The Headless Ghost of Faringdon Churchyard
The north side of Faringdon Churchyard was said to be haunted by the ghost of a headless man who moved amongst the stones cradling his severed head in his hands.
The ghost is believed to be that of Lt. Hampden Pye R.N. who is buried there. He was born in Faringdon in 1647 and was the eldest son of Sir Robert Pye (Junior) who held the manor of Faringdon. Hampden was one of three brothers, Hampden, Edmund and Richard, and several sisters.
Richard died young but Edmund grew to be a fine lad. Hampden was apparently more of a disappointment and much to his mother’s concern he had taken to meeting friends in a local tavern. He also began to spend more time away from home staying out at night and going as far afield as Abingdon, Oxford or sometimes even London.
It seems that Hampden was very popular with the ladies but for him there was only one girl who held any interest for him, a young barmaid at his favourite tavern in Faringdon. She was dark and petite and blessed with a beguiling smile. Over the weeks the two became very close and it was at this point that his possessive mother stepped in and set in train the tragic events which would lead to Hampden’s death.
She couldn’t bear the thought of her beloved son being with the barmaid so she persuaded her husband to agree to have Hampden sent away to join the Navy. The scene of Hampden’s death is traditionally given as somewhere off the Spanish Coast where there was a major Naval engagement at Redondela where the enemy’s treasure ships were seized and their whole fleet destroyed. The story goes that it was in this battle where poor Hampden was tragically decapitated by a canon.
Back in Faringdon a memorial service in Hampde’s honour had been arranged and before his mother left for the church his spirit appeared to her with his mangled head resting in his hands. It is said that her screams could be heard throughout the town.
For many years afterwards his restless spirit haunted the graveyard until some enterprising, early nineteenth century vicar of Faringdon eventually had the courage to exorcise the spirit of Hampden using bell, book and candle. This seems to have worked as Hampden does appear to be finally at rest and his spirit has not been reported in Faringdon churchyard within living memory.