Hidden East Anglia:

Landscape Legends of Eastern England

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home

 

Gazetteer

 

Landscape Features

 

Themes

Canewdon:

Legends of the witches

Canewdon stands at the heart of historical (and contemporary) witchcraft lore in Essex – unfortunately, I suspect that much of it, especially that reported in the 1960’s, has been exaggerated beyond recall. Here, I’m only concerned with those apparently genuine traditions that centre about a local landmark, in this case, the 14th century church of St. Nicholas (TQ896945).

As recorded in the 19th century: “A tradition exists, and is believed by many, that so long as this steeple exists, there will always remain six witches in Canewdon”.1 An extension of this was that when a village witch died, a stone always fell from the church wall.2 Cause and effect seem to have been reversed in an alternate version, where it is said “Every time a stone falls from the tower, one witch will die, and another will take her place”.3

From the same source as the latter comes the legend that “Those who walk round the tower at midnight will be forced to dance with the witches”. An old churchwarden of St. Nicholas told visitors in the 1950’s that simply walking around the church alone at midnight would make ghosts and witches appear and sing to them.4 Variations on this seem to have propagated on the web – with dubious authenticity – such as: a ghost will appear at the top of the tower if you run three times backwards around the church; if you walk round it anticlockwise seven times on Halloween you will see a witch; if you do the same thing thirteen times you will vanish; but if you do it only three times, you’ll go back in time!

A local woman in the 1940's mentions “the crossroads where a witch was buried”. From other sources, it seems likely that this would be the staggered crossroads at TQ896942, where Anchor Lane, Scotts Hall Road, Lark Hill Road and the lane to the church meet. Although this is usually construed as the witch having been executed there,5 an earlier source says the witch actually committed suicide and was buried at the spot with a stake through her heart.6 In all reports the crossroads is haunted, perhaps by the (oddly headless) witch who wanders from the churchyard towards the river.

A patch beside the river Crouch in the north of the parish has long been known as the ‘Witch’s Field’. A witch was said to have been buried there after drowning, and for long afterward it was thought no crop would succeed in growing there.7

Sources:
1. Philip Benton: ‘The History of Rochford Hundred’ (A. Harrington, 1867), p.123.
2. J. Westwood & J. Simpson: ‘The Lore of the Land’ (Penguin Books, 2006), p.251.
3. Eric Maple: ‘The Witches of Canewdon’ in 'Folklore’, Vol.71, No.4, Dec.1960, p.242.
4. Jessie K. Payne: ‘a Ghost Hunter’s Guide to Essex’ (Ian Henry Publications, 1987), p.25.
5. David Pickering: 'Dictionary of Witchcraft' (Weidenfeld Nicolson, 1996).

6. Eric Maple: ‘The Dark World of Witches’ (A. S .Barnes, 1964), p.188.
7. Peter Haining: ‘The Supernatural Coast’ (Robert Hale, 1992), p.146.

 

 

Grave rituals

 

The Canewdon woman mentioned above recalls from the 1940’s that she was told by her grandmother that, to make witches appear, she would have to run seven times around a certain large tomb in St. Nicholas’ churchyard.1 Another version says that the Devil would appear instead.2 Perhaps referring to the same grave, children would sometimes place their ears close to a particular tomb in the hope of hearing the Devil shaking his chains beneath the ground.3 Children have also shown interest in the grave of a highwayman, said to have been buried in this churchyard in 1795. Apparently they would dance around it seven times to make sure that the spirit within stayed 'unquiet', as this would make it guard the other graves.4

 

Sources:

1. Former webpage: http://www.francisfrith.com/stambridge/memories/childhood_91521/

2. Eric Maple: ‘The Witches of Canewdon’ in Folklore’, Vol.71, No.4, Dec.1960, p.242.

3. Peter Underwood: 'Where the Ghosts Walk: The Gazetteer of Haunted Britain' (Souvenir Press, 2013).

4. Dee Gordon: 'Haunted Southend' (The History Press, 2012; ebook version)


Canvey Island:

