DICK TURPIN - DID HE EVER COME TO BARRY?

Whilst in conversation with an old resident of Barry whose family had lived here for generations, she related to me a number of interesting tales which she thought had been forgotten. One of these tales was that the notorious highwayman Dick Turpin visited Barry quite often and stayed in the inn at the top of Pencoedtre Lane, and that he had also bought his famous horse Black Bess from a local farmer. I thought that this story was stretching the truth a little, so made a few enquiries from the local farming community in the area. To my surprise, nearly all of them knew of the story, and one said that the story had been documented in an article written by Mr W.P. Thomas, who had interviewed a number of the old residents of Cadoxton and published his findings in 1938.

One of these residents was a Mrs. Harris, who lived at the top of Pencoedtre Lane in a bungalow named "Cartref". She said that her family had lived in "Travellers Rest" for many generations, in fact over 200 years, and that this cottage in years gone by was also an inn. She and her mother were both born in the inn.

At the time the article was being written she was 85 years old, and had many interesting tales to relate about Cadoxton, when it comprised a small number of cottages, a great number of green fields, and one shop owned by a Mrs. Evans, which only sold groceries and provisions. There were no chemists, but her father was one of the many herbalists in the area, collecting herbs, drying them and grinding them down using a small mortar and pestle, which was still in her possession.

She told an amusing story about the old Baptist chapel (Philadelphia) next to the King Billy. When the congregation were given a beautiful chandelier to light the chapel, another chapel in the area decided that they should have one too, so they asked members of the congregation to contribute to a fund. One farmer who gave a generous amount, remarked that "the fund is growing on famously, but when we get this chandelier, who is going to play it?".

"Travellers Rest" has many stories told about it, such as when drainage ditches were being dug, and a skeleton was found in a field close to the Inn. It was the skeleton of a tall man, whose remains were interred in St. Andrew's Churchyard. It was believed to be the body of a Scottish packman who had made enemies in the immediate area. No one was ever charged with the crime.

The old inn was a favourite rendezvous of Dick Turpin, who stayed there quite often. It was said that he had purchased his famous mare "Black Bess" from Highlight Farm whilst on one of his unwelcome visits to the Vale. He had heard that a mare at the farm was due to foal and on visiting there, was amazed to see the mare who had just foaled, laying down, and the new born foal jumping over its mother's back. He returned later and obtained the filly that he named "Black Bess". At Highlight Farm there is a passageway named after the highwayman, in which Turpin and Bess were supposed to have hidden whilst being pursued by the law.

Mrs. Harris was very proud to have in her possession two china ornaments which had been left her by her family. One was of Turpin astride Black Bess, and the other was of another "gentleman of the road", Tom King, astride a white horse. A favourite place for Turpin and other highwaymen to have frequented is known as Pant-y-Ladrone (Thieves Hollow) on the A48.

After writing this article, a few more details were given to me by a former member of the farming community. During the war years when a POW camp was being built at the top of the lane, toilet blocks and accommodation for the personnel guarding them were also being built in the field close by. Whilst digging was taking place a number of human bones were supposed to have been found. The officer-in-charge had them re-buried and told the men building the huts to forget about it. After the war when the huts were being dismantled to use as pig breeding sheds a number of bones were also discovered, but whether they were the same ones that had originally been discovered and re-buried, my informant could not say.

 

© T. CLEMETT 2003


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