Executed on Kennington Common, 1st of September, 1773, for Highway Robbery
Field sold as a slave in North America
WILLIAM FIELD had been a gentleman's livery servant, and had been turned out of several places for his irregularities. At length the badness of his character prevented any gentleman from taking him into his house. The highway being the general recourse of discharged footmen, Field commenced as a highwayman.
To the pert insolence of a footman he added the daring impulse of desperation as a highwayman. While in service he had made a large acquaintance with ostlers, jockeys and post-boys. He therefore found no difficulty in borrowing horses to carry him through his depredations, and he gained information of travellers of property from the gang who had long been his comrades.
One of the most daring attempts at robbery was upon the late celebrated Colonel Luttrell, brother to the late Duchess of Cumberland, and another gentleman, whom he stopped near Gunsbury House. The Colonel immediately fired a pistol, without effect, at the highwayman, who in return presented one at the traveller; but from its having been some time loaded it would not go off, upon which he rode away. This pistol, Field confessed, he took from Colonel West's housekeeper some time before, when he stopped and fired at that officer.
The money of which he robbed travellers for some time he squandered upon lewd women and abandoned discarded servant-men. He was, however, at length apprehended, and convicted of a robbery; but, through the lenity of his prosecutor, the sentence of death was remitted to seven years' transportation to America. Thither he was sent, and sold as a slave; but soon finding means to escape, with others, from bondage, he fled to New York, and there embarked on board a vessel bound for Poole, in Dorsetshire. Being again in London, Field frequently committed four or five robberies a night, sometimes on Finchley Common, and often on Shooter's Hill, Blackheath, and other places in that neighbourhood; and once, being closely pursued, he effected a difficult escape to town. After this he frequented Putney Common and its adjacencies, whence he brought considerable booty into London. Notice having been given at Sir John Fielding's office, persons were sent out on different roads, and Field was conveyed, handcuffed to Tothill Fields Bridewell. Though he had returned from transportation, it was thought proper to indict him at the Surrey Assizes for the subsequent robberies, when he would have pleaded guilty, but Lord Chief Baron Smythe advised him to put himself on his trial; and the jury having given a verdict against him, the judge pronounced sentence, after addressing him in the most pathetic manner; and he was executed accordingly.