Street entertainers Mandy and David Rose at number 38, and Ron Tanser, a laundry owner, at number 40, all believed that the large, old, timber- framed house from which their homes are constructed had an unusual history. Local legend about the place includes witchhunts, smugglers, and the Spanish Armada.
Number 38 has a Georgian appearance; Number 40, Victorian. But the house gives the lie to this construct: atop the two is an Elizabethan chimney stack.
The House Detectives got to work. Taking the two homes together, there is a clear suggestion of a wealthy individual who originally owned the property before it was split in two. Mac Dowdy, who knows a lot about timber frames, reckons that the building dates from the 15th century. He calls in a wood-dating specialist for a more precise answer.
The question of why the house has such a mishmash of styles remains unanswered. Original deeds have vanished, but copies were dug up from the local museum. These showed the house was once owned by a merchant before an incarnation as a tavern in the 18th century, complete with cellars and vaults, while the 1841 census shows it housing a bank.
A visit to Colchester Records Office produces a rental agreement of 1628 which offers a couple of names of possible owners in that century. One, Richard Edwards, was especially interesting. A strong Puritan, it was through him that the detectives discovered a possible link between the house and witchcraft. The trail heats up from here until in the 17th century, the witchfinder general Matthew Hopkins, becomes involved.Reuse content