Is Tommy Silversides Inspired by a Real Highwayman?

The fifth episode of Apple TV+’s historical comedy series ‘The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin’ revolves around Tommy Silversides, a dashing young highwayman who shows up in Hampstead to make the region his turf. He makes it clear to Dick Turpin that he is replacing the latter as a better robber in every way possible. Their confrontation leads them to a duel to determine who should lead the Essex gang and rule the streets of Hampstead. Even though Turpin is based on a real English highwayman, Silversides is seemingly a creation of the writers of the show, just like his boss, Lady Helen Gwinear!

The Significance of Tommy Silversides

Tommy Silversides is a fictional character. There aren’t any records of a highwayman resembling him challenging Dick Turpin to a duel to gain territory or lead the Essex gang. In reality, the Essex gang was led by Samuel Gregory, which explains the group’s other name, the “Gregory gang,” and not Turpin for anyone to challenge him to lead the band of robbers. Furthermore, there isn’t any evidence to prove that Silversides’ criminal organization, the Syndicate, ever existed. Therefore, it is evident that the charming highwayman is nothing but a creation of the writers of the period comedy.

Silversides might have been created to introduce conflicts into the tale of Dick Turpin. Through the character, the writers of the episode, Jon Brittain and Richard Naylor, succeeded in putting Turpin’s life and career on the line, building suspense ahead of the finale of the first installment of the show. The fictional character’s features align with the flashy appeal of the series, making the episode more entertaining. In the season finale, we can expect Silversides and Lady Helen to team up to try to punish Turpin before the latter manages to escape from them or his fellow gang members rescue him.

As far as the real history of Turpin is concerned, the highwayman resembles Silversides the highest is none other than Tom King. In the first episode of the show, Tom is portrayed as a barbarous and despicable man. According to William Harrison Ainsworth, who made Turpin a popular figure through his book ‘Rookwood,’ Tom is a “languidly handsome young highwayman,” which reminds us of Silversides’ charm that captivates even his victims and enemies such as Nell. Ainsworth described Tom as a “noted high-tobygloak of his time, who obtained, from his appearance and address, the sobriquet of the ‘Gentleman Highwayman,’” which indeed suites Silversides as well.

Turpin and Tom even formed a gang with Stephen Potter and the trio was responsible for a series of robberies in the year 1737. Tom was one of the most prominent highwaymen who lived during the lifetime of Turpin. The show’s portrayal of the character is entirely fictional. He neither led the Essex gang nor played a part in introducing Turpin to the group. As per reports, Tom was even younger than Turpin, which contradicts the character’s depiction in the show.

Read More: Is Jonathan Wilde Based on an Actual Lawman? Did He Capture Dick Turpin in Real Life?