 

Lost in the Lake

 

Canvey Lake is long and narrow, now a freshwater nature reserve, but once part of the network of salt creeks that threaded through this flat and low-lying part of Essex. The lake, especially the path that runs along the northern shore, is allegedly haunted by either a man, a woman, or a horse and cart. The tale usually told is that the man, after visiting a local inn, strayed off the path and sank into the soft mud, cart and all. A variant is that he was trying to cross the lake when it was frozen, but the surface gave way.1 Occasionally it's supposed to be a woman who was the driver, and who now haunts the path searching for her vehicle.2 But the horse and cart are sometimes said to haunt the area on their own.3

 

Confirmation of the basic tale supposedly came to light in the 1980's, when the lake was dredged. The skull and partial skeleton of a horse came to light, along with some cart wheels, all of which are now on display at the local Heritage Centre. There was no sign of any human remains. However, I can't find any record that the legend existed before this discovery.

 

Sources:

1. http://www.canveyisland.org/page_id__205_path__0p33p.aspx

2. http://www.paranormaldatabase.com/essex/esspages/essedata.php?pageNum_paradata=2&totalRows_paradata=411

3. Former webpage: http://www.chad-service.co.uk/horseskeleton.html

 

 

Secret tunnels

 

In Haven Road is the old weather-boarded pub called the Lobster Smack (TQ772822), known to be a regular haunt of smugglers in the 18th century. They are said to have built a secret passage from the inn to the old vicarage belonging to St. Katherine's church, in Vicarage Close. A resident claimed in 1990 to have seen the entrance in the vicarage cellar, with a wood-supported brick-lined tunnel leading to a chamber before emerging at the pub. Other tunnels originating at this spot are rumoured to head for Hadleigh - to either the castle or St. Mary's church - and for the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet.

 

Sources:

'The Echo', online news 10/7/13.

http://beyondthepoint.co.uk/2014/01/

 

 

Castle Hedingham:

Secret tunnels

An underground passageway that runs for 18 miles is said to connect the late 11th/early 12th century castle here with Colchester Castle. As a source of 1904 puts it: “There is an oral tradition in the village, that a subterraneous communication formerly went from this castle to that of Colchester; and the same idle tale is frequently told at the latter place.” See also Colchester.

A much older reference from 1789, Joseph Strutt’s ‘Angleterre Ancienne’, tells of a siege of Hedingham’s castle during King John’s reign. The attackers thought those within to be starving, but when the defenders threw fresh fish down on them, gave up in despair, believing the fish to have been brought from Colchester via the secret tunnel.

Another tunnel legend crops up in H. Ranger’s 1887 book on Castle Hedingham: “A resident in the village was told by an old man, since dead, that he remembered the opening to an underground passage leading from the Castle to Bull’s Hill, near the gardener’s cottage.”

Source: Jack Lindsay, ‘The Discovery of Britain’ (Merlin Press, 1958), p.7-9.



Poll Miles’ grave

Poll Miles is a well-known figure in Castle Hedingham folk-history, even appearing on the village sign – although there’s no real evidence that she ever existed. Tradition says that she was a young woman of the 1800’s who some thought to be a witch, and who drowned in the castle lake. The trouble is that a heavily romanticised fictional account was written in the early 20th century by the wife of the then-owner of the castle, and now no one can tell where legend ends and modern fiction begins. In Lady Margaret Majendie’s ‘Poll Miles: A Story of Castle Hedingham’, (printed two years after the author’s death) the girl killed herself after being jilted by her young man, and was buried in an unhallowed grave at a crossroads outside the village. There may indeed be some basis to the story, as Lady Margaret was told it by a local woman in the 1870’s, and at the time of the story’s publication, a man then in his 80’s still remembered the man who had dug the girl’s grave.

