Ghosts of the Old Vicarage, Burford
10 January 2023
The Old Vicarage, sometimes called Cob House, sits at the bottom of Burford High Street and faces down Lawrence Lane to the church. It was the site of a curious haunting, and rumours of child murder, in the 17th century.
The haunting is reported in By Road from Cheltenham to Oxford by W.J. Monk and is quoted by Katherine M. Briggs in her book Folklore of the Cotswolds.
The vanishing visitor
At the time of the story, a Rev. George W. Underwood had just taken on the role of Vicar of Burford and had moved into the vicarage with his wife. Mrs Underwood was upstairs when a ring at the doorbell announced a visitor who was shown into the drawing room by a servant, who then came upstairs to let Mrs Underwood know she had a guest.
When Mrs Underwood came downstairs she found the drawing room empty. Confused, she stepped out into the vicarage's walled garden but found it empty and all exits locked. The visitor has truly vanished into thin air!
Mrs Underwood pressed her servant for a description of the woman and she described the visitor's brown dress and peculiar, somewhat forbidding face.
Other visitors who called on the Underwood's told them that the description closely matched Mrs. Thorpe, the wife of the former vicarage incumbent, Rev. John Thorpe.
Ghosts and murders?
This satisfied Mrs. Underwood, until the parishioners explained in nervous tones that Mrs. Thorpe was long dead! Not only this, but in life she had earned a very dark reputation as some children who had been put in her care had gone missing in mysterious circumstances.
Some time later alterations were being made to the garden and children's bones were found.
Had the ghost of Mrs. Thorpe returned to the scene of her crimes?
- 'The Lore of the Land' by Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson (ISBN: 0141021039)