North Leigh

The parish church at North Leigh includes a medieval chantry chapel for the Wilcote family, with fifteenth-century effigies of Sir William Wilcote or Wilicotes (d. 1413) and his widow Lady Elizabeth Blacket, who remarried after Sir William’s death but is buried beside him. They are the focus for several legends recorded in the 1920s, linked both to this village and to nearby WILCOTE. One collector, Angelina Parker, was told in 1923:

In the village [of North Leigh] these figures were always called the ‘Lord and Lady’. The Lady is lying with her hands near together as if in prayer. There is a story that the hands were once closer together, but are gradually falling apart, and that, when they are quite apart, the Lady will ‘come again’ and haunt the village.

A few years later, in 1929, Violet Mason was told a slightly different version: that local children would, ‘quite recently’, anxiously examine the hands of both effigies to see if they had moved, believing that when they parted their hands they would go up Perrott’s Hill ‘to look for their treasure’. This refers to an alleged treasure hidden in a partly demolished mansion after the death in 1765 of the last of the Perrott family to have owned it, and supposedly found in the mid nineteenth century by a later owner, who suddenly became very rich. There is no logical reason why the ghosts of the medieval Wilcotes should concern themselves about it; possibly some confusion has arisen from the fact that North Leigh church also contains in its vaults many coffins of the Perrott family, though not of the same branch as lived on Perrott’s Hill.

Violet Mason knew another tale about something that supposedly happened in this church, or rather its churchyard, almost a hundred years before her time. Three girls had gone there at midnight on Christmas Eve to carry out a well-known form of love divination by flinging hempseed over the left shoulder, saying:

Hemp-seed I scatter, hemp-seed I sow;

He that is my true love, come after me and mow.

This was believed to summon up a brief vision of the wraith of one’s future husband, but on this occasion everything went wrong:

Three girls crept out of their beds and went down to the churchyard on Christmas Eve. The eldest went first and performed the rite duly, but saw nothing. She died a spinster at the age of 83. The next oldest then started, but after a few minutes began shrieking terribly, saying that a coffin was following her, and got into a dreadful state. A few months later she died. Of course the third did not take her turn, and the rite was absolutely forbidden and no one has since been known to go through it.



Haunted England : The Penguin Book of Ghosts – Written by Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson
Copyright © Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson 2005, 2008