Monthly Archives: September 2011

Dick Turpin, butcher and highwayman.

We are just coming up to the  anniversary of a famous historical figure who also happened to be a butcher.

Richard “Dick” Turpin was an English highwayman with his exploits being made famous following his execution in York for horse theft. He is also known for a fictional 200-mile ride from London to York on his steed Black Bess, a story that was made famous by the Victorian novelist William Harrison Ainsworth almost 100 years after Turpin’s death.

He was born at the Blue Bell Inn in Hempstead, Essex,  the fifth of six children to John Turpin and Mary Elizabeth Parmenter. The anniversary is of his baptism on 21st September 1705.

Parish Register - Dick Turpi is the 5th name

Turpin’s father was a butcher, and also an inn-keeper. Several stories suggest that Dick Turpin may have followed his father into these trades; one story hints that as a teenager he was apprenticed to a butcher in the village of Whitechapel, and another suggests that he ran his own butcher’s shop in Thaxted. Testimony from his trial in 1739 suggested that he had a rudimentary education and, although no records survive of the date of the union, n about 1725 he married Elizabeth Millington.

Following his apprenticeship they moved north to Buckhurst Hill, Essex where Turpin opened a butcher’s shop.

Turpin most likely became involved with the Essex gang of deer thieves in the early 1730s. Deer poaching had been widespread in the Royal Forest of Waltham, and in 1723 the Black Act (so called because it outlawed the blackening or disguising of faces while in the forests) was created to deal with such problems. Deer stealing was a domestic offence that was judged not in civil courts, but before Justices Of The Peace; it was not until 1737 that the more severe penalty of seven years transportation was introduced.
The Essex gang needed contacts to help them to dispose of the deer. Turpin, a young butcher who traded in the area, almost certainly became involved with their activities. By 1733 the changing fortunes of the gang may have prompted him to leave the butchery trade, and he became the landlord of a public house, most likely the Rose and Crown at Clay Hill. Although there is no evidence to suggest that Turpin was directly involved in the thefts, by summer 1734 he was a close associate of the gang.

Charlie the butcher

Advertisements