Tales of Turpin
Highway Robbery in East Berkshire
in times past, Berkshire was a wild and lawless place. Travellers to and
from London took their lives in their hands as they journeyed past the
thick undergrowth of Windsor Forest,
Maidenhead Thicket and the Heaths of
Ascot and Bagshot. There was no telling what lurked behind each wavering
bush or quivering twig. The call of “Stand and deliver” brought a
quick beating heart to many a passenger in those far off days, for they
knew well the rest of the message: it was their money or their life. The
forests of East Berkshire gave much greater cover to the gentlemen of the
road than the open downs of the west. From here comes many a tale of
highway robbery, and amongst the names bandied about, the most famous was,
of course, Dick Turpin.
has very strong Dick Turpin associations. he often used to visit the
infamous “Hind’s Head Inn” there, and if his drink was disturbed by
the entrance of the law, he would slip down a secret underground passage,
big enough to accommodate him riding his! From here, he had a choice of
destinations: “Dick Turpin’s Cottage” (now incorporated into the Old
Manor Hotel), the Bull Inn, the parish church or a local hunting lodge.
Turpin’s favourite Inn was said to be in Berkshire - the George in Wallingford. Here, he could sleep soundly in the small room overlooking
the yard, because he knew he could make a quick getaway if the need arose.
Black Bess was tied up in the entrance arch below, and he could jump from
the window to her back and be away in a few seconds. The Dew Drop Inn at
Burchetts Green was in his more usual stamping ground however. This pub
had an underground room where Dick would hide Black Bess when in need of
shelter after an escapade on Maidenhead Thicket.
is a little roadside hamlet in the same area as the Thicket. Here, Dick is
supposed to have fired several shots at the shutters of the vicarage. What
had the vicar done to displease him so, one wonders? Whatever it was, he
could not have been satisfied with the outcome for his ghost haunts the
area to this day. Dick Turpin left his mark on the Maidenhead area in
other ways too. Above Hangman’s Corner in Pinkneys Green, where
highwaymen were hanged and which horses will not pass, is “Turpin
Lodge” on Cookham Dean Common; and next to Highway Farm in the
Maidenhead Suburbs, once stood “Aunt Turpin’s Cottage”, again
haunted by the man himself. A tale is told of this cottage which is very
similar to the better known version from Sonning.
Dick Turpin’s aunt once lived in a cottage in Sonning. It stands in the village still, and is known as “Turpins”. Now blocked up, there was once a conveniently placed loose box for a horse below it. After one of his “hold-ups” on the Bath Road, Dick would make haste for this convenient hide-out. On entering the village, he would jump down off Black Bess and run into his aunt’s house, while his well trained mare made her way down a ramp to her underground stable. Out through the back door, Dick would take a short cut to the churchyard and over the bridge into Oxfordshire. Here he would go to earth until any hue and cry had died down, and he could once more return to his aunt for a celebration drink at the nearby Dog Inn.
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