The year Dick Turpin took Midhurst

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Like all towns, Midhurst has seen its fair share on wrong’uns – but not many have been cheered through the streets as they fled from the law.

In 1950, though, one of the biggest bounders of the past 300 years left shoppers stunned as he sped through the town centre at the reins of a stagecoach and four horses.

Dick Turpin – for it was he – may have been dead since 1739 but he was brought to life during filming for Dick Turpin’s Ride, which was released in the USA in 1951.

The Midhurst & Petworth Observer reported the coach came galloping out of the Spread Eagle Hotel yard, hurtled up Chichester Road, took the turning into West Street on two wheels, then raced away towards Wool Lane at a full gallop.

Spectators were lucky enough to see the same scene filmed several times before the director was happy – and because 20th century distractions disrupted the takes.

The report said: “One was ruined by a thoughtless person craning his neck out of a window as the coach rounded the corner, another by a car suddenly appearing on the horizon.”

One sign of the times was the report’s announcement that: “Many husbands had to be content with a hastily prepared midday meal as their wives had been too enthralled to leave the Market Square.”

Clearly men in 1950 were incapable of opening the fridge for themselves...

A gaggle of Midhurst Grammar School pupils didn’t even get the chance to see the filming.

They had given up their lunchtime to watch the action but, by the time filming started, they had been shepherded back to school by a group of prefects.

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