Highwayman, Turnkey and Ale-House Keeper. Executed at Tyburn, 20th of February, 1729
John Everett and Richard Bird robbing a Coach
JOHN EVERETT was a native of Hitchin, in Hertfordshire, and had been well educated, his father possessing three hundred pounds per annum. He was apprenticed to a salesman, but running away from his master he entered into the army and served in Flanders, where he behaved so well that he was promoted to the rank of sergeant. On the return of his regiment to England he purchased his discharge, and repairing to London bought the place of an officer in Whitechapel Court, in which he continued about seven years; but having given liberty to some persons whom he had arrested, one Charlesworth, a solicitor of that court, caused him to be discharged, and then sued him for the amount of the debts of the parties whom his inconsiderate good nature had liberated. To evade imprisonment Everett enlisted in Lord Albemarle's company of Foot Guards. Soon after his re-engaging in the army he fell into company with Richard Bird, with whom he had been formerly acquainted.
This Bird hinted that great advantages might be acquired in a particular way if Everett could be trusted, and the latter, anxious to know what the plan was, learned that it was to go on the road; on which an agreement was immediately concluded. Thereupon they set out on their expedition, and robbed several stages in the counties adjacent to London, from which they obtained considerable booty, in jewels, money and valuable effects. Thus successful in their first exploits they went to Hounslow Heath, where they stopped two military officers who were attended by servants armed with blunderbusses; but they obliged them to submit, and robbed them of their money and watches. The watches were afterwards left, according to agreement, at a coffee-house near Charing Cross, and the thieves received twenty guineas for restoring them. Soon after they stopped a gentleman in an open chaise near Epsom. The gentleman drew his sword and made several passes at them, yet they robbed him of his watch, two guineas, his sword and some writings; but they returned the writings at the earnest request of the injured party. They also made a practice of robbing the butchers and higglers in Epping Forest, on their way to London. One of these robberies was singular. Meeting with an old woman, a higgler, they searched the lining of a high-crowned hat, which she said had been her mother's, in which they found about three pounds, but returned her hat. Soon after this they stopped a coach on Hounslow Heath in which were two Quakers, who, calling them sons of violence, jumped out of the coach to oppose them; but their fellow-travellers making no resistance, and begging them to submit, all the parties were robbed of their money. Everett, remarking that one of the Quakers wore a remarkably good wig, snatched it from his head and gave him in return an old black tie, which he had purchased for half-a-crown from a Chelsea pensioner. This sudden metamorphosis caused great mirth among the other company in the coach. About ten days after this he and his companion walked to Hillingdon Common, where, seeing two gentlemen on horseback, Everett stopped the foremost, and Bird the other, and robbed them of upwards of three guineas and their gold watches; they then cut the girths of their saddles and secured the bridles, to prevent pursuit. They now hastened to Brentford, where, understanding that they were followed, they got into the ferry to cross the Thames; and when they were three parts over, so that the river was fordable, they gave the ferrymen ten shillings and obliged them to throw their oars into the river. They then jumped overboard and got on shore, while the spectators thought it was a drunken frolic, and the robbers got safe to London.
Some time after this, Everett was convicted of an attempt to commit a robbery on the highway, for which he was sentenced to three years' imprisonment in New Prison, Clerkenwell. After some time he was employed to act here as turnkey, and, his conduct meeting with approbation, he remained in that station after the term of his imprisonment was expired; but the keeper dying, he took a public-house in Turnmill Street. He had not been long in this station when the new keeper who had been appointed frequently called on him and made him advantageous offers, on the condition of his reassuming the office of turnkey. This he did. But when Everett had perfectly instructed him in the management of the prison he dismissed him, without assigning any reason for such ungenerous conduct. Everett being now greatly in debt, and consequently obliged to remove within the rules of the Fleet Prison, took a public-house in the Old Bailey. After which he took the Cock ale-house, in the same street, which he kept three years with reputation, when the Warden of the Fleet persuaded him to keep the tap-house of the said prison. While in this station he was charged with being concerned with the keeper in some malpractices, for which the House of Commons ordered him to be confined in Newgate; but he obtained his liberty at the end of the sessions, as no bill had been found against him. During his confinement his brewer seized his stock of beer, to the amount of above three hundred pounds, which reduced him to circumstances of great distress. He even now resolved on a life of industry if he could get employment, but his character was such that no person would engage him.
