The Mystery Of The Death Of Judge Albert Prince & The Stavisky Affair

democideWell, since the recent events at Salisbury, when the cloak and dagger activities of possible state-sponsored assassination attempts began to rattle around that Cathedral City, I’ve been waiting to see the rare use of the word ‘democide’ but it seems Rudloph Rummel’s (1932–2014) excellent definition is still waiting in the wings, ie: “the murder  of any person or people by their government, including genocide, politicide and mass murder.”NERVE_POSTER

This double-agent story, of course, triggered memories of the 2006 murder of Alexandar Litvinenko in London, but as a criminologist, I was taken back further to another controversial case of the 1930’s known as,”The Stavisky Affair,” in France.

However, this was not a double-agent cold-war spy case at all, but an incredibly intricate and clever embezzlement that engulfed major French political figures forcing the Premier of the time, Camille Chautemps (1885-1963) to resign. En-route we have a government-run pawn-shop swindle; a bogus medical clinic scam, duping pregnant women; a murdered judge and fashion model, and two innocent children and apparent ‘suicides’ of the Russian-born instigator, Serge Alexandre Stavisky and other ‘players’ – dying in mysterious circumstances and mysterious places. Also the sheer scale of this scandal encompassed not only France and Russia, but Spain, America and England and is so intricate and complex a mere blog cannot cope with it!

So why am I even going there?

Two reasons – firstly you may well like to set off on your own volition and have a deeper a look this if it’s a new story to you – it really is worth doing, but my second reason was to re-visit one unsolved mystery that occurred as part of this whole scandal – the mysterious death of Mr. Albert Prince, a judge of the Paris Court of Appeal and to do this by paying tribute to the excellent Illustrated London News of March 17th 1934 by using their skilfully- crafted illustrated investigative ‘adventure’ – taking their readers some way into the murky shadows of what appears to be some form of state-sponsored murder [1]

[Just to add,  in the light of the recent Oscar winning film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, – this case even contains a similar tactic used to expose the French police with a  campaign of inflammatory posters bearing the name of the Independent Deputy for Marseilles, Simon Sabiana, accusing him of standing back from solving Judge Albert  Prince’s murder case because of a police cover- up about its own involvement. [2]

Okay, for the moment assume you’ve dipped into a TV soap having never watched an episode before. Here is the Sunday Times piece for March 18th 1934 (p.21) that can quickly give you the gist of how sensational it all was and you’ll notice  a mere passing mention of the murder of Monsieur Albert  Prince. That’s where we will stop and take our detour courtesy of the London Illustrated News, eight-four years ago this week.

SUNDAY TIMES_PRINCEb.jpgAlso – here is a brief extract from a very competent précis of the whole set-up to start you on your own journey if you wish to take it: “A colossal swindle perpetrated by Serge Alexandre Stavisky brought scandal and ruin down on the heads of some of France’s most esteemed government leaders in the years preceding the outbreak of World War II.  L’affaire Stavisky filled reams of official court transcripts as prosecutors attempted to sift through conflicting evidence to learn how it was possible for a Russian-born swindler operating out of a government-supervised pawn shop to cause so much chaos in the marketplace. As the court pondered, hordes of angry citizens standing outside the Chamber of Deputies chanted, “Assassins! Thieves! Staviskys!” A new word had entered the French lexicon of popular slang.”

Are you ready to enjoy some wonderful (rare) sketch illustrations and start your criminological journey to try and solve this ‘cold-case’ murder of 1934? This reconstruction is the work of writer, M. M. Albéric Cahuet (1877-1942) & artist, André Galland (1886-1965) to which full credit and admiration is duly given.

Overview by Albéric Cahuet– 

On February 21st 1934, the mutilated body of Mr. Albert Prince, A Judge of the Paris Court of Appeal was found on the railway line near Dijon. From June 1925 until October 1931, Mr. Prince was at the head of the financial section of the Public Prosecutor’ s Office and therefore he might have been able to throw considerable light on certain aspects of  The Stravinsky Affair. For that reason it was at once assumed that he had been murdered in order that his lips might be sealed. The first results of the post-mortem showed there were no knife or bullet wounds on the body. Later, Dr. Khun, having examined the body and made various tests, affirmed that he had found in the tissue traces of a toxic substance of a narcotic nature. The police were baffled and as this is written, the mystery remains unsolved. The following points may be made in connection with this very plausible reconstruction. In January a stranger presented himself at the house in which Mr. Prince’s mother lives in Dijon, asking after Madame’s health and was told the name of her doctor – Dr. Ehringer. Evidently, it is argued a careless note was made, for in telegraphing to his wife on arrival at Dijon, Mr. Prince, presumably given the name by the stranger, who is thought to have met him there, wired it as ‘Hallinger’. On February 20th some person unknown rang up Mr. Prince in Paris and told him that his aged mother was to be operated on in Dijon that evening and begged him to come at once. Thereupon the Judge, never doubting the authenticity of the message, caught the 12.32pm train from Paris. He reached Dijon at and six minutes later sent the telegram to his wife saying that his mother was going  on as well as could be expected and that he was starting for the nursing home. His movements between the time he left the Hôtel Morot, Dijon and the time his dead body was found on the line at Combe-Aux-Fées are unknown. The argument advanced is that he was lured nominally to “La Providence” but actually to  Combe-Aux-Fées to meet his death – death which must seem to have been caused by a train; even, it may have been due to suicide. But the knife found by the body was blood-stained but the body had no mark of a knife wound. The conclusion is that the knife was left as a symbol – a sign of revenge and a threat to the living who might be called to given evidence in the Stravinsky Affair. A motor-car with dimmed headlights was seen standing near the railway close to the spot where the body was found, at the presumed time of death. Mr. Prince’s mother was never a patient at “La Providence.”  Here is the reconstruction by artist André Galland.


