Weird Suffolk: The tragic ghost that haunts the place close to where she was gunned down by her jealous lover in Brantham

A wheat field looks down upon the village of Brantham. Picture: Su Anderson

A wheat field looks down upon the village of Brantham. Picture: Su Anderson - Credit: Archant

The haunting tale of the Brantham ghost who was pleasant by name and by nature but who met a brutal end after becoming embroiled in a love triangle with two brothers

She was a young woman who turned heads and who paid a terrible price for being caught in a love triangle with two brothers – and it is said that the ghost of poor, murdered Fanny Clarke still haunts the spot where she was brutally killed in Brantham.

Fanny Pleasant Clark was pleasant by name and nature. The Essex Newsman of August 28 1875 recounts the tragic tale of young Miss Clarke, a 24-year-old servant employed by a Brantham farmer, Mr Green and who had caught the eye of Frederick Page, a clerk at Colchester who was from Barham Hall in the village.

“Frederick was in the habit of spending his Sundays at Brantham and he then used to walk with the deceased in the evening and he also corresponded with her,” read the article, a report of the coroner’s conclusion after the poor unfortunate’s death.

“Lately, Page’s eldest brother Robert was also attracted by the deceased and found favour in her eyes. She intimated to Frederick that she desired to break off with him. This seems to have greatly excited him and, on Sunday the 8th, he waylaid Robert and Fanny Clarke when they were walking together and demanded from her the letters he had written to her and accused her of having had improper intercourse with him and with her master.

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“She was a good deal upset at this and seems to have thought of sending the letters to his father, but eventually she went them to him at Colchester. Robert Page, who had made an offer of marriage to the deceased, then consented to an interview between her and his brother on Sunday August 15th but in the note to her in which he gave his consent he urged her to make it as short as possible.”

At 6.30pm on Sunday August 15, Fanny asked her mistress, Mrs Green, if she could go out and was seen at 7pm walking with Frederick Page on the back road to East Bergholt. Just before 9pm, Mr Green and one of his farm hands were standing in the former’s farmyard when they heard a strange sound “resembling someone striking a straw sack” in the direction of East Bergholt. Ten minutes later, they were greeted by a terrible sight.

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“The deceased staggered through the yard covered with blood which was flowing from four wounds in her head and sank down, insensible. Medical aid was obtained and the surgeon, Mr Manning, found that several of the wounds penetrated into the brain. She never recovered consciousness and died on Wednesday night.”

At a post mortem, it was discovered that poor Fanny had been shot three times: two bullets remained in her head, a third had passed through.

At the same time as Mr Green saw his servant taking her last steps as a mortal, Frederick was seen on the back road walking hurriedly along and away from a pool of blood close to the farm – poor Fanny had dragged herself almost 400 yards home to try and find help.

“Frederick Page reached his father’s house at five minutes past nine. His father and brother noticed he had a wild look. He went up to bed with his brother Robert who said: ‘what have you done? For God’s sake tell me – it will be much better for you.”

Fred confessed his crime and pointed to a windowsill where his brother found a revolver which had been discharged – the pair went downstairs and Fred repeated what he had done to his father and mother. The next day, he was taken into custody and he admitted that he had been with Fanny on the Sunday night – he was found guilty of her murder but found to be “of unsound mind” before he could stand trial.

Detained as “a criminal lunatic”, he was sent to Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum: he was just 19-years-old and spent 11 years in confinement until his premature death at the age of 30.

The original building where Fanny Clarke worked and later tragically died on School Lane in Brantham no longer stands and the farm it was part of was mostly demolished between 1925 and 1955 – but while you can remove the traces of physical buildings, removing a spirit is an altogether more difficult business and so, the ghost of poor Fanny Clarke remains earthbound, seeking justice for a crime that never made it to trial.

For more Weird Suffolk stories click here.

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