Murder on the Watling Street

Road travel was quite unsafe in the 18th century. Apart from accidents, there was the ever present risk of robbery. Despite the romance of legend, highway robbery was a thuggish activity, as these reports show.

Northampton Mercury October 1st 1774

On Thursday last, about six in the Morning, was found in the High Road between Shenly and Stony Stratford by two Men going to Work, the Body of one James Wills, a poor industrious Man, most barbarously murdered. He belongs to Woolverton, near Stony Stratford, and had been to a Statute held near Fenny Stratford selling Nuts and Cakes. His head was so terribly beat and bruised by a Slate  of a Stake Rail, that on moving him his Brains dropp’d out. He has left a Wife and seven children. Diligent Search is making after the Murderers.

Northampton Mercury 2nd March 1778

Dennis Ryan, charged on the Oath of Thomas Kelly, with having beat him on the Turnpike-Road, between Shenly and Stony-Stratford, and robbing him of one Guinea, ten Shillings, a few Halfpence, two Farthings and a thread Purse. 

Northampton Mercury Monday 18th August 1783

Last Monday evening, between Nine and Ten o’Clock, as William Haddon of Pisford in this County was travelling between Stony-Stratford and Brickhill in Buckinghamshire, with a Team, he was knock’d down by two Men, who beat him in a cruel Manner, and rifled his Pockets of 8 Guineas and a Half in Gold, between 3 and 4 Pounds in Silver, and his Watch – Makers Name Hemmen.

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