This spot is now thought to be at TL799356, where two footpaths meet a minor road running south-east from the Sudbury Road towards Great Maplestead. Fresh flowers are said to be left there anonymously either at Halloween,1 or at Christmas,2 although villagers used to shun the spot. See it on Google Street View
HERE.


Sources:
1. http://www.castlehedingham.org/history/the-legend-of-poll-miles

2. Federation of Essex Women’s Institutes: ‘The Essex Village Book’ (Countryside Books, 2001), p.45.


Chelmsford:

Running round the church

Apparently, if you run round All Saints church at midnight thirteen times, an angry, ghostly nun appears and chases you!

Source: Carmel King: 'Haunted Essex' (The History Press, 2009), p.28.



Chignal St. James:

 

A knight at the moat

 

Within the grounds of 16th century Chignal Hall (TL663103) is an 'irregular pond', which some have called an 'entrenchment', and others a moat. There is a suggestion that it may have once enclosed a castle keep, while historians say it's just the remains of gravel diggings. An old cottage that once stood within the moat (now occupied by a modern dwelling called the Moat House) was known at the time as 'the king's robing room'. Here, or in the field next to it, is said to be buried a knight still in his full armour.

 

Sources:

A. J. Wilkins: 'The Chignals 1888 to 1988' (Chignal Parish Council, 2nd ed. 1988), p. 44. (Thanks to Rosemary Hall for the information.)

http://www.pastscape.org.uk - chignal

 

 

Chigwell:

 

Secret tunnel

 

So many secret tunnel legends seem to have arisen from the discovery of blocked-up arches and doorways in ancient cellars - and the same is true at Chigwell. Although various owners have tried to push its origin back to 1547, the former King's Head pub (TQ441937) actually dates from the 17th century, and was - at least in local lore - a meeting place for Roundheads during the English Civil War. The 'tunnel' beneath was supposedly an escape route for them (now of course bricked-up), and led to St. Mary's church (TQ440937), or possibly to a specific crypt in the churchyard.1,2 Others have suggested that it was actually an escape route for the highwayman Dick Turpin!3

 

Still others 'know' that the tunnel continued on to Chigwell School (TQ441938), originally built in about 1620. All three buildings cluster about the junction of Roding Lane with the High Road, and are so close together that the construction of tunnels would seem a waste of time. Nevertheless, a former pupil has recalled that, between 1954 and 1961, everyone at the school knew of the tales, and he and another boy tried to dig their way into the tunnel's entrance - which, by rumour, was in a utility cupboard next to the Prefects' room. They obviously didn't get very far because the way was blocked, oddly not by bricks or rubble, but by earth, which threatened to collapse a flagstone above it. Supposedly, workmen digging the road nearby exposed the tunnel about twenty years later.4

 

Sources:

1. http://sheeshrestaurant.co.uk/about-sheesh/

2. http://www.guardian-series.co.uk/news/localhistory/11176468.Ye_olde_pub_s_history_revealed/

3. Scott Wood: 'London Urban Legends: The Corpse on the Tube and Other Stories' (The History Press, 2013.)

4. Marian F. Delgou: 'Charles Dickens at Chigwell', in 'The OC Mitre' (Issue 9, Dec. 2013), p.19.

 

 

Chrishall:

The plague tree

As with many small settlements, Holy Trinity church (TL451386) at Chrishall is nearly a kilometre away from the centre of the village, but there’s no evidence that an older village ever stood nearer to the church – despite what tradition says. Supposedly, the ‘old’ Chrishall was burnt down – either accidentally or deliberately – to ‘cleanse’ the place after the plague had struck. The victims received a mass burial in a pit in the churchyard; exactly where isn’t known, but it must never for any reason be opened up again.1 The site is said to be marked by a yew tree, about which ghostly figures have been seen to dance.2 However, according to more recent (and local) information, the actual site of the plague pit is beneath what is now the church car park.3

Sources:
1. Enid Porter; ‘Cambridgeshire Customs & Folklore’ (Taylor & Francis, 1969), p.185-6.
2. http://deadpubs.co.uk/EssexPubs/Directories/Chrishall.shtml

