Highwayman

From Academic Kids

Folk image of a mounted highwayman
Folk image of a mounted highwayman

Highwayman was a term used particularly in Britain during the 17th and 18th centuries to describe criminals who robbed people travelling by stagecoach and other modes of transport along public highways. Such outlaws would use or threaten violence in order to seize money and other valuables from their victims.

A highwayman rode a horse, and usually carried a pistol. A robber who had no horse was called a footpad.

Although not all highwaymen commanded their victims to "stand and deliver", or said "Your money or your life", they are often popularly associated with these famous phrases. This is notable in "Stand and Deliver", a hit by 1980s British pop group Adam and the Ants.

Famous highwaymen include:

Well-known highwaymen's haunts included several places around London: Blackheath and nearby Shooter's Hill, Hounslow Heath, and Wimbledon and Barnes Commons.

The early years of the 19th century saw the gradual disappearance of the traditional highwayman. The better law enforcement resulting from the introduction of organised city and county police forces (eg: Londonís Bow Street Runners); the enclosure of common land, combined with improvements to the roads themselves, which reduced the areas in which highwaymen could operate undetected, and the banking reforms which cut the amounts of cash carried by road were all factors in this decline.

Poet Alfred Noyes made a highwayman the subject of one of his most well-known poems, aptly named "The Highwayman". Famous traditional songs about highwaymen include the 1840s broadsheet ballad "Whiskey in the Jar", and other lesser known titles such as "Bold Nevison", "Gilderoy", "MacPherson's Lament", "Newlyn Town" and "Brennan on the Moor".

The Highwaymen was also the name of at least two musical groups:

See also: Rapparees Bushranger

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