Up Holland Highwayman

Possibly the most famous son of Up Holland is also the most notorious.  George Lyon was hanged at Lancaster on 22 April 1815 for a burglary at Westwood House, Ince, Wigan.

He lived in Up Holland, and had gained a reputation as a highwayman. Local legend has it that he and his accomplices planned the hold-up in the pubs of the village.  They were seen in the Bull’s Head before allegedly holding up the Liverpool mail coach at Tawd Bridge, but arrived back so quickly that they were there to express surprise when the coachman and passengers arrived.  There would have been plenty of people in the inn who, either through loyalty or fear, would have been prepared to swear that he had been there the whole time.

His legitimate occupation was hand-loom weaver, and it may be that increasing industrialisation threatened his livelihood and caused him to cast around for other sources of income.

Contemporary opinion was divided about whether he was a latter-day Robin Hood or simply a mean, common thief.  He boasted that he had been lagged (transported) and that he was ‘the head, or Captain of the Thieves’.  However, there is no doubt about the crime for which he was hanged, together with two accomplices, David Bennett and William Houghton.  A fourth man, Edward Ford, was spared because he turned King’s evidence.

The landlord of the Old Dog Inn in Up Holland, Simon Washington, fetched his body from Lancaster Castle and transported it back to the inn, followed by an enormous crowd.  Lyon was buried the next day in the nearby churchyard of St Thomas the Martyr Church, under a gravestone which bears the name of his daughter Nanny who had predeceased him.  People are still fascinated by his story, and one hundred and ninety five years later flowers are still to be seen on the grave.

Blog by Skelmersdale Community History Library

Read more at the British Library 19th Century newspapers

See more Archive Images

Read more from your Library: “Two Graves and their occupants“, “Up Holland Highwayman“, “The Handloon Weavers

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One thought on “Up Holland Highwayman

  1. There is also an interesting article in the “People and Stories” section of the Lancaster Castle website, lancastercastle.com, it’s called “George Lyon- Fact or Fiction?”

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