3. http://chrishallessex.co.uk/chrishall-church-gravestone-inscriptions/



Clacton:

Secret tunnels:

Treasure Holt (TM192175) is an early 17th century farmhouse (although locals like to think an earlier house on the site dates back to the 1100’s). Supposedly once an inn, there are all sorts of tales of ghosts and witchcraft attached to the old building. Smugglers too, who are said to have dug tunnels from the house leading beyond the wooded area surrounding the inn, and to ‘the cemetery’ (presumably the graveyard at St. John’s rather than the municipal cemetery, which wasn’t opened until 1899.)1

Smugglers were very active in Clacton in the 17th and 18th centuries. More subterranean passages are believed by some to run from St. John’s church (TM177165) to the 16th century Ship Inn (TM176164), and from the inn to the coast.2,3 A known smuggler named George Wegg lived next door to the Ship, and perhaps the huge cellars beneath his house contributed to the legends.4 Also reputedly linked to either the church or the coast by tunnel are a house in Valley Road called Eaglehurst, the 16th century Queen’s Head (TM175164) in St. John’s Road, and Geddy Hall in Little Clacton.5

 

In 1937, a Mr. L. J. Latham produced a report claiming to have found the following tunnels originating at St. John's church: to the site of the vanished church at Holland-on-Sea, to St. James' church at Little Clacton, and to the remains of the priory at St. Osyth. Unfortunately, he claimed to have found these passages by means of divination. Within St. Osyth itself, he reckoned to have found other tunnels from the priory to the Red Lion inn, and to St. Clere's Hall.6

Sources:
1. https://www.geocaching.com/geocache/GC543Z6_clacton-smugglers

2. http://thingstodoinclacton.co.uk/company/the-ship-great-clacton/

3. http://www.my-clacton.co.uk/

4. http://www.smuggling.co.uk/gazetteer_e_12.html

5. http://clacton-on-sea-essex.co.uk/history-of-clacton/

6. http://seax.essexcc.gov.uk/Result_Details.aspx?DocID=812600



Bocking’s Elm

This is a little hamlet on the western outskirts of Clacton, apparently named after a tree that stood at the junction of the B1027 and Little Clacton Road (TM157163). A tree still stands in the centre of the grassy triangle, but it’s not the original. That one was struck by lightning in about 1950-60, and the stump removed. A highwayman by the name of John Bocking was traditionally hanged upon the elm, and his body buried at the foot of the tree. His ghost supposedly haunted a nearby modern house at one time.1 Unfortunately I can’t find any evidence that John Bocking actually existed. He was supposed to be an associate of Dick Turpin2 – hence the nearby pub called the Brace of Pistols - but wasn’t a named member of Turpin’s ‘Essex gang’.

A very different tale says that the tree in fact grew from a wooden stake plunged into the body of a man named Bocking who committed suicide and was thus buried at the threeways.3

Sources:
1. http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/ESSEX-UK/2000-10/0970586944

2. David Bain: ‘Pubs, Pints & Publicans’ in ‘Great Bentley Parish News’ February 2010, p.7
3. C. E. Britton: ‘Autumn Botany at Clacton’ in ‘Essex Naturalist’ (Vol.17, 1912), p.254 (inc. footnote by W. Cole).



Ghost from the water

Near the London Road/St. Johns Road roundabout at TM171164 there used to be a pond. It was avoided by children as, late at night, the ghost of a woman on a white horse would rise out of the water.

Source: http://www.rootschat.com/forum/index.php/topic,333143.0.html (posted 4/11/08.)


Clavering:

Another tree from a tomb

In the churchyard at St. Mary & St. Clement’s (TL470318) is or was a tomb belonging to a woman of the 17th century. She was alleged to have said that, if there was indeed a heaven or a hell, then an ash tree and a maple tree would grow over her grave. If an ash grew out of her tomb, her spirit would be in heaven; if it was the maple, she would be down below. Eventually it was an ash tree that grew and split her tomb. Today, there are no visible graves older than the 18th century. See also Brightlingsea.

