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Dick Turpin
Jigsaw Reading Comprehension and Speaking Lesson

Dick Turpin Jigsaw Reading Comprehension and Speaking Lesson


Lesson Introduction
First write randomly on the white board vocabulary associated with crime and adventure.
Below is a possible list of words. Get students to group the words and add any others they
might think of. They should use their dictionaries or ask the teacher about unknown words.
Then ask them to guess the topic of the piece they are about to read.

a gangster to be tough a policeman

a robber to be strong a hero
a bandit to be smart a detective
a villain to have money a soldier
a hoodlum to have power a judge
a racketeer to command respect a magistrate
a thug to be debonair a lawyer
an outlaw to be valiant
a highwayman to be fearless
to be confident
to be brave

Pre-reading discussion questions

A) What attributes make a good villain?

B) What attributes make a good hero?

C) What attributes make a good victim?

D) What makes a good adventure story?

E) Why do some people think that criminals, gangsters etc are cool?

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Dick Turpin Jigsaw Reading Comprehension and Speaking Lesson

Jigsaw reading procedure

First put students into 4 groups tell them they are going to read four different parts of a story
about one man. Tell them that they will have to read and understand them text well enough
for them to retell their part of the story to members of the other groups. Tell them that to read
any text effectively they need to be actively engaged with the text. Tell them that you are
going to set them two tasks to help them do this. Stress that this is to be done as a group not

Task one: Unknown Vocabulary

Task Two: Comprehension of text questions

This procedure is designed to help students to how to identifying important information in the
text, using context and asking questions about the text. First tell the students this is an
authentic text i.e. something not specifically intended for EFL students but rather something
taken from a source aimed at the native reader. Tell them for this reason they are going to
have to write their own questions. They must write them as a group and should agree on the
content and construction of the question and be able to answer it tell also that these questions
will be passed on to another group to answer and evaluate.

List of question words

What for identification of things

Who for identification of people

When for time

Why for reasons and cause

How for way, procedure or measurements sometimes reason (How come)

Where for place sometimes for time particularly history (Whereabouts in the 1800’s)

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Dick Turpin Jigsaw Reading Comprehension and Speaking Lesson

Example questions: Turn each title in to a question

Text One “Dick Turpin” identify Dick Turpin as a man, then elicit “Who was Dick Turpin?”
and “Who is Dick Turpin?”

Text Two “The Essex gang” identify them as a group elicit “Who were the Essex gang?”

Text Three “Epping Forest” get students to identify this as a place “Where is Epping Forest”

Text Four “The End of the Road” “When was the end of the road (for Dick Turpin)?”

By this time the students should have got the gist of things so set them to work in groups
monitor and give assistance to groups as necessary.

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Dick Turpin Jigsaw Reading Comprehension and Speaking Lesson


"The Spurious Highwayman"

Dick Turpin is probably the most famous highwayman of all. Mention

the name to most people, and they will tell you he was a daring and
dashing highwayman who famously rode from London to York on his
faithful mare, Black Bess, in less than 24 hours. However, the popular
Turpin legend contains not a grain of truth. In reality, Turpin's fictitious
great ride was made by 17th-century highwayman John 'Swift Nick'
Nevison, who early one morning in 1676 robbed a homeward-bound
sailor on the road outside Gads Hill, Kent. Deciding he needed to establish an alibi, Nevison
set off on a ride that took him more than 190 miles in about 15 hours. In addition, it was only
at the very end of his life, while waiting to be hanged at York racecourse that Turpin
exhibited any of the swaggering nonchalance, heroism, or derring-do usually attributed to
him. Prior to that, both his existence and his criminal ventures had been squalid, to say the


The spurious legend of Dick Turpin was

established in 1739 with the book Life of
Richard Turpin, and sealed with the novel
Rookwood (1834) by Harrison Ainsworth in
which the highwayman 'Dauntless Dick
Turpin' with his horse Black Bess is a
secondary character. Ainsworth's description
of an epic ride from Westminster to York caught the popular imagination and turned a fairly
average pot-boiler into a runaway best-seller. During the next 50 years, replays of the Turpin
story, as told by Ainsworth, appeared in magazines, cheap novels, and ballads, not just in
Great Britain but around the world. History, romance, and legend rapidly blurred and,
eventually, the fictional ride of Ainsworth's Turpin totally eclipsed the villain's real exploits.
The metamorphosis of Dick Turpin, house-breaker, torturer, murderer, horse-stealer and all-
round real nasty piece of work into Dick Turpin, Highwayman and Knight of the Road was

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Dick Turpin Jigsaw Reading Comprehension and Speaking Lesson


Dick Turpin was born in 1706 in rural Essex, the son of John Turpin, a small farmer and
some-time keeper of the Crown Inn. Some biographers say he was born in Thackstead, others
name Hempstead. Young Dick probably served an apprenticeship with a butcher in
Whitechapel- in those days, a village on the fringes of the capital. During his apprenticeship
he "conducted himself in a loose and disorderly manner." When his apprenticeship was over,
he opened a butcher shop, and began to steal sheep, lamb and cattle. Caught in the act of
stealing two oxen, he fled into the depths of the Essex countryside to save himself. After
resurfacing, he tried his hand at smuggling, but proved as inept at this venture as he had at
cattle rustling. Before long customs agents compelled Turpin and his gang to lay low. Many
people think of Dick Turpin as a lone highwayman, however for the majority of his criminal
career he was a member of the Essex Gang (also known as the Gregory Gang). Members of
Turpin's gang are known to have included: Thomas Barnfield, Mary Brazier, John Fielder,
Jasper Gregory, Jeremy Gregory, Samual Gregory, Herbert Haines, John Jones, James
Parkinson, Joseph Rose, Thomas Rowden, Ned Rust, William Saunders, Richard Turpin,
Humphry Walker, and John Wheeler. There may have been other members who were either
not identified or who were only occasional associates of the Gang.

