A Suicide Buried Near Donnington Bridge
In the past suicide was considered a mortal sin, and individuals who died by their own hand would be denied a proper Christian burial in a churchyard. Such unfortunates would instead be buried at a crossroads.
The logic behind this was to prevent their unquiet spirits from wandering and making themselves a nuisance to their surviving family, friends and neighbours. It was believed that if buried at a crossroads the spirit would not know which road to take, and thus be prevented from returning home.
A conman is exposed
One example of this practice is mentioned by Christine Bloxham in her book Folklore of Oxfordshire. In around 1803 a harness maker from Oxfordshire was found to have been conning people by selling base metal as silver. When his crime was discovered, the man could not cope with the shame and took his own life.
He was buried at the junction between what is now Donnington Bridge Road and the Iffley Road. Today this is a busy road junction, surrounded by home and businesses, but at the time would have been a comparatively rural spot (Donnington Bridge itself was not constructed until 1962).
The body is unearthed
The skeleton of the perfidious harness maker was later unearthed during drainage work in 1895, though Christine Bloxham does not mention whether this time the body was given a Christian burial, or merely returned to its resting spot below the crossroads!
Another Oxfordshire example of a suicide buried at a crossroads can be found at Charlbury.
Find out more
- 'Folklore of Oxfordshire' by Christine Bloxham (Tempus, 2005, 0752436643)