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The First Ever Likeness of Highwayman Dick Turpin

Updated: Sep 3, 2023

The famed highwayman didn’t make a midnight ride to York, his faithful horse wasn’t named Black Bess, and he certainly wasn’t a Robin Hood-like figure.

"Richard Turpin, a Butcher by Trade, is a tall fresh-colour'd man, very much mark'd with the Small-Pox, about Twenty-six Years of Age, about five Feet nine Inches high, liv'd some time ago at Whitechapel, and did lately lodge somewhere about Millbank, Westminster, wears a blue-grey Coat, and a light natural Wig".

Turpin was executed for stealing horses in 1739 at York and he would have been forgotten to history had it not been for Harrison Ainsworth’s popular 1834 novel Rookwood. In it he describes Turpin galloping north in the dark: “His blood spins through his veins; winds round his heart; mounts to his brain. Away! Away! He is wild with joy.” The highwayman character etched in Rookwood, as well as local narratives, poems, and ballads that sprung from it, granted Turpin a notorious posthumous status.

The basic facts are simple: He was born in 1705 and became an apprentice butcher; he began stealing and then joined a gang in Essex. He went into burglary as well, and when he was with the Gregory Gang in Essex, the outfit began to strike terror into areas of the county. He had started out as a man whose knowledge of butchery made him useful in cattle stealing, and then he progressed to some nasty criminal acts. With Gregory, the leader of the gang, he robbed a farmhouse and poured boiling water over the owner (an old man) and raped a woman there. His image in contemporary terms was rarely glamourised: he was once depicted in a woodcut throwing an old lady onto a fire. His first murder was of a man named Tom Morris, a servant who recognised him as a robber.

Matters stepped up a gear in terms of his infamy and sheer brutality when he joined Tom King, another highway robber; but it seems that Turpin killed his accomplice during a botched robbery. He then fled north. After that, he began to make a living from horse-stealing, and to do this, he stole horses in South Lincolnshire and took them up the Great North Road to sell in East Yorkshire. It was when the Yorkshire connection occurred that he assumed the name of John Palmer.

Paul Rushworth-Brown is the author of three published novels

Skulduggery - The bleak Pennine moors of Yorkshire; a beautiful, harsh place, close to the sky, rugged and rough, no boundaries except the horizon, which in places, went on forever. Green pastures and wayward hills, the colours of ochre, brown and pink in the Spring. Green squares divided the land on one side of the lane, and on the other; sheep with thick wool and dark snouts dotted the hills and dales. The story, set on the Moors of West Yorkshire, follows wee Thomas and his family shortly after losing his father to consumption. Times were tough in 1603 and there were shenanigans and skulduggery committed by locals and outsiders alike. Queen Bess has died, and King James sits on the throne of England and Scotland. Thomas Rushworth is now the man of the house being the older of two boys. He is set to wed Agnes in an arranged marriage, but a true love story develops between them.A glorious read of a period well versed and presented with accuracy and authentic telling by an author who is as much engrossed in his prose as the reader he shares with...masterful and thoroughly enjoyable...5 stars."

Red Winter Journey'- Come on this historic journey, which twists, turns and surprises until the very end. If you like history, adventure and intrigue with a dash of spirited love, then you will be engrossed by this tale of a peasant family unexpectedly getting caught up in the ravages of the English Civil War in 1642. A GREAT STORY CLEVERLY WEAVING WELL RESEARCHED INFORMATION. The research for this book was thorough. The author describes the environment and conditions of Yorkshire in the 16th century, building these facts into fictional circumstances and families living in the times. I found it fascinating that this book came as a result of a search for the family history. Very cleverly done and a must-read for those interested in the periodand a good read. Looking forward to the next book.

If you like adventure and intrigue with a dash of spirited love, then you will be engrossed by this story of sons, John and Robert, who leave the moors and travel to Leeds to earn their fortune. In misguided ways, they try to help their family fight their way out of poverty. Facing fear head on! Follow Robert Rushworth as you are transported back in time to 17th century Leeds. Meet professional beggars, cutpurses, felons, debtors, lifters, prostitutes, and sneak thieves, "You’ll find ‘em all in the Shambles." At a time when any person caught stealing goods worth more than thirteen shillings was to be tried and hanged. Will Robert pay for his indiscretions? Murder, mystery, and mayhem keep you guessing until the very end.Reading this novel one can immerse themselves and discover the more colourful, candid details of what it was like to live in this time. The story is full of colourful characters like John Wilding, a brute of a man, with no manners or decorum, typical of the lower sort of the time. Will he catch Robert Rushworth and earn the reward to pay back the 'Company' who he is hiding from and dangerously indebted to. Meet Captain Girlington, with a secretive past who must choose between life on the seas and a love for another.

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