|Arthur Gray, son of William Gray and Mary Gray||Printer friendly version|
Arthur Gray was born in 1713 at Hawkhurst the eleventh of the thirteen children of William and Mary Gray. He became one of the leaders along with Thomas Kingsmill of the notorious Hawkhurst Gang that operated through Kent from 1735 until 1750. The gang operated from the Oak and Ivy Inn, but used numerous properties in the area which were owned or financed by the gang - Highgate House, Hawkhurst Place, Tudor Hall and, most importantly, the mansion built by the gang's financier Arthur Gray at Seacox Heath.
On 11th May 1748, prior to his execution, Arthur Gray made the following confession
The Ordinary of Newgate's account of the Behaviour, Confession, & Dying Words of the Two Smugglers who were executed at Tyburn on Wednesday the 11th of May, 1748.
Being the Fourth execution in the Mayorality of the Right Honble Sir Robert Ladbroke, Knt. Lord Mayor of the City of London.
Arthur Gray and William Rowland two Smugglers were capitally convicted; Gray received Sentence, but Rowland could not receive Sentence from that Court, he being attainted upon the Act of the 19th of his present Majesty, the Order for his Execution must come down from the King, and accordingly on Thursday the 5th of this Instant May, the Report was made by Mr. Recorder to his Majesty, and he was pleased to order Arthur Gray and William Rowland for Execution.
As to the Behaviour of these two unhappy Men, they have not indeed shewn any Levity of Behaviour since their Conviction, but a certain Sullenness, and Reluctance at their Fate seemed always to attend them. At Chapel their Attendance was not so regular as might be, being hindered, as they pretended, now and then, by some slight Indisposition. However, when there, they in all Appearance paid such Regard to the Worship, and Service of God, as becomes Men in every Circumstance and Degree of Life to do; and which they were particularly persuaded was their Duty and Interest, through the Sense they entertained of the Wretchedness of their Condition.
Arthur Gray, late of Hawkhurst in the County of Kent, Labourer, was indicted, for that he, together with divers other Malefactors, Disturbers of the Peace of our Sovereign Lord the King, to wit, to the Number of seven Persons, whose Names are unknown, after the 24th of June, in the 19th Year of his Majesty's Reign, to wit, on the 13th Day of August 1746, at the Parish of Lid in the County of Kent, did, with Fire-Arms, and other offensive Weapons, riotously, unlawfully, and feloniously assemble themselves together, in order to be Aiding and Assisting in the running, landing, and carrying away uncustomed Goods, and Goods liable to pay Duties, which had not been paid, or secured, in Defiance and Contempt of the King, and his Laws, to the evil Example of all others; against the Peace of the King, his Crown, and Dignity; and against the Form of the Statute in that Case made and provided.
William Rowland, otherwise Rowlin, otherwise Rowling, was indicted upon a Suggestion that he the said William Rowland, after the 24th Day of June 1746, to wit, on the 13th Day of July 1747, at the Parish of St. Paul, Common-Garden, in the County of Middlesex, was in due Manner charged before Thomas Burdus, Esq; one of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace for the said County, upon the Information of William Sealy, a credible Person, upon Oath, that the said William Rowland, with diverse other Persons to the Number of three or more, after the 24th Day of June 1746, to wit, on the 20th Day of May 1747, did assemble together at Benacre in the County of Suffolk, armed with Fire-Arms, and other offensive Weapons, in order to be Aiding and Assisting in the running, landing, and carrying uncustomed Goods, &c.
Arthur Gray, aged 34, was born at Hawkhurst, and put Apprentice to a Butcher at Malden near Maidstone, to whom he served seven Years; after which he returned to Hawkhurst, and there carried on his Trade for about three Years; in which Time, he says, Smugglers were constantly and daily calling upon him, and taking him from his Business; by which Means he had almost spent and destroyed what Monies he had got by and kept in Trade. And being so frequently in their Company, and seeing their Methods of going on, he was captivated with the Hopes of the Profits arising from such Practices; which being backed by Persuasions, he was induced to take on with that notorious and wicked Set of People.'Tis very probable, by all Accounts of him, from such as are acquainted with the Country, and have had frequent Opportunities not only of seeing these Gangs of notorious Men, but of hearing their monstrous and unjustifiable Practices, that this Man had advanced to a great Degree of unlawful Behaviour, and been extremely famous in this Way. The Hawkhurst Gang, the most vile hitherto of all, being a Terror to their Neighbours, and to all that came in their Road, he has been for some Time a principal Person concerned in. Yet, as has been too frequently the Case with such as have been so unhappy as to suffer before him for these Offences, no Arguments or Persuasions can prevail with him to own the Fact sworn positively against him by several Witnesses; but he obstinately denies having been guilty of Smuggling for some Years past. And all this he does affirm, notwithstanding he has been acquainted with several Facts of that Kind laid to his Charge, besides other Practices, which undoubtedly, if true, have merited the utmost Censure and Rigour of the Law.
