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Murder and Mystery at Hanslope

Gravestone of William Farrow  Hanslope

The Monday Photo

What does this gravestone at Hanslope have to do with a disused, hidden piece of road on the way there from Haversham?

It’s the story of murder, suicide and a mysterious inscription on a gravestone.

On a scorching hot July Sunday in 1912, William Farrow lay in wait for his employer, Squire Edward Watts. He had been Squire Watts’ head gamekeeper, but had recently been sacked. He hid in the spinney that surrounded the old crossroads, less than a mile along the road from Hanslope. He held a loaded shotgun.

If you turned left at this crossroads you would be heading towards Tathall End, but turning right takes you towards Castlethorpe. Going straight on took you into the private drive of Hanslope Park, where the squire and his wife Sophie lived.

In the Spinney

The 67 year old Squire Watts and his wife approached on foot from Hanslope, returning from church. Edward would usually walk a few paces in front of Sophie, and they would talk as they went along.

As they came along the road into the spinney William Farrow fired at the squire, who fell with a fatal head wound. Sophie cried out and ran to him.

Close by in the coach house of Hanslope Park (it’s still there) the wife of the coachman, Lily Green, heard the commotion and rushed out with her son William.

William was told to get help. He went back for his bicycle, then rode off to Hanslope, fetching the police, the doctor, and his father George. As William's father George Green approached the spinney, there was another shot from inside the spinney.

George Green bravely went to investigate, climbing the fence and finding a path through the undergrowth. 20 yards into the spinney he found the body of William Farrow, who had killed himself. He left behind his wife Annie and three children.

Unconsecrated Ground

The squire was cremated and his remains were placed in the family vault, in the church. But because Farrow had commited suicide he could not (the church warden told me) be buried on consecrated ground.

He was instead buried on the far edge of the ditch that formed the graveyard boundary, between the ditch and a hedge that wran close and parallel to it.

Annie Farrow had his grave stone (above) installed on the churchyard side of the ditch, so his remains are behind it, lying parallel to its rear face, and at 90 degrees to the usual arrangement.

If you can’t read it in the photo it says:


At some point since then the ditch has been filled in, and the graveyard extended slightly. William Farrow now lies on consecrated ground.

The Mystery

The last line on the stone was a mystery for many years, until around 2006 when a member of the Farrow family came to the grave.

They said that in those days serving women and maids were held to be fair game during shooting parties at the park, and the squire had been making sexual approaches to Annie Farrow. Whether these approaches were refused or reluctantly accepted we will never know, but whatever happened might well be why William Fowler lay in wait for the squire, on that hot Summer day.

Sophie Watts, was of course much distressed at her husband’s murder. She later had the road diverted so it no longer ran through the site of her husband’s murder, producing the road layout of a bend with a side road coming off it we know today.

Hanslope Park is now a Government Communication Centre.

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