TERRIBLE TALES AND SPOOKY STORIES
With Halloween upon us, Camilla Goodman takes a look at some of Bucks’ very own horrors and strange tales
TMAY come as a surprise to some people to discover that this beautiful and stately home-filled county has a brutal and bloody past. From pestilence and plague to catastrophes and criminals there is no doubt that Buckinghamshire has a history worthy of a great horror film.
Anew book by Eddie Brazil covers more than 1,500 years of the most gruesome events in Buckinghamshire’s history, including the cult of Water Stratford, the Civil War, the Black Death and the Buckinghamshire man who was executed for treason for his part in the Gunpowder Plot.
Bloody British History: Buckinghamshire features stories about stately homes, castles and other historical places, including Bletchley House, The Hellfire Caves and Aylesbury Jail.
Mr Brazil, who has lived in Bucks since 1986, specialises in the darker side of history and his main expertise is in the supernatural lore of Britain, on which he has written extensively.
“It was very interesting doing the research and finding out more about the dark side of the county,” Mr Brazil explained. “I did find out quite a dark side of leafy Bucks – I was quite surprised myself. Hopefully everyone will see Bucks in a different light after reading the book.”
In the 16th century a number of people were burned at the stake in Amersham for being martyrs. Mr Brazil was shocked to discover that sometimes children were forced to light the fires that would kill their parents.
“That was really dreadful,” he said. “That’s a really extreme part of bloody Bucks.”
However, he also came across some quite farcical things, such as when Quaker John Milton came to the Chalfonts from London to escape the plague. His friends in Amersham were due to meet him but on that day, a funeral for another Quaker was taking place. big fight broke out, during which the coffin fell and no one would go near it, and some of Mr Milton’s friends were arrested.
Mr Brazil said: “When his friends finally arrived, I can imagine him saying ‘where have you been?’”
The Black Death and cholera took its toll on Bucks and Mr Brazil came across the very surprising case of a couple from Marlow.
Ahusband had kissed his wife goodbye before going to work. When he returned, he was told she had died from cholera and had been buried. He rushed to the graveyard and dug her up to say goodbye and to his surprise she was alive, and a few hours later gave birth to their child.
Mr Brazil, who lives in Wycombe Marsh, said: “That’s unbelievable, but that was the thing with cholera – you could feel okay in the morning, unwell at lunch and be in a coffin by the evening. They used to bury people quickly to stop it spreading, and they were not very scientific at declaring people dead then, so there must’ve been many other people in Bucks who heard the earth being filled in and were literally buried alive.
“What a way to go.”
Sir Everard Digby of Gayhurst, one of the last conspirators to be part of the Gunpowder Plot, ‘managed’ operations in the Midlands. He was hanged, drawn and quartered
Eddie Brazil at Holy Trinity Church, in Penn; left, the cover of his book
Bletchley Park is the location for one of Mr Brazil’s quirky tales