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Home Leigh House The Story of Betty Hoight

The Story of Betty Hoight

Orginally published Jul 2021
Last updated Aug 2021

AN EXTRACT FROM "NOTES & QUERIES FOR SOMERSET AND DORSET, edited by D.M.M. Shorrocks, M.A., F.S.A., and G.J.Davies, B.A., Ph.D., F.S.A. .' Vol.XXXI, March 1982, Part 515, Query 120"."BETTY HOIGHT'S GRAVE, WINSHAM.
'The Revd. E.W.May of Swallows, Bridge, Winsham, Chard, Somerset, (Winsham 488), a member of the Society for Psychical Research and the British Society of Dowsers, while dowsing locally for a particular malign influence, found his pendulum drawn elsewhere. The site was a road junction (grid ref.552052) a little to the SW of Leigh House in Winsham. The Somerset Record Office confirms that this junction was called Betty Hoight's Grave on the 1st ed, 6" Ordnance Survey, surveyed in 1887, and that the surname, Hoyte, occurs in Winsham parish registers in the 17th c. Mr May would be interested in any information as to her identity and the circumstances of the case". After prolonged research the following information came to light.

Leigh House was built 1590-1610. 'Previously a thatched farmhouse called Leigh Grange, later burned down, had stood there. It was presented by the Lord of the Manor of Cricket to his daughter as a bridal gift on the occasion of her marriage with a non-parishioner. She brought with her as her servant a girl called Betty Hoyte. In the following century there were still Hoytes in the neighbourhood, as evidenced by the registers of Winsham, Crewkerne and Whitelackington. After the suppression of Forde Abbey in the "thirtieth year of the reign of Henry VIII" (1559) the monks were scattered and had to seek such employment as they could find on the former monastic lands and roundabout. Leigh farm was a likely place for one or more of them. The abbot himself became Vicar of Thorncombe (1559-1545). An ex-monk put Betty Hoyte in the family way. She demanded that he should marry her. He refused. Whereupon she murdered him. On being found guilty she was hung and buried at the precise spot indicated by my pendulum. I had used the technique known as map-dowsing, to avoid the risk of being observed by a curious spectator when walking across fields. I reported my findings to a bishop who had a knowledge of psychical research and was a writer on the subject. I asked him if I should "time-dowse" the date of the hanging. He strongly advised against my doing so. It would serve no useful purpose after the lapse of some 450 years.I am sure it was no accident that I was directed away so strangely from the other site which I was investigating and drawn to the small grass triangle outside Leigh Lodge where Mr Thomas Fawcett lives. All life is purposive. Environmental memories can be retained by places which have been exposed to strong emotional reactions, and communicated telepathically to people who are acutely sensitive to such radiations. We must remember that there is mind in all matter, even in plants and soil and stones, as some distinguished scientists have averred. "Grid ref. 552052" is mentally alive, retaining memories of the past. When I pass that place I pray for Betty Hoyte and the man she killed, which is possibly a reason why I was diverted to it and brought to study its history. My prayers there, and yours also, may well be in accord with the Divine purpose and aid the "departed" in a manner unknown to us. 


This sad tale was dramatised by Stella Abbey, and performed by the Winsham Players in April 2009 and photographs taken by Annie Dent - see information about the show here.