Hidden East Anglia:
Landscape Legends of Eastern England
The lady at the bridge
At TL417510 on Harston Road is a bridge over the river Cam where the apparition of a 'white lady' is said to throw herself into the water. Exactly why, no one knows, but she has also apparently been known to haunt the area between Mill Road and the Queen's Head pub.
Source: Enid Porter: ‘Cambridgeshire Customs & Folklore’, (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969), p.156.
Hatley Wilds is an isolated 18th century farm at TL296524, north of the village. Local legend tells of a tunnel from here to St. Mary's church (TL311554) at Longstowe, just over two miles away.
The haunted ditch
Although much has been ploughed flat, the (probably Anglo Saxon) defensive earthwork known as Heydon Ditch or the Bran Ditch runs from about TL430406 in Heydon itself, north-north-west for nearly four miles towards Fowlmere. In the 1920s, many headless and mutilated Saxon skeletons were found in the ditch, often thought to have been the victims of a massacre by the Danes. But long before that the ditch was believed locally to be haunted by ghostly warriors.
Source: Enid Porter: ‘Folklore of East Anglia’ (Batsford, 1974), p.79.
The stag's head
In the 19th century, Hinxton Hall came into the hands of the Green family, one of whom changed his name to De Freville, his ancestors who held the manor of Great Shelford. Their coat of arms had upon the top of it the head of a stag, a crest replicated on the outer walls of some of the cottages owned by the Hinxton estate. At least one of these crests, a raised stag's head in wood on a plaque, survives on a house in the High Street, at TL496451. It can be seen on Google Street View HERE. Local legend says that when the stag hears the clock on St. Mary & St. John's church strike midnight, it gets down and goes to the nearby river Cam for a drink.
Source: Cambridgeshire Federations of Women's Institutes: 'The Cambridgeshire Village Book' (Countryside Books, 1989), p.92.
The Old House (TL438635) in Station Road is partly of the early 16th century, and was once the dwelling house of Howletts Farm. It supposedly has two priest holes, and an underground passage for a priest's escape to St. Andrew's church, which has yet to be found.
Daddy Witch's grave
"An ancient bony creature, half-clothed in rags" is how the 19th century woman known as Daddy Witch was described. Well-known in the area as one of the witches who would gather at midnight revels in the fields, she lived in a ramshackle hut almost surrounded by water, known as Daddy Witch's Pond. This was in a spot called Garret's Close or Garretfield, opposite the village sheep pond (almost certainly the pond at TL61444675).
Upon her death in 1860, she was buried in the middle of the road that leads from the village to Horseheath Green (Howard's Lane), close to her hut. It used to be said that the heat from her body caused that section of road to remain dry, even after a heavy rain. The memory of her was apparently still alive in 1935, when a fire that was spreading along the road was seen to reach her grave, then turn away and continue to burn across the nearby fields. Also in that year the local WI recorded in their Scrapbook that local children were told to nod their heads nine times for luck as they passed the gravesite.
Catherine Parsons: 'Notes on Cambridgeshire Witchcraft' in 'Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society' (1915), Vol.XIX, p.39.
Catherine Parsons: 'Horseheath: Some Recollections of a Cambridgeshire Parish' (unpublished manuscript, 1952, in Cambridgeshire Archives).
Enid Porter: ‘Cambridgeshire Customs & Folklore’, (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969), p.163-4.
At the east end of the parish is Limberhurst Farm, occupying the moated site of the former Limbury's manor house. A few hundred metres away is Money Lane, now a muddy bridleway across the fields, that joins the A1307 at TL630467. Legend says that, in this lane, a former owner of Limbury's once hid some money, and that his ghost now returns on occasion either to look for the money, or to check that it's still there. People passing down the lane on a night of full moon would sometimes hear a voice say 'Pick up your spade and follow me', but no one ever had the courage to comply.1 In fact, the name of Money Lane probably arose from the discovery there in 1830 of a hoard of Roman silver coins.2
1. Enid Porter: ‘Cambridgeshire Customs & Folklore’, (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969), p.155-6.
2. Richard Cornwallis Neville: 'Notes on Roman Essex' in 'Transactions of the Essex Archaeological Society' (Vol.1, 1858), p.196.