“Random encounters with the unusual” is a repository for the oddities that me and Mrs J have encountered on our travels, which we find interesting or amusing in some way. Have a look, maybe you will find something interesting or amusing herein.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

The Gypsy Curse of Odstock

The pictures below show a grave in St Mary’s churchyard in the village of Odstock in Wiltshire. The grave belongs to a man named Joshua Scamp who was a gypsy and a convicted criminal.  The inscription reads:

In memory of Joshua Scamp
Who died April 1st 1801
May his brave deed be remembered
To his credit here and hereafter

Joshua Scamp's death and his subsequent burial in St Mary's churchyard are linked to an odd local legend, a legend about a gypsy curse. The details of the story differ slightly, depending on the source, but the general theme is as follows. In 1801 a local  gypsy named Joshua Scamp was condemned to death and hanged at Fisherton gaol in Salisbury for the crime of the theft of a horse.  As it turns out Joshua was not the perpetrator of the crime, it was his son-in-law who actually stole the horse. It is said that Joshua decided to take the blame for the crime and suffer the associated punishment to protect his daughter (presumably from losing her husband).  When it became clear that Joshua was in fact innocent of the crime he became a local hero to the gypsy community and the anniversary of his passing was celebrated each year by a party at his graveside.

Not being too keen on gypsy revellers holding their annual celebration in the churchyard, the church officials of the time, supported by local authorities, uprooted a rose bush planted by Scamp's grave and locked the church door to keep the gypsies out. In retaliation to this affront, a Gypsy Queen supposedly placed a curse on the church, so that anyone who locked the church in the future would die a sudden and untimely death.

Any untimely deaths of church key-holders clearly cannot be attributed to the gypsy curse with any degree of certainty. However it seems that the legend of the curse may have left a lasting impression. It is said that in the 20th Century, following the untimely deaths of two Church Wardens, that the Rector threw the key to the church door into the River Ebble where it presumably remains to this day.

St Mary's Church was unlocked when I paid my visit, so perhaps the current Church Warden is taking a cautious approach to the legend?

St Mary's Church, Odstock.

Joshua Scamp's grave stone and rose bush.

The inscription.

Inside the church.

Pictures: Wiltshire (August 2015).

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