A couple of miles from Halsway is the infamous location of Walford’s Gibbet. Locally this seems to be an extremely well known story and the Internet also has several versions of this story. For those of you not familiar with the tale I will share a version of it now;
John Walford was a local charcoal burner who lived near Over Stowey. His work required him to spend long, lonely hours on the Quantocks where a slovenly but cunning girl named Jane Shorney visited him. Following her visits Jane became pregnant and John was forced to marry her, forsaking his true love, Anne Rice.
The marriage was not a happy one and one evening, following a visit to the Castle of Comfort Inn John Murdered Jane dumping her body at Dead Woman’s Ditch. The murder happened after only three weeks of marriage.
There followed a trial and John was sentenced to Hang, near the site of the murder and then have his body hung in a gibbet for a year. It is said that John asked to see Anne Rice when he stood at the gallows and they shared a few quiet moments together.
This story and its many variations holds much interest for me. Time has painted John Walford as a wronged man who was forced into marriage and his wife; Jane Shorney carried the blame. Typical of local folklore, many of the facts have been forgotten or changed. As have real locations. But this story is quite unique in that it is an actual event, occurring locally and, as a crime, many of the facts are held in the sessions records for 1789 making it potentially good story to demonstrate the progression of a folk story over time.
As I research the story I will share the facts with you.