Hugh Beavin

Your money or your life...

One of the most notorious highwaymen to prowl the highways of early 18th century England was the legendary Dick Turpin.

Astride his horse "Black Bess" he would strike terror into hapless travellers using the Watling Street as it cut through the midlands.

And Turpin's favourite hideaway was the Cock Inn at Sibson, which lies seven miles to the north west of Hinckley.

The inn was an ideal location beside the main road from Watling Street to Burton on Trent, and after working the Watling Street Turpin would take refuge in the chimney in the inn's bar if the pursuers came too close to capturing him.

Normally he lived with his parents in a small cottage in the Fen Lane between Upton and village of Shenton while his horse was kept in a clearing in Lindley Wood.

However, Turpin was not a local man born and bred. He was baptised at Hemsted Church in Essex in 1705 and started life as a butcher, eventually marrying Mary Millington.

He turned to cattle stealing to stock his butcher's shop after his extravagant lifestyle had plunged him into debt. Eventually he became involved with a ruthless gang of house-breakers who were caught and hanged. Turpin, who escaped the net, became a highwayman.

He adopted his mother's maiden name of Palmer when he came under suspicion for horse stealing and hurriedly moved to Beverly in Berkshire.

His life of crime came to an end in 1738 when he was arrested and taken to York Castle to await trial for horse stealing. He was soon identified as Dick Turpin the murderer and highwayman.

He was tried, convicted and hanged in 1739 and buried in St. George's burial ground.

However, the notoriety of the inn lived on long after the death of Dick Turpin. At the rear of the Inn is the site of a cock-pit which was where the ancient sport of cock-fighting took place until as recently as 1870.

Author: Hugh Beavin

Written for: Hinckley-on-line