The Cottage by the Road

run down cottage
Photo by Efraimstochter on Pixabay

I found a report in a local newspaper from 1931 about a family who had experienced some paranormal activity from a cottage that they had parked up in front of whilst they enjoyed a break from their travels. This was on the Tewkesbury to Ledbury road. The cottage appeared to be in disrepair and the garden had been overtaken by weeds, shrubs and ivy. The family; father, mother and their preteen children.

As they sat on their picnic blanket, chattering away to each other, they were startled by a low groaning noise. They tried to apply logic to the noise, thinking it was perhaps a large vehicle approaching so carried on chatting. The moaning noise started again and this time, the family grew scared. It then stopped but began again within a minute or so. The father and the oldest son decided to look into the cottage, thinking it was coming from there. They went inside the building but nothing nor nobody was there. The father and son returned to the rest of their family and it was decided that it was best they pack up and leave, which is just what they did. They drove into the next village and they started speaking to the locals there, telling them about what they had experienced. The locals knew the house as The Hangman’s House. This was due to there having been a murder by hanging that happened at the house many years ago. Some of the locals said these noises were of a natural occurrence, as in the wind blowing through the masonry of the building or even someone joking around to scare the family. Many locals had witnessed similar activity around this house and the road it stood on. The road is a lonely area but very picturesque and as the house was in a very rough state, locals said this would lend to the idea that what was being experienced was something supernatural.

It was a couple of weeks later that a reader to the newspaper wrote about his friend who lived in the area of the Hangman’s House and had in their possession, an old newspaper cutting (from 1891) which reported the murder of 4 people living in the Hangman’s House. They enclosed the following information- ‘The Murder House- A Forthampton friend left at our publishing office a very curious original copy of a small bill measuring 11” by 6”, which had been found amongst a collection of papers of the late Mr John Knight, of Downing Farm. It bears the date 9th May 1780 and furnished information of the tragedy which had been perpetuated on the previous Sunday at the residence still known as the Murder House.’ The printed particulars below run as follows:

‘An account of 4 people cruelly murdered in their beds.’ After the account of the murder, it goes on to say ‘In the London Gazette, November 17th 1781, there appeared an advert, giving details of the murders and offering a free pardon to any accomplice. No clues were obtained respecting the murders for nearly fifty years later. But in the year (year was ineligible on cutting), an aged labourer working for another land owner, died in the Worcester infirmary. who. in his last hours, confessed he was implicated in the brutal affair and that he nobbled one of his victims with a hedge bill and that all his accomplices were all dead.’

A copy of the newspaper advert from 1781

I found more information pertaining to the murders and the possible motive for the labourer’s heinous actions. The victims were Edward Gummery, his wife Elizabeth, their young daughter Ann and Elizabeth’s brother, Thomas Sheen. They all died by having a heavy implement, like an axe, brutally smashing up their bodies. It was thought that Edward was murdered due to his being employed by the local land owner, putting up fencing on land, which some people thought was taking away rights from those who used the land to walk to various places. Some of the fencing had been burnt down and Edward had put up replacements. Several people had been sent to prison for their part in the burning. It was in 1829, when on his deathbed, that the ex-labourer owned up to his part in these murders.

There is a stone tablet at Berrow church that has an inscription of those murder victims. It shows just how shocked the local people were at this senseless act of violence and the needless loss of life.

Photo by Rosemary Lockie

The inscription reads

Under the stone, beneath the tablet

Lie the remains of Edward Gummary

Elizabeth, his wife and Ann, their daughter, who were cruelly murdered

At the cottage known as the Murder House

In the parish of Berrow

On the night of May 7th 1780

Now, I do not know whether the Murder House is the Hangman’s House but there is some cross referencing on some of the paranormal activity. I could not find any reports of a hanging murder at the Hangman’s House and I got to the Murder House by the readers letter after the newspaper reported the paranormal activity at the Hangman’s House. For now, we return to 1933 and some more paranormal happenings were reported in a local newspaper that happened at the Murder House.

What secret underlies the mystery surrounding the sinister looking red bricked cottage known as The Murder House" on the main Ledbury road a few miles from Tewkesbury? Is it haunted by the restless spirits of former residents who, many years ago, suffered violent deaths there?

These questions are again on the lips of people living in the vicinity of the house. Regularly, at certain periods of the year, strange noises are heard issuing from the derelict building, noises that resemble with terrifying reality the groans of human beings crying out with agony. Pedestrians passing along the road from which the cottage is separated by a narrow strip of weed choked garden land, have again been startled by the weird sounds. The moaning is heard at night and from alarming high pitched shrieks it trails off into low agonised whispers.

Residents in the district have become accustomed to it and treat the matter with the indifference that comes with that comes of long association, but to strangers the noises are frightening and a number of people have, from time to time, been scared by them. The cottage has long been disused and now is in an advanced state of dilapidation. Ivy covers the walls and has grown over the decayed thatched roof. The whole place has about it an atmosphere of desolation and decrepitude. The mystery has deepened with the passing of the years and the belief that the cottage is the scene of periodical ghostly visitations has become increasingly widespread.

Many, however, ridicule this suggestion and maintain that the noises are produced by the action of wind and rain blowing through the vacant window spaces of the budding. This contention is supported by the fact that the noises are intensified and more distinct on stormy nights, but do not the poets say that on such nights ghosts are their element! The cottage derives its name from a brutal murder committed 1780.

After this was reported, the newspaper receives an angry letter from the current owner of the Murder House so they make this statement - ‘In our issue of June 1931, there appeared an article entitled “Mystery of the MurderHouse" which made reference to a cottage on the main road from Tewkesbury to Ledbury. The owner of this cottage (now called Prospect Cottage) Mr. H E Partridge has taken exception to certain statements contained in the article as to the dilapidated condition of the cottage and the uncultivated state of the garden - and the suggestion that the cottage is haunted. We are sorry that our article should have given offence to Mr. Partridge and we hereby withdraw our statements contained therein in any way derogatory to his property.’

Thirteen years later, in 1946, the same newspaper reports an update on Murder House-

"MURDER HOUSE” DEMOLISHED Berrow Link With Fourfold Tragedy

The Surveyor reported he had received permission from the Halifax Building Society to demolish the Murder House, and to retain the salvaged material. These simple words. presented in the report at the Public Health Services Committee to Upton-on-Severn Rural District Council on Thursday, told of the end of a building to which the grim title. The Murder House." has clung for well over a century and a half. When our reporter paused at the " Murder House " on Monday he found the cottage all but demolished. A small portion of a wall and fireplace and a heap of bricks and stones were all that remained and Council workmen were rapidly completing the work.'

'This cottage with the sinister name had had no legal tenant for several years, but sometimes smoke escaping from the chimney gave away the hide-out of some grateful tramp, pausing on his way along the road between Tewkesbury and Ledbury. Several attempts have been made In the past to change the name of the house—at one time, we understand, it was called "Prospect Cottage "—but somehow local residents have always favoured the title the house earned for itself 166 years ago when it was the scene of a brutal four-fold murder.’ 

I do wonder what has been built on this land and also, where the salvaged material is now?

If you know anything about this/these houses then please let me know here