British Executions

Paul Lewis

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Crime: highway robbery

Date Of Execution: 4 May 1763

Crime Location:

Execution Place: unknown

Method: hanging

Executioner: unknown



An Officer of the Royal Navy, who became a Highwayman, and was executed at Tyburn, 4th of May, 1763

PAUL LEWIS was born at Hurstmonceaux, in Sussex, and was the son of a worthy clergyman, who put him to a grammar school at a very early age. He had an ambition to become a fine gentleman. In his spirited attempts to attain that character he ran into debt with his tailor, to the amount of about one hundred and fifty pounds, which obliged him to run away and go to sea.

There he had for some time behaved so well that he was made first a cadet, then a midshipman, and finally, a lieutenant in the Royal Navy.

He was at the taking of Senegal, the burning of the ships in Cancale Bay, the reduction of Cherbourg, the battle of St Cas, the siege of Guadeloupe, and the engagement under Sir Edward Hawke, in all which services he behaved with courage and activity.

He had vices, however, not common to bravery, and very different from the irregular sallies of a high-spirited and strong passion. Paul was not only wicked but base, not only a robber but a scoundrel; of which he gave proofs while on board the fleet, particularly by collecting three guineas apiece from many of his brother officers, to lay in stores for a West India voyage, and then running away with the collection from the ship and commencing as highwayman.

Having thus begun his iniquitous course of life, he went to a public-house in Southwark, stayed a great part of the day, and supped; and then, going to an inn, hired a horse, rode out between Newington Butts and Vauxhall, and stopped a gentleman and his son in a post-chaise and robbed them, returning to the public-house in Southwark. Being apprehended for this offence, he was brought to trial at Kingston, when, the people of the public-house swearing that he had not been absent from noon till midnight more than half-an-hour, he was acquitted.

After this he committed a variety of robberies. An accomplice and he having robbed a gentleman and lady in a post-chaise, near Paddington, the robbers rode some miles together and then agreed to part, to commit their depredations separately. Not long had they parted when Lewis stopped a gentleman, named Brown, and demanded his money. Mr Brown resisted the highwayman with such determined resolution that Lewis fired at him, but, happily, without effect.

At this juncture Mr Brown's horse took fright and threw him; but being little injured he soon recovered, and saw Lewis in the custody of Mr Pope, a constable, who had got him down and was kneeling on his breast -- a circumstance that arose from the following accident. Mr Pope, riding on the same road, met a gentleman and lady who told him they had been robbed by two highwaymen, and desired him to be cautious; but this induced him to ride on the faster, and he arrived at the critical spot a short time after the robbery was committed, and seized Lewis.

Pope desired Mr Brown to ride after the other highwayman who had been on the road, but at this instant Lewis rose and, presenting a pistol, swore he would shoot Pope. The latter, however, was in no degree intimidated, but, knocking the pistol out of his hand, threw him down and secured him. The highwayman was conveyed to New Prison, where, having lain one night, he was taken before a magistrate, who committed him to Newgate. At an ensuing sessions at the Old Bailey he was brought to trial, and received sentence of death.

Such was the baseness and unfeeling profligacy of this wretch that when his almost heart-broken father visited him for the last time, in Newgate, and put twelve guineas into his hands, to defray his expenses, he slipped one of the pieces of gold into the cuff of his sleeve, by a dexterous sleight, and then opening his hand showed the venerable and reverend old man that there were but eleven, upon which he took from his pocket another and gave it him, to make up the number he intended.

Arrived at Tyburn, he looked round him with a face of inexpressible anguish, and then addressed himself to the multitude in the following terms -- "This dreadful sight will not, I believe, invite any of you to come here, by following my example; but rather to be warned by me. I am but twenty-three years of age, a clergyman's son, bred up among gentlemen -- this wounds me the deeper; for to whom much is given, of them more is required."