Dick Turpin

Dick Turpin a highwayman that once frequented the area of Hinckley District during the 18th Century.

dick turpin
Dick Turpin the 18th Century highwayman.

Dick Turpin is the most famous highwayman of all in the 18th Century.

It was said that 'Highwaymen ruled the highways' during the 17th and 18th Centuries. Stagecoaches would be held up by a masked horseman at gun point, the rich passengers would then be robbed of their jewellery and money.

Turpin lived in an old cottage just seven miles north of Hinckley, he would often frequent Watling Street and stop at the Harrow Inn that used to be located where Watling Street crosses the Harrow Brook.

He would often hide at The Cock Inn at Sibson, paying the local villagers to be quiet.

Over the years Turpin would become a notorious poacher, burglar, horse thief and killer, but his time would come to an end when he was captured and sentenced to death for his crimes.

Over the years, Dick Turpins's life has become legendary with tales of the gentleman highwayman.

Dick Turpin a regular at The Cock Inn at Sibson

the cock inn at sibson
The Cock Inn at Sibson.

During the 1730s, Dick Turpin was a regular visitor to the 13th century 'The Cock' Inn at Sibson which is the second oldest Inn in the country, and only seven miles north west of Hinckley.

It's been said that Turpin would live with his parents in a small cottage locally along Fen Lane just outside of Fenny Drayton. Black Bess, Turpin's horse would be kept in a clearing in nearby Lindley Wood.

When pursuers came in the area to capture Turpin, he would ride from his parents' cottage and use The Cock Inn as a hideaway. He would hide in the bar chimney and Black Bess would be stabled in the Inn's cellar to also avoid being seen.

Turpin was popular with the local villagers as he would buy alcohol for them in exchange for their silence, he was known to enjoy a flagon of ale while at the Inn.

The Ghost of Dick Turpin

the ride to york by chris rawlins
The ride to York by Chris Rawlins.

Stretches of Watling Street were notorious for highwaymen such as Dick Turpin and Black Bess, his trusty horse.

Stretton Baskerville had a reputation for being used for shelter by those who had been made homeless or unemployed who had been roaming the country seeking work and outlaws would often use the deserted village as a hiding place.

During the 1920s a report in the newspapers was made from a spate of eyewitness accounts, of the ghost of Turpin wearing a black tricorn hat, and a coat with red sleeves. He was riding a phantom horse along Watling Street not far from the deserted medieval village of Stretton Baskerville in the parish of Hinckley, Leicestershire.

According to local legend, the ghost of Turpin may have been lured over hidden treasure; gold is reputed to have been buried were the medieval village once stood, and possibly by the highwayman himself.

Whether the spectre is actually Dick Turpin is a matter of speculation.

Who was Dick Turpin?

the grave stone of dick turpin
The gravestone of Dick Turpin.

John Palmer, better known as Richard Turpin the notorious highway man and horse stealer.

21st September 1705 Richard Turpin was born at the Blue Bell Inn in Hempstead, Essex. His parents were John Turpin (a former butcher, publican of the Blue Bell Inn) and Mary Elizabeth Parmenter.

Turpin became an apprentice butcher to follow in his father's footsteps.

1725 Turpin married Elizabeth Millington and moved to Buckhurst Hill, Essex.

1730 He became a member of the violent Gregory Gang, and found a more profitable career in crime being a deer poacher and violent burglary.

1735 Some members of the Gregory Gang were caught and arrested, Turpin disappeared and became a highwayman.

1737 Turpin returned with two new accomplices and he accidentally shot and killed one of them. He panicked and fled from the scene.

4th May 1737 Thomas Morris (a servant of one of the Forest's Keepers) was also shot and killed while attempting to capture him. Turpin fled out of town and moved to Yorkshire and changed his name to John Palmer.

June 1737 An article in the Gentleman’s Magazine, a public appeal to find the killer of Thomas Morris. The description of the highwayman was: 'about 5ft 9ins high, brown complexion, very much marked with the small pox, his cheek bones broad, his face thinner towards the bottom, his visage short, pretty upright and pretty broad about the shoulders.'

2nd October 1738 Having shot his landlord's cockerel, Turpin threatened to kill the landlord. Turpin was arrested by the parish constable at Brough, near Hull and sent to Beverley House of Correction.

16th October 1738 Turpin was moved to York Castle, after it was found out that he was a horse thief. He wrote a letter to his brother-in-law Pompr Rivernall (married to his sister Dorothy) asking for help, but his brother refused to pay the sixpence due on the letter. The letter was returned to the local Post Office where Turpin's old schoolmaster, James Smith recognised his handwriting. It would be from this point that he was revealed.

22nd March 1739 Turpin was found guilty on two charges of horse theft and was sentenced to death. Horse theft became a capital offence in 1545, punishable by death.

7th April 1739 Turpin bought a new coat and shoes, he also hired five professional mourners. He was put in to an open cart and sent through the streets of York. He waved and bowed to the crowd as he was led to the gallows at Knavesmire.

An account in The Gentleman's Magazine said 'Turpin behaved in an undaunted manner; as he mounted the ladder, feeling his right leg tremble, he spoke a few words to the topsman, then threw himself off, and expired in a few minutes.'

8th April 1739 Turpin's body was buried in St. Georges's Churchyard, Fishergate in York. A week later his body would be dug up by a labourer and sold to a surgeon for illegal medical dissection. Some local people found out what had happened and descended in an angry mob on to the surgeon's house. Both the labourer and surgeon were arrested and fined. Turpin's body would be laid to rest once again.

Richard Turpin would become the legend of Dick Turpin, and would become written about and romanticised as a dashing rogue by a Victorian novelist William Harrison Ainsworth.