As you drive along the narrow country road that runs between Bramfield and Bulls Green, about 300 yards from the Tewin Hill turn off, you come across a small solitary wooden post by the side of the road, surrounded by encroaching woodland. The post has the words "Clibbons Post" carved into it, along with the date Dec 28 1782.
This post, known as Clibbon's Post, marks the site where Walter Clibbon, one of 18th-century Hertfordshire's most notorious villains, was killed and, reputedly, lies buried.
Walter Clibbon and his three sons were pie men, who sold their wares at markets and fairs throughout the county. However, as well as filling the bellies of hungry market and fairgoers, they operated a lucrative sideline.
Eavesdropping on customers' conversations, they would ascertain which tradesmen and farmers had made money that day and would, therefore, be carrying substantial sums on their journey home. Having identi?ed their targets, the Clibbons would change into the garb of highwaymen and ambush them as they made their way along the lonely roads of Hertfordshire. Any victims who resisted were subjected to a vicious beating.
The Clibbon brood finally got their comeuppance on 28 December 1782, when they accosted a young Datchworth man by the name of William Whittenbury as he made his way through the woods close to the spot where the post now stands. Whittenbury handed over his cash without resistance but then hurried to the home of his uncle, Benjamin Whittenbury, at nearby Queen Hoo Hall, an Elizabethan hunting lodge, to raise the alarm.
Uncle and nephew, together with a servant named Shock North, armed themselves with a gun and headed back to the woods, where they found the Clibbons awaiting another victim. A fight ensued, during the course of which the Whittenburys and their servant proved no match for these seasoned veterans of villainy. As the skirmish turned against them, Benjamin Whittenbury was felled by a blow and, with Walter Clibbon moving in for the kill, he shouted to his servant to ?re. North pulled the trigger and Walter Clibbon fell to the ground. One of his sons then fled the scene but the other was overpowered, taken prisoner and later executed.
One version of the story maintains that Walter Clibbon was killed instantly, another that he was taken to the Horns public house at Bull's Green where the locals handed out their own rough justice by clubbing him to death.
What both versions agree on, however, is that Clibbon was denied a Christian burial; instead, he was buried at the spot where he fell by the roadside - a fate allowed by law - with a stake driven through his body to prevent his spirit from wandering.
The post has not proved particularly successful at preventing the restless wraith of Walter Clibbon from roaming the area. Indeed, those who are brave - or foolish - enough to walk along this lonely stretch of country road, when darkness has fallen, have from time to time heard horse's hooves. Some even claim to have witnessed a spectral horse dragging a body along the lane, as the infamous pie man is condemned to relive his last journey repeatedly.
Last updated on: Saturday 17th June 2017
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