Ned Piggott (or Pickett), a Winslow character

This account, which appears to be a typescript from a newspaper article, was in the possession of the late Ralph Langley, and was donated to the Winslow History Archive by Margaret Langley-Roberts.

From Winslow to London and Back with a Wheelbarrow. -

"Ned" Piggott, a locally renowned eccentric at Winslow, about 60 years of age, has, he asserts, walked to the Marble Arch in London, and back, with a wheelbarrow, and evidence strongly supports his story. He undertook to propel a wheelbarrow from the "Chandos Arms" Winslow, to an inn near the Marble Arch, and bring it back to Winslow, with the landlord's voucher that he had been to London. For the accomplishment of the feat, Piggott was to receive 10s. He set out on Wednesday morning, July 23rd, 1879 with the direction "To London," chalked on his barrow, and was seen on the way thereto. During the journey, from the grotesque appearance of the emulating Westonian, the police felt it their duty to search him at several places. The bagage about him consisted of a coat in a sack, and a half of a quartern loaf, which he shot from the sack,exclaiming with characteristic dignity, that "they are my property," Many tales are afloat emanating from our hero's fertile imagination of his extraodinary reception at some of the towns on the route. His credentials as to having been to the public house in London, profess to come from a man named Bluett, where he arrived late on Thursday evening. He returned to Winslow, "spry and kicking," heralded with blasts from a bugle, accompanied with promiscuous shouting and hooting, on Saturday night, July 26th, having finished the foot excursion of 104 miles, in his allotted time of four days.

(Winslow to the Marble Arch, 48 miles six furlongs).

The wheelbarrow feat was also reported in the Bucks Herald, 2 Aug 1879

REMARKABLE WALKING FEAT. – On Wednesday, 23rd July, Ned Piggott, an old man of nearly 70 years of age, who resides in the High-Street left Winslow on a walking tour of London , wheeling a wheelbarrow by way of recreation, having the promise of receiving 10s [£0.50], if he accomplished the journey there and back, a distance 104 miles, within four days. This the old man succeeded in doing, arriving safely back in Winslow about ten o’clock on Saturday evening, when he was met at the entrance to the town by a large crowd, who enthusiastically escorted him and his wheelbarrow to his home. Piggott was very well received in most of the places he passed through, although in and near London he was frequently stopped by the police, who, inavariably, allowed him to pass on. On his return journey, coppers were liberally showered on the barrow, and at Tring, where he was known by one or two of the inhabitants, he was welcomed by a brass band.

The Bicester Herald had the same report (except that he was promised £1 instead of 10s), and also this one:

A Winslow celebrity, known by the name of "Neddy Pickett," and who is upwards of 60 years of age, undertook, for a small wager, to wheel a wheel-barrow with a small amount of luggage, from the "Chandos " Arms, Winslow, to the Marble Arch, London, in the space of four days, and to call at several places on the way. On Wednesday morning, July 23rd, at the time appointed he duly appeared donned in his " beadle's hat," and after labelling himself and the wheel-barrow "To London and back," be started on his journey, which he completed in good time on Saturday evening, much to the amusement of many of the townspeople, who, on the sounding of the " assembly " from a bugle went out to greet him, having finished his foot excursion, 104 miles, in under four days.—Communicated.

Ned's age varies in the two accounts. In the 1881 census he was recorded in Horn Street as:

Edward Piggott, unmarried, 66, general labourer, born Winslow

In 1871 he was aged 56, living in Bell Alley, and described as a brewer. In 1861 he was at the same address, aged 46, labourer. In 1851, aged 36, he was porter to Joshua French, ironmonger, in Horn Street. He died in 1887, when his surname was registered as Pickett, and his age was given as 71.

He was already well known to the authorities:

Bucks Herald, 17 June 1848

(Before W. S. Lowndes, and E. W. S. Lowndes, Esquires.)

James Wilmore alias Ponto, and Edward Pigott, labourers, of Winslow, were summoned by R. Ossitt, police-officer, of that place, for having assaulted him on the 31st of May, in the execution of his office.-  It appeared that the defendants were found walking the streets in Winslow, about two two [sic] o’clock in the morning disguised in women’s clothes, and acting in a disorderly manner, when Ossitt went up to them and asked what they were about, and desired they would refrain from such unruly conduct.  As they would not, the police took hold of Pigott, who refused to go with him, when Wilmore seized Ossitt’s staff and wrenched it from him.  Ossitt procured the assistance of Wilmott, the policeman on the railway line, when the men were soon lodged in the lock-up house.  When before the Magistrates they strongly denied the charge, but the Magistrates being satisfied the case was fully made out against them, fined them each £1. 0s. 6d. including costs, and allowed them till next meeting for payment.

When he died in 1887, the Buckingham Advertiser (12 Nov) published more anecdotes about him:

  DEATH OF A CHARACTER.- Addison among his refined and beautiful writings has a remark something like this: “Good nature atones for many idiosyncracies of character, and renders even certain vices tolerable.”  In many a quiet little town there have lived and died men whose lives were supremely unpretentious, without a spark of ambition in their natures, having about them such freedom from all conventional restraints, that they carried with them a charm which has influenced us by magic power.  Such a unique character has just paid his last debt at Winslow.  Old Neddy Pickett takes us back to the bright recollections of our boyhood, and many a piece of pure fun does the remembrance of him call to our mind.  Ready and willing at all times to do any odd work, always contented with very few wants, truthful and honest (vice he had none).  Preferring by far the freedom and independence to be enjoyed by looking after himself, and obtaining the oftentimes precarious lodging and shelter afforded him by stable, barn or cowhouse, when his funds would not admit of the luxury of a room in a dwelling-house; and as long as his health permitted, keeping off the parish, until by stress of weather driven into the harbour provided by what is known as the Poor Law Union.  At last, after a few days’ illness, succumbing to the inexorable fate of all men, and laid to rest in the same sleeping ground with many an old “pal” who drew an elixir from life, missed by many an one who has looked at human nature either through a microscope, a smoked glass, or a reversed telescope.

  Old Neddy Pickett, of Winslow, (whose death is referred to elsewhere in our columns), was all a character.  One of his delights was to don an old hard cocked hat, and with a long pipe in his mouth and using a long handled hoe for a walking stick, parade the streets, shamming tipsy to the great amusement of the juveniles.  His wheelbarrow exploits too, will be remembered by many of our readers.  The cottage in Bell Alley where he resided had a board bearing the inscription - “No. 1, Angel Alley.  Dancing Academy.  Bless your legs when your feet keep time.”  One of his idiosyncracies was that of seldom, or ever [sic], going to bed.

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