1848 - The pitfalls of folklore – The Ghost of Pitt Pond

In the course of researching items for this site  I have come across several different versions of this sad tale.  I first saw it as an article wrongly attributed to Charles Dickens in a local paper.  Since then I have uncovered many versions but I am still not sure the original has been unearthed.  What I have discovered is that is probably just a tall tale told by a bored Shepherd to a travelling gentleman. In short The Ghost Of Pitt Pond is a tale of unrequited love and suicide.

You will have to draw your own conclusions and I include the transcripts/scanned versions for you to view.  You will notice that the earlier versions 1848 and 1854 also cover other local tales of treasure and skulduggery!

Ghost of Pitt Pond from Household Words Oct 7 1867

Ghost of Pit Pond D Costello for Dickens Journal Online 7 Oct 1854

Ghost of Pitt Pond Dudley Costello 1848 Picadilly Papers

There is also a version stored with the Wiltshire and Swindon Family History Centre.

Points to note are these:

The Character in the tale is Mr John Reeve whilst the actual tenant documented in the Trustees Minute Book was Mr John Reeves.

The Castle Inn in Marlborough operated from 1751 to 1757 as a luxury establishment according to one source and had possibly ceased being a  Inn by the time Mr Reeves is believed to have arrived in Huish around 1775 or 1777.  In fairness I have seen reports that it was an Inn until much later. (From The Inns of Old England, A Picturesque Account of the Ancient and Storied Hostelries of Our Own Country (Complete) by Charles G Harper) Having previously been a large and elegant residence built by Francis, Lord Seymour to receive King Charles II, it was later owned by Lady Hertford as a bucolic pastoral residence with formal gardens including “Merlins Mound”  in 1740. It was then leased to the Innkeeper , a Mr Cotterill and opened and a luxurious Coaching Inn in 1751. So I leave you to decide which account was right.

It must not be confused with the Castle And Ball in the High St, previously The Antelope renamed in 1764.  The Castle Inn had finally closed in 1843 having been untenanted and in decline for years as the railway became the new mode of travel. It became a school for the clergy, the only ones able to take on such a sizeable building, before becoming the College we see today.

Also this folk tale appears to have been told some 100 years later. Furthermore Mr Reeves married and had children.  Click here for their story.

The Reeves Tombs in the churchyard at Huish are listed and barely legible after so much weathering.  This is what I have managed to glean from them when the light was just right to make out some of the carving:

Tomb north on graveyard south side reads
In memory of
Xxx Mary? Wife of Richard Reeve
Who departed this life
Jxx 10 of August 1791 ? Last number only
Aged 21? Numbers not clear
North side of tomb not legible at all.
Tomb south on south side reads
Xxxxxxx possibly In memory or remembrance
Of John Reeve
Who died Oct xxxx 17 XX Aged 80? Years [so he hardly committed suicide]
North side reads
Xxasiyxx wife of (I could be an e so Dasey?)
wife of John Reevxx
Who died xxx20th 1801? Xxxxx