Stavisky_2On February 20th, 1934, Albert Prince left Paris for Dijon, summoned to his mother’s bedside by an authoritative telephone call. At the Gare De Lyon, Monsieur Prince caught the 12.32 pm train for Dijon. Was he being shadowed? An important witness has stated that he was. During the journey from Paris to Dijon, Mr. Prince it  may be assumed dealt with notes and documents carried in his portfolio  – possibly, indeed with material concerning ‘The Stavisky Affair’. Was he spied upon in the train?Stavisky_4
The train reached Dijon at 4.44pm and Mr. Prince got out. Everything suggests that he was stopped at this moment by a stranger who introduced himself as a messenger from the doctor named as attending Mr. Prince’s mother. (Possible the owner of the authoritative voice that send the judge on his death-journey)Stavisky_5
At the station post-office, Mr. Prince sent a telegram to his wife, saying that his mother was reported as being as well as possible after her operation and that he was going to the nursing home. The name of his mother’s doctor was incorrectly spelt, Hallinger instead of Ehringer.Stavisky_3
Leaving the station. Mr. Prince walked to the Hôtel Morot close by. Apparently the mysterious messenger who had met him on his arrival, took good care not to be seen with him in the telegraph office or at the hotel thus guarding against future identification.At the Hôtel Morot, Mr. Prince booked a room and filled in the particulars required by the registrar, desposited his suitcase (but not his portfolio which was found by his body, minus certain papers,) and went out. It was evident that he was in a hurry.Stavisky_6Here theory begins: Mr. Prince allowed himself to be driven into the country in the belief that he was going to “La Providence” to which he had been told his mother had been removed. Its wall is on the left.Stavisky_7
But the car passed “La Providence” (possibly with Mr. Prince stunned or drugged) and continued up the Chèvre-Morte Road, and, by way of the Route Nationale and under the little railway bridge to the Combe-Aux-Feés. At the Combe-Aux-Feés, Mr. Prince’s death was assured and the body was borne up a short incline leading to the little wall beside the railways line.On the right is a hut in which the body could have been hidden in an emergency.Stavisky_8
The wall having been crossed with ease, the murderers, seeking to place the body on the line, slid and dragged their burden by way of a patch of small loose pebbles. Ten minutes latter a goods train passed crushing and breaking the body which had a broken cord around one of the ankles.Stavisky_9
One reconstruction of the last stage of Mr. Prince’s death-journey: The judge was driven to and past “La Providence” – the car then traversing the Chèvre-Morte Road,and turning righr into the Route Nationale to reach the  Combe-Aux-Feés
A second reconstruction of the last stage of the death-journey: The car went past Talent following the Troyes Road until it reached a lonely spot sat which Mr. Prince (drugged or already dead) could be secreted until he could be borne to  Combe-Aux-Feés by night.
A dog on a neighbouring farmstead was heard howling about the time of the death – reacting traditionally to the passing-by of a dead body (note from me: this may be a translation quirk or there’s some kind of folk-lore insertion purported here by Albéric Cahuet– surely he means the dog was merely alerted by strangers passing!)


X – point where body found: (1) Paris-Dijon railway line (2) Combe-Aux-Feés quarry in which a car would be moved about or left without being seen from the road  (3) The shortest incline leading to the railway line (4) The Fountaine-Aux-Feés (5) Inaccessible road down the valley (6) Cultivated ground near Talant (7) The Rover Ouche.


Well- there you have the story as presented to the readers of the London Illustrated News week-ending March 17th 1934 – a really intriguing piece of history enacted eight-four years ago. Interesting that traces of a toxic substance of a narcotic nature were found by one doctor and immediately that line of inquiry was shut down and the doctor taken off the register. This is all gold-dust to conspiracy theorists – but probably,  in this case, genuinely so.  What do you think?


[1]The Sunday Times (London, England), Sunday, April 01, 1934; pg. 13; Issue 5790.


[2] Poster Campaign against Police.  The Sunday Times (London, England), Sunday, April 01, 1934; pg. 13; Issue 5790.


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The Diabolical Murder of Ann Pullin


“Give ear ye tender Christians all, and listen unto me,
While I relate a deed of blood and great barbarity;
A murder of the blackest dye I know I now repeat in rhyme,
That was committed by George King, a young man in his prime.”
Source: The Trial and Confession of Geo. King: G. Smeeton, 1834.

Wantage in old Berkshire, England, was the location of this ‘deed of blood and great barbarity,’ and it can be said, without exaggeration, to be the most horrific tale of murder of an innocent victim. It is also a tale of outrageous behaviour by some of the victim’s family in exploiting this terrible misfortune.

But first let’s meet the perpetrator, George King, aged nineteen, a native of Cumnor a small hamlet in old Berkshire, (now Oxfordshire). His job as an itinerant fruit picker, bean and pea-reaper took him to work in Court Hill Farm just outside Wantage.KING
It was Friday 30th August 1833. Around seven o’clock that evening, he finished the arduous task of bean-cutting. This entailed a skillful severing of the bean stalks with a razor-sharp hooked blade and King was fast and accurate, harvesting the beans without damage to the long tender crops to the satisfaction of the foreman, John Heath. It was lonely tiring and thirsty work.

On his walk back to Wantage, King decided to stop off at the Squirrel public house in Grove Street for a well-earned beer. Then it was on to his lodgings at the White Hart in nearby Newbury Street. This was the home of forty year old Mrs. Ann Pullin, who lived with her six-year-old daughter and twelve-year-old stepson. It was a neat house, set slightly back from the street, with a small garden and comfortable accommodation for the occasional traveller and casual farm worker such as King.

The pub was quiet that rainy evening; one man had left almost as King arrived, and another sat supping his beer, his dog by his side. Ann Pullin was a widow and the man with a dog had taken a shine to her and had been engaged in a little courtship when he was interrupted by King’s return and his request for food and beer. He decided to leave now that King was back for the evening and, so it was, that George King was left alone with Ann Pullin.

His kindly landlady cut him a rasher of bacon which he frizzled on the point of his knife by the log-fire while she poured him another ale. All in all a peaceful scene on a rainy night at the end of August and there it might have ended but what was to happen next was sudden and startling.

After his supper, King went out to use the toilet in the yard and, on his return, Mrs. Pullin went over and bolted the door shut for the night. In the cosy warm serenity of her small pub, her two children asleep upstairs, Ann Pullin felt no need to be wary of her hard-working lodger. But how wrong can you be?

Whether it was on the spur of the moment or had been planned for some time is not known, but King decided he needed money and the widow had what he wanted. Warmed, fed and refreshed, King took his curved bladed bean-cutter, raised it high for the last time that day and in a moment sliced Ann Pullin’s head clean off her body.bean knife

With his knife, fresh from cooking the bacon the kindly women had given him not many moments before, he then cut off her apron pocket containing her purse and freed the pub keys from her belt. His confidence left him as he struggled with the keys in an attempt to unlock the door. In his panic, the candle dropped out of its holder and he trod on it rendering it useless. As he fumbled in the dark, it was some little time before he could find the bolt. At last he wrenched open the door and stumbled down the steps into the street, clutching the severed pocket, keys and the ferocious murder weapon dripping with Ann Pullin’s blood.

The scene he left behind was horrific.
The decapitated body of Ann Pullin lay in a crimson pool of blood, her head lying some four feet away staring sightlessly toward the doorway through which King had fled. The Berkshire Chronicle was later to describe the walls and floor as being covered in blood so it would seem likely that King would also have the blood of his innocent victim on his clothes and possibly his face and hands as he made his escape that rainy Friday night.

