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Contents of
Sussex Smugglers


1 Preface

pages 3-6

2 History of the Smugglers

A summary of the murders

pages 7-43

3 First day of the trial

pages 43-49

4 Second day of the trial

pages 49-108

5 Third day of the trial

pages 108-118

6 Appendix

by three clergymen who attended the condemned men

pages 118-132

7 Execution

pages 132-161

8 The second trial

Of Brown, the two Kemps, Fuller & Savage

pages 161-173

9 The third trial

of Diprose, Bartlett & others

pages 173-205

10 Sermon

On the evils of smuggling

pages 207-222

11 Smuggling in Sussex

From Sussex Archaeological Collections

pages 223-260

12 Gale Journal

pages 260-263






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8: The second trial

We will next proceed and give the trials in a concise manner, of Jockey Brown, the two Kemps, Fuller and Savage, all smugglers, and tried at the same assizes at East Grinstead, in Sussex, and then proceed and give an account of their wicked lives and conversation. And first we shall proceed on the trial of Jockey Brown.

John Brown, otherwise Jockey Brown, was indicted for assaulting and putting in fear John Walter, near Berated, and robbing him of twelve guineas in gold and twelve pounds in silver, on the 12th of October, 1748.

John Walter deposed that riding along the road near Bersted, above seven o’clock at night, the 12th of October, he was stopped by four men; two of them laid hold of the horse’s bridle, and demanded his money, which he not delivering, the other two pulled him off his horse, one of them drew out a pistol, and the other aimed to strike at his head with a hanger, which he guarded with his stick; in the meanwhile one of the other two took a canvas bag with the money in it out 


of his pocket, and afterwards cut his horse’s bridle, and then they all rode off.

Thomas Dixon, [1] otherwise Shoemaker Tom, deposed that himself, the prisoner and two others, attacked the prosecutor in the road to Bersted, on the 12th of October, pulled him off his horse, and took from him a canvas bag, with upwards of twenty pounds of gold and silver in it. They afterwards rode about fourteen miles farther to a public house, where they shifted, meaning shared, the money among them all four.

Thomas Wickens deposed, that the night the prosecutor, Mr. Walter, was robbed, the last witness Dixon, the prisoner at the bar, and two others, came to his house about ten o’clock at night; that they called for a private room, where they stayed drinking till twelve o’clock at night; that they had often been at his house, sometimes two, and sometimes three of them together, but at this time they were all together.

Sarah Wickens, wife of the last witness, deposed that the night Mr. Walter was robbed, the prisoner at the bar, Thomas Dixon and two others, came to their house at ten o’clock at night; that they called for a pen and ink, and a private room; that she waited upon them, and saw them telling out money in four parcels: that there was a great deal of silver and some gold, but could not tell what was the quantity.

The prisoner in his defence, said that the witness Dixon was a drunken, idle, good-for-nothing fellow, and deserved no credit to be given to what he should swear. But as he could call no witness to disprove the facts or justify his character, and Dixon’s evidence being very


circumstantially corroborated by Mr. and Mrs. Wickens, the jury found him Guilty. Death.

Lawrence Kemp and Thomas Kemp were indicted for forcibly entering the dwelling house of Richard Havendon, of Heathfield, disguised, and armed with firearms and cutlasses, putting him in fear of his life, and taking from his person eleven shillings and sixpence, and afterwards, with violence, seizing and carrying away from his dwelling house, thirty-five pounds in money, two silver spoons, three gold rings, a two-handled silver cup, and a silver watch in a tortoiseshell case, the 2nd of November, 1748.

Richard Havendon deposed that the 2nd November last, about seven at night, he heard somebody whistle at his door, and going out to see who was there, four men with crapes over their faces seized him, put a pistol to his breast, and said they wanted money; upon which he gave them eleven shillings and sixpence out of his pocket; but they said that would not do, and took him with them into the house; when they came in they called for candles, and one of them holding a pistol to his breast, stayed with him below stairs, while the rest went up, where they stayed a considerable time, and then came down stairs with what they had got; they then took him with them to the place where they had put their horses, and swore they would carry him away with them, unless he would tell them where the rest of his money was, for they were sure he had more than what they had got; but when they were got upon their horses, they bid him good night, and went away and left him. When he came back to his own house again, he found they had broke open two doors, two trunks and a box, and taken away the money and things mentioned in the indictment. Asked what 


he was doing when they whistled at his door, said he was churning.

