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The Culworth Gang



Our first get together of 2023 took us to the Queens Head at Nassington where we all met up to hear about the Culworth Gang.
Our speaker, Richard Blacklee, has extensively researched the story of a gang of men who stole and burgled in the Southern part of Northamptonshire in the eighteenth century for over 20 years. They became known as the Culworth Gang, a band of Highwaymen that carried out 47 recorded robberies and many other offences with little regard of any consequences.
The village of Culworth in the 18th century was an excellent base for the gang’s activities, it was remote but had the advantage of a turnpike nearby through Whittlebury Forest which had plenty of stage coaches and carts passing through and close to the village of Culworth were two well used ancient drove tracks.
The gang’s custom was to disguise themselves in smocked frocks, wear black masks and carry pistols, probably a terrifying sight for the unfortunate victims! With no national police force they evaded capture until their luck ran out when two of the gang were arrested on being suspected robbers and committed to prison. They implicated the rest of the gang and their homes were searched. Many stolen items were found in a secret vault underneath a barn floor and in Sulgrave Church.
Seven of the gang were committed for trial at the Northampton Sessions House in 1787 upon various charges. The gang leader William Bowers was the most obstinate and hardened criminal of the lot, swearing and cursing loudly throughout the trial. Five of the gang received the death sentence, however Abbot, one of the gang members, gave more evidence on 17 other crimes and his sentence was commuted to transportation to Australia for life.
At 10am on 4th August 1787, a mournful procession made its way from the County prison at Northampton, along Kettering Road to the gallows at the corner of the racecourse, opposite the White Elephant public house (still there). A crowd of 5,000 people were waiting to watch them being hanged at midday.