Dick Turpin.



There is something distinctly quirky about the English. They applaud good losers with more relish than ostentatious winners, and celebrate momentous defeats like the charge of the Light Brigade with as much honour as any great victory. So it is hardly surprising that larger-than-life, unsavoury characters capture the popular imagination more than William Pitt the Younger, Charles Darwin, or John and Charles Wesley.

Dick Turpin provides a good example. Most people think of him as a daring highwayman who made a dashing ride from London to York on his faithful mare, Black Bess, in less than 24 hours. But in countless towns along the A1 motorway-still known as the Great North Road-you will come across pubs where Turpin allegedly spent the night, watered his horse, or ate lunch. So much for the non-stop ride!

In the area around Epping Forest, east of London; in Hounslow to the west; Enfield, Finchley, and Watford to the north, you will still find pubs called 'The Black Horse' in honour of Turpin's legendary mount. One Victorian writer recalled being shown a five-bar gate where Black Bess' hoof prints remained clearly visible more than a century after the apocryphal ride.

All of which would be very impressive if accurate, but, unfortunately, the Turpin legend contains not a grain of truth. Only at the very end of his life, while waiting to be hanged at York racecourse, did Turpin exhibit any of the swaggering nonchalance, heroism, or derring-do usually attributed to him. Prior to that, both his existence and his criminal ventures had been squalid, to say the least.

Dick Turpin was born in 1706 in rural Essex, the son of John Turpin, a small farmer and some-time keeper of the Crown Inn. Some biographers say he was born in Thackstead, others name Hempstead. Young Dick probably served an apprenticeship with a butcher in Whitechapel-in those days, a village on the fringes of the capital.

Turpin's first illegal venture bordered on the mundane. Caught in the act of stealing two oxen, he fled into the depths of the Essex countryside to save himself. After resurfacing, he tried his hand at smuggling, but proved as inept at this venture as he had at cattle rustling. Before long customs agents compelled Turpin and his gang to lay low. He eventually hit on a criminal business that he could manage. He and his gang invaded isolated farmhouses, terrorizing and torturing the female occupants into giving up their valuables.

A typical attack took place at Loughton, in Essex, where Turpin heard of an old widow woman rumoured to keep at least £700 in the house. When the woman gamely resisted all of Turpin's efforts to discover the money's hiding place, he hoisted her into the open fire until she gave up her treasure.

Flushed with success-and money-Turpin and his mates proceeded to rob their way around the Home Counties, frequently employing torture as a weapon of persuasion. By 1735, the London Evening Post regularly reported the exploits of Turpin and 'The Essex Gang' and the King had offered a reward of £50 for their capture.

This figure doubled in February 1736 after the gang committed one of its more heinous acts. They invaded the house of a wealthy farmer called Francis at Mary-Le-Bone (now Marylebone) and beat his wife and daughter until he surrendered the family's valuables.

Eventually, local constables captured two of the gang. Turpin himself narrowly missed capture by bursting out a window.

Turpin headed back into the familiar East Anglian countryside and lived rough for some time. One day, on the road to Cambridge, he came across a dandified individual, riding a fine horse. On a whim, Turpin drew down on him with his pistol and demanded that he hand over his money. To his surprise the man laughed and, so legend has it, said 'What, dog eat dog? Come, Brother Turpin. If you don't know me, I know you and shall be glad of your company.'

The dandy was 'Captain' Tom King, one of the best-known highwaymen of the day and the kind of swashbuckling, devil-may-care character into which legend would later transform Turpin.

The two criminals teamed up. They holed up in a cave in Epping Forest from which they could watch the road without being seen, and robbed virtually anyone who passed their hiding place. Even local peddlers started to carry weapons for protection.

Although they worked together, the two rogues' characters and styles vastly differed. King, unlike the unscrupulous Turpin, seemed to observe some semblance of a code of honour. Once, while they were close to Bungay, in Suffolk, the robbers came across two young women who had just made £14 from the sale of some livestock at the town market. The gallant King thought them too pretty to rob. Turpin disagreed and relieved them of their hard-earned cash.

By 1737, Turpin had achieved such notoriety that another bounty of £100 was placed on his head-a reward that unwittingly transformed him from a common footpad into a murderer. On 4th May, 1737, a gamekeeper named Morris tracked Turpin to Epping Forest, but when he challenged him at gunpoint, Turpin drew his own gun and shot Morris dead.

