Glimpses Of Our Ancestors In Sussex - online book

With Sketches Of Sussex Characters, Remarkable Incidents &c

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194               Glimpses of Our Ancestors.
We pass over a long space of time before we come to anything like a parallel to it; for Sussex is not a county of great crimes. Poaching and smuggling have both flourished among us, and Lord Dacre may be included among the victims of the former class of misdeeds; but more heinous crimes have been " few and far between." The Jack Shepherds, Dick Turpins, and Claude Duvals belonged to other parts of the kingdom. Still we have had our highway robbers, or, as Sir John Falstaff lovingly calls them, "Diana's foresters, Gentlemen of the Shade, Minions of the Moon." In this class figure very prominently two brothers of the name of Weston, Joseph and George, who, in the years 1781-2, astonished the good people of Rye and Winchelsea by taking the mansion at the latter place known as "The Friars," and living there in great style and at lavish expense under the names of William Johnson and Samuel Weston. They passed them­selves off as persons of standing, and dressed, rode, and, above all, eat and drank like gentlemen. They were, in fact, forgers, horse-stealers, and highwaymen, carrying on their operations over a wide extent of country, and bringing their booty to the remote Sussex town of Winchelsea, to live a "jolly life." They were at length apprehended in London for robbing the Bath and Bristol mail on the morning of January 25th, 1781, between Maidenhead and Hounslow, and for this they were committed for trial to Newgate on the 17th of April, 1782. But, the day before the trial came on, they succeeded, with three other felons, by the aid of their wives, in breaking out of gaol. It says something for the rascals that the Mistress Westons thought they were worth saving! But it was not for long. George was soon after re-captured in Smithfield, and his brother Joseph in Cock Lane. This latter defended himself desperately, and wounded one of his captors in the cheek with a pistol. Strange to say, on being arraigned, four days afterwards, for the robbery of the mail, they were acquitted. They were, however, immediately tried on other charges: George for forgery and Joseph for firing the pistol; and this time they were convicted and sentenced
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