Noel Fielding as Dick Turpin, masked and in a three-cornered hat, holding up a stage coach.

Your Money or Your Life!

Posted by Speakeasy News > Tuesday 09 April 2024 > Shine Bright Collège Shine Bright Lycée What's On

Dick Turpin was a highway robber in early 18th-century England. Unlike Robin Hood, he didn’t rob the rich to give to the poor. But he became a legend thanks to early “tabloid media”: broadsheets and penny dreadfuls. A new TV series takes a humorous look at the historic criminal.

Dick Turpin could be considered as Robin Hood's evil twin in British mythology. But in The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin, the famous, historic highwayman is the vegan pacifist son of a butcher who doesn't want to go into the family business, so accidentally becomes the leader of a rag-tag band of highway robbers instead.

Comedian and Great British Bake Off presenter Noel Fielding stars as the eponymous highwayman, trying to outwit the corrupt "thief-taker" Jonathan Wilde, played by Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey, Paddington).

A page from a penny dreadful with an illustration of Dick Turpin on his horse Black Bess being chased.
'Dick Turpin pursued by the huntsman'. Richard "Dick" Turpin (bap. 1705-7 April 1739) was an English highwayman whose exploits were romanticised following his execution in York for horse theft. He was a poacher, burglar, horse thief and killer. He is also known for a fictional 200-mile (320 km) overnight ride from London to York on his horse Black Bess.

The real Dick Turpin lived from 1705 to 1739 in England. He really was apprenticed to a butcher but soon took to cattle stealing, and then joined up with a well-known highwayman, Tom King. Highwaymen made their living from robbing travellers on British roads, notoriously holding up stagecoaches and threatening, "Your money or your life!"

Turpin's career coincided with the boom in cheap newspapers and pamphlets in the early eighteenth century. They became much more widespread and "true crime" stories were particularly popular. Turpin's legend lived on long after he was hung for horse stealing in York in 1739. The image above is from an 1860 "penny dreadful": cheap, sensational novels that became popular when a much larger proportion of the population was taught to read.

The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin
Apple TV+

Hugh Bonneville as Jonathan Wilde, determined to catch Dick Turpin.

Find out more about Robin Hood in Shine Bright 5e and more about penny dreadfuls in Shine Bright LLCER.

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