It was a dark evening in late October 1798 when Abraham the Jew rode out from Lincoln along the Old Coach Road to return to Kirton in Lindsey. Abraham traded in silver and gold articles, and for many years had supplied the Lincoln Silversmiths with their wares. He was by repute a wealthy man, and sensibly carried firearms to protect himself against the highwaymen and footpads who were know to pray upon travellers along this desolate road.If there was a place cut out for a dark deed, it was the Cocked Hat plantation at Burton, almost opposite the entrance to Burton Hall.
The convenient clump of trees close upon the road, a dark and lonely place, was an ideal spot to provide cover and concealment for a highwayman. It is supposed that as Abraham entered the wood at the start of his journey, he was held at gunpoint and wounded by his attacker. He returned fire but was killed by a gunshot and robbed of all his possessions. Days later his body was found in the woods and taken to Lincoln for burial. The constable investigating the case thought it no coincidence that the murder happened at this time and place. Someone knew of Abraham’s movements on that fatal day. Suspicion fell upon Long Tom, a man who in modern terms was “known to the police” and a customer at the Inn where Abraham was staying. The Innkeeper also happened to remember that on the night of the murder, Tom had asked him to change a large denomination banknote for a Leather Dresser. The Tradesman, in his evidence, stated that he had never asked Tom to cash a note.
Long Tom was arrested and committed to Lincoln prison. The evidence was circumstantial but he could expect no sympathy from the trial judge, Mr Justice Hastings , whose philosophy was “that it was better to hang an innocent man that let a guilty person escape”. Tom pleaded Not Guilty and emphatically denied changing the money - but the evidence of the Innkeeper proved decisive. Long Tom was found guilty and publicly hanged in Lincoln Castle - his body cut down and hung in chains upon a gibbet at Burton where the murder was committed.
But the story did not end there. Years later, the Innkeeper who had become a wealthy man, fell ill and on his deathbed made a dying deposition to a magistrate. He confessed that he had shot the old Jew and had concocted the story of Long Tom changing money. The authorities acted swiftly, they stripped the family of their possessions, leaving them homeless and destitute. Eventually, the government awarded the widow of Long Tom a yearly pittance in settlement.
Today, the leaves on the mature oak and ash trees which were but saplings 200 years ago, are coloured in their autumn tints. Perhaps next time you pass the Cocked Hat as you journey into Lincoln, remember this tale, and offer a prayer for Abraham and Long Tom. May they Rest in Peace.