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1837: Daring highway robbery

As Mr Joseph Jeffreys, timber-merchant, Cuckfield Sussex, was returning home from Brighton market on Thursday evening last, between six and seven o'clock, he was stopped at Withdean, within two miles of Brighton, by a footpad, who put a pistol to his head and demanded his money, threatening if he

dared to look round that instant to blow his brains out.

Mr Jeffreys gave the fellow 25s., which, fortunately, was all he had about him, having paid away a considerable sum that day. A short time after, on the same evening, a portmanteau was stolen from the hind dickey of a gentleman's carriage, rifled of its contents, and afterwards found cut to pieces. As both robberies happened near the same spot, they are supposed to have been the work of the same individual. Active search has been made by the police, but hitherto without success.

Morning Advertiser, 10 January 1837

According to Molly Beswick, in Brickmaking in Sussex: A History and Gazetteer. P43 Joseph Jeffreys was a timber merchant and brickmaker of Cuckfield .

Jeffreys was clearly a wealthy and successful businessman. He donated £10 (£6,000 today) for the Congregational Chapel in Haywards Heath near to St Francis Asylum which would accommodate 200 people. The article adds that there was a local population of 900 at the time. (From British Standard, 4 November 1859). The chapel is probably the very grand Victorian building just as you drive into the old St Francis on the right. Today this a Busy Bees Nursery.

Illustration: Lives of the most notorious highwaymen, footpads and murderers by Thomas Peckett Prest. From British Library. Wikimedia public domain image. Note how close the date of this publication is to the incident.

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.


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