Thieves Rogues And Vagabonds

 

 

JOHN GILLESPIE

 

John Gillespie, the son of a Carlisle smuggler, was born in 1824. He became a skilled locksmith, which helped him in his life of crime for he was in trouble with the law from an early age. His most serious offence was to kill a Wigton shopkeeper during an act of burglary, for which he was sentenced, at Carlisle Assizes, to be hanged. Before the event could take place, Gillespie collapsed, his body twitched and blood - flecked foam escaped from his mouth. It seemed as though he was having a fit. The hanging was suspended and for the next four years, Gillespie went through a series of recoveries and relapses, greatly to the puzzlement of the jailers. He pleaded to be allowed to go home to his mother's care. Surprisingly, this was granted, along with a free pardon and a pair of crutches.

 

Harvisting Barley, Wigton

 

The following day he had made a speedy recovery. Gillespie admitted the "fits" had been brought about through chewing prison soap. His freedom did not last long. Two weeks after being sent home, Gillespie was caught thieving yet again, and this time his sentence was 10 years penal servitude in Australia. His powers of persuasion stayed with him, and resulted in a "ticket of leave" being granted before his sentence was completed. Gillespie came back home to Carlisle, where he obtained a job as Master of the Stanwix reformatory! It didn't last long for a police inspector recognised him, and once again Gillespie was behind bars. He died in 1902 after spending much of his life in jail. His only recompense for cheating the hangman was to use his skill as a locksmith to open locks and doors for those who had lost their keys.

 

THE PITCHFORK REBLES

 

In July 1685, the Somerset village of Westonzoyland was the site of the last battle fought on English soil, a battle in which some 6,000 local rebels led by the Duke of Monmouth made an unsuccessful attempt to take the throne from James II. Monmouth, having landed at Lyme Regis, rallied local peasants to his cause in sufficient numbers to form his own rebel army. He was crowned King of England in Taunton and Bridgewater.

Armed with pitchforks and scythes, an unsuccessful attempt was made by Monmouth's troops to carry out a surprise night attack on the King's force camped just outside of the village of Westonzoyland. The Sedgemoor Inn now celebrates the event and the church next door still shows evidence of the event, Mound the front entrance can be seen the marks where troops sharpened their swords as they guarded the five hundred rebel prisoners held inside.

 

 
 

View From Polden Hills

 
   

Twenty rebels never made it to the church having been hung on the way. Five died in the church during their first night of captivity and a further nineteen were hanged the following day. For the survivors the Bloody Assizes awaited. Hung, drawn and quartered, many came to a fateful end to their dream of a Protestant throne. Others were transported to the colonies, sold into slavery or for the lucky ones, granted a pardon.

The battlefield is sign - posted from the village and within easy walking distance. Many never received the benefit of a trial and were hung soon after their capture. At Cothelstone Manor in the Quantock Hills, three local rebels were hung from the Manor arch as a warning to others who may dare to challenge the authority of the throne.

 

 
 

JOHN HATFIELD

 
 

During the summer of 1802 Alexander Augustus Hope, an army colonel and MP for Linlithgowshire arrived in Keswick at the Queen's Head Hotel. He was handsome, had a ready wit and an aristocratic manner, but was courteous. He charmed men and women alike and became well known around the town. Late that July he took a short fishing trip to Buttermere and stayed at the Fish Inn. Here he met the landlord's daughter Mary Robinson who had been described as the Beauty of Buttermere, and it wasn't long before they married on October 2nd 1802.

 

 
 

Reflections Of Buttermere

 
   

Samuel Taylor Coleridge knew of Hope and had become suspicious of him. He decided to act and wrote an article for the local newspaper which was then picked up by the London press. The truth quickly came out: Colonel Hope was an impostor his real name being John Hatfield. Hatfield had been married before, leaving his wife, who died from the anguish, with three children. He had remarried and left again. As enquiries continued Hatfield tried to escape, but was arrested. The main charge against him was one of forgery. Perhaps the cruel deception against Mary Robinson hardened the judge's resolve, as there was no reprieve. John Hatfield hanged at Carlisle on September 3rd 1803.

 

 
 

JOHN PAUL JONES

 
 

Infamous as the commander of the last invasion of England, John Paul Jones was actually born in Scotland in 1747. The young John Paul did not add Jones to his name until 1773. From an early age he wanted to go to sea, and in 1759 he was sent to Whitehaven by relatives to serve out his time. Although still a mere boy, John Paul obtained the appointment of third mate on the King George of Whitehaven, a vessel engaged in the slave trade. In 1766 he became chief mate of the Jamaican owned The Two Friends, another slave ship. By 1768 John Paul had become sickened with the slave trade and found a passage home, but had to take command when the Captain and first mate died of yellow fever. The ambitious young sailor applied for, and received, a command in the newly-fledged US Congressional Navy.

 

 
 

Whitehaven Harbour Sunset

 
   

He became first lieutenant of The Alfred under Captain Saltonstall and was given his first command in 1777 on the ship Ranger. The American War of Independence saw John Paul's return to British waters. Sailing from France, he arrived off the coast of Whitehaven on April 22nd 1778. That night, he and his crew invaded the town, spiking cannons and setting light to vessels anchored in the harbour. There was no bloodshed, and by early morning he left, chased by the townspeople. John Paul Jones went on to serve in the Russian and US navies. He died in Paris in 1792, and was buried in an unmarked grave. His remains were reclaimed by the United States early this century and re-interred at the Navy Academy in Annapolis. He is always remembered as "The Sailor England Feared."

 

 
     

Thieves Rogues And Vagabonds