Source: Jessie K. Payne: ‘a Ghost Hunter’s Guide to Essex’ (Ian Henry Publications, 1987), p.23.

 

 

The fallen knight

 

Within the church itself, set into a recess in the wall of the north aisle, is the marble effigy of a recumbent knight. Clad in armour and mail, he is thought to date from about 1250, and although his exact identity is unknown, he may well have been one of the medieval lords of the manor. An odd tale has grown up that this knight actually fell to his death from the walls of the church during its construction.

 

Source: Letter from Mrs. Jean Brooks of Chelmsford, in 'Essex Countryside' Vol.6, No.25 (April/May 1958), p.199.



Coggeshall:

Marks Hall lakes

North-north-west of the town is the Marks Hall estate, owned during the English Civil War by Sir Thomas Honywood, a staunch Parliamentarian. Three lakes once in the grounds have over time been modified into two (TL840257), which local legend likes to say were dug by Cromwell’s Roundhead troops while billeted there before the siege of Colchester in 1648.The unlikely reason is that they were supposedly dug to keep the troops ‘out of mischief’.

Sources:
http://www.coggeshallmuseum.org.uk/localhero.htm

http://www.colnestour.org/NewsletterArchives/NewsletterApril2011.aspx#markshall



Secret tunnel

Although it’s several miles from the remains of the 12th century Coggeshall Abbey (TL855222) to Colchester Castle, an underground passageway still traditionally connects the two. Passing under the A120, the sound of horse’s hooves was said to change as they went over the spot.

Source: http://www.foxearth.org.uk/BorleyRectory/Tunnels.htm



The Holy Thorn


Somewhere near Coggeshall was said to be a ‘Holy Thorn’ that blossomed at midnight on Old Christmas Eve, like the one at Woodham Ferrers and several other places.

Source: ‘The ‘Holy Thorn’ at Woodham Ferrers, Essex’ in ‘Essex Naturalist’ (1893), Vol.7, p.49.


Colchester:

No grass will grow

In the yard at the rear of Colchester Castle (TL998253) is a small obelisk, marking the spot where Sir George Lisle and Sir Charles Lucas – Royalist leaders during the English Civil War – were executed. Having been shot, their bodies were allowed to lay there a while before being removed. And as the tale now tells, “from that time to this, 'tis observed that no grass will grow where these two brave men fell, but that there is to this day the exact figure on the ground in hay time that they fell in ; for it is good hay and grass round about, but in these places.” There is certainly no grass on the exact spot now, as the area has been paved over.

Source: “The Diary of Abraham de la Pryme, the Yorkshire antiquary”, in the Publications of the Surtees Society, (Andrews and Company, 1870), Vol.54, p.101.



Charlotte’s Well

In what is now a southern suburb of Colchester stood Berechurch Hall, demolished in 1953. In the 1800’s Sir George Henry Smyth lived there, and for his beautiful daughter he planted Charlotte’s Wood. In Lethe Grove he created for her a grotto and bathing pool, which she loved so much that she spent all her time there.1 Even after death, it seems, as the white figure of her spirit is now said to haunt the Well named for her.2

Sources:
1. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=22022

2. http://www.paranormaldatabase.com/essex/esspages/essedata.php?pageNum_paradata=4&totalRows_paradata=442



The golden king

Just beyond the western edge of the town is Lexden, where two front gardens in Fitzwalter Road contain what remains of the Iron age burial mound known as the Lexden Tumulus (TL975247.) How it looks now can be seen on Google Street View
HERE. A partial excavation was carried out in 1924, revealing the burial of a high status individual. Reports not long after claimed that the archaeologists had found “a magnificent table of bronze”, and “the skeleton of the chieftain clad in chain mail and wrapped in a tunic of cloth of gold.” This was taken to confirm the local tale told “for countless generations” that the mound was “the burial place of an ancient king….clad in golden armour, with golden weapons by his side, and accompanied by a table of solid gold….”1

