On this day in 1739 the notorious highwayman Dick Turpin was hanged in York. Turpin became the subject of legend after his execution, romanticised as dashing and heroic in English ballads and popular theatre of the 18th and 19th centuries and in film and television of the 20th century.
Richard Turpin was born at the Blue Bell Inn (later the Rose and Crown) in Hempstead, Essex, the fifth of six children to John Turpin and Mary Elizabeth Parmenter.
Testimony from his trial in 1739 suggests that he had a rudimentary education and, although no records survive of the date of the union, that in about 1725 he married Elizabeth Millington. Following his apprenticeship they moved north to Buckhurst Hill, Essex, where Turpin opened a butcher's shop.
Turpin involvement in crime most likely began in the early 1730s when became associate with an Essex gang of deer thieves, sometimes known as the Gregory Gang. Perhaps through this association with this gang, Turpin’s fortunes were good and in 1734 he became landlord of a public house, probably the Rose and Crown at Clay Hill.
Turpin's involvement in the gang deepened and From 1734 to 1735 they committed numerous home burglaries and became notorious enough for the Duke of Newcastle offered a reward of £50 in exchange for information leading to their conviction.
By August 1735 most of the gang, had been captured, punished or had died in custody. Turpin however, remained at large having turned to highway robbery sometime in the summer of that year. Events turned against Turpin's career as a highwayman when on 4th May 1737 he was recognised by Thomas Morris, a servant of one of Epping Forest's Keepers. Turpin shot and killed Morris on 4th May when Morris attempted to capture him. Morris's killing unleashed a flood of Turpin reports, and a reward of £200 was offered for his capture.
The turned up in Yorkshire in October 1738 under the alias of Palmer. There he shot another man's game cock in the street and was arrested. The Justices of the piece were suspicious of 'Palmer' and suspected him of horse theft, which was indeed true.
Events conspired against him when horses he had stolen were found at his father's Inn. Then a letter from 'Palmer' to his brother-in-law, Pompr Rivernall, fell into the hands of the authorities and his handwriting was recognised.
Dick Turpin was tried for horse theft, which was a capital offense at the time, in York in March 1739. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. He was hung on the 7th April 1739, aged 33.
This scene was built by James Pegrum as part of a series of models on interesting events in British history. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
BLOG TO THE PAST
On LEGO, History and other things by Brick to the Past