Monday, 31 August 2015

The search for the legendary Scrapfaggot Green

When writing a blog about your experiences, it is inevitable that you sometimes unintentionally give the impression that the paranormal exists around every corner.

To put it bluntly, it isn’t, if it exists at all, it’s about as rare as gnat’s teeth.

That’s exactly why it’s called the paranormal. If it was an everyday occurrence, then it would just be considered ‘normal’ and we probably would have never had heard of Yvette Fielding after she left Blue Peter.

The following account is just an illustration of how a lot of research turns out – unfortunately working in the paranormal field isn’t about chasing shadows at 3am in the morning, it’s about pouring over dusty, out of print books and reports, looking for obscure accounts that will assist you with a case, or even flag possible new cases to research and investigate.

However, even if turns out that there is nothing worth researching, the work that you have undertaken can sometimes reward you in different ways, such as here where we were able to rediscover a long lost location.

It goes without saying that Harry Price’s greatest case was that of Borley Rectory, seated deep in East Anglia, on the Essex/Suffolk border until it was demolished in 1944, five years after a devastating fire.

In fact, the two are inseparable, which is a great shame, as Price was much more than Borley and had involvement in many, many cases, some of which the annals of history have seen barely fit to mention.

The curious case of the Witch of Scrapfaggot Green is just one of them and, what follows, is the strange story of how we found ourselves scouring the Essex Countryside for a location that clearly doesn’t want to be found and you won’t find recorded on any map, no matter how much you look.

The search begins.....
Now, much of the work undertaken in the paranormal field involves research, in fact, research - lots and lots of research. Tedious amounts. I guess that it is fortunate that I don’t mind a bit of reading.

It was during such one such concentrated period of research, that I kept encountering the relatively well-known Essex tale concerning the Witch of Scrapfaggot Green.

Whatever book I picked up, no matter the subject matter, there was often a reference to the story staring back at me in the face. Synchronicity?

To the uninitiated, near Boreham, to the north of Chelmsford, there once existed a small, triangular piece of land, known locally as Scrapfaggot Green.
 
Scrapfaggot Green today, a shadow of it's former self.....
A peculiar name, Scrapfaggot is believed to be an old East Anglian name for a witch.

Here, 70 odd years ago, you could find the final resting place of a witch, allegedly hung following the 16th Century Chelmsford Witch Trials, with the grave capped by a large stone to prevent the spirit of the witch escaping (that should do it).

Now, I say final resting place but, back in 1944, during the latter stages of World War II, the US Air Force were in the process of constructing the nearby Boreham Airfield and found it necessary to widen the local country lanes to improve access to the new airfield for its construction machinery.

It appears, as part of these road widening works, that the grave was bulldozed and the stone ended up in a ditch.

This was the catalyst for numerous mishaps and unexplained events that occurred locally, that even attracted the attention of the world famous Paranormal Investigator at the time, a certain Harry Price.

The spirit of the witch was subsequently laid to rest when the stone was eventually returned to its original location at Scrapfaggot Green, although there appears to be a wall of silence concerning how (and when) it ended up in the car park of the St Anne’s Castle Inn, in nearby Great Leighs, where you can still find the stone today, half buried in the grass verge outside the car park (1).

As I was diligently researching the subject of coincidence at the time, the frequent cropping up of this case was of great interest to me, even more so as I had moved less than a mile away from Scrapfaggot Green in the last 12 months.

Taking my now almost daily ‘encounter’ with the Witch, I suspended my research into coincidence and turned my full attention to the curious case of the Witch.

The first challenge, as far as I could see, was to find out where, exactly, was Scrapfaggot Green itself?

Not as easy as it first sounds, as I was soon to find out.

Despite the multitude of references to the case, there was no actual mention itself as to its location. Neither was it marked on any map, contemporary nor even the original Ordinance Survey series. I was well and truly stumped.

However, all was not lost.

In one book I found a tantalising reference to the Green being located at the end of Drakes Lane, a lane that still exists even to this very day, albeit presumably much wider than it was prior to 1944.

Furthermore, looking at the map, there was another green marked on the map not more than half a mile to the east, at what looked like could have originally been the end of Drakes Lane.

Having seemingly re-discovered the site, I was very keen to make a location visit to verifying my find one way or another so, without informing Laura of what, why or where we would be going, I arranged for an evening out in the sunny Essex countryside.

Then, just prior to leaving to make drive to Scrapfaggot Green and Great Leighs, to view the stone itself, it suddenly struck me that perhaps I was looking in the wrong place for the original location of the Witch’s Stone. It just seemed too easy.

So, with a couple of minutes to spare, I pulled out the ordinance survey map yet again and it dawned on me that perhaps Scrapfaggot Green could equally be located at the western end of Drakes Lane, not the eastern end where I originally thought it was.