The fugitive's next exploit was nothing less than bizarre. One night, while on the road to London, he took a fancy to a particularly fine horse ridden by a man called Major and forced him to exchange it for his own jaded mount. Mr. Major didn't take the loss lying down. He issued handbills around the pubs of London, describing the horse and naming Turpin as the thief. The horse was traced to the Red Lion pub in Whitechapel, where Turpin had stabled it. When Tom King came to collect the horse, he was arrested. Turpin, who had been waiting nearby, rode toward the constables holding King and fired at them. Unfortunately, he was a dreadful shot, and the bullets hit King rather than his captors.

Before he died, King provided the constables with sufficient information to force Turpin to again live rough in Epping Forest. Realizing that he could not long escape capture if he remained in the London area, Turpin set off for Yorkshire.

Along the way, he rustled horses in Long Sutton in Lincolnshire and was arrested anyway. He escaped into Yorkshire, where he adopted the name John Palmer and lived the life of a landed gentleman, financing his fancy lifestyle with frequent excursions into Lincolnshire for more horse and cattle rustling and the occasional highway robbery.

His demise came about in almost comical fashion. Returning home one evening after a day's hunting with some of the local gentry, he impulsively blasted a particularly fine cock belonging to his landlord, and was subsequently hauled up before the local magistrate to explain his actions.

While he was in custody, local authorities made enquiries as to how exactly 'Mr. Palmer' made his money. Stories began to surface about his frequent excursions into Lincolnshire, from which he always returned with plenty of money and horses. Since he could offer no proof of employment, gainful or otherwise, the focus of the investigation switched to Lincolnshire, where the constables learned of several outstanding complaints made against John Palmer for sheep and horse stealing. Turpin waited in the dungeons of York Castle while these charges were investigated, but even then things might not have gone too badly for him if he hadn't written a letter to his brother, requesting him to 'procure an evidence from London that could give me a character that would go a great way towards my being acquitted.'

Unfortunately for Turpin, his brother was too mean to pay the sixpence postage due and so returned the letter to the Post Office. There, by a great coincidence, Turpin's former schoolmaster, Mr. Smith, saw it and recognized the handwriting. He took the letter to the local magistrate and, with his permission, opened it. Despite the fact that it was signed John Palmer, Smith identified the writer as Turpin. Smith was subsequently dispatched to York to make positive identification; which he did.

Convicted on two indictments, Turpin was sentenced to death. Pleas from his father to have the sentence commuted to transportation fell on deaf ears. Before his execution, Turpin bought himself a new outfit of fustian cloth and a pair of pumps. On the eve of his death, he hired five men for 10 shillings each to act as his mourners. He disposed of his belongings to friends and acquaintances, one of whom was a married woman in Lincolnshire.

On 19th April, 1739, Dick Turpin rode through the streets of York in an open cart, bowing to the gawking crowds. At York racecourse he climbed the ladder to the gibbet and then sat for half an hour chatting to the guards and the executioner! At last, seemingly bored with the proceedings, he stood up and, without help, threw himself off the ladder and was dead in a few minutes. In death, Turpin attained some of the gallantry that had eluded him in life.

Despite the bravery of his demise, the question remains: How did history transform Turpin from a ruffian into such a glamorous character? The answer lies in the pages of the 1834 novel Rookwood by Harrison Ainsworth in which the highwayman 'Dick Turpin' is a secondary character. Ainsworth's description of an epic ride from Westminster to York, caught the popular imagination and turned a fairly average pot-boiler into a runaway best-seller.

In reality, Turpin's fictitious great ride was made by 17th-century highwayman John 'Nick' Nevison (or Nevins). Early one morning in 1676, Nevison robbed a homeward-bound sailor on the road outside Gads Hill, Kent. Deciding he needed to establish an alibi, Nevison set off on a ride that took him more than 190 miles in about 15 hours.

He put in an appearance at the bowling green in York at around 8 pm and played a few ends with the Mayor and some other local worthies to establish his alibi before retiring for the night. Rumours of Nevison's epic excursion soon circulated and before long his admiring public had added the sobriquet, 'Swift' to his name in acknowledgement of the daring ride. Even King Charles II commented favourably on Swift Nick's boldness.

