On the outskirts of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, there once stood a large Elm tree. It was cut down in 1906 and this tree was known as Maude's Elm and there is a very sad and sorry tale behind this.
Maud Bowen was a 15 year old (some records say she was a little older) girl who lived with her mother in a cottage that was in Swindon Village, Cheltenham. Maud was said to have a good heart, was pretty and hard working.
Maud's family were Spinners and Maud had offered to take the finished items off to market and sell them. Her mother, Margaret Bowen, noticed that Maud had been gone much longer than she had expected and when the night fell, Maud's mother knew something had happened to her beloved daughter.
When the mother alerted the other residents of the village, they all came out to help look for the missing Maud. When dawn broke, poor Maud was found face down, drowned, in a local stream. It was then that other villagers found the corpse of Maud's Uncle Geoffrey nearby. He had an arrow, shot straight through his heart but he also had fabric from young Maud's dress, clutched in his dead hands.
As it was in those days, the Lord of the manor appointed a coroner to investigate both of these deaths. The coroner came up with a verdict; he declared that young Maud had murdered her Uncle and then had thrown herself into the murky waters and killed herself. It was then ordered that Maud be buried at a crossroads and to have a stake made from the Elm tree, to be pushed through her silent heart as an extra punishment. It is said that it was through this stake that the very large Elm tree did grow.
Several months later, Maud's grieving mother had gone to the crossroads, where her daughters body now lay, as she wanted to feel close to her daughter again. Unfortunately, the lord of the manner and his men rode by and she was asked to move on from Maud's resting place but she refused to do as requested, so one of the lord's men tried to physically remove her. As this was happening, an arrow, from an unknown source, was shot into the man trying to remove her.
The lord declared Margaret Bowen as a witch and gave orders for Margaret to be burnt on her daughters grave. When the execution was taking place, the lord of the manor began taunting poor Margaret as the flames started to grow. It was then that the fire became very fierce and let out an unnatural sound and then the fire fell into itself, making for smoke to engulf the burning woman and the people watching.
When the smoke had dispersed, Margaret was nowhere to be seen and the lord was dead on the ground with an arrow through his heart.
Many years later, a lonely old man moved into the Bowen's old cottage. He took to sitting beside the area where Maud had been buried and looked sad and full of thought. He said his name was Walter Baldwin and had been Maud's sweetheart when they were both young.
It was only when Walter was on his deathbed that he revealed what happened that fateful night that Maud had gone missing. He told the tale of how the lord of the manor had lusted after young Maud and had her Uncle Geoffrey help with his plan to kidnap the unsuspecting young woman.
The plan was for her uncle to help the lord kidnap Maud when she was walking home after the market. When Maud was approached by both of these men, she screamed very loudly and Walter had heard her and came rushing to where the scream had come from. Walter manager to shot the uncle but the lord had Maud in his clutches, but she managed to get away, only to fall into the stream and drown.
Walter also admitted to shooting the man who tried to move Margaret away from her daughters grave. He also had killed the lord at the execution, which helped Margaret to escape from her death sentence.
The land that the Elm tree had grown, is now up for sale. I would wonder if the housing built on this land will carry the ghosts of this terrible injustice that was afflicted upon the Bowen family. Only time will tell....