A couple of people have been asking me recently if I know any quirky stuff about Shooters Hill. To be honest, it’s not my manor, but I always keep an eye out, and yesterday, whilst looking for something totally different, I found this tiny snippet.
Pretty much everything I read about the area tends to be about people travelling through it – it was the main road to Dover (immortalised in the opening of A Tale of Two Cities, as the Dover mail coach lumbers over the hill.) It often turns up as a notorious haunt of highwaymen and footpads, but in the past I’ve really only read about 18th and 19th Century villains.
But yesterday, whilst looking up the history of Britain’s penal system (it’s a long story) I found a strange little (uncredited) paragraph that describes a much earlier attack – and one where some weird sort of martial art seems to have been applied for the purpose of relieving an Elizabethan gentleman of his cash…
“Faith, I have had a foolish, odd mischance that angers me. Coming over Shooter’s Hill, there came a fellow to me like a sailor and asked me for money. Whilst I stayed my horse to draw out my purse, he takes advantage of a little bank and leaps behind me, whips my horse away and – with a sudden jerk, I know not how – threw me at least three yards out of my saddle. I never was so robbed in all my life.”
Sadly I know no more about the incident – the book in question does not tell us where the quote comes from and after that just goes on to talk about ‘eight idle wandering poor’ who stole a cartload of cheese, which, if there was ever a woodcut of the event, would just invite a caption competition.
But the idea of some weird technique that the ‘sailor’ used is curious. Perhaps a move he picked up on his travels? Who knows…