Since 1475 The Holt Hotel formerly Hopcrofts Holt Inn has been repose for all weary travelers offering hospitality with kind assistance in an honoured tradition. Come back with us and reflect, if only to immerse yourself within an atmosphere of times gone by, to sense Claude Duval, our infamous Highwayman, still hunting The Holt today.
Should you see a shadowy figure upon the stairs, or hear the pounding of hoofs, then it’s more than likely to be the restless ghost of Claude Duval. A notorious murderer and highwayman, who reined terror on the Oxford Road, he enjoyed spending his ill-gotten gains at The Holt Hotel which, in the mid-seventeenth century was a busy coaching inn.
This French aristocrat, born in 1643, came to England during the Restoration in attendance of the Duke of Richmond. Some years later, with a loyal henchman in tow, Duval began the lucrative business of highway robbery when times became hard. In typical French style, Claude Duval had an eye for the ladies, and it was his custom, dressed in curly wig, black hat, and eye mask, to rob the husband of a lady who caught his eye. The lady in question would be allowed to keep her baubles if she consented to dance with Claude, accompanied by the henchman on his mandolin.
Eventually, Duval’s flamboyant lifestyle was his undoing, and so popular with the ladies was Claude Duval, that many noblewomen pleaded for his life. His gallantry and good looks were not enough to save him from the gallows and in 1670, he was hanged at Tyburn in London. His ghost, however, chooses to reside in style at The Holt Hotel.
“I should be very ungrateful to you, fair English ladies, should I not acknowledge the obligations you have laid me under. I could not have hoped that a person of my birth, nation, education and condition could have had charms enough to captivate you all though the country has appeared by your firm attachment to my interest, which you have not abandoned in my last distress. You have visited me in prison, and even accompanied me to an ignominious death.
From the experience of my former love, I am confident that many among you would be glad to receive me to your arms, even from the gallows.
How mightily and generously have you rewarded my former services? Shall I ever forget the universal consternation that appeared upon your faces when I was taken; your chargeable visits to me in Newgate; your shrieks and swooning when I was condemned, and your zealous intercession and importunity for my pardon!
You could not have erected fairer pillars of honour and respect to me had I been Hercules, able to get fifty of you with child in one night.
It has been the misfortune of several English gentlemen to die at this place, in the time of the late usurpation, upon the most honourable occasion that ever presented itself; yet none of these, as I could ever learn, received so many marks of esteem as myself. How much the grater, therefore, is my obligation.
It does mot, however, grieve me that you intercession for me proved ineffectual; for now I shall die with a healthful body, and I hope prepared mind. My confessor has shown me the evil of my ways and wrought in me a true repentance. Whereas had you prevailed for my life, I must in gratitude have devoted it your service, which would certainly have made it very short for had you been sound I should have died of a consumption if otherwise of a pox”
William Spurrit 515 (aka Spurrior) was the son of Richard Spurrit 506 and his wife Ann Pitts. He was married to Elizabeth Hopcroft and was the Innkeeper at the Hopcrofts Holt and inn on the Oxford to Banbury Road. Here is a contemporary account of the events of Friday 18th January 1754, containing but one precious comma …
“On Friday last night, Spurrior who sells ale on the Oxford Road was most Barbarously Murdered and his house rifled by persons unknown. His wife above 80 years of age, the villains supposed they had Murdered She revived but had not spoken neither is any hopes of her life or speech.
She was when found setting in the Chimney Corner and had her Arm broke and her scull fractured in a most Miserable manner. As was her Husband’s head with a Green Knobbed ashen Cudgel which the villains left besmeared with blood. Tis supposed they found some money, the Box in which Spurrier kept his cash being open and all gone there was six pounds in another Box and seven Guineas in an Old Teapot.
They did not find they suspect a person that made him a visit some days after whom Spurrier entertained some time and Spurrier gave him a pair of shoes but left them and stole a pair of Boots from his Benefactor to whom he pretended he was nearly related.
The Rev. Lionel Lampet, Curate of Steeple Aston, made a long elegy of them, recorded by Mr. Wing, accusing the magistrates of far less energy than they would show over the poaching of partridges. Probably he was also responsible for the inscription on their gravestone.
“Here lieth the bodies of William Spurriet, and Elizabeth his wife, who were both Barbarously and Inhumanly Murdered at Hopcrofts Holt. January the 18, 1754, in the 77th year of their Ages.
On the back:
“O let each Reader shed a tear Upon the dust that slumbers here O Lord we beg thoult plead our cause, And let the World know who it was That did the fact and wicked crime, And bring to Judgement in due time. Then let the sentence be the same, As Thou, O Lord, didst set on Cain.”
The poetry and sentiment are well matched. It is further to be noticed that Lampet vacated his Curacy in the same year. Was he dismissed? Unfortunately, there is no record. But he deserves more than a passing notice. According to Wing he was for many years the master of Dr. Radcliffe’s Grammar School, as well as Vicar of Pusey in Berkshire, through he died five years before Edward Bouverie Pusey was born there.”