The Farnborough Explorer
Interesting Things Around Farnborough

Stand and Deliver

Farnborough's Notorious Highwaymen

In the 1700s, Farnborough was a small village on a heath, while Cove was a smaller hamlet a mile or so away. The main road from London to Gosport came across the heath along what is now the Farnborough Road.

The site of the Tumbledown Dick has been a coaching inn on this road since at least Tudor times and proably long before. The core of the present inn was built in 1817 and is  named after Richard Cromwell, the third Lord Protector of England, who was deposed after 9 months of incompetent ruling. Richard Cromwell was nicknamed Tumbledown Dick by the army who viewed him with a great deal of scorn. It was probably named the Tumbledown Dick because this was the road that Richard Cromwell travelled between London and his estates at Hursley.

The inn is not, as many claim today, named after the famous highwayman Dick Turpin, whose stomping ground was actually in Essex (he was part of the Gregory Gang). It does however have a connection with a highwayman called 'Dick' and a tale about this highwayman and the Tumbledown Dick has been usurped and incorporated into the Turpin mythology.

Farnborough heath was the hunting ground of two famous highwaymen, Jerry Avershaw and Galloping 'Dick' Ferguson. Surprising as it may sound, both highwaymen were pursuing their careers along the same roads, yet they didn't meet for several years. Their first meeting was at the Tumbledown Dick and it happened because both men started courting the same woman, the inn's landlady who was called Nancy*. Both men called at the inn at the same time and recognised each other. They instantly struck up a friendship and ventured a partnership together.

For much of their time, they operated separately, but would come together for larger operations. Their favourite rendezvous before a holdup was Cockadobby Hill. The majority of their joint operations were performed on the road between Farnborough and Farnham.

By all accounts, Jerry Avershaw lost out to Galloping Dick in the courting of Nancy, but it is certain that she was a member of the partnership. When the lawmen were not around, she would place a candle in the South window of the inn so that Jerry and Dick would know it was safe to come in. Sadly the story of Nancy and the Highwaymen has been hijacked by the Turpin mythology, she was renamed Fanny and supposedly placed a candle in the window of her inn in Bexley, called the "Fanny on the Hill". There are only two problems with this usurpation: Turpin was a highwayman in Essex not Kent and the Fanny on the hill was built in 1890, before which there was nothing but open heath land there. Turpin was executed in 1739, well before the pub was built.

Jerry Avershaw was finally apprehended by two Bow Street runners, David Price and Bernard Turner, in the Three Brewers inn at Southwark. When the officers informed him of the nature of their errand Avershaw produced his pistols and fired them simultaneously. Price was killed, and Turner, though seriously injured, recovered to give evidence at Avershaw's trial. He was executed on Kennington Common, on the 3rd of August, 1795. The place where his body was gibbeted after his execution is still known as Jerry's Hill. Ferguson continued for another five years. He was finally apprehended by the Bow Street Runners, tried at the Aylesbury Lent Assizes in 1800 and executed shortly afterwards. Nothing is known about the fate of Nancy.

 

*The Newgate Calendar gives another version of the story which implies that Nancy was a prostitute from St George's Fields, who was the favourite port of most highwaymen.