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DICK TURPIN

People List

BORN

THACKSTEAD or HEMPSTEAD ESSEX/ENGLAND

LIVED

1705 - 1739


Dick Turpin became England’s most famous ever highwayman. Although the English country roads had always been plagued by ruthless robbers, it was not until after the defeat of King Charles I in the English Civil War that the present day image of the highwaymen came about.

After Charles I was beheaded January 30th 1649, his son Charles II fled to France to escape Oliver Cromwell’s armies.

During the years that followed, officers that served for the Royals had their estates confiscated by Cromwell, this leaving them in poverty. Many of these officers then began robbing travelers, mainly on the roads leading to London.

These once wealthy and well educated individuals used fine horses, were well dressed with their distinguishable three cornered hats, and treated their victims with respect, often giving them enough money back to allow them to reach their intended destinations.

Dick Turpin however, was no gentleman. He was born the son of a farmer and sometimes Inn keeper. His first brush with the law was when he began cattle rustling. He managed to escape capture as he went into hiding for a while before returning to crime as a smuggler.

After another encounter with the authorities, he moved on and joined a gang that robbed isolated farmhouses, often using torture as a means of finding out where money and valuables were hidden.

In 1735, Turpin’s gang became famous after the London Evening News began reporting their raids. Fame had its down side though as a sum of £50 was put on their heads, two of Turpin’s gang were soon captured.

Although Turpin evaded capture, he was forced into hiding once again. While in hiding, Turpin came across a well dressed gentleman on a fine horse traveling to London. He drew his pistol while informing the gent of his intentions of relieving him of his money and horse, only to find out he had just tried to rob England’s most famous highwayman at that time ‘Captain Tom King’.

The pair soon saw the funny side of that incident and agreed to work together as highwaymen, this being when King learned Turpin how noble highwaymen treated their victims.

Richard O'Sullivan as Turpin image

Richard O'Sullivan as Turpin

They holed up in Epping Forrest as they began a highly lucrative venture robbing travelers passing that way on route to London. By 1737, Turpin had gained such notoriety that he had another bounty of £100 placed on his head.

Later that year, a gamekeeper named Morris tracked Turpin down and tried to apprehend him at gunpoint. The highwayman responded by drawing his pistol and shooting Morris dead.

Turpin’s next brush with the law came when a horse he had stolen was tracked down to a stable in Whitechapel. The law apprehended Captain King by mistake and as Turpin tried to rescue his comrade, a shot fired from Turpin’s guns hit King, resulting in his death.

Turpin then took the decision to leave the area and traveled north to Yorkshire where he began living as a respectable citizen under the name John Palmer.

Turpin then often traveled to Lincolnshire where he rustled cattle and horses as well as carrying out a few highway robberies to fund his new lifestyle.

His capture came after he shot a cockerel belonging to one of his neighbours. He was subsequently hauled before the local magistrates. As his true identity was called to question, Turpin found himself locked up in York Castle whilst an investigation took place. The authorities soon found out they were holding the famous highwayman. A following trial found him guilty of two murders.

Dick Turpin was sentenced to death and hanged at Tyburn gallows on the site of present day York racecourse April 19th 1739.

His corpse had to be buried a few times as body snatching was a lucrative business at that time, a few attempts to make off with his body were foiled.

After quicklime was used to inter his corpse, it has remained at its final resting place across from St Georges church in York / England.

Dick Turpin's head stone in York

Dick Turpin's head stone at York

Turpin’s legend has him riding his horse Black Bess on an epic 190 mile journey from Kent to York in about 15 hours.

Historians however now credit this feat to the 17th century highwayman John Nevison who had robbed a sailor in Kent and rode to York where he met up with friends to establish an alibi. The two stories seem to have been confused over the years that followed.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dick_Turpin People List