It was this sight that was to greet Ann’s twelve-year-old son James in the kitchen parlour the next morning. Calling out for his mother, he entered the kitchen around seven o’clock exciting about the prospect of a day’s fishing with his friend Thomas Gregory, the milk boy. One cannot imagine the horror that confronted that young  boy to see his mother’s decapitated body and then her head, lying some distance away, her face frozen in the agony of death, her life blood now turned to crimson stains on the floors and walls of the kitchen.

At that moment, his friend Tom was coming up the pub steps. The door was open from King’s escape the previous night, so Tom went straight in. He and James stood together as statues, transfixed by a sight that would never leave their memories. The lifeless gaze of James’s mother, her crisp white bonnet still tied under her chin in a bow, with just a trickle of blood running down her cheek, adding to the horror and the feeling that at any moment she might cry out in anguish.
Then the friends fled the scene to fetch help.

But what of George King? He had deserted his lodgings, so it would not be long before he was sought for questioning. What happened to him that rainy night after he had slaughtered his landlady with – according to the Reading Mercury,as much smoothness as could possibly be effected by a Turkish scimitar.”

He had rushed out in a panic and set off towards Falcon Corner, tossing the stolen keys aside as he did so. He’d taken the widow’s purse from the severed apron pocket, discarding the torn cloth in the village pond, and then headed up towards the churchyard. Some fifteen to twenty minutes after leaving Newbury Street, he returned, not to the scene of his crime – the White Hart – but to the Blue Boar another public house almost opposite.BLUE BOAR_1

Was a plan formulating in his mind to brazen it out, to play the innocent labourer going for a drink before returning to his lodgings and then discovering his landlady murdered? He would often drink elsewhere before returning home at the Squirrel or the Sparrow where he had a bar-tab so this was not behaviour out of character.

It was around nine-forty-five that evening when George King entered the Blue Boar. The first thing that the landlord noticed when King entered was, that despite heavy rain, he had his coat doubled up on his arm. Why would you carry your coat on such a night? It would certainly be a useful way to hide a bloodstained waistcoat or perhaps a coat sleeve. It seems that King’s mind was working overtime to construct an alibi.

Whether his decision to go to the Blue Boar was spontaneous or pre-planned is difficult to tell. One thing common to almost all violent murders is the unexpected emotional turmoil that actually committing the murder triggers in the perpetrator – the unforeseen jittery behaviour and seemingly confused manner. Trying too hard to act normally can draw attention.

King went up to the bar and ordered a pint of beer, spilling cash onto the bar from which he paid a half-penny. William Betteridge, the landlord, noticed that despite carrying his coat over his arm, King was not very wet. He had obviously not been outside for long enough to be soaked to the skin or had possibly taken his coat off just prior to entering the pub which was an unusual action. Great observers, landlords!

LANDLORD.jpg King was still carrying his bean hook and also, according to the landlord, a hooked stick. King did not drink the beer but asked if he could have a bed for the night. By this time the landlady had appeared to have a look at their new customer

She saw a young man with a strong sinewy frame. He was short around five-feet two inches tall. He had a rather forbidding sullen look; his eyes were small and sunken and his ears projected very noticeably. He was not an endearing sight and she told him no, there was no room for him, but it was likely that he could get one at Mrs. Pullin’s opposite, at the White Hart.

King fell silent; he had not expected to hear his victim’s name coming back to haunt him so soon. He took his beer over to some others drinking at nearby table and bade them have it. He no longer wanted it, but had he wanted to act normally, he was not doing a very convincing job giving away his freshly drawn beer to strangers only minutes after arriving.PUB_MEN

Perhaps he realized this was a foolish move because he then offered to play anyone in the room at a game of skittles. Was this another attempt to persuade himself he would survive his murderous deed and ingratiate himself with the pub regulars, perhaps playing for time to further develop an alibi?skittles_king

Without the forensic skills we use today, and without the precise time of death that contemporary medical investigations are able to provide, it was much more difficult to accurately connect a suspect to the victim and the crime unless the deed had been witnessed or the suspect found to be in possession of goods stolen from the scene of the crime. Even bloodstains could be explained as rabbit blood acquired during poaching or as a result of an accident while harvesting.

We know King had Ann Pullin’s money on his person, but if he kept it well hidden and stayed in the pub until closing time, he might still claim innocence when Mrs. Pullin was discovered. He could even say that he had not yet been back to his lodgings – too busy visiting pubs and playing skittles. The landlord though, wanted to close shortly and refused to allow any more skittles to be played that night. It was now approaching ten-fifteen and there were only five other customers in the pub at that time – all, of course, witnesses to King’s restless behaviour.

One was a young French lad called Charles Marriot, who was working as a bellows-boy with a local blacksmith called Frampton. He was sitting alone when suddenly King went over to his table and struck up a conversation. He had an unusual proposition for him.


Claiming that he was without shelter for the night, he said he hoped to find somewhere to stay at Hanney around four miles north of Wantage where he had been working at Court Farm. He offered to pay the young French lad one shilling for his companionship on the journey. King was a desperate man; he also carried a fearsome weapon in the form of a bean-hook, so it was not surprising that Marriot refused. King then asked Marriot if he would help him find another tavern to lodge at and this time Marriot agreed. They set off into the rainy night.

The White-Hart, opposite, was in darkness, a black shroud hiding its gruesome secret from the innocent Marriot. How King must have hurried him past onto other Wantage taverns to try their luck. But it wasn’t to be. All were closed or closing and not available to last minute lodgers.

Further pleading by King and his strange admission that he was frightened of being alone in the dark, plus the promise of money, led Marriot to reveal his own resting place in a nearby stable in Back Street. King agreed to pay Marriot sixpence to stay with him.

After a night of restless mumbling and thrashing about, including a threat to hang himself, which kept Marriot awake, King was on his way by early light, telling Marriot that he was off to Hanney. Marriot was relieved to see his unwelcome guest leave and later described him as being ‘all in a fidgit.’

While the headless body of Ann Pullin lay in a bloody mess on her kitchen floor, her children now orphans, still asleep in their beds, King had already been wielding his lethal bean-hook up at Court Farm that bright Saturday morning. Indeed, King had noticed it had blood on the blade as he started his work. The candlight in the Blue Boar had not revealed this tell-tale clue, but the early morning light clearly showed the stain of his murderous deed of the previous night. The morning dew soon cleaned it though, and he also washed in a nearby river and secreted his coat under a bean-sheaf.

Meanwhile, back at the White Hart, James and his friend Tom, had run to fetch family and friends, who in turn alerted the police and the Wantage surgeon, Henry Osmond. Word spread around the neighbourhood about the terrible beheading of Ann Pullin.
Villagers jostled amongst themselves to see the site of the slaying, while police constable Thomas Jackson did his best to keep them from interfering with the crime scene.

