double score of its danger and immorality.
Not long after this refusal Blastock was seized with an indisposition, which threatened his life, and confined him so long that his wife was obliged to pawn almost all her effects for his support; and being visited by Toon during his illness, the latter again wished him to commence highwayman.
Blastock had no sooner recovered his health than, depressed by want, he yielded to the dangerous solicitation, and went with his accomplice to Epping Forest, where they stopped the chariot of a gentleman, whom they robbed of a few shillings and a pocket-piece, and then came to London.
On the following day, they went again towards the forest; but, in crossing Hackney Marsh, Toon's horse sunk in a slough, where he continued for so long a time that they found it impossible to achieve any profitable adventure for that night.
Thus disappointed, they returned to London, and on the 27th of February following set out on another expedition, which proved to be their last of the kind. While Toon was loading his pistols, he was prepossessed with the idea that his fate was speedily approaching; nevertheless he resolved to run every hazard: on which they rode as far as Muswell Hill, where they stopped a gentleman named Seabroke, and demanded his money.
The gentleman gave them eighteen shillings, saying it was all he had, and adding, "God bless you, gentlemen, you are welcome to it." Toon then demanded his watch, which Mr. Seabroke delivered, expressing himself again in the same words. This robbery being committed, they galloped hard towards Highgate, and their horses being almost. tired, Blastock, stung with the guilt of his conscience, looked frequently behind him, in apprehension that he was pursued; and so strong was the terror of conscience, "which makes cowards of us all," that both of them agreed to quit their horses, and make their escape.
They now ran through a farm-yard, and taking the back road which leads from Highgate to Hampstead, they got to London on foot; and Blastock now declared his determination never to embark in such another project, while he congratulated himself on his narrow escape.
They now took a solemn oath, that, if either of them should he apprehended, neither would impeach the other; and the watch obtained in the last robbery being sold for two guineas, Blastock received his share, and went to join a company of strolling players at Chatham.
The stolen watch being advertised, the purchaser carried it to Mr. Seabroke, telling him that he knew Toon, and would assist in taking him into custody; the consequence of which was, that the offender was lodged in Newgate on the same day.
Toon kept his oath in declining to give any information against his accomplice; but Blastock having agreed to go with the players to a greater distance from London than Chatham, returned to town to bid his wife and children adieu. When he arrived, which was about midnight, his wife and her sister were in bed: and the former having opened the door, he was informed that Toon was in custody, and advised to seek his safety by an immediate: flight.
This advice, however, he did not take; and in the morning, Toon's wife desired he would stay while she visited her husband, declaring that she would not mention his having returned to London.
On her return from this visit, she wept much, and expressed her wishes for the approach of night, that he might retire in safety. In the evening, while supper was providing, she went out, under pretence of a visit to her husband, but instead thereof, she went to Toon's brother, who taking her before a magistrate; some peace-officers were sent to take Blastock into custody:
Mrs. Toon directed the officers to the room where Blastock was, in company with two men of his acquaintance, who were advising him on the emergency of his affairs. Blastock, suspecting some foul play, concealed himself in a closet; and when the officers came in, they first seized one, and then the other of the persons present; but were soon convinced that neither of them was the party they were in search of.
On this the officers made a stricter search, and finding Blastock in the closet, took him into custody. Having taken leave of his wife and children, they carried him before a magistrate, who asked him if he had not a worse coat than that which he then wore. Blastock owned that he had, and actually sent for it; and it was kept to be produced in evidence against him.
While the officers were conducting him to Newgate, in a coach, they told him that Mrs. Toon had given the information against him; at which he was so shocked, that it was some time before he could recover his recollection, being absolutely insensible when he was lodged in prison.
These malefactors being tried at the next sessions at the Old Bailey, were capitally convicted, and received sentence of death; and, after conviction, were confined in the same cell: but being unhappy together, from their mutual recriminations of each other, the keeper caused them to be separated.
Toon behaved more penitently than malefactors usually do; and Blastock exhibited an uncommon instance of unfeigned penitence and contrition. They embraced each other at the place of their death, and Blastock delivered the following speech to the surrounding multitude:
"I do not come here to excuse myself, although I have been first led into the crime for which suffer, and then basely betrayed; no, I am sensible of my guilt, nor should I have made the world acquainted with this barbarous treatment that I have met with, even from a near relation, had it not been with a view of preventing the ruin of many young persons.
"Let my fate be an example to them, and never let any man in trade think himself above his business, nor despise the offers of those who would serve him. Let them purchase wisdom at my cost, and never let slip any opportunity that bids fair to be of the least advantage to them, for experience tells me, that had I done as I now advise you, I had never come to this end.
"The next thing never to trust your life in the hands of a near relation; for money makes those who pretend to be your nearest friends; your most bitter enemies. Never be persuaded to do any thing you may be sorry for afterwards, nor believe the most solemn Oaths, for there is no truth in imprecations; rather take a man's word; for those that will swear will lie: Not but that that I believe there are some in the world, with, who would suffer the worst of deaths, rather than betray the trust reposed in them.
"What, I have here declared; as I am a dying man, I protest before God is true; and here; before God and the world, I freely forgive those who betrayed me, and die in peace with all mankind.
"I implore the forgiveness of that God who has promised pardon and forgiveness to all those who sincerely repent; and I hope I have done my best endeavours, while in prison, to make my peace with a justly offended God. I hope the moment I leave this troublesome world, my soul will be received into eternal happiness, through the merits of Jesus Christ.
"I conclude with my prayers for the welfare of my poor unhappy wife and children, who are now reduced to misery; and taking a long farewell of the world, I commit my spirit into the hands of him who gave me being."