Skip to main content

Jack Withrington - Blandford Highwayman

 

There were five Withrington brothers, all born in Blandford, and they were all hung at the gallows for their crimes. It is known because of his notoriety that brother Jack was hung at the infamous Tyburn, near Marble Arch in London. His brothers met their fates in different parts of the country but no records remain as to where these hangings occurred.

Jack Withrington was the youngest brother and he trained initially to be a tanner. However, he left his apprenticeship in Shaftesbury to become a soldier. He joined the Earl of Oxford’s Horse Regiment where he gained quite a reputation. This was as a result of being involved in two fights in which it was said he behaved with great valour. The first was with a man famous for his fighting in which Jack showed great skill and bravery. The second fight was with a man of great wealth, who was generally regarded to be a coward, when Jack behaved with much dignity.

Unfortunately, having achieved minor celebrity status Jack became, as is said today ‘rather up himself.’ He then paid a heavy price for a serious error of judgment. Jack challenged the captain of his regiment to a fight. As a result he was sacked from the army.

Gradually, Jack Withrington began gambling both winning and losing large sums of money. To improve his chances he often resorted to cheating. As his chicanery became better known, fewer and fewer were prepared to wager with him. With funds running low he acquired a horse and began a new career as a highwayman. His first victim was a farmer who was robbed of forty pounds.

His next victim was Edward Clark who recognised and knew his attacker. In the scuffle, Jack’s mask had fallen off. Clark remarked he hoped that Jack would not rob his old acquaintance.

Indeed I shall, sir,’ responded Withrington,’ for you get your money far easier than I do, who am forced to venture my life for maintenance; you have so much a year for eating, drinking and entertaining your lady with scandal and nonsense. What I shall take from you will do you little harm.’

In less than a year, Jack’s robberies were a topic discussed across the land. He then fell in love with a rich Bristol inn keeper who was unaware of his occupation. However, before the marriage took place, an Inn visitor recognised Jack for whom he was and told the landlady. As a result Jack was summarily kicked out of the Swan Inn. Having been kicked out of the Inn, Jack returned to the highway and his next victim was a tailor named Thompson. Having stolen thirty pounds, he was convinced the tailor was hiding more valuables among his possessions which he denied. When a further forty guineas were discovered, Jack accused the tailor of being dishonest. He then shot the tailor’s horse to hinder his getaway.

His final robbery was on Hounslow Heath where he stole 280 guineas, 60 pounds and some fine linen. Jack Withrington was arrested in Malmesbury, Wiltshire and taken to London for trial. He was found guilty and the Blandford born highwayman was hung at Tyburn on 1 April 1691.

(Illustration: Jack Withrington)


Comments

  1. Ah yes, 'Highwaymen' people who robbed travellers. Now known as 'Motorway service stations' of course.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Chimney Sweep Tragedy

Crown Hotel, Blandford is reckoned to be one of Dorset’s oldest hostelries. Yet its most tragic day, during a long history, must surely be when a young chimney sweep lost his life. The chimney sweep, who was just a child, suffocated and was burnt to death in a Crown Hotel chimney which had been alight a little while before. ‘His cries were dreadful and no-one could give assistance. Part of the chimney was taken down before he was got out.’ (Salisbury & Winchester Gazette 27th March 1780) The lad had gone up one chimney and attempting to go down another had become stuck. At the time children were used to climb up chimneys to clean out soot deposits. With hands and knees, they would shimmy up narrow dark flue spaces packed thick with soot and debris. After the 1731 Great Fire of Blandford it was realised that it was important to sweep chimneys regularly while many rebuilt houses had narrower ones. Smaller chimneys and complicated flues were a potential death trap for children. The sw

Bravest Village Controversy

A Dorset village was once recognised as the bravest in England. That village was Shillingstone in North Dorset. After the outbreak of World War I, the newspaper the Weekly Dispatch inaugurated a competition for the village that sent, in the first six months of the war, the highest percentage of its population into the British Services. According to local newspaper, the Western Gazette Shillingstone sent 90 men out of a total population of 565. (Western Gazette Friday 26 th September 1919) Across the country,  365 other villages sent in their returns. However, the competition would not prove to be short of controversy. The award was made to Knowlton in Kent which with 39 inhabitants and six houses had sent 11 men. However, the Rector of Shillingstone, Dr Cooke protested that Knowlton was too small to be a village and in fact was a hamlet. The matter was referred to the Attorney General, Sir Frederick Smith who held that the original decision should stand as no minimum population ha

Tarrant Rushton's Nuclear Secret

Tarrant Rushton was a large RAF base used for glider operations during World War II. It was then taken over by Flight Refuelling for the conversion of aircraft for the development of aircraft in-flight refuelling. However, between 1958 & 1965, the Tarrant Rushton airfield had a much more secretive and less publicised role. This was in support of the nation’s nuclear bomber deterrent, as Tarrant Rushton airfield became a QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) dispersal unit.   During 1958, contractors Costain reinforced the main runway and carried out other work to ensure the giant bomber aircraft could be accommodated. At times just a few miles from Blandford, there would have been up to four RAF Vickers Valiant bombers at Tarrant Rushton ready to become airborne in minutes charged with nuclear weapons. The bombers were from 148 Squadron at RAF Marham in Norfolk. As there was no suitable accommodation at the airfield, an old US Air Force Hospital building at Martin was used. At the time, the