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Pluckley History

Pluckley’s claim to fame has most recently been through the successful television

series The Darling Buds of May, the first series being screened in 1991, and it is this,

rather than the reputation as, according to The Guinness Book of Records, the most

haunted village in England that is cherished by most of the residents.

Earliest records show that Pluckley was probably known as Pluccan lëah from the

old English ‘Plucca’s clearing.’ In 1086 the village was called Pluchelei [Domesday]

and during the 1100’s it was spelt Plucelea and Plukele.

Early records show that a Roman road led through the village (under what is now the

Thorne Estate, towards the Pinnock and on through Frith Wood) while the site of a

Roman villa has been found nearby at Little Chart.

The Domesday Book tells us that the Archbishop of Canterbury owned Pluckley. In

turn, Archbishop Lanfranc gave the village to the management of a Saxon knight,

John Folet. No church is recorded in the Domesday Book, but there was certainly a

priest in the village. It is interesting to note that, at this time, Pluckley was a larger

community than Ashford whose recorded value was £5, while Pluckley’s was £15.

With 16 villagers, 7 smallholders and 8 slaves managing 12.5 acres of meadow and

caring for 140 pigs it was a thriving community.

Later the main livelihood of the area, especially from the 13th century onwards, was

weaving. This was done in the home from local wool and may explain the unusually

high ceilings in some of the older properties in the area. It survived until the collapse

of the wool trade nationally.

Over the years, the village gradually expanded down the hill slowly encroaching on

the forest until, in the 14th century, the Black Death decimated the population. At this

time it is likely that Pluckley’s survivors moved back up the hill believing it to be a

healthier position. (A document of 1572 states that Pluckley Rectory was ‘in a low,

unhealthy place, a great distance from the church.’)

In 1450, groups from Pluckley joined the abortive revolt by Jack Cade. Records

show that nearly 50 pardons were afterwards issued to inhabitants: a surprisingly

high figure for a village. A century later blood was spilt, this time in the church, during

the Wyatt rebellions. It was at this time that the parish church of St Mary at

Pevington was destroyed. Pevington parish was later divided between Egerton, Little

Chart, and Pluckley – with Pluckley being granted the greater area.

The Dering family from their early beginnings in the reign of Henry II, grew in

importance, inheriting the manor of Surrenden to the east of the village and it

Surrenden Dering. The first baronet is famous for creating a huge library of books,

charters, maps and manuscripts; part of this collection can be found in the Centre for

Kentish Studies at County Hall. It is this first baronet who is generally believed to

have escaped from the Roundheads through a narrow, curved-topped window at the

manor – a popular myth that led to the addition of ‘Dering windows’ to most, if not all,

of the houses owned by the Dering family during the romantic Victorian era.

The third baronet, Sir Edward Dering, was commissioned by William and Mary to

raise a new regiment and in 1689 the 24th Foot was born. Holding the record of the

most VCs gained in a single 12-hour battle (Rorke’s Drift of 1879: the subject of the

film ‘Zulu’), its name was changed in 1881 to the South Wales Borderers. Now part

of the Royal Regiment of Wales, its roots were acknowledged at a 300th anniversary

Ghosts of Pluckley

Screaming Man of the Brickworks

In the Pluckley Brickworks, a man was smothered by a drying clay wall that fell on him. Tayler Jay Smiths screams are said to be heard coming from the brickworks, and his ghost is said to appear sometimes as well.

Watercress Lady

An old Gypsy woman Abigail Nicolas who made a living by selling watercress at the crossroads bridge now haunts the area. She died when a spark from the pipe she was smoking ignited the whiskey she was drinking. She set herself ablaze.

Lady Dering (The Red Lady)

The Red Lady, a member of the Dering family, is said to be buried in seven lead coffins within an oak coffin and placed in the crypt in St. Nicholas's Church. The Red Lady was said to be buried with a red rose in her coffin, hence the name "The Red Lady". She is said to be searching for the grave of her stillborn child

Lady Dering (The White Lady)

A second Dering lady simply known as (Kira Lee) is also said to be haunting St. Nicholas's Church. The White Lady was the wife of the Baron who owned much of the area. When she died, the Lord Dering was so distressed that he had her body buried in three lead coffins and an oak one in an attempt to stop her body from decomposing. (This 'coffin' may have been for the White Lady and not the Red Lady. The stories tend to conflict). Her ghost has also been seen in the Dering family house library. The White Lady and the Red Lady were indeed related; they are not the same ghost as some say. The most likely relation between them are as sisters, or mother and daughter.

*Robert DuBois - The Highwayman

Robert DuBois was a highwayman who operated in the Stuart area just outside of Pluckley. DuBois's routine was to hide behind a tree on the corner (known as "Fright Corner") and jump out at his intended victim, giving them a fright and stunning them. This proved rather successful but it also became predictable. Eventually, his run of terror came to an end when a Guard (some say other thieves) killed him with a spear when it was thrown through the oak tree where DuBois usually hid, piercing and pinning him to the tree. The tree has since disappeared but the ghost of Robert DuBois and the tree he was pinned to often appear. Some say that the ghost of DuBois still appears on the corner, jumping out at people traveling on the road much like he did in life.

The name *Robert DuBois is hearsay after being given on a TV entertainment program called Most Haunted.

Horse And Carriage

A dark coloured Carriage being driven by horses is sometimes seen or heard charging through the village at high speed on Maltman's Hill. The reason for this is largely unknown.

Phantom Monk of Greystones

A monk is said to haunt a house called Greystones, formerly called Rectory Cottage. He may have been involved with the Lady of Rose Court. Why he haunts the house is unknown although it is possible that he died there.

Colonel of Park Woods

An unnamed man traveled to Park Wood, near Pluckley, and committed suicide by hanging himself. Now his ghost is seen marching through the woods in full military costume, hence his nickname, Colonel. His ghost is completely harmless and does not appear distressing;. most people who see him don't even know he's a ghost.

Phantom of the Pinnocks

Richard 'Dicky' Buss may be the ghost haunting the ruined windmill near a house called The Pinnocks. The mill was closed down in 1930 and was later destroyed by fire when struck by lightening during a thunder storm. The phantom is a completely black silhouette and is usually seen before a storm.

Lady of Rose Court

The ghost, thought to be a mistress of one of the Dering family, haunts the house called Rose Court. She may have been involved in a love triangle involving the phantom monk of Greystones. She committed suicide by eating poisonous berries. She haunts the house and the gardens between 1600 and 1700 hours and is said to be heard calling her two dogs.

Henry Turff

Henry Turff was the headmaster of Smarden School. He was close friends with the Richard Buss in Pluckley. He would travel to Pluckley every Sunday to visit Buss and discuss politics. However, one Sunday, the headmaster from Smarden went missing. He was later found on the land leading to the mills. He had hung himself in a tree. Turff's ghost has been seen on the lane hanging from the tree where he killed himself. This ghost was later seen by a newspaper journalist who said that the ghost was dressed in a green blazer and striped trousers.

The Screaming Woods

These woods are located next to Pluckley. The woods were originally called the Dering Woods, and most people still refer to them as that. The woods gained the nickname "The Screaming Woods" because, at night, it is said you can still here the screams of the numerous people who got lost there and died.