In the 18th Century, major coaching routes ran from the City of London to other areas. Such a trade attracted criminal activity, especially as it appears to have been poorly policed.
Highwaymen gripped the imagination of some people in their own time. Some virtually boasted of having been robbed. A king pleaded the case of one of them.
who were they?
Highwaymen originated from ordinary families. Some were born into money and one married it. One was the son of a parson. Another had a business in St James' in London's West End. There was a prosperous shopkeeper. One was the son of a wealthy mill-owner. None were short of money.
two young men...
In the late 18th Century, a young man named Richard Ferguson rode as postilion on a coach. His father died, leaving him an inheritance.
Dick decided to live well. He bought expensive clothes and started visiting the theatre. He was surprised to make the acquaintance of a well-dressed woman and even more surprised to be invited home.
One day, while leaving his friend's home, Dick passed a fine-looking young man going in. Later, he was dumped when his woman friend discovered his real identity and job.
Dick was riding postilion when the coach was held up by two villains. The men had cloths tied to cover their faces. One of the coverings slipped in the wind and Dick found himself staring at the young man he had passed at his woman friend's home. That man was Jerry Abershaw - the last of the old-time highwaymen.
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a deal is made
Dick later found himself invited to the Bald-Faced Stag - the old inn at Putney Vale. His host was Jerry Abershaw. A deal was made whereby Dick would provide information in return for payment.
who was Jerry Abershaw?
Lewis Jeremiah Abershaw grew up in the Kingston and Hampton Wick area, ten miles south-west of the City of London. Having learned to manage horses from a young age, he readily found employment. Prefering women to horses, he turned to crime. The name Abershaw is unusual and may have originated in Yorkshire.
Jerry Abershaw's career lasted a few years. He was arrested at the Green Man Inn on Putney Hill and was tried at Croydon for the murder of David Price, a Bow Street Runner, who he had shot at a tavern in Southwark, though he was convicted on another charge.
Jerry Abershaw was hanged at Kennington, south of London. He was allowed to kick off his boots and leap to his death in stockinged feet. His body was hung in chains at Putney Heath, eventually being buried only yards away. His death allowed Dick Ferguson to take to the road in his place. It was 1795.
A botched robbery saw two men captured and later hanged. A third man escaped on a very fast horse. The weekly rags got the story and within days the legend of Galloping Dick Ferguson was born.
Dick Ferguson was tried and hanged at Aylesbury, west of London. His death in 1800 ensured that no known highwayman persisted into the 19th Century.