The myth of Dick Turpin
Fiction writer, Harrison Ainsworth, glamourised thief and highway man, Dick Turpin, in his 1834 novel, Rookwood. The novel is set in England in 1737 at a manor house called Rookwood Place and the plot revolves around the mysterious death of the owner, Piers Rookwood, and the subsequent rivalry for inheritance of the property between his two sons.
During the course of the story, Dick Turpin, a highway man, is introduced at the manor under the pseudonym Palmer. During his stay, Palmer makes a bet with one of the other house guests that he can capture Dick Turpin. He is eventually forced to escape upon his horse, Black Bess. The horse, although fast enough to stay ahead of all the other horses, eventually collapses and dies from the stress of the escape.
In the novel, Ainsworth describes Turpin as galloping north in the dark: “His blood spins through his veins; winds round his heart; mounts to his brain. Away! Away! He is wind with joy.” Ainsworth’s depiction of Turpin, together with the local narratives, poems and ballads that resulted from it, gave Turpin a notorious posthumous status.
The truth about Dick Turpin
Dick Turpin was born in Essex in 1705, the son of a butcher. He initially became an apprentice butcher but soon started stealing and then joined a gang in Essex. During his membership of the Gregory Gang in Essex, the gang began to strike terror into areas of the country and Turpin progressed to some horrific criminal acts. With the leader of the gang, Gregory, he robbed a farmhouse and poured boiling water of the elderly owner. He also raped a woman during this attack. He developed a reputation as a brutal and ruthless criminal. His first murder was of a servant named Tom Morris who recognised him as a robber.
When most of the gang was arrested in 1735, Turpin became a highwayman and joined forced with another notorious highwayman, Tom King, whom Turpin is believed to have accidently killed during a botched robbery. Soon afterwards, he shot and killed a man who attempted to capture him and fled to Yorkshire. He settled in the town of Brough, where he assumed the name John Palmer and claimed to be a horse dealer.
John Palmer was charged for shooting a chicken in the street and threatening to also shoot its owner. When evidence of his horse stealing was discovered, he was transferred to York Castle Prison. On 23 February 1737, Palmer was identified as outlaw Dick Turpin at York Castle by his former teacher James Smith, who had recognised Turpin’s handwriting on a letter sent from his cell to his brother asking for help. After his real identity was revealed, Turpin was sentenced to death on charges of horse-stealing.
In prison, Turpin remained a showman and entertained visitors in his cell by recounting stories of his criminal deeds. The day before his execution a new frock coat and shoes were delivered to Turpin in his cell. At his hanging, he paid five professional mourners to follow him to the gallows.
The link between Dick Turpin and Through the Nethergate
Through the Nethergate is set in a historic pub which is haunted by a number of ghosts, one of which is Tom Hardy. Tom Hardy is also an infamous highwayman who is said to have ridden with Dick Turpin.
An extract from Through the Nethergate describing Tom Hardy follows:
“In the dim light from the streetlamp outside, Margaret saw a man wearing an old-fashioned three-cornered hat, white shirt and frock coat. His mouth was twisted into a leer and his sun-baked skin looked rough and deeply lined. There was a deep imprint in the skin of his neck in the shape of a “V”.
This being was not a ghost. He was very real.
“No noise, pretty one,” said Tom. “If you call for help I shall have to kill whoever comes. You don’t want that, do you?”
Margaret attempted to nod beneath the weight of his hand over her mouth. He withdrew his hand slowly and reached downwards. When his hands came back into her sight, they each held a pistol. His figures were bruised and bleeding and the nails were half torn off.
“I’ll shoot them with these babies if you scream.” He stroked the pair lovingly.
They can’t hurt you, Margaret thought. Grandfather said they can’t hurt you. They are like pictures. She couldn’t help feeling scared. What if this one can hurt me? What if this one is real?
“Ah, Margaret,” the roguish figure croaked. “You have been causing turmoil in my Master’s Inn, my old headquarters, the place where I plotted my crimes. A bad idea, Margaret, a very bad idea to cross Tom Hardy and Dick Turpin.”
Margaret continued to stare at him, transfixed, her hands laying limply on the top of the bedcovers.
“My Master is unhappy, Margaret,” said Tom. “Your powers are unsettling his servants, making them go against his wishes.”
“What have I done? I haven’t seen any servants. I don’t have any powers.”
“Ah, but you do. Your psychic abilities are attracting his servants to the Inn. They are gathering and making plans to use you to escape their fate of eternal servitude. I know they have made contact with you. I have seen them speaking to you.”
Tom gave her a vicious smile that froze her blood.”
Through the Nethergate
Roberta Eaton Cheadle
Margaret, a girl born with second sight, has the unique ability to bring ghosts trapped between Heaven and Hell back to life. When her parents die suddenly, she goes to live with her beloved grandfather, but the cellar of her grandfather’s ancient inn is haunted by an evil spirit of its own. In the town of Bungay, a black dog wanders the streets, enslaving the ghosts of those who have died unnatural deaths. When Margaret arrives, these phantoms congregate at the inn, hoping she can free them from the clutches of Hugh Bigod, the 12th century ghost who has drawn them away from Heaven’s White Light in his canine guise. With the help of her grandfather and the spirits she has befriended, Margaret sets out to defeat Hugh Bigod, only to discover he wants to use her for his own ends – to take over Hell itself.
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About the author
Robbie, short for Roberta, is an author with five published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with her son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about her mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with her mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton).
All of Robbie’s children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications. Robbie has recently branched into adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differentiate her children’s books from her adult writing, these will be published under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. Robbie has two short stories in the horror/supernatural genre included in Dark Visions, a collection of 34 short stories by 27 different authors and edited by award winning author, Dan Alatorre. These short stories are published under Robbie Cheadle.