What Credit may be given to his Denial of these Facts, there is scarce any one but will easily determine. He owns to have been greatly concern'd in running uncustomed Goods to a considerable Value; and yet will suffer no one particular Fact to be fixed upon him, if he might have Things his own Way. But as he has given so much Room for the Laws to take hold of him, I am apt to believe, all Men that are unprejudiced in his Favour, will look upon this ignominious Suffering to be a just Punishment of his many and flagrant Offences.
It has been laid to his Charge, that not only to such as he looked upon as his Enemies, but his very Friends, those with whom he had great and many Years Intimacy, he has shewn the most unchristian-like and devilish Behaviour. In his Cups, which too frequently are attended with ill Consequences, especially by Men of his unhappy Turn of Temper, firing of Pistols has been his wonted Practice; even in such Company, and at such Persons, as he was thought to have the greatest Regard for. And, if any degree of social Virtue had been at any Time cherished in his Breast, he must have shewn it among his select Companions, or he cannot be supposed to have any Title to it. Far be it from me to endeavour to set off any Person in his unhappy Circumstances in a worse, or even so bad a Light as his general Character would bear. But as 'tis on all Hands agreed, that this unhappy Wretch has been most infamous: Neither would I by any Means endeavour to put a Gloss upon a bad Matter, such as will not bear the Light.
He seemed to have some Remorse for his ill-spent Life, and acknowledg'd in the general, that he had been a very dissolute and wicked Man; though he strenuously insisted on it, that he had never spilt any Man's Blood; that whatever other Mischief he had done, either to private Persons, or to the Community, he was very sorry for it, and hoping to be forgiven by those he had injured, he was content, being in Charity with all Men, to meet his Fate. He willingly gave up his Life, he said, a just Debt to the Laws of his Country, and resigned his Soul into the Hands of him that gave it, praying that in his last Moments it might be fitted for Mercy, and finally be saved in the Day of the Lord, through the alone Merits of Jesus Christ.
He was a Fellow of a bold, daring, enterprizing Spirit, feared nothing, would undertake any thing. 'Twas but a few Years ago that he robb'd a poor Fellow who travelled the Countries, of a Parcel of Lace worth near 50 Pounds, the poor Man knew not what to do, dare not attempt any thing against him in a summary Way; he therefore found out a Friend of Arthur's, who went to him, and after interceding for some Time, he agreed to give the Man his Lace again for Ten Guineas, which the poor Fellow joyfully accepted. Sometime after this, Arthur's Friend, being drinking with him, brought up this Story, and told Arthur he ought to have been hanged for doing it; when he immediately drew his Knife, and made a Stroke at him, which cut him quite into the Jaw-bone; and swore, if ever he mentioned that Affair any more he would surely be his Death.
There are numerous Instances might be given of the Barbarity of Smugglers, but I shall confine myself to one or two very remarkable, in which Gray was principally concerned, in December 1744. The Commissioners of the Customs being informed that two noted Smugglers, Chiefs of a Gang who infested the Coast, were skulking at a House in Shoreham in Sussex, they granted a Warrant to Messieurs Quaff, Bolton, Jones, and James, four of his Majesty's Officers of the Customs, to go in Search of them. The Officers found them according to the Information, seized them, and committed them to Goal. But the rest of the Gang, of which Gray was one, being informed of the Disaster of their Friends, convened in a Body the Monday following, and in open Day Light entered the Town with Hangers drawn, arm'd with Pistols and Blunderbusses; they fired several Shot to intimidate the Neighbourhood, and went to a House where the Officers were Drinking; dragg'd them out, tied three of them Neck and Heels (the fourth, named Quaff, making his Escape as they got out of the House) and carried them off in Triumph to Hawkhurst in Kent, treating them all the Way with the utmost Scurrility, and promising to broil them alive. However, upon a Council held among them, they let Mr. Jones go, after they had carried him about five Miles from Shoreham, telling him, they had nothing to object to him, but advised him not to be over busy in troubling them or their Brethren, left he might one Day meet the Fate reserved for his two Companions. They carried the unfortunate Mr. Bolton and James, to a Wood near Hawkhurst, stripped them naked, tyed them to two different Trees near one another, and whipped them in the most barbarous Manner, till the unhappy Men begg'd they would knock them on the Head to put them out of their Miseries; but these barbarous Wretches told them, it was time enough to think of Death when they had gone through all their Exercise that they had for them to suffer before they would permit them to go to the Dů... They then kindled a Fire between the two Trees, which almost scorch'd them to Death, and continued them in this Agony for some Hours, till the Wretches were wearied with torturing them; they then releas'd them from the Trees, and carried them quite speechless and almost dead, on Board one of their Ships, from whence they never return'd.
