A man called Robert Snooks who is reputed to be the last highwayman to be hanged for robbery died in the best highwayman tradition. The Judge at his trial directed that he be hanged at the scene of his last crime on Boxmoor, a wild area as it once was near modern day Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire.
The highwayman made his last journey to Boxmoor, apparently in good spirits and stopped at a public house which is still there known as The Swan Inn on Box Lane to have a last glass of ale. As some spectators on the way to the execution passed by he is said to have called out:
“Don’t hurry – there’ll be no fun till I get there!”.
The final address
Before being hanged Snooks gave a final address to the assembled crowd which was recorded as follows:
“Good people, I beg your particular attention to my fate. I hope this lesson will be of more service to you than the gratification of the curiosity which brought you here.
I beg to caution you against evil doings, and most earnestly entreat you to avoid too evils, namely Disobedience to Parents – to you youths I particularly give this caution – and, The Breaking Of The Sabbath.
These misdeeds lead to the worst of crimes: robbery, plunder, bad women and every evil cause.
It may by some be thought a happy state to be in possession of fine clothes and plenty of money but I assure you no one can be happy with ill-gotten treasure.
I have often been riding on my horse and passed a cottager’s door whom I have seen dressing his greens and perhaps had hardly a morsel to eat with them. He has very likely envied me in my station, who although at the time in possession of abundance was miserable and unhappy. I envied him and with most reason for his happiness and contentment.
I can assure you there is no happiness but in doing good. I justly suffer for my offences and hope it will be a warning to others. I die in peace with god and all the world.”
All is gone but the pudding stone
The eloquent Snooks was then hanged and buried in a grave nearby. Two pieces of pudding stone, which is a particular type of Hertfordshire stone, mark the spot.
Most people will be familiar with the oft quoted line from Shakespeare’s King Henry Vl, namely the remark by the ploter of treachery Dick the Butcher who says:
“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”.
Many people have enjoyed repeating this. Few people will be aware that the last Solicitor in the British Isles to be hanged was one Herbert Rowse Armstrong who was hanged in 1923 for murder.
It seems that lawyers are universally unpopular. It is said that the last mafia boss to be electrocuted when asked if he had a final request said:
“Would you please put my lawyer in my lap”.