Monday, 9 December 2013
The Ghostly Miser of Braishfield, Hampshire
Even further out of the city, you might come across the phantom of another notoriously acquisitive local. Braishfield lies west of Winchester. Take the A3090 from Winchester towards Romsey. Leave this road at Standon and follow the lanes to Braishfield, if you know the way. It is less confusing to take the long way round. Stay on the A3090 until you are almost in Romsey, when a road to the right is signposted “Braishfield”. Follow this road for about 2 miles and you pass the sign advising you that you are entering the village – a spread-out straggling sort of a place.
If you haven’t won the National Lottery this week, nor managed to get on one of the many TV quiz shows that offer tempting prizes, you could do worse than take yourself down to Braishfield for the day. It’s not that there are any big prize game shows going on in this charming village. Nor are there any well-paid jobs on offer. But there is a ghost. And this ghost brings with her the promise of great riches. But only if you are brave enough.
A century ago, when King Edward VII sat on the throne, a very rich old woman lived in Braishfield. The scale of her wealth was legendary, as was her meanness. The locals called her “the Miser of Braishfield” and wondered why on earth she did not spend more of her money.
The old woman shuffled about the village in worn and patched old clothes. Her dresses were so old-fashioned that they dated back to when the dead Queen Victoria had been young. She never took out her carriage, although she had one, if she could walk instead. Shoe leather was cheap enough, but if she took out the carriage she might have to pay her oddjob man extra for the work.
And that was another thing. She had no live-in servants, though most people of a fraction her wealth did so. Instead she hired a local woman to come in twice a week to deal with housework. For any heavy work she had a man from the village who would come in when required.
From time to time both these staff would tell tales about the old woman and her money. Sometimes she would sneak into the house carrying a leather bag or small box which had earth and mud stuck to it. Clearly it had just been dug up. The old woman would retire into her parlour and then would come the steady chink-chunk of heavy gold coins being counted out.
Back in the early 20th century gold sovereigns were still in circulation and it was not at all unusual for people to have gold on hand. But nobody has as much gold as the Miser of Braishfield. And it was all divided up in small bags and boxes and buried.
The day came when the old miser died. A nephew came from some miles away to sell the house and contents and to arrange the funeral. But no matter how hard he searched the house nor how thoroughly he dug up the garden, he never found any gold. So he buried his miserly aunt and left.
And that was when the ghost began to walk.
On bright afternoons, dull evenings and even late at night the shuffling figure of the Miser of Braishfield was seen moving around the lanes of the village. Sometimes she was seen poking about in hedges, or thrusting her stick into hollow trees. Thinking the ghost was looking for her lost gold, the villagers tried digging where she was seen. But no gold has been found. At least, none that anyone will talk about.
It was a brilliant spring day when I came to Braishfield to look for the miser. The sun shone bright, though there was still a chill nip in the wind that blew down the lanes where the ghostly miser wanders. One passerby knew of the phantom.
“Oh her,” he chuckled when I stopped him. “Yeah, she’s around somewhere. Not that I’ve ever found any gold. But good luck. If you find the treasure you can buy me a drink. I’ll be in the pub having lunch.”
from Haunted Hampshire by Rupert Matthews