When I first came to Wickford in 1975, I was told that a white witch had a coven somewhere in the town. I’ve never found them if they ever did exist, but, as Wickford was once a small agricultural village in Essex, where stories of ghosts and other supernatural happenings would have been passed round, I searched and found some of the ghostly tales.
A lady who had been born in Wickford during the latter part of the nineteenth century reported that the site of an old cottage at the junction of Southend Road and Wick Lane was haunted by a poor woman who had been refused food at the nearby Rectory.
In Runwell Road, near the site of the burial ground of the Congregational Chapel which existed in the nineteenth century, children thought that a Black Dog might be seen. He had to be avoided, so children ran quickly past the area.
Another ghost is said to roam round Nevendon Road, but little is known about this one. However if one takes a footpath from Cranfield Park Road across the fields towards Rawreth something extraordinary is said to be experienced. On the route of a possible ancient highway people have encountered a coach and horses….. or so they say.
At Barnhall field in Runwell, many witnesses have reported seeing moving shadows, but always out the corner of their eye. A tractor driver was said to be terrified after a shadow encounter one evening which left his vehicle covered in scratches. The legend says that the Devil waits for the soul of a knight here, after the mortal promised it ‘whether he was buried inside a church or out’. The Devil agreed, only to lose face when the knight was buried in the wall of a church.
At the site of old Runwell Hall, now demolished, in the 19th century, it is said on 31st December each year a spectral horse and carriage pulls up the driveway, a woman climbs out, walking up to the door to be met by a long dead butler. A similar story says that Anne Boleyn travels in a coach along the roads in the area of the Hall.