I thought that this would make sense as far as the legend went, as the western end of the lane was only a mile or so from St Martin’s Church at Little Waltham, where tradition holds that the witch’s remains were allegedly interred after their discovery back in the 1940’s.

Still keeping all this from Laura, we jumper in the car and headed off toward Great Leighs, diverting via my now two best guesses at the location of the Green.

We would reach the western end of Drakes Lane first, but despite being familiar with the approximate location, I couldn’t recognise any landmarks that would identify Scrapfaggot Green, or indeed any sign posts to tell us that we were actually in Drakes Lane.

As we drove eastwards along the road I thought to myself that perhaps the blocked off side road was the start of the Lane, but at this point I wasn’t even sure that we were in the right area – this was much more confusing than looking at the map at home.

After about a mile or so I pulled over into a make shift lay-by, opposite a factory unit and tried to work out where we were.

If we were on Drakes Lane we must be coming to the end of it, approaching its junction at the eastern end with the main Great Leighs / Boreham Road.

Having consulted the map, I decided to abandon our search for Scrapfaggot Green for another evening.

Disappointed, we continued our drive to St Anne’s Castle Inn, this time activating the navigation device to avoid any further confusion and delay.

Almost immediately we found ourselves at the junction with the Great Leighs / Boreham Road and, to my right I spotted the road sign confirming that we were indeed at the eastern end of Drakes Lane and, one of the possible locations that I’d proposed for the Green.

However, quickly looking around, there was no indication that we were at one of our targets – we were at an ordinary T-Junction and, judging by the size of the trees on both sides of the road, it was very difficult to see how any green had fitted in at this junction.

Resigning ourselves to the fact that we’d probably driven right past Scrapfaggot Green, I turned left and we made our way to Great Leighs.

As we made our way along the winding country lanes, Laura commented that, as we’d driven past the blocked side road, she had picked up the name ‘Alan’ and the place name ‘Carlisle’, which we presumed was the town in Northern England.

I asked Laura if it was possible that ‘Carlisle’ was a surname (as opposed to the town), but Laura assured me that it was definitely a place name, as she’d sought clarification of this and it was definitely the town.

At this point I confirmed to Laura that this was interesting, as the blocked road junction was more than likely what remained of the Green. This being so, we made a note to try and return home via this route and check the possibility this location was indeed the case.


St Anne’s Castle Inn
After a short drive we found ourselves in the car park of St Anne’s Castle Inn. Pulling into a parking space I looked around for the Witch’s Stone that was supposed to be located on the grassed area in the car park.

We have in our possession a booklet from the early 1980’s that shows a boulder, approximately 18 inches or so high long, sitting randomly in the car park, so we thought that it should be relatively easy to find.

However, there was nothing to be seen.

This was a concern, but I was sure that the stone had merely been moved elsewhere on site and we’d try and locate it later.

Entering the almost empty bar, we ordered some drinks and sat down at a table next to the old fireplace.

Settled, Laura read though a local arts magazine on the table whilst I debated how on earth we’d driven past our target and what, if anything, did the information that Laura had picked up amount to?

Having finished scanning the magazine, Laura told me that as we drove along the country lane to the Inn, she kept picking up the word ‘sanctuary’. This feeling ended when we arrived at the Inn.

My ears pricked up at this, but I kept quiet and allowed Laura to continue.

Laura explained that she’d sought clarification of the term – was it in reference to an animal sanctuary? A children’s home? But all she could come up with was that it the context of how she received ‘sanctuary’ in a spiritual way.

I decided to reveal all to Laura, the story of the curse of the Witch’s Stone, its removal to St Anne’s Castle Inn, the fact that it allegedly was the oldest public house in England.

I went on to describe, perhaps more importantly, the building’s original function as a Norman Priory and, subsequently, a monastic hospice for the many pilgrims that used to pass, making their way to holy shrines such as the chapel and holy well of Our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk and, in the opposite direction, the tomb of Thomas a’Beckett at Canterbury, Kent. Perhaps this was the ‘sanctuary’ that Laura was picking up as we drove towards the Inn?

As I told her all this, Laura took my note pad and started writing. After had finished talking, I could see that she’d written:

 ‘Indola / Ingola’
‘Wise’
‘Matheson’
‘Audley End’ (this could refer to two locations, both within 20 miles of the pub).

With nothing more forthcoming, we decided to drink up and leave.

As I finished my drink Laura told me that she’d just had a cold shudder all over and showed me the goose pimples on her arm.

She then picked up the name ‘Digby’ and informed me that she was ‘attracted’ to the men’s toilets situated nearby.

I was too much a gentleman to press her on the latter part of her sentence.......

