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Wiltshire Community History

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Question Date :

Tuesday 3rd June 2003 10:24

Could you please give me more details about the highwayman who was hanged on hill off the Devizes/Beckhampton road? My grandfather or great-grandfather told how, as a boy, he ran from his home in Mildenhall to see the man on the gallows. There is still a gravestone at the side of the road.

The only stone that I have been able to trace is one that seems to be called the 'Robber's Grave' locally. It is in Avebury parish and sited where the turnpike road cuts across the Roman road at Beckhampton. The era of highwaymen on this road was the 18th century, although a few survived until the early 19th century. It was mainly wealthy people from London on their way to Bath who were the victims, often of the Cherhill gang, a little further to the west. There was a gibbet beside the road to Calne sited in a wood, but not by the robber's grave. Unfortunately I cannot find any surviving record of executions here.

There is no information as to when this gibbet was last used but I would not have thought it likey to have been later than the third quarter of the 18th century. In the 19th century executions were taking place in Fisherton Gaol and from 1830 executions for crimes other than murder were very rare.

I think that any execution by the roadside must have been before 1800 and I am not certain that the stone is a gravestone. It would be interesting to know if there were the remains of any inscription on it as none was recorded when the Ordnance Survey noted the stone in 1973 as 0.3m x 0.1m wide by 0.2m high. Their information that it was called the Robber's Stone came from a gentleman living in Beckhampton. Your ancestor is likely to have been of an earlier generation than your great grandfather and he would have had quite a walk unless he had a lift from a wagon or cart.

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