British Executions

James Sampson

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Crime: robbery

Date Of Execution: 11 Mar 1768

Crime Location:

Execution Place: unknown

Method: hanging

Executioner: unknown



A treacherous and base Villain, executed at Tyburn, 11th of March, 1768, for robbing and setting fire to his Benefactor's House

EARLY in life Sampson gave proofs of an extraordinary genius for drawing, to which his friends afforded proper encouragement, and his progress in the art was exceedingly rapid. The youth's uncommon talents being mentioned to the Duke of Richmond, his Grace engaged him in his service on very liberal terms, and employed masters properly qualified to afford every possible improvement to his fine genius. Afterwards the Duke warmly recommended Sampson to the patronage of the Right Honourable General Conway, who appointed him one of the draughtsmen to the Tower.

The greatest part of his time that was not engaged in a necessary attention to the duties of his office Sampson employed in making copies of the natural curiosities in the British Museum and in the conversation of learned and ingenious men, by whom that celebrated library was frequented; and he was so highly esteemed, both by the Duke of Richmond and General Conway, that he had free access to them on all occasions. Having married an upper servant in the General's family, he appeared to live in a state of great felicity; but unfortunately he maintained an illicit intercourse with some women of debauched principles, whose extravagances involved him in many embarrassments.

Being allowed the liberty of amusing himself in the General's library, he learned that money and papers of consequence were kept there; and this tempted him to the fatal resolution of robbing his benefactor and setting fire to the house, as a means of covering up his guilt. Having concealed himself in the house, he waited till he supposed the family had retired to rest, and then entered the library, where he stole property to a considerable amount and set fire to some of the furniture.

About six in the morning the General was alarmed by the cry of "Fire!" and perceived smoke issuing from the library; but he would not permit the door to be opened till the engines arrived, lest the flames should burst out and communicate to the other parts of the building. The engines being ready to play, he directed the firemen to use their endeavours to secure a writing-table that stood in a corner of the room, several bank-notes being deposited in a drawer thereof. This table was brought out, part of it being burned, and the drawer open in which the bank-notes had been deposited. The General put all the papers he found in the drawer into his pocket.

When the confusion occasioned by the supposed accident had subsided, the General examined the papers taken out of the drawer, and missing a bank-note of five hundred pounds, and four of one hundred pounds each, concluded that the room had been fired for the purpose of concealing the robbery.

All the domestics in the house had lived many years in the General's service, and he had the firmest confidence in their fidelity; but in order to secure his property, and discover the author of the horrid fact, which he strongly suspected to have been committed by some person well acquainted with his house, he made application to the bank, where he learned that the note for five hundred pounds had been already changed for others of smaller value; and, from the description of the person who had changed it, his suspicions were fixed on Sampson.

It was now determined that Mr Camp, who had received the note, and Mr Lambert, who had delivered the smaller ones on Camp's ticket, should attend at the Duke of Richmond's house at an appointed hour.

The Duke sent a servant to Sampson's lodgings, desiring to see him on business; and he presently attended, and entered into conversation on different subjects with his Grace and General Conway. The above-mentioned clerks of the bank were introduced, and, immediately recognising the person of Sampson, a signal was made that had been before agreed on; in consequence of which the General accused Sampson of the robbery and setting fire to the library. For some time he steadily denied the charge, but, finding no possibility of confuting the evidence of Camp and Lambert, he at length confessed all the particulars of his guilt.

Sampson's lodgings at Pimlico were searched, and the two notes received at the bank and the four stolen from the drawer of the writing-table were found. The delinquent, being taken before Sir John Fielding, was committed to Newgate in order for trial, which came on at the following sessions at the Old Bailey, when he was convicted, and sentenced to be hanged.

While he remained in Newgate he regularly attended prayers in the chapel, and on the morning of his execution he received the Sacrament. The passage of carriages being obstructed by the pavement being broken up in Holborn, Sampson was conveyed through Smithfield, Cow Cross, Turnmill Street and the King's Road to Tyburn, where he acknowledged the justice of his sentence, and, after some time employed in prayer, suffered the punishment due to his offences, on 11th March, 1768.