“Random encounters with the unusual” is a repository for the oddities that me and Mrs J have encountered on our travels, which we find interesting or amusing in some way. Have a look, maybe you will find something interesting or amusing herein.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

A Robbery at Gore Cross

On the side of the A360 near the hamlet of Gore Cross in Wiltshire there is a small, easy to miss, memorial to an event that occurred near the spot in 1839. The stone is denoted on the Ordnance Survey map as the “Robbers’ Stone” and it commemorates an attempted robbery that had an unfortunate end for the bandits in question.

The events described on the stone occurred on the evening of the 21st October 1839 when a Mr Dean, a farmer, from the now deserted ghost town of Imber was making his way home from the market at Devizes. As he approached Gore Cross along the Lavington Road he was accosted by four highway men. Apparently Mr Dean had the wits to pretend that he was not alone (he called out to an imaginary companion) and also went on the attack, using his horse-whip to fend of the robbers. Surprised by their potential victim’s response the robbers fled and Mr Dean gave chase, pursuing one of the robbers for three hours across the countryside.

It seems that the fleeing robber, Benjamin Colclough, was not up to the task of escaping Mr Dean and he eventually fell down dead in his tracks upon Chitterne Down. His three accomplices Thomas Saunders, George Waters and Richard Harris were eventually captured and tried for the attempted robbery, with their sentence being transportation for a term of 15 years.

The death of Benjamin Colclough on Chitterne Down is commemorated with a second “Robbers’ Stone”. Unfortunately however, the site of this second stone is today inside the “Danger Area” that is the Imber live firing range on Salisbury Plain, and as such access to the stone is strictly limited. An image of the stone can however be found on the Geograph website.

The stones were erected as a warning, to other potential highway men. To remind them that crime does not pay, and presumably also to warn them not to mess with Mr Dean the Farmer.

The inscriptions on the Gore Cross stone reads:

Mr. DEAN, of Imber. was
Attacked and Robbed by
Four Highwaymen, in the
evening of Octr. 21st. 1839.

After a spirited pursuit of
three hours one of the Felons
fell dead on Chitterne Down.
were eventually Captured,
and were convicted at the
ensuing Quarter Sessions at
Devizes, and Transported for
the term of Fifteen Years.

This Monument is erected
by Public Subscription
as a warning to those who
presumptuously think to
escape the punishment God
has threatened against
Thieves and Robbers.

The inscriptions on the Chitterne Down stone reads:

This Monument is erected
to record the awful end of
a Highway Robber who fell
Dead, on this Spot, in
attempting to escape his
Pursuers after Robbing
Mr Dean of Imber, in the
Evening of Oct 21st 1839,
and was buried at Chitterne
without Funeral Rights.

The robbery of the wicked
shall destroy them.
     Prov. 21. 7.
His three companions in
were captured & sentenced
at the ensuing Quarter
Sessions at Devizes to
Transportation for the
Term of Fifteen Years.

Though hand join in
hand the wicked shall
not be unpunished
     Prov 11. 21

The "Robber's Stone" at Gore Cross.

Pictures: Wiltshire (May 2015).