John Bennet – The Golden Farmer

John Bennet

Alias; John Freeman / William Hill

The Golden Farmer / Highwayman of Bagshot, Surrey

1627 – 1690

9th great-grandfather

John Bennet alias Freeman, otherwise called the Golden Farmer, was put into a Cart, and conveyed to Salisbury-court end in Fleetstreet, near the Place where he committed the Murther, for which he received Sentence, where a Gibbet was erected for his Execution, and there having made a short Prayer, he gave the Executioner the Word or Sign to do his Office, and was accordingly executed, without making any Speech or Exhortation.

A True ACCOUNT of the BEHAVIOUR, CONFESSION, AND Last Dying SPEECHES Of the Criminals that were Executed On Monday the 22th of December, 1690

 

The history of The Golden Farmer, Highwayman of Bagshot, Surrey and the southern counties of England is a long and interesting one. Although the facts about his life are very much a tangle and the history books have made a huge mess of his life, even his National Biography is incorrect.

But Why?

24 years after the golden farmer was executed’ in 1714 the History of the Lives of the Most Notorious Highwaymen’. Was First published, the book was a huge success and has been reprinted many times since, this book became the main source of reference into the life of the Golden Farmer.

The book attributes the golden farmer to a man called William Davis believed to have been in executed on the 22 December 1690, at Salisbury Court, Fleet Street, London and his body hung in chains at Bagshot Heath.

In truth, William Davis was executed but he was a 23 year old man and he was executed at Tyburn on the 21 December 1689 for robbery.

(see source) Ordinary’s Account, 21st December 1689.

Another William Davis was an innkeeper, possibly a highwayman too and he resided in Romsey, Hampshire and was the father-in-law of the real Golden Farmer ‘John Bennet.

I can see now, why this mistake was made, but sadly history has forgotten the true facts, whenever you google the Golden Farmer, most blogs, websites, publications all attribute this title to the wrong person / highwayman, only the original primary sources remain correct.

Romsey, Hampshire is an important location in the life story of the golden farmer, for it was here that not only his wife hailed, but his companion Old Mobb, a Cross Dressing Highwayman, who was very much a gentleman resided.

There are many Characters in the life of this highwayman, and below are a few that I am aware of, each plays a significant roll in telling his lifes story.

Characters attributed to the life of the Golden Farmer and his legacy.

John Bennet (the Golden Farmer)

Claude Du Vall (French Highwayman)

Thomas Sympson (Old Mobb)

William Davis (the Inn Keeper Highwayman)

Alice Davis (alias; Mitchell / wife of the Golden Farmer)

William Stafford / John Stafford and John Evans (robbed at the command of Mitchell / wife of the Golden Farmer.

Charles Taylor (butcher of St Bride’s) murdered by the golden farmer.

Daniel Solomon of Fleet Street (grandson of John Bennet, he murdered his wife (manslaughter) on the 1st April 1754 possibly in a drunken rage on the same day a friend and highwayman was executed.)

Elizabeth Bone (wife of Daniel Solomon) murdered by her husband on the 1st April 1754

Samuel Dean (Highwayman) – executed on the 1st April 1754

Locations attributed to the life of the Golden Farmer

Many locations across England are connected to the life of the Golden Farmer, below are a few of them.

Wrexham, Denbighshire, Wales (birth place of the golden farmer)

Sudbury, Gloucestershire (believed to have been an early area of residence of the golden farmer

Bagshot, Surrey (residence)

Romsey, Hampshire (residence of many highwayman and birth place of his wife, this is also a gateway to the south of England where the Golden Farmer worked and terrorised for many years)

Salisbury, Wiltshire (believed to be associated)

Cornwall (the furthest county the golden farmer worked)

St Bride’s Fleet Street, London (later residence of his descendants, and the location of his fable execution, the place he murdered and one of the darker locations where he possibly planned his robberies and drank, whored and met with fellow highwayman).

Legacy

John Bennet, THE GOLDEN FARMER terrorised the southern counties of England, and was executed 15 years before Richard Turpin (Dick Turpin) was born, the golden farmer is one of Englands most notorious Highwayman and one that history has written about incorrectly, he may have  paid his debts in Gold, but in the end he paid for them with his life.

John Bennet is my 9x great grandfather, he was executed in Salisbury Court, Fleet Street, London on the 22 December 1690 and his body hung in chains for all too see in Bagshot Heath, Surrey.

His story inspired Alfred Noyes to write his most famous poem ‘the Highwayman’.

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