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The Independent Online
Always keep a promise ... or your house may fall down, and you could be haunted by a fat butcher from Wapping. This is what happened to the Tichborne family when they failed to honour a promise made 600 years before.

On her deathbed the good Lady Mabella Tichborne asked her husband to agree to give a yearly hand-out of flour to local poor villagers every Lady Day. Nasty Sir Roger would promise only if his dying wife crawled round a field. This she did, and the field is still known as The Crawls. Before she died, Lady Mabella put a curse on any of her heirs who ignored the promise made to her.

When the Dole of Flour was temporarily stopped, late in the 18th century, the curse came into force. Family disasters culminated in the appearance of a false heir to the Tichborne fortunes. After a long trial, which used up much of the Tichborne family money, the claimant was discredited and imprisoned. He was proved to be a Mr Orton, a plump butcher from East London. The promise made to Lady Mabella has been honoured ever since.

The Tichborne Dole of flour is given out to villagers from the steps of Tichborne House, Tichborne, Hampshire at 2.30pm on 25 March.

Sally Kindberg

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