If you’ve ever walked along Snooks Moor, which runs alongside the A41 in Hemel Hempstead, then you may have spotted an obscure gravestone.
It’s plonked in the middle of a wide expanse of grass and might look to be something of little significance.
But the public common is instead believed to mark the burial place of Robert Snook – the last highwayman to be executed in England.
Snook – full name James Blackman Snook – was born in 1761. On May 10, 1801, he threatened a post boy who was travelling from Tring to Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire.
The post boy, who went by the name of John Stevens, had several bags of post with him when the highwayman robbed him near an isolated part of Boxmoor, near Bourne End.
The six bags he stole contained bank notes, promissory notes and letters.
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Snook took the money – believed to be £80, which was a sizeable amount at the time – before dumping the unwanted letters and bags on the moor.
But he made a critical error.
On March 11, 1802, it was later reported that the highwayman, along with the letters, had also discarded his own saddle that had a broken girth strap on the Moor.
This helped officials eventually identify him and track him down.
You can find where the gravestone is located in Herts via the map below.
Snook was wanted for spate of other robberies across the country
It was discovered that this wasn’t the first time Snook had fallen on the wrong side of the law.
The highwayman was wanted in connection with several highway robberies between Bath and Salisbury and had already been indicted for horse-stealing at the Old Bailey in 1799.
He was later acquitted of this.
Snook was eventually found and captured for the 1801 robbery after his next misdemeanour in Marlborough Forest in the December by William Salt, a post-boy who was riding through the forest at the time.
It’s believed that Snook had a number of pistols, as well as £200 in cash, in his possession at the time he was upended.
It was only circumstantial evidence that linked Snook to the crime because of how dark it was, but a stolen £50 bank note was traced back to Snook when he foolishly gave it to a serving girl in Southwark.
And then the broken saddle was also found.
Snook was later found guilty at trial and was sentenced to be hanged due to the crime being “of a nature so destructive to society and the commercial interests to the country”.
He was executed two days later on a public space near to where the crime took place.
It’s believed thousands of people attended.
You can now visit for yourself and see the place where it’s thought he was buried, and the markers were erected a century after his death by members of the Boxmoor Trust.
A subsequent footstone was added in 1994, during the Trust’s 400 year celebrations.
Did you know about this local folklore in Hemel Hempstead? Let us know in the comments below.