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Long Sutton’s links to Dick Turpin – and the mysteries that remain unsolved – explored





He only lived in Long Sutton for a few months, but notorious highwayman Dick Turpin remains one of the town’s most famous inhabitants.

Born in Essex, in 1705, Turpin, was the son of a publican. He worked as a butcher before falling in with the ruthless Gregory Gang and succumbing to a life of crime.

When his accomplices were caught, Turpin went into partnership with another highwayman who he later accidentally killed. Using the alias John Palmer - his mother’s maiden name - he fled north in a bid to avoid detection.

The Crown & Woolpack, Long Sutton - it's possible Turpin stayed in lodgings near here during his time in the town
The Crown & Woolpack, Long Sutton - it's possible Turpin stayed in lodgings near here during his time in the town

A warrant was issued for his arrest, with a £200 bounty on his head – a considerable sum at the time – while a Royal Pardon was also offered to any of his accomplices who revealed his whereabouts.

Long Sutton Civic Society trustee Tim Machin, who has researched Turpin’s connection to the area while writing books on the town, said he arrived in Lincolnshire in 1737.

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‘There’s very little known about how or why Turpin came to be here, his background before that is in and around Epping Forest. His dad was possibly a publican and also an alleged horse stealer, and at the time of Turpin’s arrest he was also in prison for stealing a horse, so it appears to be a bit of a family trait,’ added Mr Machin.

Vintage illustration of Dick Turpin placing an old woman on the fire, to compel the discovery of her treasure. Richard Turpin 1705 to 1739 was an English highwayman whose exploits were romanticised following his execution in York for horse theft. credit: istock/duncan1890
Vintage illustration of Dick Turpin placing an old woman on the fire, to compel the discovery of her treasure. Richard Turpin 1705 to 1739 was an English highwayman whose exploits were romanticised following his execution in York for horse theft. credit: istock/duncan1890
Palmers Ale House and Kitchen, Long Sutton. A previous bar on the site was called Turpin’s.
Palmers Ale House and Kitchen, Long Sutton. A previous bar on the site was called Turpin’s.

‘Turpin moved north to Long Sutton, where he possibly had relatives, but nobody knows for sure, or has admitted it.

‘Another reason he may have ended up here is that the town is on a main road through from south to north. Long Sutton was large enough for him to keep his head down yet small enough for him not to be recognised.

‘He worked as a butcher locally and possibly lived in lodgings behind the Crown and Woolpack, which was becoming a coaching inn at the time. He stayed for around nine months.’

Swapcoat Lane, Long Sutton - possibly so named because highwayman Turpin persuaded someone to swap coats with him while he was on the run
Swapcoat Lane, Long Sutton - possibly so named because highwayman Turpin persuaded someone to swap coats with him while he was on the run

Mr Machin said an opportunistic incident, when Turpin stole a horse from a farmer in Lutton, led him to flee again after local JP, Captain Delamore, issued a warrant for his arrest.

‘A local constable is alleged to have given chase, and there’s talk of a fight, and another story says Turpin was going down a lane off the main road, when he persuaded someone else to swap coats with him. We don’t know what happened here, whether any money changed hands and it allegedly gave rise to the name of the road being changed to Swapcoat Lane, although other records suggest it was actually already called that.’

Dick Turpin gives his name to this street, where the town's primary school is located
Dick Turpin gives his name to this street, where the town's primary school is located

Mr Machin said Turpin ended up in York where he shot a game cock. He admitted the charge of killing the bird, which wasn’t a capital offence, but gave himself away when he wrote a letter to his father while he was imprisoned, and staff discovered his true identity.

Turpin was charged with two counts of horse theft and admitted further crimes before he was hanged at Knavesmire on April 7, 1739.

The Grave of notorious Highwayman Dick Turpin in York, England. credit: istock/chris dorneyPLEASE NOTE: istock have marked this as 'editorial use only'. Editorial use only photos don't have any model or property releases, which means they can't be used for commercial, promotional, advertorial or endorsement purposes. This type of content is intended to be used in connection with events that are newsworthy or of general interest (for example, in a blog, textbook, newspaper or magazine article).
The Grave of notorious Highwayman Dick Turpin in York, England. credit: istock/chris dorneyPLEASE NOTE: istock have marked this as 'editorial use only'. Editorial use only photos don't have any model or property releases, which means they can't be used for commercial, promotional, advertorial or endorsement purposes. This type of content is intended to be used in connection with events that are newsworthy or of general interest (for example, in a blog, textbook, newspaper or magazine article).

Following his death, Turpin’s life became the subject of legend and was heavily romanticised – including a fictional 200-mile overnight ride from London to York on his horse Black Bess, a story made famous by Victorian novelist William Harrison Ainsworth.

Today, all that remains of Turpin’s time in Long Sutton are a few places named in recognition - Dick Turpin Way, Swapcoat Lane and Palmer’s Alehouse – and an exciting chapter in the history books.

What’s your favourite local history story? Share your thoughts in the comments below



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