of the few highwaywomen on record also robbed on the heaths of north Surrey.
Mary Frith spent most of her criminal career as a fence, receiving and selling
on stolen goods, but in the conditions of chaos of the English Civil War she
decided to try her hand at highway robbery. In 1651 she and her henchmen
stopped a coach that was carrying no less a person than Sir Thomas Fairfax, the
commander in chief of the Parliamentary armed forces. She got away with a hefty
£250, but Fairfax was furious and had the authority to organise a massive
operation against highwaymen near London. Frith was caught, but bought her
freedom by paying a fine of £2,000 - then a colossal sum of cash. She then
wisely turned honest to evade the notice of the authorities. She died in 1659
and left £20 in her will to fund a party for named individuals should England
ever become a kingdom again, which it did the following year. A play about her
life called The Roaring Girl was written with her assistance.