Tuesday, 8 April 2008

The execution of Thomas Cruwys

In my research over the last few years I have come across a number of cases of Cruwyses who have been imprisoned for their crimes, often for very trivial offences, such as drunkenness or indebtedness. In my trawl through the digital newspaper collections I have now found a Cruwys who was executed for his crime. The story was first reported in St James's Chronicle or the British Evening Post on 21st February 1778:
Bristol, Feb. 18. Monday last was committed to Newgate, Thomas Cruwys, for forging, counterfeiting, and publishing a Bill of Exchange for 15l. [£15] purporting it to be drawn by Atwood, Paul and Co. of Exeter, payable to the said Thomas Cruwys, and drawn on Sir George Cornwall and Co. Bankers, in London; and with Intent to defraud Mr. Samuel Worrall, of this City.
A brief account of Thomas's execution was reported in Adam's Weekly Courant on 26th May 1778:
Friday was executed at St. Michael's hill Gallows, pursuant to his Sentence, Thomas Cruwys, for Forgery, with intent to defraud Mr. Worrall: - His Behaviour in Newgate and at the Place of Execution, was by no means becoming his unhappy Situation, as he appeared to be entirely indifferent concerning his approaching Fate, and persisted to the last in his Innocence of the Crime for which he suffered.
The sum of £15 in 1778 was probably more than the average labourer would receive in wages for a whole year, but even so the punishment appears very harsh by today's standards. It probably did not help that Thomas Cruwys's accuser, Mr. Samuel Worrall of Bristol, was an attorney and therefore a man of considerable influence.

From the scant detail in the newspaper reports it is difficult to ascertain which Thomas Cruwys was sent to the gallows. I suspect however that it was the Thomas Cruwys who married Mary Trump on 20th May 1755 at St Thomas the Apostle, Exeter. Thomas and Mary had eight children, five of whom died in infancy. Further research is required in the Exeter records to find the answers.

Update 4th June 2015
The following two references to Thomas Cruwys have been found on the Exeter Working Papers in Book History website:

1778. The LAST dying speech and confession of T.Crewys, of Exeter. - [Exeter?] : [s.n.] , 1778. - Plymouth Institution p.32. - The same as the following?

1778. The LIFE, birth, parentage, education, and dying-speech, confession, and behaviour of Thomas Crewys, who was executed on St. Michael's Hill for forgery, on Friday the 15th of May, 1778. - Totnes : [s.n.] , [1778?]. - 1 sheet ; 1/2°. - Davidson supp. p.29 (P, Secktor Lib.).

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