The Cock Road Gang

KINGSWOOD & SOUNDWELL Local History Site

THE COCK ROAD GANG

 

 

Here are various items I've found about the notorious gang from Cock Road in Kingswood, who were active for many decades from the late 18th century until about 1850.

 

All of the articles on this page were supplied by The British Newspaper Archive.

 

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The Bristol Mercury, Saturday 8 February 1817 carried this crime report:

 

Early on Sunday morning, four men, armed with swords and pistols, entered (by pulling down the wall) the cottage of Mrs. Prigg, near Beech, Glocestershire, (who is in the practice of attending Bath market weekly with roasting pigs,&c.) and having secured her nephew, dragged the poor woman from her bed, beat her in a most brutal mnner, and with dreadful imprecations threatened to murder her, holding at the same time the edge of a sword upon her throat. By these means they extorted from her a disclosure of the place where she kept her money, and robbed her of cash notes and silver, value upwards of 10/., a silver punch-ladle, twelve silver spoons, and some blankets and sheets; and after regaling themselves with eatables and beer, they wantonly demolished nearly the whole of the furniture. On Sunday, the High-Constable of Langley and Swineshead assembled the constables of that district, when a general search took place through the vicinity of Cock-road; and six fellows are in custody on strong suspicion of being the perpetrators of this outrage. During the search, the constables discovered, in the house of one of the men apprehended, a recently-slain sheep, and about a cartload of turnips. The greatest praise is due to E. Parker, Esq. the magistrate, and Mr. T. Bevan, the high-constable, for their prompt exertions of this occasion.

 

END OF ARTICLE

 

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The Salisbury and Winchester Journal of Monday 15 September 1817 continued the story:

 

At the late Gloucester assizes, Benj. Caines, aged only 22 years, a notorious leader of a gang of depradators in the vicinity of Cock-Road and the surrounding country, was convicted, under circumstances of great aggravation, of burglariously breaking into the dwelling-house of Sarah Prigg, an elderly woman, in the parish of Bitton, and stealing from thence wearing-apparel, money, silver spoons, and other property, value 30/. Upon the trial a barefaced attempt was made by perjury to establish a new sort of alibi, not for the prisoner, but for a witness (an accomplice in the robbery) who confirmed the evidence of his guilt. - The jury without hesitation found him guilty, and he was executed on Saturday.

 

END OF ARTICLE

 

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The Hampshire Chronicle from Monday 15 September 1817 also had this report about the same crime::

 

On Saturday Benjamin Caines, captain of the Kingswood -gang, aged 23 & Patrick Dalton, aged 20; the former for a burglary at Bitton, and the latter for a highway robbery near the New Passage, were executed at Gloucester. At one o'clock, after receiving the Sacrament in the Prison Chapel, they were ushered upon the fatal scaffold, and, having taken leave of each other, were launched into eternity in view of an unusually large concourse of spectators. After hanging the customary time, the bodies were given up to their friends for internment. On Tuesday the body of Caines was interred in the burial ground at Bitton, in the same grave as his brother, who was hung some time ago, and at whose funeral Ben attended, and instead of paying attention to the solemn service, sat on a wall whistling the whole time. A numerous concourse of his acquaintance attended the procession from Cock-road (near two miles); the pall was supported by six females dressed in white, the body was taken into the church, and after the Psalms and Epistles were read, the Minister preached a very impressive sermon to Caines' numerous associates and friends, from Ephesians iv.28, "Let him that stole steal no more;" the greatest attention was paid by them to this well delivered discourse, and the body was afterwards commited to the grave by candle-light: - Among the attendants were his aged father, three brothers, sisters, &c. This is the second son the wretched father has attended on a similar occasion and two have been transported. According to the custom of the place, certainly "more honoured in the breach, than the observance") his body was previously exhibited at Cock-road, at his father's house, to all who chose to attend, and the visitors left some trifle to enable the wretched family to give him a decent funeral (the summit of their wishes). His body was brought from Gloucester by his own brother, who travelled all night with it on Saturday last, and brought it home on Sunday morning to his father.

 

END OF ARTICLE

 

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The Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, Thursday 18 November 1813:

 

Thursday se'nnight was laid the foundation stone of a school room at Cock-Road: the inhabitants of that place felt so conscious of the benefits designed for their children in the erection of the building, that they gave their labour gratis to clear and level the ground.

 

END OF ARTICLE

 

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The Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, Thursday 13 October 1814:

 

On the 4th inst. Thomas Caines, Henry Willis, and Samson Fry, by Thos Greame, Esq; charged with violently assaulting Moses Batt and Charles Bull, constables, in the execotion of their duty at Cock-road, and rescuing from them Isaac Cox, alias Lewes, a prisoner apprehended by them on suspicion of stealing two horses - And on the same day, and by the same magistrate, James Hodges, Samuel Leonard, and Hannah Pratt, charged with riotously assembled and put Moses Batt and Wm. Long, constables, in bodily fear, and attempted to rescue Isaac Cribb, a prisoner apprehended by them for felony.