Thus perplexed, he once more equipped himself for the highway, with a view, as he solemnly declared after sentence of death, to raise only fifty pounds, as his brewer would have given him credit if he could have possessed himself of that sum. Having stopped a coach on the Hampstead road, in which were a lady, her daughter, and a child about five years old, the child was so terrified at his presenting a pistol, that he withdrew it at the request of the lady, who gave him a guinea and some silver; and though he observed she had a watch and some gold rings, &c, he did not demand them. Some company riding up, he was followed to the end of Leather Lane, where he evaded the pursuit by turning into Hatton Garden, and going into the Globe tavern. Here he called for wine, and, while he was drinking, he saw his pursuers pass; on which he paid his reckoning, and slipped into a public house in Holborn, where he again saw them pass. Thinking himself safe, he remained here a considerable time. When he thought the pursuit was over, he called a coach at the end of Brook Street, and, driving to Honey Lane Market, purchased a duck for his supper, and a turkey for his Christmas dinner: he then went to his lodging in Newgate Market. On the following day one Whitaker (called "the boxing drover"), circulated a report that Everett had committed a highway robbery; on which the latter loaded a brace of pistols, and vowed he would be revenged. He went to Islington in search of Whitaker, and visited several public houses which he used to frequent but, not meeting with him, the crime of murder was happily prevented. A woman in the neighbourhood of Newgate Market having buried her husband, who had left her enough to support herself and children with decency, Everett repeatedly visited the widow, was received with too great marks of esteem, and assisted her in the dissipation of that money which should have provided for her family. The widow's son, jealous of this connexion, remonstrated with his mother on the impropriety of her conduct, and told her it would end in her ruin. This made Everett and her more cautious in their meetings; but the son watched them with the utmost degree of vigilance and circumspection. Having one evening observed them go to the tavern, he provided himself with a large and sharp knife, and, entering the room where they were sitting, swore he would stab Everett to the heart; but the latter, by superiority of strength, disarmed him. The young fellow was at length persuaded to sit down, when Everett assured him that he entertained the utmost respect both for himself and his mother; but the youth answered he was a liar, and the mutual destruction both of mother and children must follow their unlawful connexion. As the lad grew warm, Everett affected great coolness and good humour, and considered how he might most readily get rid of so unwelcome a guest, as he was unwilling so soon to part with the widow. At length he determined to make the young fellow drunk, and plied him with such a quantity of liquor that he fell fast asleep, in which condition he was left, while the other parties adjourned to a distant tavern, where they remained till morning, when Everett borrowed seven guineas of the widow, under pretence of paying her in a week. Not long after this Everett was married to this very widow at Stepney church, by which he came into possession of money and plate to a considerable amount, and might have lived happily with her if he would have taken her advice; but the extravagance of his disposition led to his ruin.
When he was in very low circumstances he casually met his old accomplice, Bird, and joined with him in the commission of a robbery in Essex. They were both taken, and lodged in Chelmsford gaol; but Everett having turned evidence, the other was convicted and executed. As soon as he obtained his liberty he committed several robberies in the neighbour hood of London, the last of which was on a lady named Ellis, whom he stopped near Islington; but, being taken into custody on the following day, he was tried, and capitally convicted. He had been married to three wives, who all visited him after sentence of death. He was likewise visited by the son of the widow; but, recollecting what had formerly passed between them, Everett would have stabbed him with a penknife, but was prevented by one of his wives; for which interposition he afterwards expressed the greatest happiness. What gave him the most uneasiness was the crime of perjury, of which he had been guilty, with a view to take away the life of an innocent man. One Pickett, a cooper, having affronted him, he swore a robbery against him; but, the jury not being satisfied with the evidence, the man was fortunately acquitted. Mr. Nicholson, the then minister of St. Sepulchre's church, attended the prisoner while under sentence of death, and kindly exerted himself to convince him of the atrocious nature of his offences; but the number of people who visited him from motives of curiosity took off his attention from his more important duties. However, he was at times serious, and would then advise his brethren in affliction to prepare for that death which now appeared unavoidable.
The gaol distemper having seized him while in Newgate, a report was propagated that he had taken poison, but this was totally false. At the place of execution, at Tyburn, February 20, 1729, he behaved in such a manner as induced the spectators to think that his penitence for his past crimes was unaffected.