All that was forgotten once Rookwood became a best-seller. During the next 50 years, replays of the Turpin story, as told by Ainsworth, appeared in magazines, cheap novels, and ballads, not just in Great Britain but around the world. History, romance, and legend rapidly blurred and, eventually, the fictional ride of Ainsworth's Turpin totally eclipsed the villain's real exploits. The metamorphosis of Dick Turpin, house-breaker, torturer, murderer, sheep and horse-stealer into Dick Turpin, Highwayman and Knight of the Road was complete.

There is a local pub where I live called Dick Turpin, actually didn´t have a clue who he was untill now..! Thats the hangout for the local football team (guess you would say "soccer"... Nuts).

Nice plays, next beer I have there will taste better - thanks!
Maybe he went to Sweden.
That's if you ARE in Sweden, of course!
Dick Turpin was like a more modern Robin Hood, except that he didn't steal from the rich and gave to the poor.

There is a pub somewhere in England (I think it's in Derbyshire) and legend has it that Dick Turpin stopped there for a drink as he was passing by on his horse. I don't know the story properly, but I think he had an argument with another man, or group of men, in the pub. Outside the pub was a huge rock, which still stands to this day and, during the argument, I think Turpin placed a "curse" on the rock and declared that if anyone tried to move it they would meet a terrible death. Over the years several people have tried to move the rock, and all died a few days later. One man, who scoffed at the Turpin curse, tried to lift the boulder, but was killed in a road accident a few days later. Also, the pub (probably needless to say) is haunted. Many visitors report seeing a woman in a black shawl walking through the pub who disappears through the wall, and an area of woodland nearby is supposed to be haunted by Turpin himself - many people refuse to walk through it alone at night.

Turpin may also have been involved in the Loughton incident of 1735 -

The Loughton incident

On 8 February 1735 Read's Weekly Journal reported an attack: 'On Saturday night last, about seven o'clock, five rogues entered the house of Widow Shelley at Loughton in Essex, having pistols. And threatened to murder the old lady, if she would not tell them where her money lay, which she obstinately refusing for some time, they threatened to lay her across the fire, if she did not instantly tell them, which she would not do. But her son being in the room, and threatened to be murdered, cried out, he would tell them, if they would not murder his mother, and did, whereupon they went upstairs, and took near £100, a silver tankard, and other plate, and all manner of household goods. They afterwards went into the cellar and drank several bottles of ale and wine, and broiled some meat, ate the relicts of a filet of veal. While they were doing this, two of their gang went to Mr Turkles, a farmer, who rents one end of the widow's house, and robbed him of above £20, and then they all went off, taking two of the farmer's horses, to carry off their luggage, the horses were found on Sunday the following morning in Old Street, and stayed about three hours in the house.'

This particular raid took place on 1 February 1735 and widow Shelly's house was in Traps Hill, Loughton. It was reported the gang had made away with £700, a huge amount of money in those days. It is the best surviving account of the Gregory Gang's activites. The Loughton Incident was also their last ever criminal activity as a gang.

Although the newspaper report does not specifically mention Turpin, it seems highly likely that he was a member of the gang on this occasion. Turpin often carried out his robberies in the company of a man named Thomas Rowden (formally a metal-worker, now outlawed) and a report at the time states that Rowden was involved in the robbery at Loughton. A more recent author has written that the crime was conceived, planned and scouted by Turpin but no evidence is given for this.
In fact, there was an episode of Most Haunted on TV (the show that stars Derek Acorah) and they were terrified by Turpin's ghost who haunts Epping Forest -

Turpin's ghost found in Epping Forest!

By Pete Henshaw

A FRIGHTENED television crew had to be rescued from the dark depths of Epping Forest after stumbling upon the ghost of Dick Turpin during a live night-time broadcast.

The crew from the LivingTV cable and satellite channel went into the forest with a psychic medium who, live on air, tracked down the famous highwayman's spirit and enjoyed a revealing conversation with him.

However after the close encounter the crew realised they had strayed from the path and were hopelessly lost.

They were in the forest as part of a three-day live shoot following Dick Turpin's last days for the channel's Most Haunted series.

Fronted by former Blue Peter presenter Yvette Fielding, the crew headed into the Loughton Camp area of Epping Forest, just outside Loughton, in the late evening on Tuesday, December 30, armed only with torches, and their equipment.

The crew, who were filming in infra-red with remote wireless cameras, tracked the highwayman's spirit down after an hour in the forest.

