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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Suffolk

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Myths and Legends
Margaret Catchpole
© Courtesy of Pictures of Health website
Margaret Catchpole: a “fallen woman”?

“Fearless as a Newmarket jockey”

Margaret Catchpole, born in Suffolk in 1762, is a fascinating character, whose story still captures the imagination. Described in a newspaper report of 1800 as “a tall and dark person” of “intelligent countenance”, by all accounts she was a headstrong and wilful woman. Even before achieving notoriety as a horse-thief and gaol-breaker, she had become famed in the local area for her horsemanship, after riding bareback from Nacton to Ipswich to fetch a doctor for her seriously ill mistress.

Laud fights the police
Cobbold said that Laud fought the police over Margaret's body
© Courtesy of Suffolk Record Office, ref HA213:1287142
Margaret worked in the service of various Suffolk families during her 30s, including the Leader family and the Cobbold’s in Ipswich. It was whilst serving the Cobbold family that she learnt to read and write, and her letters, together with contemporary newspaper reports, give us a window onto her life.

Even before she left home, Margaret had met, and fallen in love with, William Laud, a local man who soon afterwards became embroiled in the smuggling which was rife in 18th Century Suffolk. From this point onwards, Margaret’s remarkable story became entwined with that of Laud – whilst she descended into criminality, he sank deeper and deeper into the smuggling underworld.

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Your comments

1 C Stephens from - 16 January 2004
"There is no reference in the text to the picture of Laud fighting the police over Margarets body. Our interest is aroused but not satisfied."

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Look back into the past using the Legacies' archives. Find nearly 200 tales from around the country in our collection.

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