Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Lives of Remarkable Criminals: Thomas Timms



This poor unhappy man, Thomas Timms, was the son of mean parents in the country and as indifferently educated as he was born, so that his future ill-deeds were capable of some little extenuation. With much to-do his friends and parents raised money enough to put him out apprentice to a chair-carver, with whom he lived easily and honestly during the space of his apprenticeship, coming out of it with the character of an honest religious young lad, which he maintained after he was set up and married. He had probably continued to maintain it to the end of his life if he had not fallen into unhappy circumstances, by being out of work. This obliged him to come up to Town, where for a while he lived pretty well upon his business; but at last it so far fell off that he was obliged to list himself a soldier in the first regiment of Guards. Notwithstanding this he worked still at his trade, as much as it was possible for him to do, and to perform his duty; but misfortunes still crowding upon him, he grew at first melancholy, and at last took to drinking in the company of bad women, who soon drew him into thinking of taking dishonest methods to obtain money for the support of their debaucheries.

Amongst other of his acquaintance there was a woman who had formerly lived with a very eminent lawyer in the City. It was said she had a greater familiarity with her master than she ought to have had, from whence she took the liberty to cheat him most egregiously, especially by counterfeiting receipts from most of the tradesmen with whom her master had any dealing, by which means she retained in her own hands the money which she should have paid him. Some months after, however, the roguery was discovered, and her master being newly married, he took this opportunity to discharge her suddenly. However, he promised her, if she went into any lodgings, and gave him notice, he would take care she should not want, until she could get herself into some way of business or other.

This gentleman had three clerks, all of good families and good fortunes. The wench, after she was out of the house, first went into a neighbourhood where the eldest of these clerks and his relations were very well known. Here she took upon her to be his wife, and said that they were privately married for fear of disobliging his relations. By the help of this she got so far into credit that she took up near a hundred and twenty pounds worth of things before the least apprehension was had of her being a cheat; and then removing her lodgings, she fixed herself in a first floor within a few doors of the guardian of her master's second clerk. She gave it out there as she had done before, that she was secretly married to this young gentleman; and on the credit thereof she took up near a hundred pounds in silks and shifts. But just as she was on the point of moving off and playing the same game with the third, she was detected and committed to Bridewell. From thence she found means of escape by wheedling one of the keeper's servants, and afterwards took lodgings in the house where this Timms worked.

Whether she had any hand in persuading him to go out robbing or no, I cannot take upon me to say, but soon after, he, with his companions, Perry and Brown, on the 3rd of May, went out with a design to rob upon Hounslow Heath. All that night they lay in the fields; the next morning they met a poor old man, who telling them he had no money, they let him go without misusing him. Not long after they stopped Samuel Sells coming from Windsor, in his chair. He, it seems, kept a public-house there. Him they commanded to deliver, whereupon he gave them three half-crowns, but they toasting upon it that it was too little, he thereupon gave them ten shillings more, which both he and his companions averred was all that they took from him, though Sells at their trial, swore to a much larger sum, and that one of them held a truncheon over him, and threatened him with abundance of oaths in case he made any resistance. All of them denied this part of the charge, even to death, and said that though they had truncheons, yet they made no use of them, but kept them either in their breasts or under their coats.

Thomas Perry, the second of these malefactors, was born of parents in such wretched circumstances that when he was grown a good big lad, and death suddenly snatched them away, he found himself destitute of money, of business and even of clothes to cover him. He thereupon traveled up to London, and put himself apprentice to a glass-grinder, with whom he served his time very honestly and faithfully. Then he married and lived by working very hard in a reputable manner for about a twelve month, after which he listed in the first regiment of Foot Guards, in which he served till the Peace of Utrecht and Flanders, after the conclusion of which he returned to London in the same regiment, in which he continued to serve till this misfortune overtook him. For the last year of his life, he had, it seems, led a more loose and extravagant course than in all his days before, contracting an acquaintance with several women of the town, creatures who are the utter ruin of all such unhappy men, especially of all unlettered unexperienced persons as fall into their snares.

Some little time before he joined with Timms and his other companion in this robbery, he had the misfortune of having his leg bit by a dog at Windsor, where he was quartered. Having no friends, and but a small allowance to subsist on, he fell under great miseries there, and on his return to Town, those who had formerly employed him in glass-grinding, taking distaste at his rude and wicked behaviour, refused to have anything more to do with him. He readily gave way to the solicitations of Timms, who, as he declared, first proposed their going upon the highway, a crime which hitherto had not entered into Perry's head. However, he yielded too readily thereto, and with the persons who had shared in his crimes, came to share an ignominious and untimely death.

While under sentence, he applied himself with great seriousness and attention both to the public devotions of the chapel and to what was privately read to them in the place of their confinement, so that though he was very illiterate, he was far from being obstinate, and though he wanted the advantages of education, he was not deficient in grace, so we may therefore hope he might obtain mercy.

Edward Brown, the last of these unfortunate criminals, drew his first breath in the city of Oxford, and by the care of his parents, attained to a tolerable degree of knowledge in the Christian faith, as also in writing, reading and whatsoever was necessary in that station of life which his parents designed for him. Being arrived at an age proper to be put out an apprentice, they placed him with a glass-grinder, to whom he served an apprenticeship faithfully, and to his good liking when out of time. He worked hard as a journeyman, married a wife, and lived in reputation and credit for some small space; but falling unluckily into loose company, he gave himself up entirely to drinking, and running after bad women, which soon ruined him in the country and obliged him to come up to London for the sake of subsistance. How long he had been there, or of what standing his acquaintance was with the other two criminals, I cannot take upon me to say, only he in general was a fellow of greater openness in his behaviour than any of the criminals before mentioned. He said that they had all taken their cups pretty freely together, and had spent every farthing that they had amongst them; it was then resolved to go upon the highway for a supply, but he could not say who was the proposer of the scheme; that he himself had a sword and cane, and the rest truncheons, when they attacked Mr. Sells. He [Sells] gave them at two several times, seventeen shillings, and when they pressed for still more, said he had but eighteen pence about him, and begged they would let him have that to come to town with, which he said they agreed to, and did not offer him any ill-usage whatsoever.

At the same time these unhappy men were under sentence of death, Alexander Jones, John Platt, Mary Reynolds, Silvia Sherlock and Anne Senior were also condemned for several offences, and as is but too common with persons in their condition, all of them entertained strong notions of reprieves or pardons, so that when the death warrant came down, and these three found themselves ordered for execution, they were not a little surprised. But as they had much natural courage they made even that surprise turn to their advantage, and applied themselves with greater earnestness than ever to the duties necessary to be practised by people in their sad state.

When the day of their execution came, they were carried in one cart to Tyburn, and as they had been companions in that single action which had brought all of them to death, so there was nobody to share in that unhappy fate with them, nor were they disturbed with the sorrows of other criminals, which often distract one another's devotions at Tyburn. On the contrary, their behaviour was grave and decent, their public devotions were closed with a Psalm, and with many demonstrations of repentance they resigned their lives, on the 11th of August, 1727; Timms being about twenty-eight years of age, Perry near forty, and Brown somewhat less than twenty-four years old, at the time of their execution.

Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals