Sun Inn, Saxilby
The Sun Inn at Saxilby probably dates from around the 18th century and is closely linked with a famous early 19th century murder, that of Mary Kirkham and it said that Tom Otter, the murderer, reputedly haunts the pub to this day.
On 14th March 1806, it is recorded that Thomas Temperell was hung in chains on Saxilby Moor for the murder of Mary Kirkham. There are many accounts of the murder and the following events, which have become local folklore, so forgive me all the following details are a mix of historic fact and local legend.
Thomas otter was a navvy working in Lincoln and using the pseudonym Thomas Temperell. It is said that this name was sometimes shown in records as Temporel, Temporal, Temporall or Temple, possibly because Thomas may have been illiterate and was unable to spell it or perhaps it was another way of hiding his true identity.
Tom started to have a relationship with a young girl from Saxilby called Mary Kirkham and soon she fell pregnant to him. The tradition was for the father to marry the mother or go to gaol, so Tom and Mary were forced to marry at Hykeham Church on 3rd November 1805. Unfortunately for Mary, Tom Otter was already married.
Walking home alone on their wedding night, Tom and Mary went down Drinsey-Nook Lane that lead towards Doddington. During their walk, at about 7.00pm, Tom took a hedge stake and violently killed Mary.
Mary’s body was recovered from the ditch on Drinsey-Nook Lane and conveyed by cart to the crowd filled Sun Inn at Saxilby, where John Rowe was the landlord. Local tradition says blood was dripping from the cart leaving a from the murder scene to the Inn. It is also said that the stone by the door to the Inn was so blooded that no amount of cleaning could remove the stain.
Tom had fled toward Lincoln but was arrested the day following the murder. It is said that he too was brought back to the Sun Inn and saw the body of Mary. He was tried at the Old County Hall and found guilty of murdering his wife. Tom was to be executed and his body gibbeted on Saxilby Moor close to the scene of the murder.
On 14th March 1806 Tom was hung on gallows near the Union Workhouse and a large crowd turned out to witness his death. On 20th March 1806 his body, pitched in tar was placed in a gibbet near Drinsey Nook on what is now Tom Otters Lane. In one version of the story a workman was injured and died whilst trying to erect the gibbet.
The body of Tom Otter was left in the gibbet to rot and break apart and was to have remained there until 1850.
The Sun Inn is said to be haunted by Tom Otter as it was here that Mary Kirkham was taken to after being found murdered. According to local tradition the room in which she laid is also haunted by the sound of baby crying on the anniversary of the killing, 3 November, though I am unaware of any actual witness accounts.
There is also a tradition that the Hedge Stake used to kill Mary would disappear on the 3 November each year and be found, wet with blood, where it had been left after the murder. Various methods were employed to ensure the stake did not wander, including strapping it down with iron, but all to no avail. It was eventually said to have been exorcised and burnt by the Bishop of Lincoln at Lincoln Cathedral.