Not that long ago I read an excellent book by one of my favourite author’s Chris Speck. I first came across Chris when I read ‘Beast’, a fantastical story, mysterious, exciting, moving, and his latest book, ‘The Great Frost: Three murders, a village lass, and a highwayman’ has a title which says it all. The highwayman in the novel put me in mind of Dick Turpin, and recently on our family holiday in Derbyshire we reminisced about our previous, pre-lockdown fam-hol in 2019. Then we had stayed in Turpin’s Cottage in Belper, and this is what I wrote about it:
I have to say to begin with, that my featured image of a lovely old house has nothing to do with Dick Turpin, as far as I know! So where might Dick Turpin have been which pricked my interest?
I’m always quite excited at the thought of the family holiday, going away with my family and my four cousins and their families. We have been south – Kent, east – Norfolk, west – Devon, and north – Cumbria, but this year we were pretty much in the middle in Derbyshire. We stayed in Turpin’s Cottage which wasn’t really a cottage at all but a really lovely old house with plenty of bedrooms for the twenty-six of us.
The name immediately made me think of Dick Turpin the famous – infamous highwayman who was hanged in Knavesmere (appropriate name) in Yorkshire in 1739 at the age of thirty-three. He was born in Hempstead in Essex in 1705 and was probably a butcher before he started poaching and then became a highwayman.
So, Turpin’s Cottage:
This imposing 19th century building was originally the coach house and stables for the nearby ‘Owl Coaching Inn’ (reputedly a haunt of highwayman Dick Turpin), that’s now a farm some 2 miles from the historic Derwent Valley mill town of Belper. The building has been most sympathetically converted and retains hand-cut lintels, vaulted coach-ways on the exterior, and superb barrel-vaulted ceilings, all emphasise the historical importance of this Grade II-listed structure. The original arched coach entrances now have French windows that open onto flag stone terraced areas.
As a nineteenth century building it was a century too young to have anything actually to do with the legendary character. I can’t find any more information about Dick being in these part, of the Owl Inn, or any real history… However that doesn’t stop my imagination!!
My featured image is of a very old house, no doubt in situ when Dick was in the area, in Wirksworth which is only about six miles away. This year, on teh first fam-hol for three years, we returned to the area and visited lovely Wirksworth again.