 

END OF ARTICLE

 

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Nottingham Gazette, Friday 21 October 1814:

 

COCK-ROAD GANG OF MARAUDERS. - Information having been given to the Magistrates, that a gang of desperadoes infested the above neighbourhood, to such an alarming degree that no inhabitant was safe in his bed, and no traveller could, without danger, pass the Kingswood road, on Sunday evening last,a strong party of police officers from Bristol, were dispatched in order to take them into custody. The gang had, however, been apprized of their approach, and a desperate conflict ensued; some of the officers were severely wounded, and were obliged to retreat for the night. Early on Monday morning a much stronger force, well armed, repaired thither, and succeeded in securing seven men and two women, who were immediately committed to Lawford's-gate, Bridewell. Caines (the principle ring-leader,) escaped, but his mother and his son were taken. Bales of stolen property were found concealed in their respective dwellings.

 

END OF ARTICLE

 

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Bristol Mirror, Saturday 5 November 1814:

 

COMMITTED TO GLOUCESTER COUNTY GAOL - On the 24th, by Thomas Graeme and H. Creswicke, Esqrs, George Caines, charged on the oath of Benjamin Curtis, with having shot at him, and with the butt end of the gun beat him until the same was broken, with an intent to kill him the said Benjamin Curtis, aiding and assisting the constables in attempting to secure Isaac Cox, alias Lewis, from being feloniously rescued from them, he the daid Cox, alias Lewis, being in custody upon a charge of horse stealing, and also with having stolen four pigs, value £20, the property of Thomas parsons. - The above Geo. Caines is brother of the notorious Thomas Caines, capain of the Cock-road desperadoes, who was brought to this prison last week.

 

END OF ARTICLE

 

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Cock Road Methodist Church today. It was built in .....

A story from the Magistrates Court at Bristol Council House reported in the Bristol Mercury, 22 July 1848:

 

POLICE INTELLIGENCE

 

William Kelly and Robert French were charged, the former with assaulting P.C. 219, and the latter with attempting to rescue him from custody. It appeared from the policeman's statement that at half-past one o'clock this morning he was on duty in Cart-lane, Temple Street, where the prisoners were making a great disturbance, and upon his advising them to go home, one of them said, "We are Cockroad chaps, and shall do as we please;" he replied that if they kept on disturbing the neighbourhood he must take them to the station-house, upon which Kelly attacked him, struck him several blows, and pulled his hair violently. He then took him into custody, upon which the other prisoner tried to rescue him, Fined 10s. each and costs, or fourteen days imprisonment.

 

END OF ARTICLE

 

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From the Oxford and City Herald, Saturday 17 July 1819, part of a report from Bath Races at Lansdown:

 

The delightful weather both days caused a numerous assemblage on the Down, of all classes; and the running on Wednesday was such as afforded ample recompence to the lovers of the sports of the turf. Among the company was that celebrated character, Mr. (we beg pardon) Captain Groves, accompanied by several of his well-trained associates. The Captain was heard to boast of their having been very successful in their filching exploits, and many an empty pocket proclaimed the correctness of the bravado: whilst a train of fourteeen being led from the Down into Bath handcuffed, shewed the activity of the police in apprehending the depradators. Among the pick-pockets taken into custody, is one of the Caines of Cockroad. Several silk pocket-handkerchiefs were found upon them.

 

END OF ARTICLE

 

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A report from the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette from 22 October 1789:

 

Bristol, Oct. 17. Sunday night about nine o'clock, as Mr. Samuel Palmer, shoe-maker, of Siston, Glocestershire, was returning from Bath, he was stopt near Oldland Common, by three footpads armed with bludgeons, one of whom seized the horse's bridle, whilst the other two rifled Mr. Palmer's pockets of five guineas and a half in gold, and 27s in silver. They threatened if he made any noise to blow his brains out, or if he called at any house before he got home, they would follow and shoot him off his horse. It is suspected they are part of the young Cockroad gang, who have been lurking about Kingswood.

 

END OF ARTICLE

 

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One from the Bristol Mirror, Saturday 17 August 1811:

 

Another gang of those lawless wretches from the neighbourhood of Cockroad and Bitton, in Gloucestershire, assembled at Lansdown fair on Monday last, armed with bludgeons, &c. and in a most wanton and unprovoked manner, committed a general assault on the recruiting parties then upon the Down. The temperance of the Soldiers upon this occasion redounds much to their credit, as most of them were dreadfully beaten, yet they forbore to use their side arms. In the dead of the night, these miscreants made a complete attack upon the owners of the booths, knocked them down with their bludgeons, and with the most horrid imprecations, dashing the cups and glasses to pieces, and plundering them of goods to a considerable amount. We rejoice to say, that five of the depredators were taken into custody: namely - Thomas Patrick, Henry Sweet, Henry Baker, George Cains, and James Hudd; and after undergoing long examinations before the County Magistrates at the Guilhall, Bath, (who have been most indefatigable in their zeal to bring these notorious offenders to justice) they were on Thursday committed to the county gaol, and will take their trials at the ensuing assizes - in the first place for this felony, and, if acquitted of that crime, for their violent breach of the peace.

