Executed for rioting, 18th October, 1749
THIS unhappy youth (for he can hardly be deemed a malefactor) was the son of a native of the island of Jersey, who, having been educated at Oxford, entered into orders; and, having obtained a small church preferment, settled near Exeter, where his unfortunate son was born.
His father dying while he was young, he was placed as an apprentice to a barber and peruke-maker at Exeter, by the stewards of the Sons of the Clergy. Having served his apprenticeship with the highest reputation for good character and sobriety, he came to London, and lived in several places with the utmost credit, till a circumstance equally unpremeditated and unforeseen occasioned his destruction.
On Saturday, the 1st of July, 1749, three seamen belonging to the Grafton man of war, having called at a house of ill fame in the Strand, were there robbed of their watches, a bank-note value twenty pounds, four moidores, and thirty guineas.
The seamen demanded a reparation for their loss; instead of which some bullies belonging to the house pushed them from the door; whereupon they went away, denouncing vengeance; and, having collected a number of their companions in the neighbourhood of Wapping, they returned at night, broke open the house, turned the women almost naked into the streets, ripped up the beds, threw the feathers out of the window, broke the furniture in pieces, and made a bonfire of it.
Having proceeded to behave in a similar manner at another house of ill fame, a party of the guards was sent for, and the mob for the present dispersed.
On the following day. being Sunday, immense numbers of people crowded to see the ruins of the infamous houses; and on this day Bosavern Penlez went to the house of Mr. Pearce, in Wych Street, where be had left some clothes; and, when he had cleaned himself, he visited an acquaintance named Taylor, with whom he drank at a public house, dined, and spent the afternoon.
In the evening Penlez walked in Somerset Gardens, and, at eight o'clock, went back to his friend Taylor, who being engaged with company, Penlez declined staying, and proceeded to meet an acquaintance at the Horseshoe, near Temple Bar. Having drank some beer with him, be was returning to his lodgings, when he unfortunately met with another acquaintance, who told him it was his birth-day, and begged he would drink some punch with him.
This request being complied with, Penlez became quite intoxicated; and, in his way home, found a mob at the door of the Star tavern, near Temple Bar, endeavouring to destroy what the seamen had left undemolished. Many of the people got into the house, and did great damage; and Penlez, with John Wilson and Benjamin Launder, was taken into custody.
Being brought to trial at the next sessions at the Old Bailey, the witnesses were Peter Wood (the landlord), his wife, and one Reeves, their servant, who positively swore to the commission of the facts alleged in the indictment.
To discredit their testimony, Mr. John Mixon, the collector of the scavenger's rate, deposed that he did not think the oath of Mr. or Mrs. Wood was to be taken, and that he would not hang a cat or a dog on their evidence. He added, that the house they kept was of the most notorious ill fame; that the rates were paid in the name of Thompson; that Wood and his wife had been often prosecuted for keeping a disorderly house; and that the neighbours were afraid to appear against them.
In the course of the trial Wood swore 'that the mob amounted to about seven hundred people; that eight or ten of them came into his parlour, among whom were Wilson and Penlez; that they broke the partition with their sticks, pulled out the pieces with their hands, destroyed all the furniture in the parlour, and threw it into the street, broke down his bar, and knocked him down on the stairs;' with many other circumstances, tending to prove the riot, and that the prisoners were concerned in it.
Several persons of reputation appeared to the character of the prisoners; but the positive evidence against them induced the jury to convict Penlez and Wilson; but Launder was acquitted.
The inhabitants of the parish of St. Clement Panes, and many individuals, made great interest to save these unfortunate youths, in consequence of which Wilson was reprieved, but Penlez was ordered for execution.
It is said that the king was disposed to have pardoned them both; but that Lord Chief Justice Willes, before whom they were tried, declared in council that no regard would be paid to the laws except one of them was made an example of. Our account informs us that the king still inclined to pardon them both, and that the chief justice was three times sent for and consulted on this occasion; but that he still persisted in his former opinion. [It is a well-known fact that Lord Chief Justice Willes was a steady assertor of the dignity of the law. It could not be supposed that he could have any prejudice against the convict; and it must he concluded that his opinion arose from a regard to the public weal.]
After conviction Penlez behaved in such a manner as evidently testified the goodness of his disposition, and the little probability there was of such a man committing a wilful premeditated crime. It is not in language to describe how much he was pitied by the public. Every one wished his pardon, and wondered, without considering the necessity that there was for an example, that he was not spared.
When the day of execution arrived be prepared to meet his fate with the consciousness of an innocent man, and the courage of a Christian. The late Sir Stephen Theodore Janssen, Chamberlain of London, was at that time sheriff; and a number of soldiers being placed at Holborn Bars, to conduct Penlez to Tyhurn (as a rescue was apprehended), the sheriff politely dismissed them, asserting that the civil power was sufficient to carry the edicts of the law into effectual execution.
This unhappy youth was executed at Tyburn on the 18th of October, 1749.
The worthy inhabitants of St. Clement Danes, who had been among the foremost in soliciting a pardon for Penlez, finding all their efforts ineffectual, did all possible honour to his memory, by burying him in a distinguished manner in a churchyard of their parish, on the evening after his unfortunate exit, which happened in the twenty-third year of his age.