Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Lives of Remarkable Criminals: John Gillingham


an Highwayman and Footpad, etc.

As want of education hath brought many who might otherwise have done very well in the world to a miserable end, so the best education and instructions are often of no effect to stubborn and corrupt minds. This was the case of John Gillingham, of whom we are now to give an account. He had been brought up at Westminster School, but all he acquired there was only a smattering of learning and a great deal of self-conceit, fancying labour was below him, and that he ought to live the life of a gentleman. He associated himself with such companions as pretended to teach him this art of easily attaining money. He was a person very inclinable to follow such advices, and therefore readily came into these proposals as soon as they were made. Amongst the rest of his acquaintance, he became very intimate with Burnworth, and made one of the number in attacking the chair of the Earl of Scarborough, near St. James's Church, and was the person who shot the chairman in the shoulder.

As he was a young man of a good deal of spirit, so he committed abundance of facts in a very short space; but the indefatigable industry which the officers of Justice exerted, in apprehending Frazier's desperate gang, soon brought him to the miserable end consequent from such wicked courses. He was indicted for assaulting Robert Sherly, Esq., upon the highway, and taking from him a watch value L20. He was a second time indicted for assaulting John du Cummins, a footman, and taking from him a silver watch, a snuff-box, and five guineas in money. Both of which facts he steadily denied after his conviction, but there was a third crime of which he was convicted, viz., sending a letter to extort money from Simon Smith, Esq., and which follows in these words:

Mr. Smith.

I desire you to send me twenty guineas by the bearer, without letting him know what it is for, he is innocent of the contents if your offer to speak of this to anybody---- My blood and soul, if you are not dead man before monday morning; and if you don't send the money, the devil dash my brains out, if I don't shoot you the first time you stir out of doors, or if I should be taken there are others that will do your business for you by the first opportunity, therefore pray fail not ----. Strike me to instant D---- if I am not as good as my word.

To Mr. Smith in Great George Street over against the Church near Hanover Square.

He confessed that he knew of the writing and sending this epistle, but denied that he did it himself, and indeed the indictment set forth that it was in company with one John Mason, then deceased, that the said conspiracy was formed. Under sentence of death, he behaved himself very sillily, laughing and scoffing at his approaching end, and saying to one of his companions, as the keeper went downstairs before them, "Let us knock him down and take his keys from him. If one leads to heaven, and the other to hell, we shall at least have a chance to get the right!" Yet when death with all its horror stared him in the face, he began to relent in his behaviour, and to acknowledge the justness of that sentence which had doomed him to death. At the place of execution he prayed with great earnestness, confessed he had been a grievous sinner, and seemed in great confusion in his last moments. He was about twenty years of age when he died, which was on the 9th of May, 1726, at Tyburn.

Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals