Released: August 2013
Publisher: Bradwell Books
Size: 180 x 110mm
Be frightened; be very frightened! Discover the extraordinary haunted heritage of the Essex.
The former kingdom of the East Saxons can lay claim to being England’s oldest county. It is certainly one of the most historic. Colchester is England’s oldest recorded town, starting in the Iron Age before the Roman invasion as Camelodunum. Colchester’s medieval castle is possessed of the largest keep in Europe and was partly constructed from the ruins of a Roman temple. The county town of Chelmsford was founded by the Romans in about the year AD60. It was granted city status in 2012.
Essex boasts a wealth of beautiful villages and towns, many with more than their share of medieval houses. There are more than 14,000 listed buildings in the county, over a thousand of which have won Grade I status.
Essex also has an extraordinarily rich folklore. With its extensive marshes and winding inlets of the sea and the Thames, large swathes of this eastern county remained isolated for centuries, developing a character and dialect all their own. In these odd corners old beliefs and superstitions died hard. In the 17th century, the county proved a lucrative base of operations for the self-styled Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins, one of the most notorious state-approved serial killers in history. Even into the 19th century, there flourished so called ‘cunning men’ – individuals supposedly skilled in magic and blessed with second sight who acted as unofficial doctors and policemen in their isolated communities.
Echoes of these dark times are echoed in the ghost-lore of Essex: the hideous ‘familiar’ said to haunt the notorious Devil’s House on Wallasea, for example, or the presence of a suspected witch murdered by a mob in Finchingfield. The ghosts of Essex are many and varied and date from all periods of its turbulent history. Roman centurions rub ghostly shoulders with medieval monks and nuns, Tudor lords and ladies, Civil War and Second World War soldiers, and numerous anonymous spooks. Some are quiet ghosts, others noisy. One or two are surprisingly violent, grotesque and frightening. All are fascinating. Not so long ago, Essex was even able to lay claim to Britain’s ‘most haunted house’: the infamous Borley Rectory.
Special mention must be made of James Wentworth Day, for it is a name we will encounter often in this book. Wentworth Day (1899-1983) was born in Suffolk but lived most of his adult life in Essex. A lover of the land and a particularly keen wildfowler, Wentworth Day spent many years befriending the country folk of East Anglia and in this way discovered many Essex-based ghost stories, including first-hand encounters that would otherwise have been lost to obscurity. Many of these tales were repeated in the several books of ghost stories he published in his lifetime, particularly Ghosts and Witches (1954), A Ghost Hunter’s Game Book (1958) and Essex Ghosts (1973).