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William Cratfield - The Highway Clergyman

A myth submitted to the site by Mary Ryan

Newmarket, Cambridgeshire, England

Highwayman
  • William Cratfield - The Highway Clergyman

The Reverend William Cratfield lived in the 17th century. He was a freelance clergyman but was forced to leave his parish at Wortham near Diss, because he ignored his clerical duties and engaged in activites so scandalous they could not even be recorded in the parish records.

You may have thought the disgraced vicar would have hidden in shame or disappeared into obscurity but not the Reverend Cratfield, he had other ideas and soon found another to make a living.

Newmarket, as today, was the home of horseracing and horse racing was known as 'the sport of kings'. Both King James I and King Charles I loved it. Where royalty went, the rich quickly followed and race days attracted many wealthy visitors to Newmarket. What's more all of these people were travelling with ready cash, with which to place their bets.

It was not long before Newmarket had connections with another group of horsemen - for it was in this area that many highwaymen made their fortunes and one of them was the Reverend Cratfield.

Undeterred by his misfortune the Reverend quickly swapped his dog collar for a black mask and headed straight for the highway. For nine years, the rascally rector relieved race goers of their money before they ever got to place a bet and lived well on his ill-gotten gains.

Then, one day he tried to hold-up a very wealth gentlemen, too late he saw that their was another rider alongside guarding the coach. The horseman set out in pursuit of the Reverend and after a chase he was captured and imprisoned.

The Reverend Cratfield was eventually hanged at Newgate prison. From then on the bookies took the race goers money instead. Today, at Newmarket, the only hold-ups are due to traffic on the A11.

By Mary Ryan
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