Famous Mid Devon Rogues

For our Pirates and Rogues event on Saturday 4 August, we thought we would research and share some information about famous Mid Devon Rogues from bygone days…

Princess Caraboo, Imposter:

1977.376.1 Princess Caraboo, Mary Wilcox, c.1810

Born at Witheridge in 1791, her real name was Mary Wilcox.

After various jobs on farms and in domestic service, she wandered the country, sometimes dressed as a man, before beginning a career as an imposter posing as the Eastern princess, “Caraboo”.

Image and text courtesy of Tiverton Museum of Mid Devon Life

Bampfylde-Moore Carew, A Devonshire Rapscallion:


The man with the unlikeliest of first names was born in Bickleigh, Devon in 1693 and died in Tiverton in 1759.

Bampfylde-Moore pursued a career as an out-and-out rogue, a premier league confidence trickster, an unscrupulous charlatan, mountebank, a blind (and sometimes lame) beggar, a practised dog stealer, an accomplished pickpocket, a master of disguises and, lest we forget, King of the Gypsies.


Thomas Stukeley, Pirate:


Thomas Stukeley was one of the most colourful characters of the Elizabethan age, whose exploits as a pirate were complemented by his similarly larger than life roles as a forger, colonial adventurer, political advisor and mercenary.

Born at Affeton Castle near Witheridge around 1525, his father was a future Sheriff of Devon although there were rumours Thomas’s real father was Henry VIII.

In 1558 Stukeley first turned his hand to piracy. After a few forays he then came up with a plan to ingratiate himself with the new Queen Elizabeth to establish a colony in Florida. However, he used this as a cover for pirating expeditions closer to home.

Stukeley was persuaded by the king of Portugal to join in on an unsuccessful attack on the Moors in Morocco. He was killed during the ‘Battle of the Three Kings’ north of Casablanca in 1578.