 

END OF ARTICLE

 

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Taunton Courier, Wedneday 30 January 1850:

 

CAPTURE OF THE HANHAM AND COCK-ROAD GANG OF HIGHWAYMEN

 

Such has been the title given to a set of ruffians who have for the last twelve months been prowling about the county of Somerset, committing all kinds of depradations. They at first attacked the farmers' poultry, scarcely a night passing without a large number having been lost. Having become sated with fowls, they proceeded to help themselves liberally to sheep, the loss sustained by the farmers in this respect having been considerable. The gang, about ten in number, did not end here; but made indiscriminate attacks on parties in the high road when dusk; in many cases, besides plundering them, maltreating them with bludgeons. These acts of so frequent occurrence, created the greatest alarm, no one travelling, if possible to avoid it, by night.

 

A short time since a committee of respectable inhabitants was formed, and it was determined to have nightly patrols; this plan would have been carried out, had it not been for the opportune capture of several of the supposed gang by Sergeant Hazle, that active and meritorious office, of the St. George's police.

 

The names of the parties apprehended are - 'Samuel Bryant, Samuel Rogers, John Rogers, Wm. Powell, Wm. Gunning, and Joseph Harris alias Brittan' and they at present stand charged with having committed three highway robberies. The first was committed on the person of Mr. Joseph Wyatt, of Colharbour farm, in the parish of Wickabson, while returning from Bath market on the night of the 5th inst.; he was attacked on the high road at Lansdown by six or seven men, who dragged him from his horse, and cruelly beat him with bludgeons, after which they plundered him of his watch, pocket-book, silk handkerchief, and other articles. The second attack was made on the night of the 10th, on Mr. Daniel Wilkins, landlord of the Bull Inn, Chelwood; he was returning home from Bristol market, and having reached Knowle-hill, he was pulled from his gig by five or six men, who, in addition to stealing some wine, succeeded in finding only 3s. about his person, he having adopted the wise precaution of placing a large amount, which he had taken at the market, in his Wellington boots. The third sufferer was Mr. R. Barratt, who , while returning home on horse-back, was stopped near Hick's gate, in the parish of Keynsham, by five or six men, armed with bludgeons, and robbed of three sovereigns and a five-pound note; he offered resistance, and cried out "murder", when one of the ruffians "gagged" him, while others laid on his chest, and such was the violence used that blood issued from his ears.

 

On the 12th inst. Sergeant Hazle having received information of the robberies, proceeded to Keynsham, and called on Mr. Barratt, and receiving a description of the parties from him, he was induced to watch narrowly on the movements of the Hanham and Cockroad gang. On the following night (Sunday) he succeeded in arresting three of them - namely Samuel Bryant, Wm. Powell, and Wm. Gunning, - in a beer-house at Hanham (the landlord of which is in custody of having received the £5 note stolen from Mr Barratt). Having, with the assistance of police constables Porter and Forrest, conveyed the prisoners, who were violent, in safe custody, Sergeant Hazle immediately proceeded to Jefferies-hill, where he arrested Samuel Rogers and John Rogers, the former of whom offered great resistance.

 

On the Monday following they were taken before J.T.C. Ireland, Esq., at Brislington, and evidence having been given they were remanded until Thursday, on which day the prisoners Rogers were identified by Mr. Joseph Wyatt, as having robbed him at Lansdown. They were further remanded until Wednesday last, when they were brought before J.T.C. Ireland and H. Ricketts, Esqrs. The prisoner Wm. Powell having been admitted evidence for the crown, he made a full confession of the robberies, in the whole of which he implicated the prisoners. His evidence, which bore the semblance of truth, was corroborated in many material points by other parties.

 

Sergeant Hazle arrested Brittan 'alias Harris' at Hanham on Monday last, when he was also charged before the same magistrates, and identified by Mr. Wyatt, who likewise swore to the prisoners Rogers.

 

'Ali Trimlatt,' landlord of the beer-house at Hanham, was charged with having feloniously received the £5 note stolen from Mr. Barratt. In consequence of enquiries made by Sergeant Hazle, he ascertained that the prisoner had changed the note at the shop of Isaac Fox, who resides in the same village. Last Saturday morning, the prisoner, no doubt, having seen the bill in which it was stated that the name and the number of the note were known, called upon Fox and handed the amount of it in gold, on which it was returned to him.

 

The whole of the prisoners were remanded until today.

 

{The indefatigable exertions of Sergeant Hazle, the capture of the prisoners is owing, and we trust he will succeed in obtaining the two rewards offered, amounting to £100. The farmers fears are now somewhat allayed, and they afford the greatest praise to Sergeant Hazle. During the last six months six highway robberies, in addition to the three above mentioned, have been committed, one of them on the person of the sitting magistrate, J.T.C. Ireland Esq.}

 

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It seems that Mr. Ireland was both a victim and magistrate for the case. I wonder if this affected his judgement?