Captain Evan Evans
Famous highwayman, from the Newgate Calendar. 'Clerk to Sir Edmund Andrews, in Guernsey, and later Highwayman in England. Executed in 1708.'
THE title of Captain was only assumed by this noted criminal, who was born in South Wales, and his father, who kept an inn at Brecknock, the chief town in Brecknockshire, having given him a good education, put him apprentice to an attorney-at-law; but by his vicious inclinations, together with the opportunity he had of corresponding with some gentlemen of the road (as such rogues affected to call themselves) who frequented his father's house, he soon came to act in the same wicked courses they followed, and in a little time became the most noted highwayman in those parts, having made prodigious booties of the Welsh graziers and others.
The Captain once happening to be under a guard, who were conducting him to Shrewsbury Jail with his legs tied under the belly of the horse, and one of his attendants having an excellent fowling-piece, which was then loaded, the prisoner, espying a pheasant perching upon a tree, with a deep sigh expressed the dexterity he had used formerly in killing such game; so humbly requesting the gun, that he might shoot at so fine a mark, the ignorant fellow readily complied with his request. But no sooner had the Captain got the piece into his hands than he charged upon his guard, and swore a whole volley of oaths that he would fire upon them if they stirred one step farther. Then, retreating from them on his little pony to a convenient distance, he commanded one of them that was best mounted to come near him and alight; which being done, and the bridle of the horse hung on a hedge, the poor fellow was obliged to throw him his pistols, and then was admitted to approach nearer the Captain, who, presenting one of them at his head, obliged him to loose his legs and retire to his companions. This being also done, he soon left his little scrub, mounted the fine gelding, and rode off.
The Captain then coming to London, the country being too hot to hold him, upon his handsome behaviour and carriage, which was somewhat extraordinary, as likewise his person, he got to be clerk to Sir Edmund Andrews, then Governor of Guernsey, and continued there in that capacity for three or four years; but money not coming in fast enough in that honest employment to support his wicked inclinations, he soon left that service, returned to London, and took a lodging at the Three Neats' Tongues, in Nicholas Lane, where he passed for a Guernsey merchant, or captain of a ship, and took his younger brother, William Evans, as a servant to wait on him, giving him a livery, under the colour of which he committed several notorious robberies on the highways about London.
One of his boldest and most daring robberies was committed on Squire Harvey, of Essex, between Mile End and Bow, in the daytime, from whom he took a diamond ring, and money to a considerable value, as he was riding home in his coach from the Cathedral Church of St Paul's, the late Queen Anne having that day honoured the city with her Royal presence.
Some time after that, meeting not far from Hampstead with one Gambol, a writing-master, living in Exeter Street, behind Exeter Exchange, in the Strand, walking with his wife, he made bold to command them to deliver what money they had, which they very obstinately refusing, the Captain violently took what money he found in their pockets, which was about thirty or forty shillings, and for their presumption of not being obedient to the doctrine of non-resistance obliged them, upon pain of death, to strip themselves stark naked, and then, tying them close, bound them to a tree and rode off. But before he left them he had chalked in great letters just over their heads on the body of the tree that Gambol and his wife were Adamites, which is a sort of sect which teaches their proselytes, both men and women, to pray in their meetings, and perform other divine services, stark naked; which posture they call the state of innocency, and the places they assemble in Paradise.
One remarkable robbery he committed with his brother was this. As he was travelling along Portsmouth Road, in Surrey, meeting a parcel of headboroughs, or constables, conducting about thirty poor fellows they had pressed to Portsmouth garrison, Captain Evans asked the reason of their being led so, as captives tied with cords. The officers told him they were for the service, and that they had ten shillings for each man they had so impressed. He highly commended them for performing their duty and rode off. But coming up with them again in a more convenient place, he and his brother attacked them with so much fury that, setting all the prisoners at liberty, they robbed all the headboroughs of every penny they had, and then, binding them hand and foot in a field, they made the best of their way off.
Having intelligence of the Chester coach's coming with passengers to London, Captain Evans sent his brother William the night before to lie at Barnet, and to be in Baldock Lane at a certain time next morning. But the poor lad happening to light on a Scots cheesemonger who was travelling to Edinburgh, and he pretending to be going some part of the way on his master's occasions, they must needs lie together, and proceed on their journey next day. When they had got into Baldock Lane, a pistol, to the great surprise of the Scotsman, was fired over Will's head by the Captain, that being the signal proposed; they then soon commanded the Scotsman to lie by, and in sight robbed all the coaches. Then in thunderclaps of oaths the Captain, riding up to the Scotsman, robbed him of seven guineas and two watches; but by Will's intercession, who had lain with him all night, returned him his best watch, and three guineas to bear his charges into his own country; for which generous action the same Scotsman hanged them both at the assizes held at Hertford in 1708, the Captain aged twenty-nine years, and his brother Will twenty-three.