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The Highwayman

Alfred Noyes
Oxford Children’s Classics
Age 9-11

The Highwayman is a classic narrative poem written in 1906 telling the story of the tragic love story between an unnamed 19th century highwayman and Bess, a landlord’s daughter. The poem has a great rhythm which echoes the highwayman galloping on his horse plus lots of repetition and pattern making it fun to perform.

See the text of the poem.

The picture book version contains wonderfully atmospheric illustrations by Charles Keeping.


Watch the poem read aloud with Keeping’s illustrations

Poems are best read aloud and this one is great fun to read together, perhaps reading alternate verses or being different characters.


Talk about the story

  • Talk about anything puzzling about what happens in the story and any unfamiliar words eg rapier, ostler. You could use a hard copy or online dictionary together to find out what they mean.

  • Talk about how the different characters – what they did, how they felt at the beginning and end of the story.

Things to make and do

Perform the poem
Choose a few verses and practise reading them together making decisions about who reads wich bit or whether you will read some parts together. Can you add any sound effects? Eg wind blowing, horse trotting or musket firing? If you have someone to be the audience you can perform for them or make a recording of your poem , play it back and enjoy it!

Dress up as a character
Collect any suitable clothing to create a costume and dress up as either the highwayman or Bess. Pose for a photograph. if more than one of your family dress up you could recreate a scene from the poem.

Make a highwayman’s hat and mask
Try following the instructions in this video for making a hat:

Try the hat on, does it fit? If it is too small you could use for a soft toy and try making a bigger one out of newspaper.

here are instructions for making a mask or try method 2.

Make a ghostly picture

There are lots of ways to do this:

  • Use chalk or white crayon on dark paper if you have any to create a ghostly picture of the highwayman and/or Bess at the end the poem.

  • Cover a small piece of paper in white or yellow crayon or candle wax. Then cover this with a layer of black crayon and draw your ghostly picture by scratching through the black layer with a stick or the end of a paint brush.

  • Cover a piece of paper with thin black paint, when it is dry paint in the outline of the ghostly figures with white paint

Make a window or door book

Follow the instructions to make a window book.  Open up and draw Bess inside the window waiting for the highwayman – you could choose to draw her waiting at the beginning of the poem or with the musket at her breast.

Make a mini information book
Use the links below to find out about highwaymen then make your own mini information book. You could choose to find out about one highwayman in particular.


See our print-off activity book with some of these ideas and other activities.


Find out more

Find out more about highwaymen here and here

Watch a video which shows Dick Turpin was not really a highwayman at all! 

Find out about Alfred Noyes

Find out about illustrator Charles Keeping

See Lovemybooks ideas for The Highway Rat by Julia Donaldson