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History of Turnham Malpas

Sir Guy intended to hang this miscreant for the offence but the small prison house in Little Derehams (now restored) was already occupied so he was put in the stocks on the Green to keep him secure until he sentenced him the following day. However, the morning after the offence, out of compassion, Jake Bigges, verger at the Church, went to give the prisoner an early morning jug of ale and loaf of bread, and noticed that the traveller was showing all the symptoms of the plague.


Terrified, the villagers released him from the stocks and beat him with sticks to make him leave the village. Two days later in the field behind the church he was found dead and was buried where he fell. Within days the plague was claiming its next victim and the next and the next. Derehams Magna suffered the worst, every single occupant dying of the plague. In consequence it became a ghost village.


Eventually the cottages crumbled away and many years later were raided for stone and disappeared completely except for a few humps of walls, long covered with grass. These remains can easily still be seen by a persistent investigator in a field at the bottom of Shepherds Hill, where once Derehams Magna had almost joined on to Turnham Malpas. At the time of the plague a third of the population of England died, so the disappearance of a village was a comparatively common occurrence.

The Rector was one of the first to die. As there was no one to conduct a burial service, all the victims were buried outside the church walls in a communal grave. In recent memory this plague pit was investigated by the county archaeologist, one Dr Gilbert Johns, and the remains of the victims were given a Christian burial service and laid to rest in a communal grave within the Churchyard. To this day, the villagers still avoid walking close to where the plague pit was, as indeed they have done right through the centuries, still convinced that the area is haunted.


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