Just off the B1078 near Wickham Market is a rather innocuous looking footpath. Those who follow the path will find themselves in Potsford Wood and eventually come across the wood’s infamous gibbet – or at least what’s left of it.
Up until 1699, Potsford Wood was where many local criminals ended their days. Those convicted of the most serious offences were hanged in the wood and had their bodies displayed in an iron cage (a gibbet) as a deterrent for would-be offenders.
The last person to be executed in such a fashion was Jonah Snell, who was hanged in Potsford Wood in 1699 after committing a truly barbaric crime. A year before his execution, Snell murdered two men at the nearby Letheringham Water Mill.
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The victims were a man named John Bullard and his son. After bludgeoning the pair with an axe, Snell then bizarrely hanged them upside down from a beam in the mill.
Snell was arrested for the two murders and following a trial he was found guilty. He was hanged in Potsford Wood, with his body left to rot in the gibbet.
Reports from the time suggest that Snell’s body remained in the iron cage until 1740, when it was removed and buried nearby. The cold-blooded murderer might’ve been removed from the gibbet nearly 300 years ago, but it’s said that his presence is still felt in the area to this day.
Suffolk-based paranormal investigator John West has carried out research on the Potsford Wood haunting for his new book Haunting Tales. John has come across a number of spine-chilling tales connected to the site, with many of them relatively recent.
John writes: “In the 1980s another sighting supposedly took place in daylight – a truck driver walked down the lane and started reading the plaque on the gibbet. He felt a tap on his shoulder. Turning back, he came face to face with a skeleton, hooded and robed. He fled in terror.
“In 1997 a couple reported being harassed by a black figure that moaned at them one night after their car broke down on the main road. According to tradition, there was also a large stone or boulder next to the gibbet which screamed if you kicked it with your heel.”
The gibbet in Potsford Wood has a plaque attached to it, which includes some basic facts about the grisly wooden post. As previously mentioned, the site is easily accessible by foot, but you might want to do so only during the hours of daylight.
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