Here’s another snippet from ‘Old Oak’. Methodists were widely disliked by Anglicans for stealing their flock, and for their ‘enthusiams’ The first part makes me wonder how many hauntings are the result of such a prank. Stories of headless horsemen were spread by smugglers in the West Country to keep people indoors at night when they were on the roads.
Among them [Methodists] was a character little less notorious for his impish tricks than Kelly. He must have been dead well over 100 years now, but his exploits are still takes of around the countryside. Immensely strong, Lovel was famous for years as a fighting man, and moreover often went on his unlawful occasions to the woods. One afternoon he was after a hare in a certain copse when he sped a harmless old gossip gathering sticks and getting a bit too near for his liking. The last thing in the world he wanted was to be recognised; at the same time he had no wish to hurt the old man unnecessarily, so he let him pass, and then sprang upon him from behindhand threw him over his shoulder. The poor victim, convinced that he had been seized by the Devil, fervently repeated the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed as he was borne away, but all to no end, for at the finish he was flung into a forest pool that went by the name of Wildwood Pond and left to climb out at his leisure and regale Silson folk later with a hair-raising account of the supernatural happenings that had befallen him.
On another occasion Lovell headed a party of lawless fellows in a raid on Boughton Green Fair, “to lay in a store of winter provisions”. On reaching their venue, according to a previous arrangement they staged a mock quarrel. Such was the noise, and so furious were the threats uttered, that the stall-hiders, convinced that a terrific fight was imminent, left their wares and crowded round to see it. Suddenly the cry arose, “They are robbing the stalls!” The poor traders, panic-stricken, rushed back, only to find that they had been largely despoiled during the uproar. Lovell, who had meanwhile been suffering a large sack of onions away from its original position, artlessly asked the excited owner on his return what all the row had been about. On hearing of the rascality that had been perpetrated, he expressed victims and declared such sinful acts worthy of the condemnation of all good men. “Honesty is always the best policy,” he whined sanctimoniously, “for I’ve tried it. Here, master, give me a tot up with this sack!” Then, helped by the owner in his own despoilation, he staggered away with his loot. “For I’ve tried it” was still a catchphrase throughout Northamptonshire when I was a boy.