Everyone knows the story of Dick Turpin. It’s a tale of ‘daring’ highway robberies, a 200-mile overnight flight from London to York on his faithful steed Black Bess, and his subsequent demise at the end of the hangman’s rope at Tyburn.
We have William Harrison Ainsworth, a Victorian novelist, to thank for the romanticised and largely fictional account of his legend.
But old Dick was a nasty piece of work – a thief and a murderer – who was hung for horse theft in 1739 at age of 33.
Long before his legend grew, though, he had rather humbler beginnings on land that now lies between the 14th and 15th fairways of Burhill’s Old course.
Richard Turpin was born at the Blue Bell Inn, in Hempstead, and across the road between the mature trees and Surrey heather is what is now known as Dick Turpin’s Cottage.
It’s believed he followed his father in running a butcher’s business from the outbuilding before staging cockfights in an area that became known as Turpin’s ring.
When, as repeatedly happened throughout his life, things went a bit awry, he fled to London and joined a gang of deer thieves.
In York, you can visit the prison cell where he is said to have spent his final nights and also look at what purports to be his grave in an otherwise nondescript churchyard.
But at Burhill, you can witness where the notorious figure took his fledgling steps in the world of rustling, smuggling and robbery.
No doubt, like at all clubs, there have been a few ‘bandits’ on the golf course over the years, so it’s fitting that the most famous highwayman of all spent time on the grounds.
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