The History of Lincoln Waites

The Lincolnshire Farmer's Daughter

c.1650 - 1850

This is one of a group of songs that share the same theme - of a girl outwitting a highwayman or robber. This gives rise to their more common title of "The Highwayman Outwitted". Versions of this song can be found in: Laws' "American Balladry from British Broadsides", "The Roud Folk Song Index" and the Bodleian Library. One version was collected by Frank Kidson from the singing of Kate Thompson of Knaresborough, during the 1880s. In A Pedlar's Pack of Songs and Ballads, Logan quotes a version entitled "The Maid of Rygate".

Lincolnshire versions exist in the following collections:

Singers arbitrarily changed the farmer's residence to suit their own location - so the farmer and his daughter now variously hail from Lincolnshire, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Sheffield, etc. Other titles are "The Rich Farmer in Cheshire [or Chester or Chesterfield], and "The Devonshire Farmer's Daughter".

Highwaymen were particularly active between the end of the Civil War and the arrival of the railways. The end of the war saw the national network of horse-drawn coaches expand. These coaches carried the wealthy. At the same time there were many ex-royalist soldiers who had lost their homes (and their prospects of a lawful life) in the civil war. For 150-200 years, generations of highwaymen robbed their way around the country while the forces of law and order vainly attempted to stop them. Informers were hired, rewards offered, highwaymen were hanged in public and their families were not allowed to bury the bodies, instead they were ordered to remain hanging to rot on the gibbet. None of this was sufficient deterrent.

The last highwayman to hang in England was Huffum White. It was August 1813.

Where the criminal justice system failed to rid the country of highwaymen, economic and industrial developments succeeded. The growth of banking and the introduction of cheques reduced the amount of cash in transit. William Pitt's Act For Restricting Cash Payments cut it even more. Enclosure Acts took the common land which had once provided highwaymen with cover. The appearance of the railways also impacted upon coaching trade (coaches had provided highwaymen with their richest pickings).

On 4 August 1846 a Midland Railway train arrived in the City of Lincoln. In 1848, Lincoln Railways station was built. So although this song was sung to Kidson in the 1880s, its theme suggests that it dates from a time when highwaymen were still active - possibly between 1650 and 1850.

The Tune most often associated with these words is "The Crafty Maid's Policy".


[return to top of page]

If you would like to hear my own arrangement of the tune - please click the following link:


[return to top of page]


[return to top of page]