The Essex Gang’s worst atrocity was carried out but three days after the Loughton incident. By now, the gang was chiefly based in London, where it was easy to remain anonymous. On 4th February, Samuel Gregory, Dick Turpin, and three other members gathered at the Black Horse Inn in Westminster to plot their next attack. Gregory had once worked as a blacksmith in the vicinity of Earlsbury Farm, Edgware, and knew that the farmer, Joseph Lawrence, paid his workers very good wages. This act of generosity was fatal: Gregory thus suspected he was a wealthy man, and a worthy target.
Along the way to Earlsbury Farm, the gang stopped for alcohol at local taverns and ate a supper of bacon and eggs. Suitably fortified, they captured a shepherd boy, James Emmerton, and entered the farmhouse by force, menacing its inhabitants with pistols. At the time, the house contained Lawrence and two servants, John Pate and Dorothy Street. The servants and shepherd were tied up and bundled into a room, and Lawrence was threatened with death if he did not show the Essex Gang where he kept his money. Once again, the victim was elderly: Lawrence was well into his seventies.
Lawrence’s breeches were forced around his ankles to bind them, and he was dragged through the house to show the gang where he kept his valuables. When he refused to cooperate, Turpin savagely beat his bare backside while other members pistol-whipped his head. Boiling water was emptied over him, and he was made to sit bare-bottomed in the fire (suggesting the threat to Shelley on 1st February was very real). He was then dragged around the house again in search of valuables, this time by his hair and nose. Lawrence still did not comply, but the gang still found plunder.
While all this was going on, Samuel Gregory was upstairs with Dorothy Street. At first, it seemed that he had led her away to scare the girl into telling him where Lawrence stored his money and valuables. Gregory’s motive was far more sinister. Alone with the terrified girl, whose hands were bound, Lawrence raped her at gunpoint, threatening to kill her if she did not give in. After this barbaric act, he led Dorothy downstairs again, where she replied to one gang member asking if she had been injured, ‘no, but one of your men has lain with me’.
There is no mitigation for such brutality, but the sum the gang gained from the armed raid makes the incident even more horrific. The physical harm done to the poor old man and the raped servant girl, to say nothing of the terrible mental trauma they suffered, netted the Essex Gang a mere £30. Remembering Turpin as a dashing highwayman does these innocent victims a shocking disservice. Even after Earlsbury Farm, the gang showed no sign of letting up. Just three days later, the same men were involved of the violent robbery of the Francis family of Marylebone.