Islington highwayman was ‘One Direction’ of his day

PUBLISHED: 06:30 20 May 2015 | UPDATED: 10:27 20 May 2015

Stand and Deliver: Dashing Islington highwayman Claude du Vall stars at the London Dungeon

Stand and Deliver: Dashing Islington highwayman Claude du Vall stars at the London Dungeon

Chris Gloag

Heartthrob thief’s live of romance and robbery on borough’s roads

A dashing highwayman who terrorised travellers on Islington’s roads almost 400 years ago has been brought back to life.

Claude du Vall, known as the true gentleman of the road, robbed men and romanced women during a 10 year reign of swashbuckling terror in the 1660s.

Now, the gallant rogue – dubbed “the One Direction of his day”, so popular the King tried to stop his execution –has become the star of the latest London Dungeon attraction.

Richard Quincy, who researched Mr du Vall for the exhibition, said: “He really was a fascinating character. He’s the personification of everything you think of when you imagine a highway robber.

“When you think of that kind of dashing thief, you think of Dick Turpin.

“But Dick Turpin was actually a bit of a nasty b***ard, while du Vall was all gallantry.

“He had women lining up at his death bed. He really was the One Direction of his day.”

In the 1600s, Islington was prime hunting ground for highwaymen, as it was the main route into the city from the north.

Mr du Vall became a household name as a gentleman thief, due to his fashionable dress, dashing good looks and well mannered, though villainous, behaviour. Wealthy people even deliberately travelled to Islington and nearby Hampstead Heath in the hope of being held up.

He was finally caught – whilst drunk – from a tavern and sent to Newgate Jail, tried by a judge and sentenced to 

Much to the devastation of ladies of the court, and King Charles II himself who campaigned for his reprieve, Mr du Vall was hanged at Tyburn in 1670, aged only 27.

Now, his story of glamour and thievery is being re-told at a world famous visitor attraction.

Mr Quincy said: “We are really exaggerating his character, all that suaveness and Frenchness.

“He’s like an extreme Thierry Henry and it’s a lovely character to have in the dungeon.

“We’ve put him with Moll Cutpurse – a highway woman – and they give visitors a lesson in robbery from the gallows at Tyburn.”

Mr Quincy cites two stories in particular which captured the public’s imagination.

In one, while robbing a couple of their cash, the wife began to play her flute. On hearing this, the lovable rouge dismounted and began to play his own instrument. The pair dance together, much to her husband’s “absolute dismay”.

The highwayman handed the wife back, kissing her hand, and returned the cash to the couple – minus a fee charged to the husband for watching their performance.

In the second tale, the smooth criminal takes all a family’s belongings - including the baby’s dummy.

As the baby begins to cry, Mr du Vall returns the dummy to the child.

“I thinks that’s the worst thing he ever did,” said Mr Quincy. “Robbing a baby’s dummy.”

The exhibition runs until May 31.

Related articles


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Islington Gazette visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Islington Gazette staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Islington Gazette account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Islington News Stories

Yesterday, 18:11

Schoolchildren who escaped the fire which gutted the Highbury Leisure Centre were rewarded for their bravery with a meeting with the Mayor of Islington.

Yesterday, 16:07

An Essex Road charity has scooped a coveted award for its “fantastic” contribution towards youth justice.

Yesterday, 15:17

A Routemaster bus will take 72 passengers on a journey through Greek Cypriot history, via Camden and Holloway, on Sunday.

Yesterday, 08:44

An Islington man has been jailed for his role in the “callous” knifepoint robbery of a rolex watch – but police are still hunting his knife-wielding accomplice.

Thu, 19:23

Politicians and dignitaries across Islington are urging people to take part in a demonstration against fascism and racism taking place on Saturday.

Thu, 17:16

A teenager was stabbed off the Holloway Road this afternoon.

Thu, 16:15

A young man is in seriously injured after being stabbed multiple times in Homerton this morning.

Thu, 12:37

A Holloway grocer who set up to two bogus companies and stole nearly £120,000 has been jailed.

Promoted Content

Fostering older teenagers means giving them the skills for life as an adult. Here, a supportive lodgings carer with Islington Council and young adult who has left care share their stories

Newsletter Sign Up

Islington Gazette twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Islington Gazette
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now