Appearing in the Leicester Chronicle, 20 June 1874, was notice of ‘The Bloody Tomb’ at Hinckley. Children and strangers used to be taken in the month of April to see the ‘bloody tears’ on the inscription on this tomb, that of Richard Smith, who died on 12 April 1727. It looked as if every letter had ‘gouts of blood, which were not there before’, and which in time disappeared. People were told that this young man had been killed by a recruiting sergeant in Duck-puddle for some light-hearted joke and that the stone cried yearly for vengeance.
The legend may have been inspired by his rhyming epitaph, which begins:
A fatal Halberd his mortal Body slew
The murdering Hand God’s Vengeance will pursue.
As with the ‘bloody tears’ wept by holy images to this day, sceptics explained the ‘gouts’ as being caused by the washing down of friable bits of red sandstone in the wall.
The ‘motts’ (moats) at Hinckley were originally fish-stews belonging to the priory, which was by the Old Hall, later part of the vicarage grounds. Thomas Harrold, in a paper entitled ‘Old Hinckley’ (1888), writes:
In a conversation with our much-respected and venerable ex-sexton, old Tom Paul (eighty-six years old) … I … obtained … a very interesting piece of folk-lore … which, as a lad, I had often heard talked of, but never could understand before. It was enacted at ‘the Old Hall’ … He said he had often heard his mother (who lived to a great age) relate, how a child had been flogged to death there, and she remembered hearing its cries, having resided near to, or adjoining the churchyard at the time, and this poor child’s spirit haunted the place afterwards, and in order to ‘lay the spirit,’ I understood a certain number of ministers had to be got together in the room where the affair took place, a short religious ceremony was gone through, and they proceeded to ‘lay the spirit,’ by exorcising and enticing it into a bottle, securely corked, which was afterwards thrown into the ‘motts,’ and I perfectly well remember hearing lads say that at night these spirits could be heard buzzing or humming on the surface.