Knights of the High Toby.
The first half of the eighteenth century was the heyday of the highwayman, those ‘Knights of the High Toby’, who, immaculately dressed and as glamorous to the general populace as stars of film and television are today, rendered travel a dangerous undertaking anywhere in the Kingdom.
Above from sleeve cover of ‘Knights of the High Toby’ by John Barrows 1962.
The Merry Dance of the Highwayman by William Powell Frith 1860.
The Sanctuary of Lancashire.
In the late 1730’s, two highwaymen fled Essex, both wanted men with a high price on their heads. They travelled north and west, eventually arriving at the village of Hurst Green, between Longridge and Clitheroe. The two fugitives were Dick Turpin and Ned King, both members of the infamous Essex Gang of robbers. Most of the gang had been captured and hung at Tyburn Gallows for horse theft, deer poaching and highway robbery.
On Longridge Road at Hurst Green, known as the B6243, stands the Punchbowl Inn where Turpin and King sought refuge and decide what their next move would be. Turpin chose to move on and set off for York, (he would be caught and hung within twelve months) leaving King at the Punchbowl. He struck up a friendship with the landlord, John Briscoe, who employed Ned King as a Groomsman.
This gave King the opportunity to check out the guests as they arrived by horse or carriage and observe what valuables they carried. He soon became partner in crime with the landlord Briscoe and together they planned who to rob.
Once they had identified their next quarry, King would ride ahead to the crossroads at Mitton and wait for their victim to arrive, shouting those famous words, “stand and deliver.”
Punchbowl Inn Sign.
Between 1739 – 41, King and Briscoe held up at least fourteen coaches around Hurst Green and Mitton.
The authorities had no suspects as to who was committing these highway robberies with impunity, so they set a trap.
One evening in May a coach set off from Whalley, bound for Preston using the Longridge Road through Mitton and Hurst Green. The coach contained a grenadier captain and twelve grenadier redcoats, all marksmen.
An opportunistic King was waiting at the crossroads, brandishing a pistol in each hand on his trusted horse, Black Tarquin.
The coach was forced to stop and King shouted, “Stand and deliver.”
Twelve muskets appeared at the door and windows, pointing at King, followed by the order, “fire.”
British redcoats in action during American War of Independence 1783.
King was hit in chest by two musket balls, but managed to stay on his horse and galloped back to the Punchbowl Inn, warning Briscoe that the redcoats were coming.
The inn was surrounded, but King and Briscoe refused to surrender, exchanging fire with the grenadiers, killing three. Briscoe decided to make a bid to escape and fled across the fields at the back of the inn. He was quickly spotted and killed instantly by a fusillade of musket balls.
King ran out of ammunition and the grenadiers stormed the inn, dragging the highwayman from the loft.
The loft in the Punchbowl Inn where King was arrested.
The captains instructions were to take the robbers dead or alive. He ordered for a rope to be thrown across an over hanging branch of a tree opposite the inn and King was hung on the spot.
The redcoats dug a grave by the roadside and King was unceremoniously buried in a makeshift unmarked grave, where he reputedly, still lies to this day.
The Ghost of Ned King and Black Tarquin.
For more than 250 years Ned King’s ghost has often been seen in the Punchbowl Inn and on the road to Mitton, with his horse, Black Tarquin. There have been many such reported cases and in 1942 an exorcism was performed at the inn specifically to rid the premises of Ned King’s presence once and for all. It would appear to have been unsuccessful, as recent documented sightings has included a crew of fire-fighters attending an emergency and swerving to avoid a horse and rider at Mitton crossroads, who mysteriously disappeared.
The phantom of Ned King the highwayman still frequents his local inn and rides his phantom Black Tarquin along the the Longridge Road to Clitheroe.
Punchbowl Inn Today.
The Punchbowl Inn closed its doors for good in 2012. In October 2018 planning permission was granted for the 18th century inn to be converted in to five holiday flats and a cafe.
A derelict Punchbowl Inn. Photo courtesy of The Lancashire Evening Post.
Reference sources: Lancashire’s Ghost & Legends by Terence Whitaker; Ghostly Tales of the Unexpected by Simon Entwistle; Wikipedia; mysteriousuniverse.org & Knights of the High Toby by John Barrows.
Photos courtesy of Google Images and The Lancashire Evening Post.