Francis Doe, an accomplice in the said robbery, being sworn, deposed that he, John Mills, alias Smoker (who was convicted for the murder of Hawkins), and the two prisoners at the bar, agreed to go and rob the prosecutor’s house. That on the 2nd of November they all four, with their faces covered with crape, came to his house, and whistled at the door; that when the prosecutor came out, they seized him and demanded his money; that the prosecutor gave them eleven shillings and sixpence out of his pocket; that they then went into the house, and Lawrence Kemp, one of the prisoners, stood sentry over the prosecutor, whilst he, this witness, with Mills and Thomas Kemp, the other prisoners, went upstairs, forced open two doors, two trunks and a box, and took thereout several pieces of gold and silver, to the amount of five or six and thirty pounds, together with some rings, spoons and a watch. That when they came downstairs, they took the prosecutor with them to where their horses stood, and threatened they would carry him away with them unless he would discover where the rest of his money was, for they were sure he had more in the house. That upon his declaring he had no more, they let him go home, mounted their horses, and rode away. Upon shifting, that is, sharing the money, he had eight or nine pounds for his share. That Lawrence Kemp, one of the prisoners at the bar, was to sell the watch, rings, &c., and to divide the money between them, but he never did as he knew.

Jacob Pring deposed that he went down to Bristol to meet with and bring up John Mills, otherwise Smoker, That when he was there he met with the two prisoners


at the bar, who agreed to come up with them. That on the road, talking together of their exploits, the two prisoners owned to him their robbing the. farmer at Heathfield. That they said the old man was churning when they came to his house. That they craped their faces over, and took out of the house five or six and thirty pounds, besides a watch, rings, spoons, and a silver cup.

Being asked how they came to confess a robbery to him which must affect their lives, he said that he, the two Kemps, and Mills, alias Smoker, had agreed to go robbing on the highway, and to break open houses; that the prisoners bragged of this amongst other robberies they had committed.

Being asked by the court whether he had repented of the agreement he had so made, he said that he had no such intention, but that it was only a feint, and that he went down to Bristol on purpose to bring up Mills that he might be apprehended. That there meeting with the Kemps also, and hearing of this robbery at Heathfield, he resolved to do all in his power to allure them to his house, in order to get them and Mills apprehended.

The prisoners being called upon to make their defence, both said they knew nothing of the robbery; and the prisoner Thomas Kemp said that they never made any such confession to the evidence, Pring; that he, together with John Mills, alias Smoker, Francis Doe and Jockey Brown, were all the persons who robbed the farmer at Heathfield.

Being asked whether they had any witness to prove what they had asserted, or where they were when the robbery was committed, they said they had no witnesses, for that they had no “steady,” meaning no certain place of abode, for two years past; upon which the jury found them both Guilty. Death. 


Robert Fuller was indicted for assaulting William Wittenden in an open field, near the King’s highway, putting him in fear of his life, and taking from the said William Wittenden seven shillings and sevenpence halfpenny, the 14th of November.

William Wittenden deposed that coming across a field near Worth, the prisoner at the bar, who was on horseback, stopped him and enquired the way to Worth; that this witness directed him; then the prisoner asked if he had any money; he answered,

‘‘No.” The prisoner replied, “D n you, you have,

and I will have it,” and then pulled out a pistol and put it to his breast; that then this witness pulled out a little bag, in which was seven shillings and sixpence in silver, and three halfpence, which the prisoner snatched from him, and then rode away.

Being asked by the court if he was sure the prisoner was the man that robbed him, answered he was very sure, and that he saw him ride by him the next day, in company with another man.

The prisoner in his defence said that the prosecutor declared, when he came to see him in the prison, that he did not know him; and to prove this called William Cooper, who, being sworn, deposed that the day before, the prisoner at the bar, with two other prisoners, were put into a room; that the prosecutor came in and said he knew nobody there.

The prosecutor being asked how many prisoners he saw in that room, said he saw but two, and that afterwards he went into another room, where all the prisoners were, and did not see anybody there that he knew, but, turning on his right hand, he saw the prisoner standing behind him, and he said, “That is the man that robbed me.”