It was now seven-forty-five in the morning on Saturday August 31st, as Dr. Henry Osmond examined Ann Pullin’s body. He was in no doubt that the beheading had been caused by a single powerful blow from a sharp blade, severing it at the second vertebra. He could not see any notches on the bone that would indicate several blows being made in order to part the head from the body as might result from a wood-axe or kitchen knife, for example. This had been carried out with a finely-honed blade such a pea or bean-hook he correctly concluded, able to cut cleanly through the bone. He also noted that the deceased had a very small neck so it would not have required much force to severe the head from the body, merely a very sharp instrument and a blow at the correct angle.

The coroner, Edward Cowcher, arrived at midday, having been busy calling together a jury for an immediate inquest into Mrs. Pullin’s death. Together with the county magistrate, Thomas Goodlake, they viewed the body and spoke with Dr. Osmond.JURY_1a

It did not take long for the finger to point at George King who had, in fact, been seen by young Tom Gregory entering his friend’s house – The White Hart – around nine o’clock  the previous night. Others could confirm that around thirty to forty minutes later he was in the Blue Boar, in an agitated state and carrying a bean-hook. In fact two men were implicated, George King and Charles Marriot, both having been seen setting off together late the previous night from the Blue Boar.

Things started to move fast: two local labourers were sworn in to assist the coroner and set off towards the village of Hanney and Court Farm. They located the foreman, John Heath, who accompanied them to the bottom field. There was King, slicing the beans from the rows as if nothing was wrong, nothing had changed – just an honest farm labourer at work on a Saturday morning. Thomas Crane, one of the labourers sworn into service by Mr. Goodlake, told King they had come to arrest him and take him back to Mr. Goodlake’s. King did not desist. When they got there it was noticed that he had no coat. Crane asked him if he had a coat and King said he hadn’t. Asked again where his great-coat was, as it was know that he had one – King admitted that it was secreted under a bean-sheaf in the field where he had been working and he would fetch it. It was worth a try, but King was securely detained while Thomas Crane was sent to find it.

Then in the presence of the examining magistrate, Thomas Goodlake, Crane and Heath searched King’s coat. It was damning evidence against him. It was bloodstained and the pocket contained a women’s purse holding money to the value of twelve shillings, together with a bent old silver six-penny piece. If possession of a woman’s purse was not implication enough of his involvement in Ann Pullin’s murder, the crooked sixpence held a significance way beyond its monetary value.sixpenceLittle did King know that this was not just any old sixpence which he had attempted in vain to straighten, possibly to give to Marriot, but Ann Pullin’s precious love-token seventeenth century lucky sixpence dated 1624 from which she was never parted. Here it was lying on the magistrate’s desk shouting, ‘Murderer’ to those who knew its story. It would have to wait for Ann’s friends, Rachael Sandford and Eliza Clench to give it its voice and for King to realise its powerful but silent testimony against him.

King was formally arrested by police constable James Jones and taken into police custody. During that afternoon, it was Marriot’s turn to be apprehended as a murder suspect.

A great deal of circumstantial evidence began to build up during the inquiry as testimony was received from those, including Ann Pullin’s stepson James, who knew King was lodging at the White Hart. William Betteridge, landlord of the Blue Boar was able to explain about the meeting between Marriot and King and confirm that they were not partners in crime as far as he was aware. Marriot himself explained how King offered him sixpence to stay with him in the stable on the night of the murder, and said that he ‘appeared to be in a fidget and said he was going to hang himself.’

King was in a corner and he fought back. He told the inquest that he knew who did the murder. He had gone to the White Hart with a man called Edward Grant, who went in and ‘struck off the old woman’s head by a single blow.‘ He went on to describe her falling and the spouting of the blood, and provided an accurate description of the position of the body and the severed head. He claimed he had been standing by the door and was not involved in the murder at all. It was all by the hand of Grant, who had been working with him and who came from Reading. Why King felt this would help his case is difficult to fathom. It was clearly a panic delaying tactic, but it was taken seriously by the magistrate who dispatched messengers to locate Edward Grant and the hearing was adjourned.

By Sunday morning, when it was clear that no one called Edward Grant was known in the area, King was struggling to explain away his possession of Ann Pullin’s purse, and more significantly, his ownership of her lucky sixpence, identified as such by Wantage washerwoman Rachael Sandford and her friend Eliza Clench. He also had blood on his clothes, and many witnesses had testified to his irrational behaviour on the night of the murder.

As the inquest progressed on Sunday, King became more and more implicated and Marriot less and less so. Also, other events, difficult to believe, were taking place back at the White Hart where Ann Pullin still lay in her dreadful state.

While the coroner, Edward Cowcher, together with Dr. Ormond, County Magistrate Thomas Goodyear and local citizens sworn to jury service worked tirelessly to resolve this brutal murder and complete the essential legal preliminaries for a murder trial, Ann Pullin’s mother had other ideas. Far from mourning the loss of her daughter in the most extreme and brutal circumstances, she and other relatives set about organising sightseers into a paying queue. PULLIN_FAMILY

For the price of a pint of beer, they could walk past the grizzly scene, taking in the spectacle of Ann Pullin’s severed head and rigid body and the pools of dried blood. They could pass as close as possible through the back kitchen into the street. It was a peep-show for ghouls and they came late into the night. Meanwhile the inquest continued and by Monday morning, September 2nd, King, having given up his story about Grant was now trying to pull Marriot back into the frame, but it was too late for another red herring. The jury had no doubt that Marriot was an innocent caught up in the investigation of a murder he knew nothing about.


At two o’clock Monday afternoon, the inquest returned a unanimous verdict of ‘wilful murder‘ against George King and him alone and he was committed for trail at the next Reading assizes which would not be until the end of February the following year. Until then he would languish in Reading goal.

Now that the inquest was over, Ann Pullin could be buried. However, the disgusting, money-making peep-show organised by the murdered women’s own mother and certain other family members had continued even when Ann was placed in her coffin as reported by the local Berkshire Chronicle.PULLIN._EXHIBITION
SOURCE: Berkshire Chronicle: Saturday Sept. 7th, 1833, p. 3

As Ann Pullin was not due to be buried until two o’clock the following afternoon, the prospect of even more profit seemed to be of greater comfort to her mother than any condolences that Rachael, Eliza and other of Ann’s friends could offer her for the tragic loss of her daughter.

Meanwhile, the spectators and others left their morbid peepshow to jeer at George King that Monday afternoon as he was placed into the police cart for transportation to Reading goal. Although it seems clear that the outcome of the coming trial would be a foregone conclusion, this tale has yet another unexpected ingredient to relate that occurred on King’s journey to his incarceration at Reading goal. Police constable Thomas Jackson together with P.C. James Jones, guarding King in the police cart, stopped at the Bull Tavern in Streatley to obtain water for the horse and some refreshments for themselves.

