Joseph “Blueskin” Blake

Joseph “Blueskin” Blake

Birth
City of London, Greater London, England
Death 11 Nov 1724 (aged 23–24)
City of London, Greater London, England
Burial Holborn, London Borough of Camden, Greater London, England
Memorial ID 21864647 · View Source
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Highwayman. He was known to all by the alias "Blueskin". The son of Nathaniel and Jane Blake, he was baptized at the Church of All-Hallows-the Great in London on October 31, 1700, and was sent to the parish school of St. Giles-without-Cripplegate for about 6 years. He was said to have been involved with crime since childhood when he was introduced by a school friend, William Blewitt, to "Thief-Taker General" (and thief) Jonathan Wild in 1714 and had been singled out from an early age. From the age of 15, Blake was in and out of prison, and was said to have suffered hardships on the streets of London before he left school and turned to a life of crime. At age 17 he worked as a pickpocket under Edward Pollit and earned the nickname Blueskin for reasons unknown. He worked with Irish highwayman James Carrick in 1719, and became highwayman himself. Blueskin, along with Wild, met his colleague Jack Sheppard at the Black Lion Tavern off Drury Lane in about 1722, before he became a member of a gang of street robbers led by Robert Wilkison; during the summer, Blueskin escaped capture and execution due to the influence deployed by Wild. In December 1722 he wounded himself in a frenzy by a saber cut to the head for resisting arrest by Wild. He was refused the offer of money for testifying to Wild against his partners, who had been hanged in February 1723 in a robbery, and was taken to Wood Street Counter in London, where Wild paid him a weekly allowance for freedom and for the treatment of the wound. After he was released for good behavior in June 1724, Blueskin joined forces with Sheppard, and they started working together, fencing the goods through William Field, one of Wild's men. By that time, Wild was growing suspicious of Blueskin and Sheppard. On July 12, Blueskin, Sheppard and Field burglarized the home of Sheppard's former master, William Kneebone, and a week after Field left, the two of them turned their talents to highway robbery while Field informed on them to Wild. After Sheppard was arrested at Blueskin's mother's brandy shop on July 23, her son is said to have continued the robbery without him as best as he could. In early October, Blueskin was arrested by Wild and his men, and on October 15, he was tried at the Old Bailey, convicted, and sentenced to death. After the trial, Blueskin pleaded with Wild in the courtroom to have his sentence reduced from hanging to transportation. When Wild refused, Blueskin became angry and made a failed attempt to murder him, slashing his throat with a penknife and causing an uproar, and aiding in Sheppard's fourth escape (which ended in his final capture). From that day on, Blueskin became known in London as a highwayman famous for attacking Wild in the courtroom, until he was hanged on November 11, 1724, five days before his colleague Jack Sheppard's execution at Tyburn. Blueskin was buried at St. Andrews Churchyard at Holborn. He is memorialized in "Blueskin's Ballad", reputedly written by Jonathan Swift, and the attack on Wild, leading to Wild's downfall, was the inspiration for John Gay's ballad "Newgate's Garland", which appears in the play "Harlequin Sheppard" by John Thurmond; Blueskin also appears in many accounts and plays on Sheppard's life, though the characterization often bears little resemblance to his reality that was overshadowed by Sheppard's fame.


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Debbie Kearns
  • Added: 1 Oct 2007
  • Find A Grave Memorial 21864647
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Joseph “Blueskin” Blake (1700–11 Nov 1724), Find A Grave Memorial no. 21864647, citing St. Andrew's Churchyard, Holborn, London Borough of Camden, Greater London, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave (contributor 8) .