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Author Topic: Execution of Four Highwaymen at Shooter's Hill, 25th March 1801  (Read 840 times)

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Offline davpott

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Re: Execution of Four Highwaymen at Shooter's Hill, 25th March 1801
« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2018, 21:40:36 »
Kentish Weekly Post or Canterbury Journal 24 March 1801

Goal Calendar, Lent Assizes, At Maidstone
Monday March 16
…..Patrick Summers, for assaulting Samuel Thornton, on the highway, in Chartham, and robbing him of two half guineas, some silver, &c. his property; also detained for assaulting and robbing Daniel White and James Walker, in Chartham aforesaid. – DEATH.- To be executed at Shooter’s Hill, the 25th inst………..
Richard Morley, alias Smith, James Seamons, Richard Shepherd, alias Hurst, for assaulting John Wood and Benjamin Fuller Stow, on the highway, in Charlton, and robbing them of three or four guineas, &c. also detained, charged with divers other felonies in the county of Middlesex- DEATH.- To be executed at Shooter’s Hill, the 25th inst

Offline davpott

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Re: Execution of Four Highwaymen at Shooter's Hill, 25th March 1801
« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2018, 20:46:15 »
Kentish Gazzette
Canterbury, March 24 (1801)

Monday the 16th inst. the Courts were opened for the Assizes of the county of Kent, before Mr Baron Hotham and Mr Justice Heath; Edward Austen, esq. High Sheriff. On Tuesday morning the trials commenced; when the Calendar exhibited one of the blackest catalogues of crime and human depravity that ever appeared at any former Assizes. The number of prisoners amounted to 137, upon thirty-seven of whom the Judge passed the awful sentence of Death!............
………Patrick Summers, aged 22, for robbing (in company with Winifred Summers aged 23, and Catherine Regan aged 27, both acquitted, and Cornelius Regan, not yet taken) Daniel White, on the highway in Chartham, of seventeen shillings and a silver watch; also charged with robbing Sam Thornton of two half guineas, some silver, and his watch: and likewise with robbing James Walker, of half a guinea, half a crown, some silver and his watch – Richard Morley aged 19, James Seamans aged 23, Richard Shepherd aged 22 for robbing John Wood and Benjamin Fuller Stow, on the highway in Charlton; the former of three or four guineas, eight or ten shillings, a silver watch, one twenty, two two-pound, one ten-pound note and three guineas; also charged with assaulting Admiral Sir James Wallace, and divers other felonies in Middlesex.- to be executed at Shooter’s Hill on Wednesday the 25th March.

 Kentish Weekly Post or Canterbury Journal 31 March 1801
Morley, Shepherd, Seamonds and Summer, the four culprits for highway robbery, convicted a the last assizes, were executed on Wednesday last at Shooter’s Hill. – After hearing divine service and receiving the sacrament, they were put into a coach and four, about six o’clock in the morning, and were escorted to Farningham by Sir Wm. Geary’s troop of yeoman cavalry, where the duty was taken by Lord Camden’s troop, who accompanied them to the place of execution. The concourse of people from town and the neighbouring country was very great, and it was not till a party of horse artillery arrived from Woolwich, and cleared the crowd from the gallows, that the escort could get to the fatal spot. After some time spent in prayer, the three first malefactors confessed their guilt, and acknowledged the justness of their sentence; but Summers, who attended by a Romish priest, to the last declared he was innocent of the crimes for which he suffered. About half past twelve o’clock they were all launched into eternity. At this juncture many hardened wretches, regardless of the melancholy scene before them, were very expert in picking the pockets of the spectators.


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Execution of Four Highwaymen at Shooter's Hill, 25th March 1801
« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2018, 18:40:26 »
A gang of robbers had taken up their head-quarters in the woods at Shooter's Hill. They were men of the most desperate and determined character; their depredations were extensive, and carried on with a daring which seemed to set the laws wholly at defiance. The neighbourhood was kept in a continued state of alarm, from the sanguinary course which they pursued, that of firing into carriages before they stopped them. To that system of plunder two persons had fallen victims, a Captain Nesbitt, master of an Indiaman, and an innkeeper from Rochester, who was shot in their chaises on their road to London. These were crimes of no slender enormity. The whole of the gang were however at last apprehended, and tried before Mr. Justice Heath at Maidstone.
They were four in number, and all were capitally convicted. He was applied to, and pressed to have them hung in chains near the place where their crimes had been committed, by reason of their enormity, and for the sake of example. He refused the application, and expressed his dislike of that mode of punishment as uncivilised and unchristianlike, adding, that it should never make part of the punishment ordered by him. He said, however, that he would make their punishment as awful and as exemplary as he could. This he carried into effect, by ordering the four convicts to be conveyed in mourning coaches from the gaol at Maidstone to the foot of shooter's Hill, and to a place of execution to be chosen as near as possible to the spot where the murders had been committed, and then to suffer death on a gallows to be erected there for the purpose. The distance from Maidstone to this spot was nearly thirty miles, through a populous part of the country, and the sight to the people was novel and appalling. They gathered as the mournful procession moved on from every part of the road, and when it arrived at the place of execution the crowd exceeded all calculation. In the sight of these the prisoners suffered death. The Learned Judge had formed a proper estimate of the effect which a public execution would, under such circumstances, have on public opinion. The distance through which the parade of death was made brought before the eyes of thousands the consequences of crime and the awful certainty of punishment which awaited it. From that time the neighbourhood was freed from the terrors of that violence and rapine which before were of almost nightly commission, and continued for many years without any occurrance of their heinous description.

         From "My Contemporaries" From the Note-book of a Retired Barrister. Fraser's Magazine, 1832, page 492.
The article was, after the fashion of the time, published anonymously, but he has been identified as Issac Espinasse. Espinasse was admitted to Greys Inn in December 1780 and called to the bar in February 1787,

So who were the four highwaymen?
We know that the execution took place between 1787 and 1832 and that afterwards violent crime ceased in the area.
The most likely. and, as far as I can see, only candidates are Richard Sheppard, Richard Morley, James Seamans and Patrick Summers, all four hanged at Shooter's Hill for highway robbery on Wednesday 25th March 1801.
The only executions that took place at Shooter's Hill after that date was on Monday 19th August 1805, when George Webb and Richard Russell were hanged for burglary.


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