The Skull of Broome
At Higher Farm, opposite the church, is a “Screaming Skull” which according to a tradition current in the 18th century belonged to Theophilus Broome, who died in 1670 and “…requested that his head might be taken off before his burial, and be preserved at the farm-house near the church ….The tenants of the house have often endeavored to commit [the skull] to the bowels of the earth, but have been as often deterred by horrid noises, portentive of sad displeasure.”
It’s said that Broome was a Royalist during the English Civil War, but defected to the Parliamentarians after witnessing horrors perpetrated on civilians in the name of the king. In particular, he despised the Royalist habit of severing the heads of victims and spiking them on rails as trophies. On his deathbed, Broome made a plea to his sister that his head should be separated from his body and secreted away in the farmhouse, so that even if his body were exhumed, no head could be taken or presumably violated as a trophy.
A manuscript account from the Farm dating from 1829 contains statements from various parishioners confirming the tradition. It is “…remembered when the Scull was brought down stairs, and put in the Cupboard.” A farm tenant “…bought a new Spade, and went to his Relation … who said ‘Now Uncle Doctor, let us go and bury the Scull, when we have had a crust of bread and cheese,’ he said no he would not; but after some time he went, but with an ill will, to bury it in the Churchyard. The Spade broke off at the first spit, and so they took it back again, he thought it presumptuous to attempt it, as the Man had begged that some part might be buried there and the rest in some other places.” This tenant, an Ann Dunman, had also heard that “Brome was a great Warrior, and begged that his body might be laid in three Counties” - a theme also found in the lives of saints, and undoubtedly arising from the fact that their corpses were frequently dismembered for relics.