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a tale of Restoration intrigue by

Molly Brown

Islington and beyond

Islington in the 17th century was a rural area made up almost entirely of fields and cow sheds.

The northern approaches to London, especially Holloway, between Islington and Highgate, were the haunt of the famous highwayman, Claude Duval. Duval was a Frenchman who came to England as a valet shortly after the Restoration, then took to the road, leading a gang of robbers.

Duval became a romantic figure due to a story circulated about him, that he had stopped a woman's coach in which there was a booty of four hundred pounds but only took one hundred, allowing "the fair owner to ransom the rest by dancing a coranto with him on the Heath".

He was captured in 1669, at Mother Maberley's tavern in Chandos Street, "The-Hole-In-The-Wall", and was brought to trial. His hanging at Tyburn was the scene of much loud lamentation from the crowd in attendance. His body was cut down and taken to the Tangier Tavern in St. Giles for a lying-in-state before a grand funeral at St. Paul's. He is said to have been buried beneath the central aisle, with the following epitaph:

He was twenty-seven at the time of his death.

Nell Gwyn's elder sister, Rose, was married to the highwayman John Cassells. When he was arrested for burglary, Nell used her influence with the king to save him from the hangman, but he died soon after from a fever contracted in prison.

When travelling through rural areas on horseback or by coach you were in danger of being robbed by highwaymen. Travelling on foot presented another danger, that of being apprehended by the local watch as a "wandering rogue".

History of the Life of Thomas Ellwood by His Own Hand:

Life in the Reign of Charles II by David Ogg:

gresham barts fire holborn primrose hill start of tour home

(c) 1996 Molly Brown