Hyde Hall in this parish was said to be haunted by the ghost of Sir John Jocelyn, the third Baronet. Tradition said that, during his life, he quarrelled with the vicar of Sawbridgeworth because he refused to let him be buried with his favourite hunter in consecrated ground. Consequently, he left the following instructions:

I will my body to be buried in the circle of yews in the grand avenue to Hyde Hall, attended only by my servants, or such relations or others as shall happen to be at Hyde Hall at the time of my decease, or such neighbours as please to come the day after my decease, at the setting of the sun …

It has been generally supposed that his wishes were carried out when he died, on 1 November 1741, and his horse slaughtered and buried with him. ‘It is said … that at certain seasons of the year, Sir John … his charger breathing fire, rides at full speed down the avenue – and then vanishes.’

Some suggest that this phantom horse had its origins in Sir John’s instructions that his best ox should be given to the poor of Sawbridgeworth, which is presumed to have been slaughtered to provide them with funeral ‘baked meats’.

Sir John’s eccentric burial arose, some said, because he was an ardent Dissenter who held Nonconformist services at the hall. A Puritan was similarly said to have been buried with his horse at Houghton Hall, Houghton-le-Spring, Durham.



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