British Executions

Thomas Barkwith

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Crime: robbery

Date Of Execution: 1 Dec 1739

Crime Location:

Execution Place: unknown

Method: hanging

Executioner: unknown



An accomplished Scholar and Linguist, who was executed at Tyburn 1st of December, 1739, for Robbery

 THIS unfortunate young gentleman was the descendant of a respectable family in the Isle of Ely. At a very early period of life he was observed to possess a strength of understanding greatly beyond what could be expected at his years, and this determined his father to add to such extraordinary gifts of nature the advantages of a liberal education; nor was the necessary attention omitted to impress upon his mind a just idea of the principles of religion and the absolute necessity of practical virtue.

 Before the young gentleman had arrived at his fourteenth year he attained to a great proficiency in the Greek, Latin, French and Italian languages, and he afforded an indisputable proof of the depth of his penetration and the brilliancy of his fancy in the production of a variety of poetical and prose essays. His figure was pleasing, and improved by a graceful deportment; his manner of address was insinuating, and he excelled in the art of conversation. Soon after he had passed his fourteenth year he received an invitation to visit an aunt residing in the metropolis. He had not been many days at this lady's house before he became conspicuous throughout the whole circle of her acquaintance equally on the score of his mental powers and personal qualifications; and he was dissuaded by his friends from returning into the country, it being their unanimous opinion that London was, of all others, the place where opportunities would be most likely to occur which the youth might improve to the advancement of his fortune. A short time after his arrival in the metropolis he pro- cured a recommendation to a Master in Chancery of high reputation and extensive practice; and this gentleman appointed him to the superintendence of that department of his business which related to money matters. In this office he acquitted himself entirely to the satisfaction of his employer, who considered him as a youth in whom he might safely repose an unlimited confidence. He possessed the particular esteem of all those who had the happiness of his acquaintance; and it was their common opinion that his fine talents and great capacity for business could not fail to introduce him to some considerable station in life. The gentleman in whose service Barkwith had engaged, being under the necessity of going into Wales on some business respecting an estate there, commissioned Barkwith to receive the rents of a number of houses in London. In the neighbourhood of the solicitor lived a young lady of whom Barkwith had for some time been passionately enamoured, and immediately upon the departure of the former for Wales he determined to avail himself of the first opportunity of making a declaration of honourable love.

 Though the young lady did not mean to unite herself in marriage with Mr Barkwith, yet she encouraged his addresses; and to this disingenuous conduct is to be attributed the fatal reverse of his fortune from the most flattering prospect of acquiring a respectable situation in the world to the dreadful event of suffering an ignominious death at Tyburn.

 So entirely was his attention engrossed by the object of his love that his master's most important business was wholly neglected, and he appeared to have no object in view but that of ingratiating himself in the esteem of his mistress; to gratify whose extravagance and vanity he engaged in expenses greatly disproportioned to his income, by making her valuable presents and accompanying her to the theatres, balls, assemblies and other places of public entertainment.

 Upon the return of the solicitor he found the affairs which he had entrusted to Barkwith in a very embarrassed situation, and upon searching into the cause of this unexpected and alarming circumstance it was discovered that the infatuated youth had embezzled a considerable sum. The gentleman, having made a particular inquiry into the conduct of Barkwith, received such information as left but little hopes of his reformation; and therefore he, though reluctantly, yielded to the dictates of prudence, and resolved to employ him no longer.

 Barkwith now hired chambers, in order to transact law business on his own account; but as he had not been admitted an attorney he was under the necessity of acting under the sanction of another person's name; whence it may be concluded that his practice was not very extensive. He might, however, by a proper attention to his business, and a moderate economy in his expenses, have retrieved his affairs in a short time; but, unhappily, his intercourse with the young lady was still continued, and he thought no sacrifice too great for convincing her of the ardour of his affection.

 He resided at his chambers about six months, when his creditors became exceedingly importunate for him immediately to discharge their several demands. His necessities were so pressing as to drive him almost to desperation. He took horse on the morning of the 13th of November, pretending that he was going to Denham, in Buckinghamshire, in order to transact some important business in relation to an estate which was to devolve to a young lady, then in her minority. It is not now known whether he went to Denham; but about four o'clock in the afternoon he stopped a coach upon Hounslow Heath, and robbed a gentleman who was in the vehicle of a sum in silver not amounting to twenty shillings.

 In a short time a horseman came up, who was informed by the coachman that his master had been robbed by Barkwith, who was yet in sight. The horseman immediately rode to an adjacent farmhouse, where he procured pistols, and persuaded a person to accompany him in search of the highwayman, who after a long chase surrendered, saying to the people who surrounded him that he was a gentleman heavily oppressed with misfortunes, and supplicating in the most pathetic terms that they would favour his escape; but his entreaties had no effect.

 He was promptly secured during the night; and the next morning conducted before a magistrate for examination. He war ordered to London, where he was re-examined, and then committed to Newgate.

 He was tried at the ensuing sessions at the Old Bailey, and condemned to suffer death. He was conveyed to Tyburn on the 21st of December, 1739.