A slight problem with this is that there was no skeleton at all, as it was a cremation burial. There were the remains of a suit of iron chain-mail, fragments of “spun gold ribbon”, but no armour or clothing, and the “magnificent table” was a small bronze base for a lamp stand.2

There is also no evidence that this tradition, “as much of a village institution as the mound itself”, even existed before A. Hyatt Verrill recorded it in 1931, seven years after the excavation. That has never stopped some from believing this to have been the grave of Cunobelinus, king of the Catuvellauni, more commonly known as Cymbeline.3 Nowadays, it seems more likely that the mound was the burial place of Addedomaros, king of the ruling Trinovantes.

Sources:
1. A. Hyatt Verrill: ‘Secret Treasure: Hidden Riches of the British Isles’ (Appleton & Co, 1931), p.27-8.
2. A. P. Fitzpatrick: ‘Cross-Channel Relations In The British Later Iron Age’: Volume 2 (University of Durham, Dept. of Archaeology, 1989), p.333, 342, 406.
3. http://www.heritage-explorer.co.uk/web/he/searchdetail.aspx?id=9409&crit=pin



King Cole

It used to be thought that the name of Colchester derived from ‘Coel’s Castle’, the fortification of a 3rd century king who founded the town, and who has come down to us as the ‘Old King Cole’ of the nursery rhyme. Later, some thought that this fictitious ruler was based on – or was the same person as – the very real Cunobelinus.1 Whatever the truth, the notion of King Cole (or Coyle) as an important legendary figure in Colchester has persisted into much more recent times. Indeed, in at least one tale from Essex, the king has transmuted into a giant (see Dedham.)

Until the 19th century, the Balkerne Gate (TL992251, a partially-ruined set of Roman archways next to the Hole in the Wall pub on Balkerne Hill) was known as ‘Colkyng’s Castle’. In Colchester Castle itself, the great hall was known as ‘King Coel’s Hall’, while the remains of the Roman temple upon which the castle itself was built were called ‘The Palace of Coel’. ‘King Coyle’s Pump’ was a large public well from Roman times, still in existence under the pavement at the junction of High Street, Head Street and North Hill (TL994252).2

Outside the town itself, on the border of Lexden and Stanway, is ‘King Coel’s Kitchen’. When William Stukeley drew it in 1759, it was thought that this 60 metre diameter bowl-shaped depression was the remnant of a Roman amphitheatre. In fact, it was found in 1974 to be a sand and gravel pit, possibly a Roman or medieval quarry reopened in the 19th century.3 Thickly surrounded by trees, the partially-filled ‘Kitchen’ can still be found today, at approx. TL959250, on the west side of King Coel Road.

Sources:
1. J. Westwood & J. Simpson: ‘The Lore of the Land’ (Penguin Books, 2006), p.253.
2. ‘The Colchester Archaeologist’, Issue No.14, 2001, p.17, 26.
3. ‘The Colchester Archaeologist’, Issue No.14, 2001, p.27.



Secret tunnels

As well as receiving tunnels from Coggeshall and Castle Hedingham, Colchester Castle is supposed be at one end of a passage connecting it with the 14th century Rose and Crown Hotel in East Street.1

The clergyman and traveler James Brome visited the town in 1700, reporting: “The Castle is now quite demolished, and gone to decay, and though they shew'd us a Brazen Gate, which gives entrance, as they say, to a Vault fifteen Miles under ground, yet the Stories they multiply concerning both, are so Romantickly idle and extravagant, that there is little credit to be given to any Relations concerning them.”2 Much of the upper levels of the castle were demolished in the 1680’s, explaining Brome’s opening sentence. And although the Roman drainage system and extensive temple vaults beneath the castle might explain many of the tunnel rumours, the idea of a vault fifteen miles underground is, in my experience, unique in legend!

