Lurking in a field full of grazing cattle at the north-west corner of the Waveney Valley village of Denton in South Norfolk (UK) can be found a battered earth mound surrounded by a dank ditch - all that remain's of the village's old Norman-era motte-and-bailey castle. However the proximity of a rookery within the adjacent wood does give the place a suitably ominous, spooky atmosphere at dusk, while is all the more appropriate given two grimly-named locations, close by the castle site, namely: Hangman’s Hill and Misery Corner.
The first is a small, tree-covered mound to the east of the castle that was reputedly the location of a gallows and a site for executions. Sadly, there is no historical nor archaeological evidence to indicate executions ever took place here (it is not even a good place to erect a gibbet) and the more likely explanation is the mound is spoil from the digging of an adjacent pond, which was then given the more melodramatic name during the Gothic Revival during the late-18th and early-to-mid 19th century.
As for Misery Corner (located about half a mile from the studio where we record the Weird Tales Radio Show) one suggestion is it takes its name from being one of the last places anyone being dragged off for execution at Hangman’s Hill would see in their life.
Another suggestion is it’s linked to a young servant girl who committed suicide there, after she either fell pregnant and/or saw her lover being taken off to be hanged. (With the obvious caveat, as already explained, that it is most unlikely any executions ever took place there.) Certainly there are plenty of reports of people claiming to have seen the woman’s ghost haunting the area although there is some confusion as to whether she hanged herself at Ivy Farm, one of the houses at the corner, or else drowned herself in the pond there.
However another macabre but plausible explanation is the Misery Corner road junction, on what would have then been the edge of the village, is another place (like Lushbush in nearby town of Harleston) where suicides – perhaps even the Ivy Farm servant girl – suffered the miserable fate of being buried with a stake through their hearts. It sounds barbaric but this was common practice until the law was changed in England in 1823 – and in fact the last public burial of a suicide, with a wooden stake driven through her heart, in Harleston was in April 1813.
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Urban Fantasist is here to inform and entertain you with tales of pop culture, folklore, history and the weird. It's curated by barrister and Reuters correspondent turned blogger, podcaster, radio DJ, award-winning tech journalist and sometime werewolf hunter Charles Christian. The site also has links to Charles Christian's books including fiction, nonfiction and latest reviews, as well as his Weird Tales and Smart Radio shows.
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