Buxted, East Sussex.
A couple of centuries ago, an old woman named Nan Tuck poisoned her husband. Unfortunately for Nan, the murder did not go unnoticed and soon the local lawmen were hot on her heels. She did her best to evade their clutches and managed to avoid capture for days. Eventually she decided to try to reach the church. If she could get to the altar she would be granted sanctuary.
But the church would prove to be out of reach and instead she “plunged into a nearby wood”. Into the leafy boughs went her pursuers, but none of them could find Nan. It seemed as though she had vanished as surely as if she had turned into the air itself. Somewhere in that wood it is said that she met her end. Even now her apparition is supposed to occasionally appear to those walking in the area and in the wood a circular patch of earth can be seen upon which nothing ever grows—supposedly the place of her mysterious demise.
But there is another version of this tale, one which is rather more tragic. It tells that Nan Tuck was a simple old woman who lived alone on the outskirts of Buxted. Ignorance, superstition and fear made the people of the town began to suspect Nan was a witch and a mob gathered to deal with her once and for all. Of course, it is unknown whether the mob intended to burn Nan to death, or just frighten her away from their lands; whatever their intention, Nan fled down the lane and into the wood that came to bear her name and was never seen again.
How an old woman managed to hitch up her skirts and run faster than the rest of the townsfolk is anyone’s guess and, I fancy, proof that the story isn’t exactly entirely authentic.
Anthony D. Hippisley Coxe, author of the quite excellent tome Haunted Britain, has a different opinion take on the whole affair, one which I think may be closer to the truth:
Buxted, which I suspect, was the scene of a lynching. Nan Tuck, a simple girl, was accused of being a witch. She sought sanctuary in the church, but was refused by the priest. She suffered trial by water, and half-drowned, bedraggled and terrified once more managed to escape. Her tormentors, like hounds on her heels, took up the chase. She was found hanging from a tree in what is now known as Tuck’s Wood—a suicide, the villagers said. In the Church of St. Margaret there is a record of her burial in 1661. But, would a suicide have been buried in consecrated ground? And would a girl who had managed by her own desperate efforts to escape sentence of death then take her own life? I think the village of Buxted had a murder on its conscious. That is why they did not like going up Nan Tuck’s Lane, and kept well away from Tuck’s Wood at night, and that is why these places are still haunted by the ghost of a poor frightened girl.
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