Stand and Deliver. Money or your life! Mail Coach robbed outside of East Grinstead !


Stand and Deliver. Money or your life ! Mail Coach Robbed outside of East Grinstead !

So the newspaper headline read in July 1801. Residents of East Grinstead will be familiar today with the road called Wall Hill Road, outside Ashurstwood village long before the current A22 road was built. There must have been absolute shock and horror of the incident through Sussex at the time.

The singleton driver left with his cart from Lewes with the overnight mail on the 20th of July 1801 for East Grinstead. The route would take the cart up through Ashdown Forest through Forest Row and then up the steep incline to East Grinstead via Wall Hill road where the coach was stopped by two men "Stand and deliver. Money or your life." One cried out. The singleton driver pulled back on the reins and put the cart break on as pistols from two silhouettes were directed at him. No mail was worth  taking a shot.

With the crime now committed We now learn the two silhouettes were in fact John Beatson, an ex merchant seaman and his adopted son William Whaley Beatson. The back story to the Beatsons is an interesting one. They were from Edinburgh and John Beatson was an innkeeper, until William took  over the tavern. They moved to London after William Beatson's wife died. William sold the Tavern and spent all of their savings in London. There were claims He was conned out of the money (p219, the history of East Grinstead, 1906).  John Beatson found a job as a Butler in the village of Hartfield. However, the pair drifted back to London.

On the 18th of July the pair left London and stayed the night at the Rose and Crown pub at Godstone, Surrey. They then walked to Blindley Heath, to the Blue Anchor (Smith and Wesson Bar and Grill) pub. They stayed there until the evening. They then walked the long distance to East Grinstead and Wall Hill Road. 

Financialy  poor and intoxicated the Beatsons at midnight of the 18th/19th of July 1801 held pistols at the mail coach. They uncoupled the horse and led it to a field. They left the driver uninjured and made off with the mail bags. They opened up the bags in a corn field in Hartfield. 

The pair made off with three thousand pounds (approx. £181,000 in today's money (BOE inflation calculator)). However, the mail coach was carrying fourteen thousand pounds that got left in the fields of Hartfield !  

The would be robbers made off through Westerham, Deptford, London and Liverpool. A hue and cry was raised with descriptions circulated around the country, the net was closing and  they were eventually arrested in Liverpool. The Beatsons were then conveyed to Bow Street Magistrates court, London under a warrant of arrest and  they were remanded for trial at Horsham gaol. 

The Beatsons  stood trial at East Grinstead Assizes  (approximately where Lloyds bank and Coral bookmakers are today) and were found guilty by the Jury, the father pleaded guilty and offered his son as a defence of having nothing to do with the robbery.  They were both sentenced to death by hanging by Judge Baron Hotham on the 29th of March 1802. 

A Gallows was erected at the scene of the crime on Wall Hill road and are still marked by two holly trees. The Beatsons were hanged on the 11th of April 1802. A massive three thousand people attended the hanging which would likely be equal to the population of East Grinstead at the time. 


The History of East Grinstead, Wallace Henry Hills, 1906.


Our most popular posts this month !

The story of the Wreck of the VOC Ship The Amsterdam, Bulverhythe, Hastings, East Sussex.

The Hawkhurst Gang Season 1 Episode 2

The Hawkhurst Gang Season 1 Episode 1.

Jack Upperton Highwayman and Pensioner.

Sir Martin Frobisher by Taliesin Trow.