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The Newgate Calendar - JAMES CALDCLOUGH


Executed for Robbery, July 2nd 1739.

THE city of Durham gave birth to this offender, who was the son of people of fair character: they, having given him a decent education, put him apprentice to a shoemaker, with whom he lived about three years, till, having contracted a habit of idleness, and being attached to had company, he quitted his master, and enlisted in the second regiment of foot-guards.

He had not been long in London before he became acquainted with a fellow named Thomas, who offered to put him into an easy way of getting money; and Caldclough, listening to his invitation, dined with Thomas and some of his associates, on a Sunday, at a public house; and afterwards attended them to Newington Green, where they continued drinking for some time, and at the approach of evening set out towards London, with a view of robbing such persons as they might meet.

As they crossed the fields towards Hoxton, they stopped a gentleman, whom they robbed of a watch and some silver, and, tying him to a gate, they retired to a public house in Brick Lane, Old Street, where they spent the night in riot and drunkenness.

Caldclough being a young fellow of genteel appearance, and remarkable spirit, his accomplices advised him to commence highwayman; but, none of them having money to purchase horses and other necessaries to equip them in a genteel manner, it was determined that two of the gang should commit a robbery which might put them in a way of committing others.

With this view they went into Kent and stole two horses, which they placed at a livery-stable near Moorfields; after which the gang went in a body to Welling, in Hertfordshire, where they broke open a house, and stole about fourteen pounds in money, and some other valuables, which furnished them with clothes and the other requisites for their intended expedition.

Thus provided, they rode to Enfield Chase, where they robbed the passengers in a stage-coach of their watches and money; and soon afterwards stopped another coach in the road to Epping Forest, from which they got a large booty, and divided it at their place of meeting in Brick Lane, Old Street, spending the night in licentious revelry.

But a short time had passed after this robbery when Caldclough and one of his companions rode to Epping Forest; and, having stopped a coach in which were two gentlemen and a young lady, a servant that was behind the coach would have attacked the robbers, but that the gentlemen desired him to desist, that the young lady might not be terrified. The gentlemen then gave the robbers their money, apologizing for the smallness of the sum, and saying that they should have been welcome to more had it been in their possession.

As they were riding towards London, after committing this robbery, they quitted their horses, and fastened them to a tree, in order to rob the Woodford stage-coach, which they observed to be full of passengers; but the coachman, suspecting their intent, drove off with such expedition that they could not overtake him.

Disappointed in this attempt, they rode towards Wanstead, where they saw another coach, the passengers in which they intended to have robbed; but, as a number of butchers from London rode close behind the carriage, they thought propel to desist from so dangerous an attempt.

Thus disappointed of the expected booty, Caldclough and Thomas, on the following day, which was Sunday, rode to Stamford Hill, where they robbed three persons of their watches, and about four pounds in cash. Flushed with this success, they determined to put every person they should meet under contribution; in consequence of which they robbed seven persons more before they reached London, from whom they obtained about ten guineas, with which they retired to the old place of resort in Brick Lane.

Soon after this they rode to Finchley Common, where meeting with only empty carriages, they were returning to London, when they met the Barnet coach near Islington, and robbed the company of about fifteen shillings. On the following day they collected six shillings and sixpence from another of the Barnet coaches, and nine shillings from the Highgate stage, on their return to town; and this was the whole of the poor booty they obtained this day, at the imminent risk of their lives.

A few days afterwards Caldclough and another of the gang stopped a person of very decent appearance near Hackney, and demanded his money; but the gentleman, bursting into tears, said he was in circumstances of distress, and possessed only eighteen-pence; on which, instead of robbing him, they made him a present of half a crown; a proof that sentiments of humanity may not be utterly banished even from the breast of a thief. On their return to town they robbed a man of fourteen shillings, and then went to their old place of retreat.

