Lewis Jeremiah Avershaw aka Jerry Abershaw or Abershawe seems to have been more discreet than most of his peers, for there are few anecdotes about hold-ups of famous people and dashing gallantry relating to him. He must have been highly successful though – the Newgate Calendar calls him an “old offender” though he was still only 22 or 23 when hung, and he had successfully evaded the Bow Street Runners for five years before he was apprehended.
Abershaw was born in 1773 and started out as the driver of a post-chaise. It’s not known how old he was when he took to the road instead but by the age of 17 he was already the ringleader of a small band of highwaymen. Two of his favourite haunts were the Green Man Inn at Putney Heath and the Bald Faced Stag near Kingston. One of his partners was “Galloping Dick” Ferguson, of whom more here.
He was apprehended by two Bow Street runners, David Price and Bernard Turner, in the Three Brewers inn at Southwark. When the officers informed him of the nature of their errand Abershaw produced his pistols and fired them simultaneously. Price was killed, and Turner, though seriously injured, recovered to give evidence at Abershaw’s trial.
The trial was almost indecently short, with Abershaw being found guilty in a matter of three minutes, and asking, “with unparalleled insolence of expression and gesture, to ask his Lordship if he was to be murdered by the evidence of one witness.” By all accounts Abershaw was quite the wit, and mimicked Judge Baron Pentryn when he put on his black cap to pass the death penalty.
As he awaited execution, Abershaw allegedly asked for black cherries, using the juice to draw pictures of his escapades on the cell walls. On the day of his hanging he laughed and joked with the large crowd, keeping up an incessant conversation as the cart took him to the gallows, where he kicked off his boots, explaining laughingly to the crowd that he wanted to disprove his mother’s prophecy that he would die with them on. He didn’t make a dying confession.
The place where his body was gibbeted after his execution at Kennington Common is still known as Jerry’s Hill.