This Warwick Story from the archives is about Bendigo Mitchell. He was a highwayman, the most notorious villain in the area in the 18th century, and his name has become part of Warwickshire legend.
Reliable records are hard to find, but it is said locally that in the 1770s he terrified travellers along the Warwick to Banbury Turnpike and The Fosse Way. To this day the intersection near Harbury is known locally as ‘The Bendigo Mitchell Crossroads” and the police even used this name in a recent appeal for witnesses to an accident.
Local stories say he eluded capture for years. On one occasion, to escape a pursuing mounted posse of constables, he spurred his horse across a frozen pond at Chesterton Water Mill. The brave horse slipped and skittered on the ice but didn’t fall, so from then on the stallion was known as ‘Skater’.
The name Bendigo may be a corruption of the biblical name Abednego, and Harbury parish records show that there was an Abednego Mitchell living in the area who died in 1852 – almost certainly a member of the same family.
But not the man himself. His luck ran out in 1776. Bendigo was found by the constables, arrested, and put on trial at the Warwick Assizes in Northgate Street. It is told locally that he was hanged just down the hill, next to the racecourse, on ground that is now Sainsbury’s car park. 10,000 people turned up to watch.
And his name lives on, not just in local legend, but also in the name of Bendigo Mitchell Limited in Kenilworth. They sell and hire out fork lift trucks!