Anne Blakemore & Tobias Gill (Black Toby)
On 24 June 1750, Anne Blakemore of Walberswick died. Her body was found on the Walks a mile west of Blythburgh and negro drummer named Tobias (Toby) Gill from the 4th Dragoons (Lieutenant General Sir Robert Rich’s Regiment of Dragoons) was accused of her murder. The Dragoons had been based in that area to combat smuggling and Toby had been drunk near where Anne’s body was discovered.
He was committed to Ipswich Gaol and according to the Ipswich Journal (30 June 1750) ‘the coroners enquiry….found him guilty of the murder of Ann Blakemore’. It is thought that verdict was prompted by local accusations made against Toby by the locals of Blythburgh.
On 25 August 1750 at Bury Assizes he was tried and received the death sentence. The date of his execution was set and on 14 September 1750 Tobias Gill was dragged to gallows raised at Four Crossways close to the location to where the body of Anne Blackmore was found. All the time he pleaded his innocence and begged for his life. In desperation he even begged to be tied by a halter to the London Mail coach so that he could run beside it in a hope of saving his life. His request was refused and Tobias Gill was hanged in chains and his body left for years swinging from the gallows. His body is said to have fallen apart and his bones buried where they fell.
It is said that there was no real evidence that Anne Blackmore was murdered and no marks were on her body. There was little evidence tying her with Tobias and the Blythburgh locals who had accused Tobias started to have second thoughts and regrets following his execution.
Whether Toby was wrongfully executed or not, a number of ghost stories have arisen around this case and it has been suggested that they may have been invented by local smugglers trying to scare people from venturing out at night.
One such story is that a headless Toby drivers a coach with four headless black horses in the area.
The ghost of Anne Blakemore is said ti have been seen running in front of cars around the anniversary of her death at Five Finger Post crossroads on the B1125.
The gallows remained standing until around 1800. Some of the nails from the gallows were made into a thatching comb and others collected as talismans. Shavings from the wood were used as a cure for toothache.