Thomas Cox (c. 1665 – 12 September 1690), known as "The Handsome Highwayman", was an English highwayman, sentenced to death and hanged at Tyburn. He had a reputation for a spirited nature and it is reported that when asked if he wished to say a prayer before being hanged, he kicked the ordinary and the hangman out of the cart taking him there.
Cox lived during the Restoration period. According to Alexander Smith's A Complete History of the Lives and Robberies of the Most Notorious Highwaymen, Footpads, Shoplifts and Cheats of Both Sexes (1719), Tom Cox was the youngest son of a gentleman living at Blandford, Dorsetshire.
Smith wrote that Cox's father left him money but having squandered it, Cox travelled to London where he fell in with a gang of highwaymen. He was tried at the assizes at Gloucester and Winchester, and for his life at Worcester, but acquitted each time. At Worcester he married a woman with a fortune of £1,500 but having dissipated it in less than two years he returned to crime. He held up Thomas Killigrew, jester to King Charles II, who asked Cox if he was in earnest. Cox is supposed to have replied, "I am in earnest, for though you live by jesting, I can't; therefore deliver your money, before a brace of balls make the sun shine through your body". In Sussex he robbed a Mr Hitchcock, a dishonest attorney of New Inn, of 350 guineas, leaving him one guinea to continue his journey. On the road from Lichfield, Cox met Madam Box, a brothel keeper of Fountain Court in the Temple, whom he knew, who told him that if he robbed her, she would see him hang, but he took her money anyway.
Cox was arrested for a highway robbery near Chard, Somerset, but according to Smith managed to break out of Ilchester prison after the jailer fell asleep drunk. He made his escape towards Coventry on a stolen horse and on the way robbed two other highwaymen when they tried to hold him up, killing one. He also robbed a nobleman he had befriended of a diamond ring and 100 guineas before killing the man's horse. His final hold-up, according to Smith, was the robbery of a farmer (Thomas Boucher) on Hounslow Heath. This last crime was Cox's undoing when the farmer, happening to be in London, saw Cox coming out of his lodgings in Essex Street near Strand, resulting in Cox's capture in nearby St Clement Danes churchyard. Cox was committed to Newgate Prison pending trial for his crimes, where he lived in luxury in the Press Yard.
Cox was sentenced to death at the Old Baileyfor the robbery of Boucher and hanged at Tyburn on 12 September 1690 in his 25th year. On the way to the gallows he was asked by the ordinary, Samuel Smith, if he wished to join the other condemned men in prayer. He responded by kicking Smith and the hangman out of the cart carrying him to the gallows. Samuel Smith recorded that:
On Friday about 10 a Clock they were all 6 conveyed in 2 Carts to the Place of Execution, where being all fastned to the Tree, they were (in good order) exhorted to renew their Repentance, and to prepare themselves for their so suddain Change by Death, Mr. Ordinary taking great pains in Prayer to God for their Souls Salvation, using several cogent Arguments to prepare them to a free Confession unto Almighty God of all their former mispent Lives; to which they all readily attended except Cox and W - who were very impertinent in their Behaviour, and undecently and irreverently reflected upon the Government; for which the Ordinary gave them a suddain and a severe Check...
He was listed in James Caulfield's Blackguardiana: or, a dictionary of rogues, bawds, pimps, whores, pickpockets, shoplifters, &c. (1793) and features in a song sung by a character in the novel Rookwood (1834) by W. Harrison Ainsworth as follows:
Tyburn was a village in the county of Middlesex close to the current location of Marble Arch and the southern end of Edgware Road in present-day London. It took its name from the Tyburn Brook, a tributary of the River Westbourne. The name Tyburn, from Teo Bourne means 'boundary stream', but Tyburn Brook should not be confused with the better known River Tyburn, which is the next tributary of the River Thames to the east of the Westbourne.
Richard Turpin was an English highwayman whose exploits were romanticised following his execution in York for horse theft. Turpin may have followed his father's trade as a butcher early in his life but, by the early 1730s, he had joined a gang of deer thieves and, later, became a poacher, burglar, horse thief and killer. He is also known for a fictional 200-mile (320 km) overnight ride from London to York on his horse Black Bess, a story that was made famous by the Victorian novelist William Harrison Ainsworth almost 100 years after Turpin's death.
Tom King was an English highwayman who operated in the Essex and London areas. His real name is thought to have been Matthew King; whether "Tom" was a nickname or an error in reporting his crimes is uncertain, but it is the name by which he has become popularly known. Some sources claim that he was nicknamed "The Gentleman Highwayman" and he was also known as “Captain Tom King”. A contemporary account of his last robbery also mentions a brother, either John or Robert King, who was captured by the authorities on that occasion. Other reports also mention an “Elizabeth King”, possibly his wife who is mentioned in King's will.
Claude DuVal was a French highwayman in Restoration England. He came from a family of decayed nobility, and worked in the service of exiled royalists who returned to England under King Charles II. Little else is known of his history. According to popular legend, he abhorred violence, showing courtesy to his victims and chivalry to their womenfolk, thus spawning the myth of the romantic highwayman, as taken up by many novelists and playwrights.
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John "Sixteen String Jack" Rann was an English criminal and highwayman during the mid-18th century. He was a prominent and colourful local figure renowned for his wit and charm. He later came to be known as "Sixteen String Jack" for the 16 various coloured strings he wore on the knees of his silk breeches among other eccentric costumes.
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Rookwood is a novel by William Harrison Ainsworth published in 1834. It is a historical and gothic romance that describes a dispute over the legitimate claim for the inheritance of Rookwood Place and the Rookwood family name.
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William Spiggot was a highwayman who was captured by Jonathan Wild's men in 1721. During his trial at the Old Bailey, he at first refused to plead and was therefore sentenced to be pressed until he pleaded. This was called Peine forte et dure. He was later executed, after a second trial when he pleaded not guilty, on 11 February 1721 at Tyburn, London.
The Green Man is a public house in Wildcroft Road, Putney, London, on the edge of Putney Common, parts of which date back to around 1700. The pub was once frequented by highwaymen and was a popular place for participants to fortify themselves before or after a duel on nearby Putney Heath.
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Alexander Smith was a compiler of volumes of biographies.
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