Here there is a ghost legend about a Captain Thomas Bound, a supporter of Cromwell, who died in 1667 and was remembered as a wicked man, very cruel and covetous, and hard on the poor. Traditions about him were collected by the local historian Emily Lawson in the 1860s. He lived first at Soley’s Orchard and was married three times, his first two wives dying within a year of marriage – not in childbirth, but, according to local rumour, because he had murdered them. He was also alleged to have shifted the boundary stones defining a riverside meadow called the Ham, so as to enlarge it to his own advantage, thus incurring the biblical condemnation ‘Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour’s landmark’ (Deuteronomy 27:17). The final crime attributed to him was to have obtained a second house, Southend Farm, by guiding the hand of a dying woman who was trying to write her will, in such a way that his name appeared instead of the one she thought she was writing. In revenge for this trick, her ghost is said to have driven him to despair, so that he drowned himself in a pool near the house he had inherited from her.

Suicide was considered the ultimate, unforgivable sin in traditional Christian theology, and is frequently regarded in folklore as a reason why a dead person’s spirit cannot rest. On the day Bound died, a phantom funeral procession was seen – a fairly common phenomenon in folk belief, but in this case regarded as sinister. Then his ghost was seen roaming round both his houses and also several lanes nearby, so a parson was asked to lay him. This he attempted to do by throwing a lighted candle into the pool where Bound had drowned himself, and ordering him not to return until it had burnt out – which, in the circumstances, was hardly likely to happen. But the ghost coolly disregarded the exorcism and behaved more boldly than ever, appearing on horseback in broad daylight. Three more parsons were sent for, and they gathered in the cellar at Soley’s Orchard, held hands inside a circle drawn on the floor, and tried to banish the ghost to the Red Sea. However, one of them accidentally stepped with one foot outside the circle, which broke the power of their invocations; as he did so, something whizzed through the air and struck him on the cheek, and his whiskers could never grow on that spot again. The three parsons retreated, leaving orders that the cellar be bricked up.

There were no more attempts to exorcize Bound, who would often be seen on the banks of the Severn, or sitting on a stone near the fatal pool, or riding up the lane leading to Southend Farm dragging a long chain, of the sort used by surveyors to measure land – the fitting penalty, no doubt, for his dishonest shifting of boundary stones. Some said the ghosts of his three wives were also sometimes seen.

A final macabre twist to the saga, which appears to be historically true, is that during alterations to Upton church in the middle of the nineteenth century Bound’s grave in the chancel was opened, and his skull taken as a souvenir. It was set in metal as a drinking cup; the folklorist Roy Palmer reports that its present whereabouts is unknown. The houses and lanes associated with Bound are now demolished or much altered.



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