Mr. Rackster deposed that be was in the room the first time the prosecutor saw the prisoners; that there were indeed three prisoners in the room, but that the prosecutor saw but two, which stood before him, for the prisoner at the bar stood behind him, which was the reason that he did not see him then.

The prisoner being asked if he had any witnesses to his innocence or character, answered that he had none; upon which the jury found him Guilty. Death.

Richard Savage was indicted for stealing out of the Lewes waggon twenty-two yards three-quarters of scarlet cloth, twenty-six yards of blue cloth, the property of Thomas Friend, of Lewes, and a box, in which were contained two silk gowns and two guineas, the property of a person unknown, on April 5th, 1748.

Mr. Friend deposed that he knew his servant put up the cloth, and ordered it to be carried to the waggon.

William Brown, servant to Mr. Friend, deposed that he delivered the cloth to the carrier’s man.

Matthew Comber, the carrier’s man, said he received the cloth from the last witness. That on the 5th of April last he was set to watch the waggon all night at Chailey; that two men came up to him about ten o’clock at night, enquiring what waggon it was; on his telling them, they took him away about two hundred yards from the waggon, where one of them kept him prisoner with a pistol at his breast; that then came up seven more men, who got off their horses, and left them at some distance from the waggon, with one man to take care of them. That the rest of the men went up to the waggon, and cut the cords, threw off some wool- packs, and then threw some boxes and other goods out of the waggon; that they broke open the boxes, took out the goods, loaded their horses, and went away.


Thomas Winter, otherwise the Coachman, an accomplice, deposed that on the 5th of April, he and Shoemaker Tom, with the prisoner at the bar and several others, met at Deval’s house at Bird’s Hole, and agreed to go out and rob a waggon that was loaded with wrecked goods; that about ten o’clock at night they came all together upon Chailey Common, where they took the carrier’s man prisoner, and one of them kept him so, while the rest went and rifled the waggon. That they broke open several boxes and parcels, and took away a large parcel of scarlet cloth, and another large parcel of blue cloth, and a box with two silk gowns and two guineas in it, with other goods. That after they had loaded their horses they rode away to Bird’s Hole, near Devil’s Ditch, where they shared the goods; that the prisoner at the bar was with them in the robbery, and had a share of the goods.

Thomas Dixon, otherwise Shoemaker Tom, another accomplice, deposed that he and Winter, and several others, met together at Deval’s house, at Bird’s Hole, and agreed to go and rob the waggon, as mentioned by the last evidence; that there they laid hold of the carrier’s man, took him some distance from the waggon, and set one of their number as a guard over him; that they then plundered the waggon, and took the cloth and other things mentioned in the indictment; that having loaded their horses, they made the best of their way to Bird’s Hole, and in a ditch near that place they divided the spoil.

Being asked by the court if the prisoner at the bar was with them at the time of their committing the robbery, said he believed he was, but was not sure; but that he was very sure that he was present at the time of sharing the goods, and that he had his share in


the dividend; and that this witness sold his share to the last evidence, Thomas Winter.

The prisoner in his defence denied being any ways concerned in the robbery; but had no witnesses to call to contradict the facts as sworn by the witnesses for the prosecution. The jury brought him in Guilty of single felony. Transportation.

Mr. Friend, the prosecutor of Savage, laid the indictment for single felony, because he did not care to take life away; but the trial had not been over an hour, before he was informed by Winter and Shoemaker Tom that Savage had been concerned with them in many things, and that when Savage lived as a servant to Mr. Friend’s brother, to look after and manage a farm for him, that was fallen upon his hands by a tenant leaving it, that Savage used to entertain them all, which was a gang of about twelve or thirteen, where they used to come with their goods, and he found the horses in hay and corn, and them with victuals and drink; and they gave him tea and brandy for it, which he sold for his own use. He received sentence of transportation, but is ordered to be stopped in order to be tried next assizes for another fact.


Having now given an account of the trials of all the seven smugglers at East Grinstead, six of whom were executed for the several crimes of which they stood convicted, we shall now proceed to give an account of their behaviour and last dying words.

