IT'S ODD THAT the two most famous 'Dicks' in English history should owe so much more to fiction than fact. At least Whittington really was Mayor of London, even if his cat is as mythical as Turpin's Black Bess. Dick Turpin, hanged by jumping off a ladder in April 1739, was a petty criminal from Essex, and the epic ride from London to York for which he is most famous was actually performed by a highwayman called 'Swift Nicks' Dudley at least a quarter of a century before Turpin was even born. Swift Nicks was eventually arrested for attempting to rob the Duke of Lauderdale on Hounslow Heath, tried at the Old Bailey, hanged at Tyburn, and then forgotten.
Turpin, a butcher's boy cruelly disfigured by smallpox, was never much more than the eighteenth-century equivalent of a minor member of the Kray gang, and yet he has become part of our folklore. So many pubs are named after him or have romantic connections with from that if these associations