LivingTV's director of programming, Richard Woolfe, said: "The psychic medium was basically trying to show Yvette Fielding the spirit of Dick Turpin, which actually presented itself in the undergrowth and this was why they went off the footpath and deeper into the forest.

"They suddenly realised they had no idea where they were. They hadn't got a clue."

After the encounter the team was forced to radio for help and luckily head forest keeper Keith French was nearby and able to lead them out.

Mr Woolfe said: "It was fortunate he was nearby because otherwise we don't know what we would have done."

Recounting his experience to the Guardian, Mr French said: "I drove down to where the sound crew were and walked off into the forest with a torch looking for them. They'd just become disorientated in the dark but seemed very grateful that I found them."

The ghost of Turpin told the medium, Derek Acorah, that he spent most of his time in the forest these days, ever since being hanged in 1739.

"He revealed all sorts of things about what he does in the forest. He rides through regularly and a lot of viewers got in touch with us saying they've been in the forest and heard hooves and felt someone watching them," Mr Woolfe said.

The show has been LivingTV's most successful live broadcast with three million viewers over the three days.

The shoot started in Hampstead Heath on December 29 and finished in York, where Turpin was hanged, on New Year's Eve.

Mr Woolfe said the response from viewers regarding Epping Forest had been great with many local people reporting strange goings on during the programme, such as power cuts and lights going on and off.

"One of the crew's torches mysteriously drained as well, even though it had brand new batteries," he added.

Dick Turpin was born in Essex in 1706 and was hanged 33 years later. He got his highwayman reputation when he and his partner in crime used to hide out in a cave in Epping Forest and rob unsuspecting passers-by of their belongings. Before this he robbed homes in the area.

Epping Forest attracts many film crews who all have to operate under strict regulations and have to obtain a licence to film from the Corporation of London.

Other programmes which have used the forest include period dramas, nature programmes and ITV's football soap drama Footballers' Wives.

www.book-of-thoth.com/article108.html (external - login to view)

ANOTHER place said to be haunted by Turpin is The Crown Hotel, Bawtry, Yorkshire

This 17th century coaching Inn, now a three star hotel, is home to a whole host of ghosts. The most famous is a waitress who worked there over 100 years ago. After she cheated on him, her jealous lover (the chef) murdered her. Ever since, she has wandered the corridors crying. A lady in a crinoline is often spotted in reception, plates go flying and temperatures drop dramatically. One regular resident is often woken by the ghost of a little girl sitting on her bed, and the hooves of Dick Turpin's horse have been heard on the gravel outside.

There are several places between York and London said to be haunted by Turpin.
Quote: Originally Posted by Blackleaf

Maybe he went to Sweden.

Now that would be something. Yup, I am there. Interesting story. There is no rock outside the "Dick Turpin" in Stockholm.

Besides, even if there were - I would never move it...
I can't remember what pub that rock is outside of, but I'll have to find out.

It also seems strange to me that there is a pub in Sweden called the Dick Turpin. Again, I'll have to find out why.
The Spaniards Inn pub in North London is also said to be haunted by Turpin. He must have stopped off at many pubs whilst he travelled between London and York, and there are probably 20-30 pubs that are probably haunted by him! He's probably England's most-travelled ghost, along with Ann Boleyn and Charles I!

Spaniards Inn
Spaniards Road, London NW3

This famous 16th century tavern, said to be haunted by the ghost of a highwayman, is named after two Spanish proprietors who killed each other in a duel.

The historic pub owes its fame to Dick Turpin, the notorious 18th century highwayman, who regularly frequented the tavern. When he wasn't holding up stage coaches on the road to and from London he stabled his horse, Black Bess, at stables nearby.

The building certainly dates from Dick Turpin's time but there have been many alterations over the years. However, the small Turpin Bar upstairs is original.

During the Gordon Riots of 1780 a group of anti-Catholic mobsters stopped off at the Spaniards Inn on their way to Kenwood House, then owned by the Lord Chief Justice, 1st Earl of Mansfield, which they planned to burn to the ground. The publican plied the rioters with free beer hoping that they would soon be in no fit state to leave the pub let alone destroy Kenwood House. When the army finally arrived the rioters were easily disarmed. A pair of muskets, which hang over the saloon bar, were reputedly taken from the rioters.

Notable customers of Spaniards Inn have included the poets Shelley, Keats and Byron, the painter Sir Joshua Reynolds and the actor David Garrick

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