Another remarkable Instance is the following. It seems they have a Method of training their Horses that by a Check of the Reins, or a Kick with the Heel, they will instantly fling out their Legs in a surprizing Manner; to the great Danger of any Person who should unfortunately be within their Reach, an Instance of this as related from a Smuggler's own Mouth, happen'd not long since: 'Twas after the Gang had deliver'd their Goods, and were returning on Horseback to their respective Habitations, that they came by a Field in which were a Company of Gipsie Women with their Children; they leaped their Horses over the Hedge, and, dismounting, attempted to be rude with the Women, who resisted them, and made terrible Outcries; the Alarm brought down the Gipsie Men who were at some Distance, and perceiving the Intent of the Smugglers, they came furiously on, Arming themselves all the Way with great Stones, the Smugglers observing their Number to be much Superior, desisted from their wicked Intent on the Women, and Mounting their Horses waited till the Men got near enough to them, then turned their trained Horses Tails, gave them the proper Check, and they began Kicking like so many Devils at every Creature they could reach, till they had maimed a great Number; they then releap'd the Hedge and rode off, leaving the poor Creatures in the utmost Agony and Misery.
He often had encounters with the Officers of the Customs, and the Soldiers who assisted them, in many of which they beat and wounded the Officers and Soldiers in a terrible Manner. Cook, the Smuggler, who was executed in July last, lived with Gray as a Servant, and several Times prevented Murder; in particular he said his Master Gray one Time cut a Soldier so terribly with his Hanger, near Bourne in Sussex, that he must have died, if Cook had not interposed, and afterwards got proper Help to dress the poor Fellow's Wounds.
[William Rowland's indictment excluded]
As the Outrages of Smugglers are every Day encreasing, and scarce a Month but brings one or more to Newgate, the Breast of every honest Subject and Friend to the Common Weal, must be touched with a just Abhorrence of their Crimes in the general; and it is not to be supposed, but every one wishes to see an End put to those Disturbances of the public Peace, which too frequently happen in different Parts of the Kingdom, by their daring Impudence.
At the Place of Execution.
About Nine o'Clock on Wednesday last, Arthur Gray, and Wm. Rowland, were carried in a Cart from Newgate to the Place of Execution, attended by a Draught of about Sixty Men of the First and Third Regiments of Guards; and there having joined in Prayer to God, to have Mercy on them, and receive their Souls, their Sentence was finished. Gray's Body was afterwards taken to Stamford-Hill, to be hanged up in Chains. And, Rowland's was delivered to his Friends, who had appointed a Hearse to attend for that Purpose, to carry him down to Ipswich, to be there interred.
This is all the Account given by me, John Taylor, Ordinary of Newgate.
|1713||Born||In the Parish of Hawkhurst, Kent||K. Webb/Henry Hawkhurst's records|
|27th Dec 1713||Christened||At St Laurence Church in the Parish of Hawkhurst, Kent||K. Webb/Henry Hawkhurst's records|
|c 1735||Married||Ann .....||Estimated date|
|1738/39||Birth of a son||Arthur in the Parish of Hawkhurst, Kent||K. Webb/Henry Hawkhurst's records|
|1743||Birth of a son||William in the Parish of Hawkhurst, Kent||K. Webb/Henry Hawkhurst's records|
|11th May 1748||Died||At Tyburn, in London; executed and then gibbeted at Stamford Hill||K. Webb/Henry Hawkhurst's records|
Gray, Graye, Grey family records
|The ancestral pedigree of Arthur Gray|