Ex-Classics Home Page



After a varied Criminal Career he was finally executed at Maidstone, 18th of April, 1756, for stealing a Silver Tankard

GONZALEZ was descended of reputable parents residing at Alicante, in Spain, who were exceedingly careful of his education, intending him for Holy Orders; but all their hopes in him were disappointed, for he absconded from school and entered on board a man-of-war. Having remained some years in this station, he engaged on board a ship-of-war belonging to England, and sailed up the Levant.

After staying some time at Alexandria, Smyrna and other places, the ship put in to Gibraltar, and was ordered to be laid up; in consequence of which he entered on board a Dutch vessel. He served in several English privateers during the war, and when peace was restored joined one of the gangs of smugglers that infested the coasts of Kent and Sussex.

His connections among the English induced him to change his name to John Symmonds, by which appellation we shall hereafter distinguish him. Having acquired a sum of money, he repaired to London and formed an acquaintance with a number of people, of both sexes, of the most wicked and abandoned character. Having spent his money in scenes of riot and intoxication, he obtained credit for divers small sums from different people, whom he amused by assuring them that he was entitled to prize-money, on the receipt of which he would pay them.

His creditors becoming importunate for their money, he formed the resolution of going again to sea; but, not being able to enter into such advantageous engagements as he expected, he became acquainted with an infamous gang of robbers, and joined in their iniquitous practices. They committed a variety of robberies in the fields near Stepney. As Symmonds was passing along Ragfair he was seized by a person whom he, in conjunction with other villains, had robbed the preceding evening. This event occasioned him to reflect on his dangerous situation; and, judging that if he continued his illegal courses he could not long escape detection, he determined to give information against his accomplices.

He communicated his design to M'Daniel, and accompanied him and other thief-takers one evening to a house where they were drinking, when Mandevile, Holmes and Newton were taken into custody, but two others of the gang escaped through a window. Mandevile, Holmes and Newton were convicted on the evidence of Symmonds, and executed, in October, 1751, at Tyburn.

For the apprehension of the three malefactors abovementioned the thief-takers received a reward of four hundred and twenty pounds, of which they allowed the evidence only ten pounds; and by various contrivances they kept him in custody till he had expended all but thirty shillings of that sum. They imagined that they might obtain further emolument through his means, and therefore endeavoured to keep him in a state of poverty, that he might be the more readily induced to return to his former practices, expecting that he would betray his new accomplices into the fate suffered by Mandevile, Holmes and Newton.

Symmonds had for some time lived on terms of great intimacy with Anthony and Emanuel de Rosa, the murderers of Mr Fargues. Having engaged to go on the highway with Dissent and Branch (executed for the murder of Mr Brown), they called at his lodgings; but the girl with whom he cohabited dissuaded him from accompanying them. Upon seeing the watch and other property stolen from Mr Brown, he regretted his yielding to the persuasions of the girl, and upbraided her as the cause of his losing a share of so valuable a booty.

The many robberies he had committed in London and its adjacencies having rendered him so notorious that he thought himself in great danger of being apprehended, he determined to go into the country. Having travelled to Rochester, he formed an acquaintance with a fellow named Smith, who was publicly known to live by felonious practices.

Symmonds and Smith went to a public-house in Rochester, and while they were drinking some punch found an opportunity of concealing a silver tankard, which they carried off unperceived. On the following day they were apprehended, and committed to Maidstone Jail -- Symmonds to be tried for stealing the tankard, and Smith to appear as evidence for the Crown.

While Symmonds was under sentence of death he acknowledged that till he was convinced the term of his life was nearly expired he had not reflected on the most important consequences that would result from his iniquitous proceedings, and that if he had escaped conviction he should have returned to his usual practices. He appeared to repent of his former wickedness with unfeigned sincerity, and expressed hopes of forgiveness through the merits of his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

From the prison to the place of execution he was seriously employed in prayer, and when under the gallows he warned the people to guard against following such courses as had produced his destruction. After some time spent in devout prayer with a reverend divine, the executioner put in force the sentence of the law.


Previous Next

Back to Introduction