Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Charles Buckingham: Gloucestershire's Jack Sheppard

Charles Buckingham: The Great Escaper

We all know of Spitalfields’ Jack Sheppard,
But what of Cheltenham’s Charles Buckingham?
Footpad on the Gloucester-Painswick turnpike,
Awaiting trial in Gloucester gaol after his capture in Bristol
(He had Bristol connections – when he was in the North Gloucester Militia,
He helped the romantically named Monsieur Dare,
A French prisoner of war, escape from Stapleton Prison;
Charles was court-martialled, but managed to escape and desert.),
He escaped from his cell just before the Christmas of 1808
(By nail, spoon and a ladder of blankets, sheets and mops,
He later said under oath; no inside help, Charles emphasised),
Keeping his freedom until the summer of 1809
(Despite a twenty guinea (oh, slavery!) reward),
When he was incarcerated in New Prison, Clerkenwell,
Almost emulating Jack’s feat there of almost a century before,
With adept fingers, file, nail, and crowbar,
But caught, right at the end with a score of other prisoners;
He was returned to Gloucester, mightily relieved
When his Jack Ketch black cap verdict was commuted;
And so he was bound for the prison hulks in the Thames,
Like Magwitch and Compeyson in Great Expectations,
He and others, chained, leg-ironed and handcuffed,
Rigorously guarded, until a change of horses on the Uxbridge turnpike
Enabled him and two others to escape – both eventually hanged;
But, Mr Buckingham, still not then thirty, tall and avian-like,
With a beak-like prominent nose,
Remained free as a bird:
Where did he fly to?

With many thanks to Jill Evans for permission to use her research at

Totally recommend that you visit Jill’s fascinating blog 

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