BULL-STREATLEY Author: Colin Smith: August 2008

Apparently King was drawn by the sight of a painting hanging just inside the public house. Here is what happened next as explained by P.C. JacksonKING READING_1KING

Whilst the horse was still feeding, King began confessing to P.C. Jackson. He adopted a strange mixture of joking and despair as he recounted his fatal attack on Ann Pullin. He recalled how he had meant to hit her with the back of the hook and he said that as soon as he had given the blow, he fell back against the parlour door as if someone had lifted him. He recalled how Mrs. Pullin’s eyes, after a rapid quivering, appeared to fix on him. Her head had rolled towards the fireplace and her body in the opposite direction, rolling over twice before coming to its final rest. He then recounted how he had sprung forward again and torn her pocket off. All the other details fell into place as, for once, King told the truth.

Even the squashed candle he accidentally trod on during the escape would later be found as he described and used by the prosecution to corroborate his account of the horrific events of that night. He also told P.C. Jones that he had asked Mrs. Pullin to spend the night with him whereupon she said she would give him a knock on the head with a poker. He confessed that he severed her head with his bean-hook, adding “Twas not much of a blow” as if somehow this would provide some form of mitigation. He asked the police constables to write to his father explaining what he had done as he could neither read nor write. King’s confession to the two police officers whilst at Streatley sealed his fate and would no doubt ensure a more rapid ride to a guilty verdict at the forthcoming trial.

The Trial opened on Thursday 27th February 1834 before Mr. Justice Patterson’


George King, aged nineteen from Cumnor was charged with the ‘Wilful murder of Ann Pullin at Wantage on 30th August last.’ In a steady voice, with no faltering, King pleaded “Not Guilty“. Right to the last he was going for the outside chance that some idea might occur to rescue him from his fate despite his having provided a full confession to the murder to two police constables the previous September.

The most poignant evidence at King’s trial was given by Ann’s stepson James, now thirteen yeas of age. Only six months ago he had witnessed a scene that would live with him forever. He told the court:

“I and my sister went to bed about eight or nine o’clock. My mother used to go to bed at ten. On the next morning, I got up between six and seven. When I went to bed the night before, I left my mother alone. When I came downstairs I went to the front door and then went into the kitchen and saw my mother’s head lying against the fireplace and her body towards the door. There was a great deal of blood in the room. I went to the front door and met the milk-boy coming up the steps. My mother kept her money in a dirtyish bag, she always kept a crooked sixpence which she called her lucky sixpence.”

It would take more than a lucky sixpence to help George King as the evidence so patiently evaluated at the original inquest now poured forth in greater detail and without the hindrance of the emotional turmoil of that long week-end in Wantage at the end of August 1833.

The bean-hook was held aloft as a key exhibit as the details of the murder were relayed to the court by the prosecution. King glanced at it but showed no emotion. There were no witnesses for the defence and King declined to comment or attempt to defend himself. He was, as of right, provided with a legal defence team – Mr. Carrington and Mr. Stone.

Their task was hopeless but with surprising guile, Mr. Carrington cross-examined P.C. James Jones, trying to establish that his client had been threatened that, if he did not confess to the murder of Ann Pullin, “A staple would be driven into the door of the White Hart and he would be chained to the dead body all night.

It was soon established that no one had heard such a threat or inducement to confess. A last, pathetic thrust by the defence was to say that throughout the trial no evidence had actually been provided to prove, in strict legal terms, that the deceased was in fact Mrs. Ann Pullin of Wantage, so no case had been made out.

This legal technically was soon remedied by the coroner Dr. Cowcher.
King had come to the end of the road. His manner in court seemed to suggest that he had admitted to himself that there was no escape, no plan, no one else to blame and he appeared to switch off in readiness for his inevitable fate. The newspapers described his sullen apathy and indifference as he was sentenced to be executed on Monday 3rd March 1834 at the county gaol, Reading

It was a violent hanging.
When the trap bolts were pulled just before midday it was clear the fall was too short and King suffered very slow strangulation as he thrashed and struggled for some minutes before he gave a last compulsive shudder and died . It was rumored that the evil nature of his deed ensured the hangman would not oblige him with a clean hanging and the public seemed to approve.


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The Ellesborough Happening

church ghost_1_pinch_sunWhen well-known children’s author Alison Uttley – creator of many well-loved characters, ‘Little Grey Rabbit’ in particular, was asked in 1949 to write about her adopted home county of Buckinghamshire, she did so with a passion. She said, “This county of Buckinghamshire is the epitome of England, and the way of living is that of country people and I have fallen in love with its beauty and changelessness.” (Uttley, A., Buckinghamshire, Robert Hale, London, 1950.p. ix)


Now almost seventy years later, a great deal has changed, but her description of Ellesborough’s church, St Peter & St Paul, remains true. “There is something stark and grand about its outline against the sky,” she said, and indeed there is. (ibid, p.205)

When she approached the church all those years ago, from the Aylesbury road, she conjured up quite a remarkable image. From afar, she likened the view “To a stone ship, riding a green sea, poised on a curving green wave in the distance.” and she saw it also as, “a place of extraordinary life.”(ibid p.205)church_elles
Photograph by Rob Farrow: St Peter & St Paul: Ellesborough

She was aware that this fine church had long been thought to be haunted but found this to be of no particular surprise, commenting, “One can well imagine men coming back to that resting place under the Chilterns.
Beacon Hill is behind it, towering over it and on a shoulder of Beacon Hill is Cymbeline’s Mount.” (ibid p.205)
So, is there evidence to support the return of departed souls to this “resting place under the Chilterns”?
Photograph by Mick Finn Cymbeline’s Mount, Ellesborough 

At the time of Uttley’s visit, the vicar, the Reverend Norman White, was keen to emphasize that they were standing on the Icknield Way. thought to be the oldest road in Britain and Uttley herself commented, “It compels by a latent vigour from the centuries of the past” (ibid, p.205). In some ways, this echoes Uttley’s literary gem from 1939, ‘A Traveller in Time.’Alison_Uttley_5 Such a prehistoric pathway would have seen many lives come and go, but are such ancient travellers (or even more recent) still to be encountered today? The answer appears to be yes.
Certainly there are records up to the 1970’s of a figure in medieval costume walking slowly across the nave towards the far wall of the church. He was first recorded as being seen in the 1940’s by the church organist a few years before Alison Uttley’s visit.

