Goldstone Mail Robbery

In the 18th century the mail was delivered by horseback.

On 30 October 1792, a crook by the name of Edward Howell undertook the robbery of the mail coach at the Goldstone Bottom, with his accomplice a young man named James Rook. James Rook gave away his involvement at the Red Lion, Shoreham, and the two highwaymen were arrested for the robbery from John Stephenson (the boy delivering the mail) of half a sovereign. They were tried and found guilty at the Spring Assizes at Horsham and sentenced to death. The hangings took place on 26 April 1793 before a large crowd at the Goldstone. After the two guilty men were hanged, the bodies were saturated in tar and enclosed in a gibbet, an iron frame with the chains fastened to the bodies.

The loud black nights for us, and the storm rushing over the down,
When I cannot see my own hand, but am led by the creak of the chain,
And grovel and grope for my son till I find myself drenched with the rain.


But he lived with a lot of wild mates, and they never would let him be good;
They swore that he dare not rob the mail, and he swore that he would;
And he took no life, but he took one purse, and when all was done
He flung it among his fellows–I’ll none of it, said my son.

I came into court to the Judge and the lawyers. I told them my tale,
God’s own truth–but they kill’d him, they kill’d him for robbing the mail.
They hang’d him in chains for a show–we had always borne a good name–
To be hang’d for a thief–and then put away–isn’t that enough shame?
Dust to dust–low down–let us hide! but they set him so high
That all the ships of the world could stare at him, passing by.
God ’ill pardon the hell-black raven and horrible fowls of the air,
But not the black heart of the lawyer who kill’d him and hang’d him there.

Alfred Tennyson

Goldstone File

Goldstone File