Said to be a corruption of John Gilpin, a former occupant of Colliers Water Farm, who became immortalised by the poet William Cowper in the ballad The Diverting History of John Gilpin, published in 1782. The ballad tells the apocryphal tale of John Gilpin, a linen-draper from London, who sets off for a holiday suggested by his wife to mark their wedding anniversary. Gilpin borrows his friend’s horse to travel to the Bell Inn, Edmonton while his wife and three children travel there by coach. Gilpin mounted his steed which soon broke out into a gallop. The helpless rider, powerless to stop the horse, gripped its mane with all his might. His hat and wig flew off as he rushed past barking dogs and screaming children. So fast was he riding, that onlookers felt sure that he was in a race, and as he approached the turnpike (toll house) the keepers threw open the gates to let him pass unhindered. In this manner he finally reached Edmonton where his wife stood startled on the balcony of the Bell Inn as her husband went flying past headed for Ware, ten miles further on and the country home of Gilpin’s friend who owned the horse. On reaching Ware, having borrowed a wig and outsize hat, Gilpin immediately sets off again for Edmonton. But an ass brays and startles his mount which bolts yet again and, for a second time, the hapless hero loses his headgear. Meanwhile his wife sends a coach driver to find her husband who he soon discovers. He tries and fails to catch the horse’s reins and so gives chase. Six onlookers join in convinced a highwayman is being pursued and once again Gilpin flies past his wife waiting at the Bell Inn. The turnpike keepers open the gates again thinking that Gilpin is set to win the race:
“And so he did, and won it too
For he got first to town,
Nor stopp’d till where he had got up
He did again get down.”
Much of this neighbourhood was in the acreage of the New Barns Farm also known as Galpins, where James Arthur a ”physic gardener” grew medicinal and aromatic herbs in the mid-19thCentury. The names of some roads hark back to these farms and large houses including South Lodge Avenue and Sherwood Park Road.
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