Various other tunnels are rumoured to be hidden beneath the High Street, probably accounted for by cellars that extend beneath the road. The basement of the Town Hall (TL995252) in this same street wasn’t constructed until 1899, and there were no reports of any secret passages being found then, even though it was built on the same site as the 12th century Moot Hall. But at least one local man claimed to have, as a little boy, gone into a tunnel that was used as a shelter during World War Two, leading from the back of the Town Hall to the back of a building at North Hill.3

Berechurch Hall, mentioned above, was alleged to have once been a monastery – a rumour started because St. John’s Abbey in Colchester owned all the lands around. A subterranean way was thus supposed to run from the Hall to St. John’s Abbey Gate, still surviving at TL994252.4

 

During the English Civil War the former Grosvenor Hotel (now a care home, at TL991247) is supposed to have acted as a prison. However, it was only built in the 19th century. Nevertheless a tunnel used for the transfer of prisoners is alleged to have run to St. Mary at the Walls church (now an art centre).5

 

The Fox & Fiddler pub (TL994249) in St. Johns Street stands on the site of inns stretching back to the 16th century, and cellars beneath are said to link to tunnels that run beneath the town. In a disused passage in the 1640's, a chambermaid named Sarah is supposed to have been bricked-up alive by none other than the Witchfinder General himself, Matthew Hopkins. Her ghost still haunts the pub.6

Sources:
1. http://www.hauntedexperiences.com/most-haunted-hotels-uk/haunted-hotels-of-essex/

2. James Brome d.1719, ‘Travels Over England, Scotland and Wales’ A. Roper,1700, p.112.
3. ‘Daily Gazette’ January 1st, 2010.
4. Jessie K. Payne: ‘A Ghost Hunter’s Guide to Essex’ (Ian Henry Publications, 1987), p.31.

5. http://www.camulos.com/inns/2015part3dtog.pdf

6. Carmel King: 'Haunted Essex' (The History Press, 2009), p.59-60.



Copford:

Treasure in the tunnel

Until 1561 Copford Hall (TL934227) was a residence of the Bishops of London, including Edmund Bonner (c.1500-1569, known as ‘Bloody Bonner’ for his persecution of Protestants under Mary Tudor). In the 1540’s he feared the work of the reformers, and legend says that he hid some of the valuable church plate from their prying hands in a tunnel that existed between the hall and Copford’s nearby church of St. Michael.

Source: Jessie K. Payne: ‘A Ghost Hunter’s Guide to Essex’ (Ian Henry Publications, 1987), p.15.



Treasure in the mound

There was another tradition that the church plate was instead secreted in a mound in Copford Park, although nothing came to light when a trench was put through it in the 19th century. The earthwork was recorded as 30m in diameter and about 1 metre high, with traces of a ditch around it and charcoal found at its centre. Nothing seems to be visible now, and although there are some candidates for its position, the exact location of the mound remains unknown.

Source: www.pastscape.org.uk- Copford



Cressing:

Secret tunnels

Only two barns and a stone well survive of the Cressing Temple (TL799186), founded in 1137, and marking one of the first land grants in England to the Knights Templar. The well is about 13.7 metres deep and lined with Reigate stone. Some have suggested it to be of Roman date, but it is definitely of Templar construction. Towards the bottom of the well is a small bricked-up archway in the wall. The bricks are Victorian, suggesting a drainage function, but that hasn’t stopped the origination of a legend that it was a priest hole and escape tunnel leading to the late 16th century Hungry Hall, about half a mile away at TL802180.1
 

The former Horseshoes pub (TL793204) in Church Road has been dated back to at least the 15th century. It's said that part of a tunnel is still visible there, leading to All Saints church. But as it's only a few metres away, it hardly seems worth it.2


Sources:
1. Pamela Brooks: ‘Essex Ghosts & Legends’ (Halsgrove, 2010), p.59.

2. Vicky Passingham: 'Best of Both Rural Worlds', in 'Limited Edition', (Feb. 2009), p.68.