John Brown, alias Jockey Brown, about 33 years of age, was born of honest parents in the county of Sussex, who gave him a tolerable education, but he had followed smuggling for many years, and being apprehensive of being taken up for that crime, he absconded from his home 


and lurked about; and being acquainted with Winter, commonly called the Coachman, Shoemaker Tom, who was evidence against him at his trial, Fuller, and the two Kemps, his fellow sufferers, and many more smugglers, many of whom were outlawed, they all agreed to rob on the highway, and break open houses, in order to support themselves, being afraid to go a-smuggling; but they did that sometimes, when they could get anybody that they could trust to take/ the goods. He refused to make a general confession, but did not deny being concerned in robbing Mr. Walter on the highway near Bersted, for which he suffered.

He exclaimed against Mr. Wickens and his wife, who gave evidence against him at his trial, and said that he had never done them any harm.

He was taken up at first on suspicion of being a smuggler with Richard Mills, who was executed at Chichester, Richard Perrin, alias Payne, Thomas Kingsmill, alias the Staymaker, and William Fairall, alias the Shepherd, the three last now under condemnation in Newgate, for breaking open his Majesty’s warehouse at Poole; and being carried before Justice Hammond, in the Borough of Southwark, he committed them all five to the county gaol for Surrey, from whence he was removed by a Habeas Corpus to East Grinstead to take his trial.

He was not so very penitent as a person should be under his unhappy circumstances, but he frequently prayed to God to forgive him, and lamented most for the disgrace he had brought upon his family.

Lawrence Kemp and Thomas Kemp, two brothers, whose trials have been before related, refused to give an account of themselves, only that they were born near Hawkhurst, in Kent, and that they had been smugglers


for many years and had committed many robberies, but said they never were concerned in any murder.

Thomas Kemp being asked if he was guilty of the indictment lie was tried upon at the Old Bailey before he broke out of Newgate, he at first did not care to answer the question, but at last said he was.

They married two daughters of a farmer near Nettlebed, in Oxfordshire; but as the father of the unhappy young women lives in good reputation, and the women themselves having the character of very virtuous persons, we think it improper to mention any particulars concerning them, their own misfortunes being sufficient trouble to them.

As to Thomas Kemp, he broke out of Newgate soon after he was tried and acquitted at the Old Bailey, being charged with a large debt due to the crown; the circumstances attending his escape being somewhat more than common, we shall here insert them.

Thomas Potter and three other smugglers came into the press-yard of Newgate to see Thomas Kemp and William Grey, who was also one of the Hawkhurst gang r when they agreed at all hazards to assist in getting them out; and accordingly the time was fixed (Kemp having no irons, and Grey had his so managed as to let them fall off’ when he pleased), and Potter and the other three came to the press-yard door, and rung the bell for the turnkey to come and let them in; when he came and had unlocked the door, Potter immediately knocked him down with a horse pistol, and cut him terribly, when Kemp and Grey made their escape, and Potter and his companions got clear off’ without being discovered.

There were three other prisoners got out with them, but were taken directly, having irons on. 


They were both very obstinate men, and could not be brought to think that smuggling was a crime, and when asked if they did not think robbing farmer Havendon, for which they were convicted, was a crime, they said they did, and begged pardon of him for it, but that if they had not been obliged to hide themselves from their home, for fear of being apprehended as smugglers, they should never have committed robberies.

Thomas Fuller, about thirty years of age, born in Kent, at first denied the robbery for which he was to suffer, and often said it was very hard to take away the life of a man on the single testimony of one person, who was to receive a reward for so doing; but the day before his execution he was brought to a confession of the fact, and acknowledged he did commit it in the manner it was sworn at his trial.

His wife attended him at his trial, and during his condemnation, for whose misfortunes he often declared himself sorry, and said he did not value death, but that he left her to the reproaches of a censorious world; but begged for God’s sake, that nobody would reflect on her or any of her family, for none of them were ever privy to his wicked actions.

He acknowledged he had been a smuggler many years, and was as deeply concerned as most of them: but that he was not concerned in breaking open the King’s warehouse at Poole, nor in the murders of Galley and Ohater; but confessed he had been a very wicked sinner.

On Saturday, the 1st day of April last, they were all taken out of Horsham gaol and carried to the gallows, where they all seemed much more composed and devout than they had been before. None of them made any confessions, only desired all the spectators to take


warning by their untimely end, particularly all young people.

After they had said their prayers some time, they were all tied up to the gallows and turned out of a cart, crying to the Lord to receive their souls.

[1]        This Shoemaker Tom had been a notorious smuggler, but no murder being charged against him, he was by the court admitted an evidence.