Executed on Kennington Common, 6th of September, 1751, for Highway Robbery
MATHIAS KEYS was the son of an inn-holder of good repute at Billericay, in Essex, who placed him apprentice to a vintner; and when his time had expired -- which, however, was not passed without censure -- placed him in a respectable inn at Bristol.
The house had long-been well frequented, but Keys, presuming upon being a "mother's darling," was more addicted to horse-racing, cocking and gaming than to attending to his guests. It is therefore little to be wondered at that such men become bankrupts, and so with him a failure soon happened.
He fled from his creditors, taking with him every portable valuable he possessed, and came to London. There, among other profligate young fellows, he became intimate with one William Russel, then an unworthy articled clerk to an attorney of good practice in Air Street, Piccadilly. In company with this reprobate he committed divers highway robberies; but the career of Russel was very short, for he was hanged ere he had attained manhood.
In the month of August, 1747, Keys was apprehended for a highway robbery, was tried, and condemned to death at Chelmsford; but no other crimes being then alleged against him, though he had committed many, his sentence was remitted on condition of transporting himself for life.
On the 14th of November, 1747, he entered on board a man-of-war, on the point of sailing to the East Indies, under Admiral Boscwan, and performed his duty with much bravery at the siege of Pondicherry, where he lost an eye. With his ship he returned to England, and immediately again commenced highwayman.
He committed a daring robbery on two gentlemen in a post-chaise, in the vicinity of London, who had pistols with them, but were taken with too much surprise to be able to use them. No sooner however had he ridden off with his booty than, with the assistance of the post-boy, they quickly unyoked the horses and galloped after him.
Unapprehensive of pursuit he was riding at a moderate pace, waiting to levy his contributions on the next travellers. They seized him, in their turn, before he could make resistance, brought him to London, and prosecuted and convicted him, having found the money upon him of which but a few minutes before he had robbed them. He was hanged on Kennington Common, on 6th of September, 1751.