Turpin and his gang invaded isolated farmhouses, terrorizing and torturing the female
occupants into giving up their valuables. A typical attack took place at Loughton, in Essex,
where Turpin heard of an old widow woman rumoured to keep at least £700 in the house.
When the woman gamely resisted all of Turpin's efforts to discover the money's hiding place,
he hoisted her into the open fire until she gave up her treasure. Robbing remote farmhouses
was the Gang's speciality, and it was only towards the end of his criminal career that Turpin
was actually involved in highway robbery.

Flushed with success-and money-Turpin and his mates proceeded to rob their way around the
Home Counties, frequently employing torture as a weapon of persuasion. By 1735, the
London Evening Post regularly reported the exploits of Turpin and 'The Essex Gang' and the
King had offered a reward of £50 for their capture. Eventually, local constables captured two
of the gang, Turpin himself narrowly missing capture by bursting out a window.

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Dick Turpin Jigsaw Reading Comprehension and Speaking Lesson

Turpin headed back into the familiar East Anglian countryside and lived rough for some time.,
until he began working with 'Captain' Tom King, one of the best-known highwaymen of the
day and the kind of swashbuckling, devil-may-care character into which legend would later
transform Turpin. From a cave in Epping Forest from which they could watch the road
without being seen, they robbed virtually anyone who passed their hiding place. Even local
peddlers started to carry weapons for protection. By 1737, Turpin had achieved such
notoriety that another bounty of £100 was placed on his head- a reward that unwittingly
transformed him from a common footpad into a murderer. On 4th May, 1737, a gamekeeper
named Morris tracked Turpin to Epping Forest, but when he challenged him at gunpoint,
Turpin drew his own gun and shot Morris dead.

The fugitive's next exploit was nothing less than bizarre. One night, while on the road to
London, he took a fancy to a particularly fine horse ridden by a man called Major and forced
him to exchange it for his own jaded mount. Mr. Major didn't take the loss lying down. He
issued handbills around the pubs of London, describing the horse and naming Turpin as the
thief. The horse was traced to the Red Lion pub in Whitechapel, where Turpin had stabled it.
When Tom King came to collect the horse, he was arrested. Turpin, who had been waiting
nearby, rode toward the constables holding King and fired at them. Unfortunately, he was a
dreadful shot, and the bullets hit King rather than his captors.

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Dick Turpin Jigsaw Reading Comprehension and Speaking Lesson


Before he died, King provided the constables with sufficient information to force Turpin to
again live rough in Epping Forest. Realizing that he could not long escape capture if he
remained in the London area, Turpin set off for Yorkshire., where he settled under the name
of John Palmer, financing his fancy lifestyle with frequent excursions into Lincolnshire for
more horse and cattle rustling and the occasional highway robbery. One day, returning from
an unsuccessful hunt he shot his landlord's rooster. When the landlord complained he
threatened to kill the landlord as well. He was taken into custody while local authorities made
enquiries as to how exactly 'Mr. Palmer' made his money, and inevitably the constables
learned of several outstanding complaints made against 'John Palmer' for sheep and horse
stealing in Lincolnshire. Turpin waited in the dungeons of York Castle while these charges
were investigated, but even then things might not have gone too badly for him if he hadn't
written a letter to his brother, requesting him to 'procure an evidence from London that could
give me a character that would go a great way towards my being acquitted.'

Unfortunately for Turpin, his brother was too mean to pay the sixpence postage due and so
returned the letter to the Post Office. There, by a great coincidence, Turpin's former
schoolmaster, Mr. Smith, saw it and recognized the handwriting. He took the letter to the
local magistrate and, with his permission, opened it. Despite the fact that it was signed John
Palmer, Smith identified the writer as Turpin. Smith was subsequently dispatched to York to
make positive identification; which he did.

Convicted on two indictments, Turpin was sentenced to death. Pleas from his father to have
the sentence commuted to transportation fell on deaf ears. Between his sentence and
execution, visitors frequented Turpin's cell. He bought new clothes and shoes and hired five
mourners for 10 shillings each. On 7th April, 1739, Dick Turpin rode through the streets of
York in an open cart, bowing to the gawking crowds. At York racecourse he climbed the
ladder to the gibbet and then sat for half an hour chatting to the guards and the executioner.
An account in the York Courant of Turpin's execution, notes his brashness even at the end,
"with undaunted courage looked about him, and after speaking a few words to the topsman,
he threw himself off the ladder and expired in about five minutes." Thus in death at least,
Turpin attained some of the gallantry that had eluded him in life.

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