Leaving the Inn, we decided to spend some time and see if we could locate the missing Witch’s Stone. As chance would have it, I quickly located it near the entrance to the car park on the main road, near an advertising board.

It was smaller than I’d imagined and was laid flat, sunk into the neatly mown grass verge. (1)

I decided to take some pictures using my mobile phone for prosperity but, mysteriously, the shutter failed to open.

Finding this mildly amusing, I turned the camera function off and tried once again, but again the shutter failed to open. This had never happened before in the four months that I’d owned the phone and a couple of hundred pictures. You couldn’t make this up.

Trying again for a third time, the shutter opened on cue and I took a couple of photographs without any further problems.

Returning to the car, we jumped in and retraced our route through the back lanes. As we drove we discussed the information that Laura had picked up and how she had arrived and some of her conclusions.

Soon, we found ourselves at the blocked road and it was then that it dawned upon us that we were finally at Scrapfaggot Green, the original location of the Witch’s Stone until it was moved back in 1944 (coincidently, the same year that Borley Rectory was demolished).

Looking out of the car at the junction ahead of us, there was a very small triangle of grass in the centre that, sadly, was clearly all that remained of the Green after its impromptu redesign by the Americans Forces over 70 years earlier.
 
Looking in the mirror, wondering
what he'd look like with a bit of CGI applied.
At this stage, night was falling fast and, being a road junction, it was not an ideal place to be walking around in the dark, taking photographs. Tufty the Squirrel would have been extremely proud of us.

Satisfied that we’d finally managed to locate Scrapfaggot Green, we decided to leave matters at that and return to take some photographs at a later date.

The return visit
As things eventually turned out, it was actually quite a while before we managed to return to the Green, but eventually we had some time free in our schedule, so we decided to take a drive out to the Essex countryside once again and visit the location.

The main purpose of the trip was to take some photographs that we could use on our website that we used to run, but it would be interesting if Laura could pick anything up at the location.

It was a nice sunny summer’s morning and the journey to Scrapfaggot Green proved uneventful, the traffic flowing freely at the usual bottlenecks on the A12 as we headed northwards.

As neared our destination, conversation turned to mundane matters and how familiar the countryside seemed despite having moved away from the area over 18 months ago and it being over two year since our last visit.

As we approached the green, turning into the side road to park up, Laura, to my surprise, suddenly announced that she could feel firm pressure around her neck. 

As I quickly pulled over, the pressure around Laura’s neck eased and she began to explain what she’d experienced.

Laura told me that as we were chatting, without warning she had the feeling of what could only be described as a strong ‘pressure’, as if someone was clutching her neck, forcing her head back.

 The sensation was so real to her that she could even feel the fingers and thumb of an invisible hand around her neck.

Laura was visibly shaken by the experience.

This obviously put a dampener on proceedings so, checking that Laura had recovered, I quickly took a couple of photographs and jumped back into the car.
 
Finally, Scrapfaggot Green in all it's glory
As we drove away, we discussed what had happened. Laura advised that although the sensation had now gone, she could still feel the after effects of her encounter when she swallowed.

As she continued describing her experience, Laura grew pale and was hit by a wave of severe nausea which lasted for approximately 30 minutes. The nausea was so strong we had to contemplate pulling over onto the side of the dual carriageway on two occasions during the drive home.  

There were no marks present on Laura’s neck and any lingering sensations in her neck disappeared within 24 hours. To this day, Laura is unable to offer any explanation as to what had happened and confirmed that she didn’t pick up any additional information as perhaps we would have usually expected.

So, a lot to think about with plenty that can be tied in with any future visits that we may make to the location.

As always, we welcome any discussion relating to the Witch at Scrapfaggot Green, so feel free to make comments or contact us directly if you prefer.

As with all our cases, we will hopefully add updates should anything further crop up during our research and any future visits.

Laura and Mark

Footnote(s)

 (1). The Landlady of St Anne’s Castle Inn kindly informed us, in correspondence, that she’d read somewhere that the stone was placed at St Anne’s Castle Inn because it was on the cross roads of the main road through Great Leighs.

2 comments:

  1. Very interesting. As I child I read all about Scrapfaggot Green. I think it was in a book called "The Screaming Skull and Other True Mysteries". I also lived in Essex and persuaded my father to drive out there, but we couldn't find the location, despite quizzing a few bemused locals. Occasionally, over the years, I'd hoped others would have better luck getting to the bottom of the locations, if not the mystery. Well done on all your hard work, Rick B

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  2. Hi Rick, thank you for relating your interest in the location, very similar to my own (Mark) when I think about it.

    Appreciate that you probably don’t live in the area any longer, but we’re more than happy to advise the exact location privately if you’re interested. I just find it fascinating that a location can be ‘lost’ in such a relatively short time.

    Mark.

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