Remembering the sad execution of Sussex's "OAP" highwayman
Join Worthing historian Chris Hare on the 250th anniversary of the death of South Downs highwayman, Jack Upperton. Poor Old Jack: Tales and Songs of Highwaymen, Smugglers and Poachers of the South Downs offers a Zoom webinar event on Tuesday, April 6 at 7.30pm; £5.
Jack Upperton was hanged in Horsham on April 6 1771 after turning to crime to pay for his old age. He was old enough to qualify as an OAP at the time and is believed to be England’s oldest highwayman. As Chris explains, Jack’s story is far from romantic: “His career was short, but his name has lived on in the folklore of the country people. Jonny Mott has written a haunting song about the highwayman and his sad end and he will be performing it live.”
Jack robbed the post boy who on his way to Arundel would follow the old London Road that came over the tops of the downs, passing by Burpham and Warningcamp, winding its way down to the Arun Valley.
Jack assailed the boy who gave up his mail bag to the robber. The haul was not spectacular: one account claims Jack made £5 out of the crime – another £20.
For about six months it seemed that Jack had got away with the crime. However, one night, the worse for drink, Jack shared his guilty secret with his drinking companions, one of whom at least must have informed the authorities.
Chris will be talking about other highwaymen, smugglers, poachers, and rick-burners who roamed the south of England 200 years ago. He will be trying to separate the fact from the fiction.
There will also be some traditional songs from shanty singing crew Duck Pond Sailors and folk singer Martyn Wyndam-Read.
The ticket price of £5 includes a £3 donation to Olly’s Future, a charity dedicated to help stop young people losing their lives to suicide: https://friendsofthesouthdowns.org.uk/public-events/