These offenders were born of poor parents, and received little or no education. In the winter they acted as porters on the wharfs of the Thames, and in the summer employed themselves as haymakers; but at length associating with abandoned company of both sexes, who lived in Chick Lane, and such places, they lost those fair characters they had hitherto supported. Distressed in circumstances by their own vices, they determined to supply their wants by robbery; but, their appearance being too mean to permit them to think of hiring horses, they determined to commence footpads, and committed a number of robberies in the fields north of London, frequently ill-treating those whom they robbed. Their success for some time was trifling, but, being sufficient to furnish them with several offensive weapons, their depredations became more frequent, and their booties were spent, as those of thieves generally are, in the company of abandoned women. They commonly met at an alehouse in Tottenham Court Road, and, having flushed themselves with liquor, sallied forth to assault the unoffending passenger.
We now proceed to mention the fact, the commission of which cost them their lives. On the 10th of August, 1774, they met, according to custom, at the alehouse, and, having drank themselves into spirits to undertake daring exploits, they went into the fields near Primrose Hill, between London and Hampstead, when a violent shower of rain falling, they took shelter under a hedge. In the interim a gentleman named Gilson, who had been reading in a book as he strolled over the fields, came to the same spot, to avoid the violence of the shower. When the rain abated Mr. Gilson was going away; but the villains threatened his instant death if he hesitated to deliver his money. In the meantime Mills rifled his pockets, where finding only a few shillings, the robbers blasphemed in a horrid manner; and Mr. Gilson, apprehensive of fatal consequences, then delivered his watch, with a guinea and some silver, which he had till then concealed. Ten days afterwards Mr. Gilson was again near the same spot, and, sitting down to read, observed the identical robbers approaching him. Knowing them well, he applied to a manservant belonging to farmer Welllngs to assist him in taking them into custody. The man hesitated, as doubting if the gentleman had been really robbed; but Mr. Wellings, being informed of the affair, directed two men to go in search of the footpads, who were soon taken, conveyed before a magistrate, and lodged in Newgate.
At the next Old Bailey sessions they were convicted, and sentenced to die. After conviction they sent to some of their former companions in iniquity; but not one would attend them. For a short time they entertained hopes of being respited; but these hopes soon vanished. Pugh behaved penitently; but Mills much more so, answering explicitly all the questions that were asked him, confessing his guilt, and wishing for life only in the hope of making reparation to those who had been sufferers by his crimes. They were admitted to the sacrament on the morning of their execution; and, when their irons were knocked off, Pugh seemed almost abandoned to despondency, and at the place of execution he acknowledged the justice of his sentence. Mills, also, confessed that he had committed many other robberies, the result of his attachment to women of abandoned character. Charles Mills and John Pugh were hanged at Tyburn on the 7th of November, 1774.
The most remarkable circumstance in the case of these malefactors is, that, after conviction, their former abandoned acquaintances would not visit them. Thus were they left in the utmost distress in the hour of the greatest extremity Hence young people should learn the extreme ill consequence of keeping bad company; and that the true way to be happy is to associate with those who have more wisdom and virtue than themselves.