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The history of Dick Turpin and his York Grave.

This is a short study of Dick Turpin's life and death. A list of historic events, that are documented, which our man was said to be involved in.

According to history this is what this notorious highwayman did and how he become one of, if not the most wanted man in England. We have even managed to get detail of his letter to his brother, that brought about his final demise.

As a personal note, I believe that his notoriety was overly enhanced. It was almost as if he was the only man that was robbing people at the time. Did he do all he was said to have done? In those days, stories would travel slowly, mouth to mouth and grow out of proportion very easily.

John Palmer alias Dick Turpin / Richard Turpin

  • Born either in Thackstead or Hempstead England
  • Baptised Richard Turpin on September 25th 1705 at Hempstead, England.
  • He served an apprenticeship with a butcher in Whitechapel
  • Caught stealing two oxen
  • Turned to smuggling still with no real success
  • Then started to invade isolated farmhouses, terrorizing and torturing the female occupants into giving up their securities.
  • He and his gang robbed their way around the Home Counties
  • King George offers a 50 pounds reward for their capture
  • This was doubled in February 1736 after the gang invaded the house of a rich farmer called Francis at Mary-Le-Bone (now Marylebone). They beat his wife and daughter until he surrendered their riches.
  • Met up with 'Captain' Tom King, one of the best-known highwaymen of the day. This was the start of what was to be the legend of Dick Turpin, highwayman.
  • 4th May 1737. A gamekeeper named Morris tracked Turpin to Epping Forest. He challenged Turpin at gunpoint. Turpin drew his own weapon and shot Morris dead. Now turpin was a murderer by law.
  • After King was captured and killed at the Red Lion Pub in Whitechapel, Turpin set off for Yorkshire
  • He rustled horses in Long Sutton in Lincolnshire and was arrested. He escaped into Yorkshire. Turpin then set up as a horse dealer in the York area. John Palmer is the name he used. Palmer being his mother's maiden name. There he lived the like a gentleman. Turpin or Palmer financed his fancy lifestyle with frequent horse and cattle rustling in Lincolnshire.
  • Then the end was now upon him. On returning home after a hunt with some of the local toffs, he on a whim, shot a particularly fine cock in the town of Brough. It was his landlords bird and he was then brought before the local magistrate to explain.
  • Enquiries began on how Mr Palmer made his money. He had no proof of employment. Rumours started and then Palmer was found to have a number of complaints against him in Lincolnshire.
  • He was held in custody in the cells of York Castle.
  • Whilst there he wrote his brother a letter asking for help. It read:

Dear Brother,

I am sorry to acquaint you that I am now under confinement in York Castle for horse stealing. If I could procure an evidence from London to give me a character, that would go a great way towards my being acquitted. I had not been long in this country before my being apprehended, so that it would pass off the readier.

For Heaven's sake, dear brother, do not neglect me. You will know what I mean when I say

I am yours

John Palmer.

  • Unfortunately his brother was too mean to pay postage due on the letter. It was returned to the Post Office. Somehow Turpin's former schoolmaster, Mr James Smith, saw it and recognized the handwriting. The letter was opened with permission of the local magistrate. Although it was signed John Palmer, Smith identified the scribe as Richard Turpin. Mr Smith was asked to go to York and identify Palmer as Turpin.
  • Convicted on two indictments, Turpin was sentenced to death.
  • On 19th April, 1739, Dick Turpin was hanged at the Tyburn, which is on the modern day York Race Course otherwise known as the Knavesmire.
  • His body was buried a number of times as people kept on digging it up. Finally he was buried in quicklime across from St. George's Church in York England.
Picture of Dick Turpin's grave at St. Georges Church in York England

Above is a picture of the grave of Dick Turpin. It lies in St Georges Church graveyard in York.

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