Sunday, 7 August 2011

JAMES HIND – A Highway Man's Highwayman...

Captain James Hind


I no longer have young children so the BBC series of “Horrible Histories” has only just come to my attention (I now record them and watch them in guilty secret over my lunch).  I am therefore ashamed to say that this blog is inspired entirely by a “Horrible History” on the seventeenth century highwayman,  Captain James Hind. 

The writer in me immediately jumped to the conclusion that Captain Hind would make a marvellous character in a story (a sort of precursor to Dick Turpin and the highwaymen of romantic literature) but he was indeed a very real person. The Newgate Chronicles record his life and exploits in detail and indeed the popular press of the day made much of his exploits. 

He began life as an apprentice to a butcher but quickly tired of this life and absconded to London where he fell into bad company, discovering the twin pleasures of the bottle and a mistress. Sadly the lady concerned was apprehended in the act of pick pocketing and she and James were confined to Newgate where he fell into the company of a notorious highwayman, Thomas Allen. On their release, Allen took Hind on as his “apprentice in crime”.  

According to the chronicle “Their first adventure was at Shooters Hill, where they met with a gentleman and his servant. Hind being perfectly raw and inexperienced, his companion was willing to have a proof of his courage, and therefore stayed at some distance while the captain rode up and, singly, took from them fifteen pounds; but returned the gentleman twenty shillings, to bear his expenses on the road, with such a pleasant air that the gentleman protested he would never hurt a hair of his head if it should at any time be in his power. Allen was prodigiously pleased both with the bravery and generosity of his new comrade, and they mutually swore to stand by one another to the utmost of their power.”

It is not clear from the chronicle how Hind (and his companion) came to their political beliefs. One is left to assume, like most young men of the period, they had fought in the first Civil War for the King’s side. However following the execution of Charles I in 1649 Hind and Allen became zealots for the royalist cause, vowing “never to spare any regicides who came their way”.

As incredible as it sounds, one such regicide (the first of several!) did come their way shortly thereafter – Oliver Cromwell.  Unfortunately for our heroes, Oliver had a train of 7 men with him and Allen was overpowered and subsequently executed. Hind made good his escape, 

killing his horse in his haste to get away. 

Hind’s reputation began to grow and among the stories told of him we find the following anecdotes:
Several wonderful stories about how he procured a new horse!
An encounter with the puritan Hugh Peters in which he bested him at quoting the scriptures (and stole 30 gold coins and Peters’ coat).
He held up the man who had presided over the trial of Charles I, Bradshaw, sparing his life and saying "I fear neither you nor any king-killing son of a whore alive. I have now as much power over you as you lately had over the King, and I should do God and my country good service if I made the same use of it; but live, villain, to suffer the pangs of thine own conscience; till Justice shall lay her iron hand upon thee, and require an answer for thy crimes in a way more proper for such a monster, who art unworthy to die by any hands but those of the common hangman, and at any other place than Tyburn. Nevertheless, though I spare thy life as a regicide, be assured that, unless thou deliverest thy money immediately, thou shalt die for thy obstinacy."
After holding up another regicide, Colonel Harrison, and relieving him of his purse, he very nearly got caught and unfortunately his pursuer died at his hand.

My favourite story is that of his encounter with a coach of young ladies. 
“He went up to them in a genteel manner, told them that he was a patron of the fair sex, and that it was purely to win the favour of a hard-hearted mistress that he travelled the country. "But, ladies," added he, "I am at this time reduced to the necessity of asking relief, having nothing to carry me on in my intended prosecution of adventures." The young ladies, who had most of them read a pretty many romances, could not help conceiting they had met with some Quixote or Amadis de Gaul, who was saluting them in the strain of knight-errantry. "Sir Knight," said one of the pleasantest among them, "we heartily commiserate your condition, and are very much troubled that we cannot contribute towards your support; but we have nothing about us but a sacred depositum, which the laws of your order will not suffer you to violate." Hind was pleased to think he had met with such agreeable gentlewomen, and for the sake of the jest could freely have let them pass unmolested if his necessities at this time had not been very pressing. "May I, bright ladies, be favoured with the knowledge of what this sacred depositum, which you speak of, is, that so I may employ my utmost abilities in its defence, as the laws of knight-errantry require?" The lady who spoke before, and who suspected the least of any one in the company, told him that the depositum she had spoken of was three thousand pounds, the portion of one of the company, who was going to bestow it upon the knight who had won her good will by his many past services. "My humble duty be presented to the knight," said he, "and be pleased to tell him that my name is Captain Hind; that out of mere necessity I have made bold to borrow part of what, for his sake, I wish were twice as much; and that I promise to expend the sum in defence of injured lovers and the support of gentlemen who profess knight-errantry." At the name of Captain Hind they were sufficiently startled, there being nobody then living in England who had not heard of him. Hind, however, bid them not be affrighted, for he would not do them the least hurt, and desired no more than one thousand pounds out of the three. This the ladies very thankfully gave in an instant (for the money was tied up in separate bags), and the captain wished them all a good journey, and much joy to the bride.”

Sadly for our hero his days were numbered. He joined Charles II’s abortive attempt to regain the throne which ended at the battle of Worcester on September 21 1651and although he escaped the battle, he was captured in London and tried in Worcester, not for the murder of the man 

at Knole, but for high treason. He went to the gallows professing that he had only ever targeted parliamentary supporters and shown unerring generosity to those of the royalist adherence.

He was hung drawn and quartered at Worcester on September 24, 1652 aged 34.

And now you know the facts enjoy the Horrible Histories take on our hero. 


Further Reading:  Executed Today and Outlaws and Highwaymen

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Have you any more on thomas allen ? ANDREW ALLEN