WONERSH
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HISTORY SOCIETY
THE JUDGE & THE HIGHWAYMAN In 1710 William Chapple married Trehane Clifton, daughter of Susanna Clifton of Wonersh Park. They had four sons and two daughters, one of whom, Grace, married Sir Fletcher Norton (later 1st Baron Grantley of Markenfield). A well respected judge, William Chapple was knighted in 1729 and when he died in 1745 he was buried in a tomb of black and white marble in Wonersh Church. What is really interesting however is that Sir William Chapple presided at the trial in York of John Palmer on charges of horse-stealing and highway robbery. That really is a story worth telling because John Palmer was an alias - his real name was Dick Turpin. From Butcher to Highwayman Richard (Dick) Turpin was born in 1705 in Hempstead near Saffron Walden in Essex. It has to be said he was not the handsome, suave, gentleman of the road as is popularly believed. In the London Gazette, Turpin was described as " a tall fresh coloured man, very much marked with the small pox, about 26 years of age, about five feet nine inches high, lived some time ago in Whitechapel and did lately lodge somewhere about Millbank, Westminster, wears a blue grey coat and a natural wig. As a butcher, Turpin provided the ideal outlet for the Essex Gang, a gang of deer thieves, who he later joined when they progressed to house-breaking. By early 1735 the majority of the gang had been caught and hanged and Turpin turned to highway robbery in Epping Forest. A fatal shooting in Whitechapel of his accomplice, Matthew King, (possibly by Turpin, possibly not!) saw him escape to Epping Forest. Here he was spotted by Thomas Morris, the servant of one of the Forest Keepers, who Turpin killed when he attempted to capture him. The Journey North It was around June 1737 that Turpin travelled North and boarded at the Ferry Inn in Brough where he used the name of John Palmer and posed as a horse trader. Events went dramatically downhill when in 1738 he shot a man’s game cock, threatened to shoot a man who rebuked him and refused to pay a bond which would have avoided his being committed to the House of Correction at Beverley. While he was there, further enquiries by the Justices caused them to believe that the case had now become more serious and that Turpin should appear at York Assizes. Again, Turpin refused to pay a bond and so was transferred to York Castle in handcuffs. Turpin’s fatal mistake was to write from York Castle to his brother-in-law who refused to pay the delivery charge when he saw the York postmark. The letter was sent to the Post Office where his old teacher James Smith recognised the handwriting and travelled to York to identify John Palmer as Dick Turpin. On 22 March 1739, Sir William Chapple presided over Turpin’s trial, a trial at which Turpin had no right to legal representation, his interests being the responsibility of the judge. Despite his claims throughtout the trial that he had not been given enough time to prepare his defence and call witnesses, the jury returned their guilty verdict without leaving the courtroom and Sir William Chapple sentenced Turpin to death by hanging. On 7 April 1739, Turpin, followed by his mourners (he had hired five for three pounds and ten shillings) was taken to the gallows where according to ‘The Gentleman’s Magazine’, he behaved in an undaunted manner; as he mounted the ladder, feeling his right leg tremble, he spoke a few words to the topsman, then threw himself off, and expir'd in five minutes. " Just to add insult to injury, Turpin’s body was reportedly stolen by body snatchers, recovered and then reburied. According to the Surrey Advertiser, in 1912 the Grantley Arms was used as a location for the filming of a Dick Turpin silent movie. Sadly, the hero couldn’t ride and a dummy horse had to be used!