The organist was practicing for a Sunday service when he noticed the heavy church door opening and shutting and then saw an extremely tall man dressed in fourteenth century clothing, walk slowly through the church. The man disappeared behind a corner pillar and failed to re-emerge.

When the organist investigated, there was absolutely no one there. This pattern continued, but always at times when there was only ever one other person in the church. So it could never be corroborated.

Another incident in the 1970’s, in Norman White’s time, was the appearance to the parishioners of a young woman dressed in white, walking ceremoniously through the church only to disappear near a door at the southern end.

The Reverend himself spoke of how he saw her moving slowly away from the alter steps before fading from view. There was a theory that she was a parishioner in love with Robert Wallis, rector of the church in the seventeenth century, but the origins and details of the story is now lost in time.

I spoke with local historian John Vince, who knew Norman White very well, about this sighting of which he had spoken quite openly. John was clear on one thing, “If Norman said he saw it, then he saw it – he was a very rational, objective man,” said Mr. Vince firmly.

I was fortunate to speak with the Revd David Horner who was Norman White’s successor. What he told me, confirmed that there was something supernatural associated with the church – an apparition – possibly of a woman, but in black rather than white. He knows because he experienced it outside the church in the early 1980’s. This is the Revd David Horner’s story as told to me:

“On a pleasant evening in 1980. I set off from the rectory to take evening service at the church of St. Peter and St. Paul, the parish Church of Ellesborough. The rectory was only a couple of hundred yards from the church but the latter half of the walk was a very steep footpath, the church being on the top of a small hill.

I had just got to the steep bit when I saw in front of me – about 30 yards in front – a person dressed in a longish black coat also walking up the path. From the appearance of the person from behind, I thought it was a lady who was always on good time for the service and who sang in the choir, known to everybody as ‘Auntie Nellie’.A_2 I though I’d try and catch up with her to greet her but then the unexpected happened. I was within four or five yards behind her when the person simply vanished.”

David was, of course, astonished – this happened on a open pathway on a clear summer’s evening right in front of his eyes – she just disappeared.

“I can remember it today as clearly as I saw it on that evening so long ago,” he told me. But his story does not end there.

“About a week later, my son Stephen said to me, ‘Dad you won’t believe what I’ve just seen up on the path to church.’ I bet I will I answered.”

Stephen had seen what appeared to be a figure in a cloak on the same path who also faded from sight and, until they swapped stories, they did not know of each other’s separate encounters, but as David confirmed to me, “He had seen the same as I had.”

David thought long and hard about this experience and wondered if it is connected with a local story he was told about the ghost of a clergyman who had supposedly committed suicide there. He feels what he and Stephen saw was the picture of a “happening” involving an extremely strong emotion such as that immediately before and leading to a suicide.

” I believe that such an emotion can create an imprint on the atmosphere around where that emotion happened and that emotion can invade the mind or spirit of some people who are receptive to that kind of thing.”

David is right in that there is no doubt that ‘sensitives’ do exist who claim to be able to tune into past events that have such strong emotional ingredients. David and Stephen certainly qualify and perhaps you do too?

Maybe you should visit a certain church at Ellesborough on a summer’s eve!








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Drayton Parslow and The Salden Pond Ghost

pond_3_agedHere is a piece of entertaining folklore from my own county of birth, Buckinghamshire in England. I do hope that you’ll find the authentic Buckinghamshire dialect used in this tale adds to its folk heritage which dates from the 1920’s and particularly so as it involves an equally traditional ghost – one with its head tucked underneath its arm.

Headless ghosts, with or without a misplaced head, are an essential ingredient in certain folklore and supernatural tales. Indeed, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series gave an additional twist to the headless ghost genre with the creation of Gryffinder’s resident ghost – Nearly Headless Nick. The forty-five blunt axe blows of his botched execution left his head attached by a mere flap of skin and sinew, leading him to lament, “My faithful old head, it never saw fit to desert me.

Humour, it seems, remains a close companion of what is clearly a terrible fate and in the English county of Buckinghamshire, skilled linguist and folk-lore researcher, Horace Harman, discovered the tale of the Salden pond ghost just down the hill from village pub which again takes on a certain light touch, especially when recounted in the local dialect which was Harman’s specialty. [1]

The following story is from a much longer conversation recorded by Harman in 1929 on a stormy night in a pub in the small village of  Drayton Parslow, Buckinghamshire.
drayton p

This photograph was taking during the 1920’s by the Reverend David Sheppard.

Here we meet  Jim and Chawley – two wonderful Buckinghamshire characters discussing the Salden pond ghost. It is written in dialect form and I realise this  presents an interesting challenge but it certainly flavours the humour in a way that would lost otherwise.

Chawley: “What a night! ‘Tis as dark as pitch. I a jes come up the road and I dint know how to find mi way. I got in the hedge once or twice as I was a-trying to git out a the way a the pond. This is, I think, about one a the darkest nights as ivver I was in. I could jist see the trees in the hedgerows agenst the sky, and what with the wind a-blowin in the branches and the noise they made, I felt quite creepy as I come up. I shoont like to git fur afeeuld to-night.”

Jim: “You ought to goo down to Sauldin [Salden] an a night like this. That’s wheeur you ought to goo, and then ood see summut.”

Chawley: “What?”

Jim: “Sauldin’s a rum ole pleeace, Sauldin is,’Tis a rum ole pleeace, I tell ye!”

Chawley: “What do you see?”

Jim: “Why, an ole fellur with his feeace under his arm – he comes out an a night like this, I tell ye, ’tis a rum ole pleeace.”

Chawley: “A you sin him?”

Jim: “Ant I begad – many a time.”

Chawley: “What does he do?”

Jim: “Well I ull tell ye. When you git down tuther side a Sauldin pond on a night like this, and you be a-gooin an the road, thaiur’s  an ole fellur as comes and walks by yur side – thaiur he is a-gooin and by the side a ye, and thair’s he old feeace under his arm a-looking at ye all the time, and he keeps an till he gits to a certain pleeace and then he leeaves ye. He walks by yur side all the time and nivver speeaks.”

Chawley: “Don’t ye crack him an the head wi yur stick?”

Jim: “No begad; I allus let him alooan; these things be best let alooan. Beside, he nivver hurts ye. Many a time has he bin by mi side and he nivver does nauthing. If ye were to follur him, I rickun he ood taiak ye to a pleeace wheeur thaiur’s a pot of money or summut like that; but thaiur ‘aint anybody has got the pluck to goo wi him.”

Chawley: “When did you see him fust?”

Jim: “One dark night when I was wi ole Tom Kirk. We were an tuther side a pond when ole Tom says to me, ‘Look out Jim, heear he is!’  And thaiur he was too, a-walkin’ by the side an us. My heear stood on end and lifted mi cap right up.
I tell ye I had got the wind up properly. There he kep an by the side an us with his old feeace under his arm a-lookin’ at us.”