On the day after this transaction they went to the Red Lion alehouse, in Aldersgate Street, where having drank all day, and being unable to pay the reckoning, they called for more liquor, and then quitted the house, saying that they would soon return. Going immediately towards Islington, they met a gentleman, to whom they said that they wanted a small sum to pay their reckoning. On this the gentleman called out 'Thieves!' and made all possible resistance; notwithstanding which they robbed him of a gold watch, which they carried to town and pawned, and then, going to the alehouse, defrayed the expenses of the day.

In a little time after this one of the gang sold the two horses which had been stolen as before mentioned, and appropriated the money to his own use; after which he went into the country, and spent some time with his relations; but, finding it difficult to abstain from his old practices, he wrote to Caldclough, desiring he would meet him at St. Albans, where it was probable a good booty might be obtained.

Caldclough obeyed the summons; and, on his arrival, found that the scheme was to rob the pack-horses belonging to the Coventry carrier. [The usual mode of conveying goods from one part of the kingdom to another was, formerly, by means of packhorses; but this has given place to road-waggons and canals.] The man drinking at a house near St. Albans, and permitting the horses to go forward, Caldclough and his accomplice, who had hidden themselves behind a hedge, rushed out and stopped the horses; and, having robbed the packages to the amount of fifty pounds, carried their booty to London, where they disposed of it.

Having dissipated in extravagance the money acquired by this robbery, they went into Hertfordshire, to rob a gentleman whom they had learnt was possessed of a considerable sum. Getting into the yard near midnight, the owner of the house demanded what business they had there; to which they replied, 'Only to go through the yard;' whereupon the gentleman fired a gun, which, though it was loaded with powder only, terrified them so, that they decamped without committing the intended robbery.

Caldclough, and one of his accomplices named Robinson, being reduced to circumstances of distress, determined to make depredations on the road between London and Kensington. While they were looking out for prey, two gentlemen, named Swafford and Banks, were observed on the road behind them; but Mr. Swafford being at some distance before his companion, Caldclough and Robinson, who were provided with hangers, robbed him of some silver; but not till they had first wounded him hi a manner shocking to relate -- they cut his nose almost from his face, and left him weltering in his blood.

Soon afterwards Mr. Banks came up, whom they robbed of five guineas, and then, hurrying towards Kensington, went over the fields to Chelsea, where they took a boat, and crossed the Thames; and, walking to Lambeth, took another boat, which carried them to Westminster.

In the mean time Mr. Banks, who had missed his. friend, proceeded to Kensington, where he made inquiry for him; but, finding that he had not reached that place, he was apprehensive that he might have been murdered; and, going back with a gentleman in search of him, they found him in the condition already described.

Mr. Swafford was immediately removed to the house of a surgeon, where proper care being taken of him, he recovered his health, after a long series of diligent attendance; but his wounds were of such a kind as totally to disfigure the features of his face, his nose having been cut so as to hang over his mouth.

The villains were taken into custody on the very day after the perpetration of this horrid deed, when Robinson being admitted an evidence against his accomplice, he was brought to trial at the next sessions, convicted, and received sentence of death.

After conviction Caldclough seemed to entertain no hopes of a pardon; but, appropriating all his time to contrition for the vices of his past life, prepared for futurity with all the zeal of one who appeared to be a sincere penitent.

He was executed at Tyburn, July 2, 1739, and made the following speech to the surrounding multitude: --

'I humbly beg that all you young men whom I leave behind me would take warning in time, and avoid bad houses as well as bad company. Remember my dying words, lest some of you come to the same end, which I pray God you never may. What I am now going to suffer is the just punishment for my crimes; for, although I did not commit murder, yet I look upon myself equally guilty, as the poor gentleman must have died had he not met with assistance.

'Were I able to make satisfaction to those whom I have wronged, I would do it; but, alas! I cannot, and therefore I pray that they will forgive me. I hope my life will be at least some satisfaction, as I have nothing besides to give: and, as I die in charity with all mankind, may the Lord Jesus receive my soul!'

In the case of this malefactor, as in that of many others, we have a striking instance how extremely penitent a man may be when his penitence can avail nothing to the injured party. We hope that those who read narratives of this kind will reflect that the true way to be happy is never to he guilty of such crimes as will lay them under the necessity of such ineffectual repentance.

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