Skip to main content

Highwayman Tom's Unfortunate Escapade

Born in Shaftesbury, Tom Dorbel was apprenticed to a glove maker in Blandford. Deciding on a change of career at the age of 17 years, he ran away to London to become a highwayman.

At the time, Hounslow Heath, near London was one of the most dangerous places in the country. Across the Heath ran the Exeter and Bristol roads used by wealthy travellers. They provided rich pickings for highwaymen like Tom Dorbel.

Crossing Hounslow Heath, Tom came across a Welshman named, Twm Sion Cati. He stopped Twm at gunpoint and demanded his money or alternatively he would take the Welshman’s life. Twm replied that he had no money of his own but was carrying sixty pounds which belonged to his mistress. Reluctantly, Twm surrendered this money. Bizarrely, he then begged the highwayman to put several bullets through his coat. He explained he wanted evidence to show his mistress that he had put up quite a fight before giving up her treasure.

Twm took off his coat so that the slightly bemused highwayman could dutifully comply with the request. Behaving like an idiot, Twm said ‘that was very good of you indeed and if you was able to put another in my hat it would be better still.’  Tom wondered what kind of idiot he had happened across but fired his last shot into the hat as desired.

‘Now’ said Twm producing a pistol ‘it’s my turn, so out with your coinage or I’ll put a hole through your body.’ Twm had not only saved his mistress’ money but had robbed the highwayman as well!

Twm Sion Cati was in fact a shameless trickster, thief and con artist whose quick-witted exploits were to make him something of a Robin Hood-like, Welsh folk hero. Tales of Twm’s exploits even featured in the television series,  Hawkmoor which was filmed in 1978.

Tom Dorbel, the Dorset born highwayman, became equally notorious. On another occasion he robbed the Duke of Norfolk near Salisbury but his horse was shot and he was arrested. At the next Assizes, he was condemned to be executed. While under sentence he found a lawyer who for fifty guineas agreed to obtain his reprieve. The lawyer rode to London, was successful and arrived back only just in time before the highwayman was led to the scaffold. The lawyer had ridden so hard that his horse fell dead. Such was the rascal's ingratitude that he refused to pay the lawyer. He alleged that any obligation given by a man under sentence of death was invalid.

Eventually, Tom's crimes caught up with him and he was executed at St. Michael’s Hill, Bristol in March 1714. He had been arrested after he had assaulted and robbed a young girl.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

True Lovers Knot - a Tragic Tale

True Lovers Knot public house describes itself as a traditional  inn set in a picturesque Dorset valley in Tarrant Keynston. Yet, this historical hostelry is said to have gained its name from a particularly tragic tale and still to be haunted by a distressed former publican. This publican’s son met and fell in love with the daughter of the local squire. Because the young lad was not from the gentry they decided to keep their relationship secret from her father. Unfortunately, a stable hand saw the two young lovers together and told her father. Set firmly against this friendship the squire made plans to send his daughter away from the district. Not able to face up to life without her boyfriend, the young girl decided to commit suicide and hanged herself from a tree in the village. So upset was the publican’s son of hearing of his girlfriend’s death he too hanged himself from the same tree. The Tarrant Keynston publican had, himself lost his wife at child birth and now losing his son b

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

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