Chawley: “What did ole Tom do?”

Jim: “Nauthin. All he said was. ‘Let him alooan. Taiak no no-atice an him.’ Ole Tom had sin him many a time, so he was quite used to him. He lived just tuther side a the pond and had walked the rooad all the times a night, so he dint mind him. I ull taiak ye down to Sauldin pond one a these dark  night. Will you goo?”

Chawley: “Yis, I ull. What’s the time?”

Jim: “Why gettin’ an.”

Chawley: I shull have to make a move.”

Jim: “So shull I.”

Chawley: “I hope I don’t meet the ole fellur down the road.”

Jim: “He dooant get as fur as this. We ull goo down to Sauldin pond one a these nights and ull show ye him.”

Chawley: “I shall taiak a good stick.”

Jim: ” You leave him alooan: he won’t hurt ye. If you got a-meesin him aboot, thaiurs no tellin what he ood do!”

Chawley: “Well good night all.”

Jim: “Goodnight. Keep yur eyes open when you’re gooin down. Look well into the hedge.”

Chawley: “Goodnight Jim, Shant believe these things you a told us tonight.”

Jim: “Pleease yurself. They all be true.”


[1] The above extracts are reproduced with thanks to Harman, H., Buckinghamshire Dialect, Hazell, Watson & Viney Ltd: London & Aylesbury, 1929.




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The Night Lambourn Town Was Set on Fire

carter_fire oneWander through the churchyard of the ancient parish church of St. Michael and All Angels in the historic English town of Lambourn, Berkshire, and you’ll discover a curious tombstone – a tombstone with a message.

Beneath this tombstone lie the remains of John Carter who was the last man in England to be executed for arson. He didn’t merely set fire to hay-ricks, farm cottages or wagons, as many disgruntled farm labourers were want to do when laid-off work through the introduction of new farm machinery and low wages, but he set fire to his home town of Lambourn.

carter_lambourn redl lion


So significant was his crime to all those souls who learnt about this wanton act, over five thousand people turned up to witness his death on the scaffold set on the roof-top of Reading gaol on March 16th 1833.
carter_reading gaol_1

The deterrent of the noose and ‘the drop’ would normally be the end of the line with his body limed and interred in an unmarked grave in unholy ground within the prison precincts – but John Carter is buried in his home churchyard on consecrated ground. When you read the message on his tomb you’ll see why.
[Now weathered and worn – I’ve reconstructed the exact message on Carter’s headstone]
It was clear from this message, that this thirty year old married farm labourer with two young children was being used by the civic authorities of Lambourn as a deterrent to the increasing number of arson attacks throughout the country as discontent with rural poverty and unemployment continued to rise.
Senior Bow Street runners from London’s law enforcement division were finding themselves commandeered around many English counties, investigating a variety of arson attacks throughout the 1830’s.
carter_fire three
Indeed, in sentencing Carter to death, the judge claimed it was a long premeditated scheme on the part of Carter to throw the country into “a state of alarm and panic.”
In fact it was a curious moment because the local Berkshire Chronicle following the arson attack on Lambourn on November 19th 1832, later apologized to its readers for not being able to report on these fires “in the interests of justice.” It was rumoured that there were London strangers asking questions in the town about the labouring men working there. Local people were puzzled that a quiet and sober unemployed agricultural labourer such as John Carter was in any position to “throw the country into a state of alarm and panic.”

The destruction caused by fire can be devastating at any time but in a location of thatched cottages, stables, and wooden barns packed with straw, it is particularly disastrous.
On the evening of November 19th 1832, about 7.30 pm, two fires broke out at almost the same moment. One at the Red Lion Inn in the centre of Lambourn and the other at Mr. Spicer’s Malthouse Barn about 400 yards distant. The flames had shot up in an instant and, at the Red Lion, killed valuable horses and a sporting dog in the stable.carter_fire twoThere had been a coursing meeting that day and the animals’ owners were dining at the Inn. The other fire at Spicer’s barn near Crowel Corner, was about to reach the adjoining outhouse stacked up to fifteen feet high with straw. Several passers by alerted others, the church bells were rung, and everyone, including John Carter, rushed to fight the blaze that threatened to destroy everything. It was agreed by all that if the night had not been calm, damp and misty, the whole place would have been burnt down.

George Green, a local labourer who lived in a part of Lambourn known as ‘The City‘, had been passing Crowel Corner that evening and had seen John Carter reach his hand into the thatch of the outhouse and shamble away.
Thirty minutes later the blaze was visible.
Green challenged Carter and said to him “John this is a bad job” Carter said the fire shouldn’t have broken out for another two hours, at which Green replied, “For God’s sake John hold thy tongue.” Carter replied, ” So I will,” and they both joined in the battle to save Lambourn from certain destruction.

Another labouring acquaintance of Carter, Robert Chivers, was also fighting the fire – a fire he knew would happen!
Only hours before he had been given a cloth packet containing a crude incendiary device with an agreed plan that while Carter set fire to the Red Lion, and Mr. Spicer’s premises, Chivers would set a third fire going in Mr. Child’s pigeon house about 220 yards away. This would certainly have sealed Lambourn’s fate but a pang of conscience led Chivers to throw his device away.
John Carter                                                            Robert Chivers

Mr. Child, who lived in the Malthouse, paid Chivers and Carter and other labourers who assisted in fighting the fire that night for their hard work in saving Lambourn from destruction.
This was a strange irony because it was said that the firing was a plot to raise labourers’ wages. According to Chivers, Carter had said to him that he did not think there would be better times in Lambourn until there was a good fire.
Similar fires at Bedwyn in Wiltshire gave credence to the theories of plotting and there, once again, strangers appeared in the village. It turned out however, that the strangers were two very senior Bow Street runners, Ruthven and Stevens, working undercover to locate the arsonists. They were told to leave no stone unturned and in Lambourn it was said there was a man who made incendiary devices  for arsonists.  This was know in criminal circles as “making a match.”

It was the curiosity of Mrs. Pheobe Hall which provided the critical evidence when at about 8.45 am on the morning after the fire she saw something on the ground opposite Mr. Gearing’s brew house which she said “looked like a poultice off someone’s thumb.” She handed it to Mr. Spicer who took it to the Rev. Hippisley who handed it to Ruthven. It was the incendiary device Carter had given to Chivers who had discarded it without using it.
With the assistance of a Lambourn magistrate the Rev. Hippisley, Ruthven and Stevens successfully apprehended eight labourers in Lambourn and at least four in Wiltshire.
Of the eight detained in Lambourn, three were taken to trial, and the others,temped by a reward or immunity against prosecution, gave evidence against them.
The indictment ran to ten counts and John Carter was charged with the plotting, planning and manufacture of incendiary devices and with committing arson.
Henry Rider and William Winkworth were indicted as accessories ‘before the crime was committed

Rider had apparently said to Carter that he’d give him a quart of beer for a good fire, while Winkworth was claimed to have commented that he would have set the Malthouse on fire if he lived as near to it as Carter did.
Chivers had become the main prosecution witness against Carter. There were no defence witnesses.

