John Gilpin

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This article is about 18th century draper and subject of Cowper's comic ballad. For the 20th century dancer, see John Gilpin (dancer). For the 1852 clipper, see John Gilpin (clipper).
John Gilpin clipper ship card

John Gilpin (18th century) was a based on a real-life character whose exploits became legendary and featured in a well-known comic ballad of 1782 by William Cowper entitled The Diverting History of John Gilpin. Cowper had heard the story from a friend, Lady Austen.

He was said to be a wealthy draper from Cheapside in London, who owned land at Olney in Buckinghamshire, near where Cowper lived. It is likely that he was actually a Mr Beyer, a linen draper of the Cheapside corner of Paternoster Row.[1] The poem tells how Gilpin and his wife and children became separated during a journey to the Bell Inn, Edmonton, after Gilpin loses control of his horse, and is carried ten miles further to the town of Ware.

There are a number of sites commemorating the exploits of John Gilpin, most notably Gilpin's Gallop, a street in the village of Stanstead St Margarets said to be on the original route taken by the horse's unfortunate pilot.

External links[edit]

The poem in full at


  1. ^ The poetical works of William Cowper, P 212,London: Frederick Warne and Co, 1892