Near Burnham Abbey
Burnham Abbey was originally a house for Augustinian nuns dating back to 1265. It was surrendered on 19 September 1539 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries and then passed on through private ownership. The Abbey was a farm by 1719 and in 1916 was bought by The Society of the Precious Blood, Augustinian nuns in the Anglican Communion who remain there to this day.
It has been suggested in the Paranormal Database that the area around Burnham Abbey Farm is haunted by Moses Hatto who murdered a fellow servant there in late 1853. The following extract from the London Express dated 25 March 1854, gives an account of his execution and details the killing of Mary Ann Sturgeon.
‘EXECUTION OF MOSES HATTO. Yesterday morning sentence of death was execnted in front of the new county gaol at Aylesbury upon Moses Hatto, aged 25, for the murder of his fellow-servant, Mary Ann Sturgeon, of Burnham Abbey farm, on the 1st of Nov. last. From the time of his conviction not the least hope had been held out to Hatto, and he evidently expected the fate which awaited him. From the time of his conviction the chaplain paid the greatest attention to his spiritual wants, and a great part of the convict’s time was spent in religious exercises. Yesterday morning Hatto appeared on the scaffold, attended by two of the warders and the executioner (Calcraft), at-two minutes past 8, and appeared to be very firm and collected. As soon as the cap was about to be placed over his head, he uttered in an audible tone, “Lord, have mercy on my soul.’’ Calcraft then adjusted the rope round his neck, and placed him on the drop, and at four minutes past 8 he was launched into eternity. He scarcely appeared to make a struggle. The town, the night preceding the execution, was completely filled with the lowest of society, and it was supposed that there were upwards of five thousand persons present to see the execution, a great number of them being females, all in holiday attire, and none appeared to enjoy themselves more on the occasion than a married couple, formerly fellow servants of the culprit, who came a distance of 27 miles on purpose to gratify their curiosity. An official copy of the document signed by Hatto, in which he confesses the murder, contains the following addition to the admissions which have already been published. Having described the commencement of a conversation between his fellow-servants, of which he was the subject, he said:—“Mrs Bunce said, ‘I am glad that he has got his master.’ (Sturgeon had often before jeered me, and said that she was ‘ more of a man than I was.’ She was a very haughty woman.) ‘Leave him alone,’ said Sturgeon, ‘ he’s hanging himself every day. He’ll soon do it. Leave him alone.’ That throwed me at once. I was drove into an agony with it. To think that I had been working for her ; neglecting my own work all day! How often had I favoured her and,’denied myself, and stayed at home while she went out, and now for me to hear this ! It drove vengeance upon me to hear her running me down to all eternity. They were then about parting, when, to prevent being seen by them, I leaped over the palings, went into the stable, finished my work, and went indoors for my •upper. Then to throw more madness upon me, instead of bringing me a pint of beer as usual, she brought me the pint half full. I could not eat my sapper, but I drank my beer, and she asked me if I had had sufficient. I said, ‘I have had sufficient.’ Those were the last words I ever spoke to her. She looked so evil at me, and I was so throwed, that I hadly knew—indeed, I did not know—where I was, or what I did. I stood with my hand clenched, ready to strike her; but I could not. Then she went into the larder. I then look the iron lard-beater, and stood at the door, thinking to strike her down as she returned, but I could not do it, and thinking to drive it out of my mind, I went out of doors. I wished I might hear my master returning home. Then T went in again. She again went into the lard-house. I again took up the lard-beater, and, on her return, I knocked her down in the passage. As she was very strong, she threw me over once, but she was no more than a child to me. She said, ‘ Don’t, my good fellow ! ’ I accidentally dropped .the lard-beater. I kicked her with vengeance-She screamed very loudly. We had a great struggle in the passage. I kicked her two or three times. It was in the dark, for her candle had fallen, and the light had been put out. I left her where the grease and blood and tooth and hair-pin were found, and I returned into the kitchen, I think, to fetch a light. She got up and ran upstairs. I followed her, and caught her at her bed-room door, and I threw her up in the passage. She screamed again. I kicked her two or three times. She cried, ‘ Lord have mercy on my soul! I caught hold of her and pulled her into her bedroom; struck her on the bead with the poker two or three times, and broke the poker. I pushed her clothes against the grate, and they caught fire from the fire in the fire-place. I left her room. Then I went to my own bed-room, and changed my trousers and shirt and stockings, because they were bloody. I went back to her bed-room and looked how the body was going on, and I took down a dress that was hanging on a peg and threw it over her. Then I went to Mr. Goodwin’s room to take away something for a blind, to make believe that some thief had been in the house. I wiped the lard beater on a dishcloth, and I burnt the bloody string by which it usually hung. Then I cut my bloody shoes to pieces with one of Mr. Goodwin’s razors. Then I brited the passage door inside, and went out by the south front door. Then I went and hid, among the scrubs, the pieces of my shoes. I also hid, under the tree in the’ meadow, the articles taken from Mr. Goodwin’s room. They are still under the tree, between the tree and the ditch. The tree is a withy pollard, about the second or third near the Chippenham footpath. I have never seen the latter since, but the former I removed from among the scrub the next morning, and threw the soles into a shallow well, in the meadow, by the garden gate, and the upper leathers into the drain leading to it. ‘They are there now. To go back to the Tuesday night : After I had hidden the pieces of shoes in the scrubs, I went and hid my shirt in the pond, close to the house, treading it into the mad, and my trousers under the roof of the coal pen. Then I went and lay down.”
Whether there is a genuine haunting in that general area or a story that has grown from the grizzly history of a murder I cannot say.