Robbery on the Queen's Highway

On the night of Friday 29 April 1842, William Floyde, a thirty one year old farmer, was returning to his home in Alphington after a day at Exeter market. He had done well and had about £13 in his purse. He stopped off on the way home at the Devonport Inn on the way down Fore Street.


He left the pub on foot at 9.30 but was followed by a gang of thieves. Close to his home one of them, a girl called Elizabeth Oxenham started chatting to him, claiming that she used to work for his neighbour. (She had been born in Alphington in 1816.) As he climbed over a style she picked his pocket. He grabbed her and she screamed out. Then at least two men attacked Floyde, hitting him over the head knocking him out. They made off with his money.


Thomas Laskey, born in Silverton, and George Webb, a baker from London were soon arrested. Webb had been heard boasting about the robbery. It wasn’t until three months later that the girl Oxenham was arrested in Tiverton, with a third man William Maunder who had been implicated by Webb.

At the trial in Exeter on 26 July, Oxenham was identified by Floyde, and the others were convicted on the basis of what Webb was reported to have said. They were all sentenced to be transported for 15 years.

William Maunder was living in Butchers’ Row (Smythen St.). Born in Newton St Cyres in 1811, he had a previous conviction and a six month jail sentence for uttering counterfeit coins at Exeter market in 1837. Although unmarried, Elizabeth Oxenham was “his girl”.

The three men were transported to Tasmania together on the “Earl Grey”. Maunder was constantly in trouble according to his convict conduct records, but received a conditional pardon in 1856. In 1863 he reoffended and was sentenced to 3 years in prison with hard labour for handling stolen goods. He died in Launceston, Tasmania in 1881


Elizabeth Oxenham was a stay [corset] maker. She too had been jailed in 1838 for uttering counterfeit coins. At that time she was a member of the gang based at Newton St Cyres.  She too was transported to Tasmania in September 1842, on the “Garland Grove”. There she married Richard Beaumont in 1845.