Poll Miles

You can read Lady Margaret Majendie's story of Poll Miles here.

Introduction by Simon Daw

Most residents of Castle Hedingham are aware of the story of Poll Miles. Her story was set down on paper by Lady Margaret Majendie, wife of the owner of the castle, Lewis Majendie, and great, great, great aunt to its present owner, Jason Lindsay. Entitled Poll Miles: A Story of Castle Hedingham it was printed in 1914, two years after her death. 

The book was reprinted during the 1970s, but today Poll's story survives primarily orally. I'm not sure whether what is known of Poll Miles has come mostly, or almost entirely, from Lady Margaret's retelling, or whether what little is known has been passed down through successive generations. I'd like to believe the latter, but am inclined to consider the former much more likely; certainly, the versions which pass around the village all bear a striking resemblance to her version. This being the case, it is impossible to know where facts end and fictional embellishment begins. Since Lady Margaret considered herself something of a novelist, it may be that facts are rather thinly spread, although Severne Majendie's introduction suggests that her version is based on fact.

Poll Miles' grave

Nonetheless, Poll is the village's wronged "witch" to most of its present day inhabitants, who believe that she died after being jilted by her lover and falling into the Canal. Lady Margaret's book concludes by stating that the villagers of her time would go out of their way to avoid the site of Poll's grave, but today the place - assuming that this is indeed what it is! - is a peaceful spot just outside the village; it's no longer obviously a crossroads, since one of the ways has become a minor road whilst the other has probably declined greatly in use and is a byway passable in places only on foot or cycle. At Halloween flowers are usually left close by as a small tribute.

The village is styled "Castle Vere" in her tale. Most of the locations described can be readily identified, albeit under alternative names, though some have changed greatly - Bushy Green must be Rushley Green, just north of the village, and the "avenue" the castle's drive, which lost its elms long ago, for example. Other descriptions are less clear, and may be an example of poetic license.

Severne Majendie wrote this brief foreword:

The main points of this Tale were told about 38 years ago to Lady Margaret Majendie by Mrs Ann Smith, gate-keeper at the Lodge to the Castle. Her mother had been one of the old Herbalists of Essex, knowing the virtues of plants. Ann was well versed in the old tales of Hedingham.

I have a letter lately come from Canada written by Mr Bingham, now past 80 years in age, and greatly missed in Castle Hedingham, in which he tells me that he remembers the man who dug the grave for Poll Miles.

The sketch of trees with the keep in the distance was done by Miss Mildmay in 1873, and given to Lady Margaret Majendie.

Severne Majendie
May 1914