The remains of Hadleigh Castle, built in about 1231, once had an eerie reputation. In his History of Rochford Hundred (1867), Philip Benton says that, among other ‘superstitious’ tales of the village concerning them, one was told him by an old lady who spoke of a tradition that a ‘woman in white’ formerly haunted the ruins. According to this, a milkmaid living at the castle farm met her in the castle precincts in the early dawn, and was told to meet her there again at midnight, when she would disclose ‘mysteries’ connected with the place. This the girl could not summon the courage to do.
She was surprised next morning to encounter the same lady, who bitterly upbraided her for not obeying her command, and gave her a cuff on the ear which almost dislocated her neck. She never got over this blow, and from then on was always known by the nickname ‘wry-neck Sall’.
The Hadleigh ‘woman in white’ is one of the more intriguing English White Ladies as, like German ‘key maidens’ and similar apparitions in Wales, she haunted castle ruins, appeared at dawn, and had a secret to impart – possibly here as elsewhere concerning hidden treasure.