Rider and Winkworth were acquitted and Carter alone found guilty. Carter had hoped for a sentence of transportation, foolishly commenting that he was looking forward to a new life across the sea, but the judge had other ideas.
He was of the opinion that those acquitted were just as guilty and that they needed, “a lesson for the future”
That lesson was to be Carter’s execution.
Carter claimed that others – he wouldn’t name – had drawn him into this and that there was a Lambourn man – a mystery “match maker” – who was never identified.
Just as the trap-door opened and John Cater dropped to his death at the end of a rope at noon on March 16th on the roof of Reading goal, a mystery arsonist struck  – firing an extensive fir tree plantation at Mortimer village – eight miles south of the Reading scaffold where Carter was left hanging.

No-one was apprehended but I suspect they got the message – after all, it was carved in stone for all to see.




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The Devil’s Den, Marlborough, Wiltshire

The Devil’s Den, Marlborough, Wiltshire
April 13, 2014 by sunbright57

The Journal Of Antiquities

The Devil's Den, Wiltshire (Dixon-Scott) The Devil’s Den, Wiltshire (Dixon-Scott)

OS grid reference: SU 1521 6965. In a field on Fyfield Down 1 mile east of Marlborough, Wiltshire, stands the prehistoric burial chamber known as The Devil’s Den or Clatford Bottom Stone, a Neolithic monument from 5,000 years ago that is also known as a Dolmen (stone table). To reach the site head north on the footpath from the A4 (Bath Road) opposite Clatford village and near the “private” entrance to Manton House Estate, then after about 950 metres via west to the monument on Fyfield Hill which is in a little valley. They own much of the land on this side of the road, so keep to the footpath if possible. The town of Marlborough is 1 mile east on the A4, while Avebury is 2 miles to the west. Nearby, to the east stands an ancient mound which has given its name to the town of Marlborough. You may well come…

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The Force of Truth: Aston Sandford & The Spirit of Thomas Scott

original image by David Hawgood

South of Haddenham, in the Buckinghamshire village of Aston Sandford, lies the parish church of St. Michael and All Angels. Like most ancient churches in England, some aspects of the building, such as the nave, date from the twelfth century, while others, such as the chancel, are from a century later. The main church fabric was restored during Victorian times.

What makes this Buckinghamshire limestone church unique, however, is not only its size – it’s one of the smallest churches in the country – but  it also lays claim to being the smallest haunted church in England (I’m waiting for all the  other claims to pour in now I’ve said this).

SCOTT_RECTORYBuckinghamshire, Aston Sandford Rectory, 1836

The rectory is much more recent, built in the early nineteenth century by a remarkable person whose ghost is now said to continue to attend evensong, standing beside the pulpit.

The Revd Thomas Scott was a strong religious force to be reckoned with in eighteenth and nineteenth century Buckinghamshire and features alongside the ecclesiastical historical significance of the legendary John Newton and William Cowper of nearby Olney – particularly in terms of spiritual awakenings and fervent evangelical commitment.

Ordained in 1772, Thomas Scott was first a curate in the parish of Stoke Goldington and then in Weston Underwood, moving to Ravenstone where he began a correspondence with the ‘Amazing Grace‘ hymn writer John Newton.


John Newton [1725-1807]


Thomas Scott [1747-1821]

However, Scott envied the extraordinary preaching powers of Newton whose Olney church was constantly packed with villagers flooding in to hear his passionate sermons.

According to ecclesiastical researcher, D.B. Hindmarsh;
“After months of anxiety over his ineffectual pastoral ministry, and remorse over the levity with which he entered holy orders, Thomas Scott shuts himself up in his study with his Bible, the works of Richard Hooker and other Anglican divines and by Christmas 1777 argues himself into evangelistic conviction.”  [1]

The result was a new passion for spirituality and a deeply felt autobiography called, ‘The Force of Truth: An Authentic Narrative‘  published in 1779 while he was curate of Ravenstone and Weston Underwood. In this book, he revealed himself as a man in an awful state of mind; a man who entered holy orders with little regard for them, actually calling himself “a dangerous heretic”.

In the book’s preface, he makes a very direct claim which I find very inspiring:


He revealed his strong dislike for prayer on the one hand but his enjoyment of sin on the other along with his serious neglect of his parishioners. He tells us from the heart that the following admission affected him very much and provided a crucial  spiritual turning point;


scott couple

The neighbour who walked so far  to visit the couple and give them solace, comfort and his blessings was indeed Mr. Newton.

From this  experience emerged a newly committed, fervent preacher eventually able to take over from Newton in Olney and then spent time with him in London founding the Church Missionary Society. When he became Rector at Aston Sandford in 1803, Scott brought so much energy, commitment and deep evangelical passion to this small village and its tiny church, it seems it became almost impregnated with his presence and his determination never again to neglect his parishioners.

During the eighteen years he spent in this small Buckinghamshire village he became that church and when he died in 1821, he was buried beneath the alter.

Since that time he has been seen by a variety of parishioners at evensong dozens and dozens of times appearing as an apparition beside the pulpit. Witnesses I have spoken to confirm he remains visible for some minutes before gradually fading away, yet all have failed to capture his appearances on film.

Speaking a little while back with the Reverend David Horner  responsible for the Anglican parish of St. Peter and St. Paul in Ellesborough, Buckinghamshire – he has been witness to similar apparitions that occur at his church (I’ll save those for another blog) but from these experiences, he told me that it was his belief that passionate, powerful emotions, such as the burdensome guilt expressed by the Revd Thomas Scott, can create an imprint on the atmosphere around  key locations that perpetuates some form of supernatural imagery after death. [2]
Scott’s burial place beneath the alter no doubt has great significance and ‘The Force of Truth’ well and truly keeps his presence in this unique Buckinghamshire location.

In another publication Scott called: ‘Essays on the Most Important Subjects in Religion, (1809) he really makes clear why he might still be at one with his church and his parishioners
scott quote

Read at :


 Meanwhile, the Reverend Thomas Scott awaits your attendance at evensong



[1] Hindmarsh, D.B., ‘The Olney Autobiographers’, The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, CUP, 1998

[2] Kidd-Hewitt, D., Buckinghamshire Stories of the Supernatural, Countryside Books 2008.

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