Here’s an interesting story from the Leeds Intelligencer Newspaper of 29th March 1823 about Joseph Bancroft, a 29 year old man who was involved with others in an act of Highway Robbery at Sheffield, and even after pleading guilty, was sentenced to death by hanging!
When one thinks about the offence of Highway Robbery, we usually think about the more glamorous characters such as Dick Turpin, riding his horse, but the Highway Robbery was usually much more down to earth , with a violent nature, and committed by ordinary individuals, on foot at night. Due to the violent aspect to many of these cases, the penalty was usually death by hanging.
After the early 1800's, mounted robbers are recorded only rarely. The last recorded robbery by a mounted highwayman occurred in 1831. The development of the railways is sometimes cited as a factor, but highwaymen were already obsolete before the railway network was built. A very important factor was the expansion of the system of turnpikes, manned and gated toll-roads, which made it all but impossible for a highwayman to escape notice while making his getaway. Also a greater use of banknotes, more traceable than gold coins, made life more difficult for robbers. Land Enclosure, and the decline in undeveloped open fields and increase in private incentives to regulate trespassers, may also have played a role.
The local newspapers reported on several cases before Their Honors Judge Sir John Batley Knight, and Judge Sir George Sowley Holroyd who held court at York Assizes on Saturday 29th March 1823, where sentence of death was passed on several prisoners, including Joseph Bancroft, for Highway Robbery with aggravating features.
The circumstances of the case, as also reported in the York Herald Newspaper are as follows:
If anyone knows anything further about this incident, or about Joseph Bancroft, please let me know by leaving a message in the comments section.