Ex-Classics Home Page

The Newgate Calendar - THOMAS BOWLER,

Executed for Maliciously Firing at Mr. Burrowes.

            An unprovoked and foul spirit of revenge, indulged in to excess, precipitated this hoary sinner on the commission of a crime for which he forfeited his life to the injured laws of his country. The motives which prompt other men to deeds of blood were wanting here; plunder was not the object; nor was there a single worldly advantage which this desperate man could promise himself from the premature death of his neighbour; nor does it appear that he received a provocation from his intended victim that would justify the slightest act of hostility, much less a premeditated attempt on his life.

            Thomas Bowler was a wealthy farmer, who resided near Harrow, sad had for his neighbour another farmer named Burrowes, who was also a hay-salesman in St. James's, Haymarket. These men had a trifling dispute about some trees; but which was amicably adjusted without any application to lawyers. Notwithstanding this apparent conciliation Bowler from that moment nourished a spirit of revenge, and about the middle of March, 1812, in the presence of one Sheppard, in St. James's Market, said 'Damn that Burrowes's eyes, I'll Burrowes him before long; he shan't live to the end of June, if I was to be hanged the next moment.' Sheppard remonstrated, and Bowler replied, 'I'll be d--d if I don't be the death of him.' This was communicated to Burrowes, who took no farther notice of it than just to observe 'I don't fear him; he is too fond of his own life to take away mine.'

            Bowler, being a man who never put any restraint on his violent passion -- indulged his evil propensity for better than two months, and on the 30th of May prepared to carry into execution his foul design, as he knew his unsuspecting neighbour would be on his way to London at a certain hour, to attend his duty in the Haymarket.

            His preparations were all coolly and deliberately arranged. He provided a boy to keep a swift horse to carry him out of danger in case of pursuit; and, as the pan of his blunderbuss lost the priming, he carried it on that very morning to a blacksmith for repair, telling him he wanted it to shoot a mad dog. While the smith was employed on the lock he went out, and kept walking up and down; and, as he saw Burrowes coming up the road in his chaise-cart, he returned into the smith's shop, took up the blunderbuss, and stationed himself behind an elm-tree, which concealed him all but his feet from Mr. Burrowes. Where Bowler stood was about fifteen yards from the canal bridge, at Alperton; and, just as the chaise-cart gained the bridge, the assassin took a deliberate aim, when Burrowes exclaimed 'Don't fire!' and stooped down in the cart. 'Damn your eyes, take that!' said Bowler, firing, and wounded Mr. Burrowes in the neck and back. At the report of the blunderbuss the horse ran away, and the assassin mounted his horse, and galloped off, leaving his hat behind him, and throwing the blunderbuss into the ditch.

            What added to the atrocity of this act was the age of the perpetrator, which at the time was more than sixty years. Besides, he was immensely rich, and had a respectable family to suffer disgrace by his unprincipled wickedness.

            Happily Mr. Burrowes' wounds were not mortal; he gradually recovered, and diligent pursuit was made after the hoary fugitive. For a week he avoided the vigilance of Mr. Burrowes' friends; but on the 6th of June he was apprehended at his own house. To the person who took him into custody he offered ten, twenty, and, lastly, thirty thousand pounds, to be allowed his liberty; but his offers were rejected, and he was carried to the police-office, from which he was fully committed to Newgate. He thought bail would be accepted, and offered to deposit ten thousand pounds.

            Bowler's friends now began to prepare for his defence; and, knowing there was no possibility of controverting the fact, endeavoured to establish a case of lunacy. For this purpose a commission was sued out, and a jury gave a verdict that he was insane from the preceding March, in consequence of a fracture in his skull, occasioned by a fall from his horse.

            His trial came on at the Old Bailey, July the 3d, 1812, when the case of the prosecution being gone through, several witnesses were examined to establish his insanity. Among these were three or four medical men, who gave it as their decided opinion that he was in an unsound state of mind; and various acts of eccentricity and extravagant passion were adduced in support of the defence. But as his conduct at the time of the dreadful act, in preparing the means of escape, argued a conviction of a knowledge of right and wrong, the jury found him Guilty, and he was sentenced to be hanged.

            For some time he supported himself with the hope of royal mercy, till Thursday, August the 20th, when he was given to understand that his execution was appointed to take place the ensuing day. He met his fate with pious firmness, on Friday, August the 21st, 1812.


Previous Next