To coincide with Halloween 2019, our featured lock-up for this month is St Osyth Cage in Essex, a lock-up apparently haunted by one of its former inmates… a local woman imprisoned and hanged for witchcraft in the 1500s!
St Osyth Cage is located on Colchester Road, adjacent to the King’s Arms public house. There is little about this building that gives any clues about its former use, except a heavy oak door on the ground floor, complete with iron lock and large hinges, and an information plaque, which claims that it was a medieval prison, used in 1582 for the imprisonment of local witch, Ursula Kemp, before her hanging.
During the 19th century, the building was converted into a private residence, though the cage was, apparently, still used until 1908. Moreover, according to local legend, the building continued to be occupied by the ghost of one its former residents … the witch, Ursula Kemp.
In 2017, owners Richard Estep and Vanessa Mitchell wrote a book, Spirits of the Cage, about living with the ghost of Kemp. In the same year, ghost hunters, The Ouija Brothers, made a film in which they tried to capture the ghostly goings on…
Could you survive a night in this lock-up?
Earlier this year, owner Vanessa Mitchell decided to put the house, with cage, up for sale. It was not the first time the owners had tried to find a buyer for what they and others have claimed is the most haunted house in England. With a price tag of £260,000, the further particulars acknowledged its unique qualities, and suggested that it would be ideal for those looking to establish ‘paranormal business’!
But do you believe in ghosts? It is interesting, and perhaps significant, that Historic England have decided, so far, not to list this building. Moreover, I can find no record of it in the historical sources. In fact, some evidence suggests that the building dates from the late 19th century.
Any more information about this curious lock-up would be very warmly welcome. We would love some more pictures and stories about its use. We are especially keen to receive information about historic evidence which confirms its age and use in the past. If you can help us, please click the ‘Anything to Add’ button on the profile page for St Oysth Lock-up, or get in touch.
Can you help keep Prison History active and free-to-use?
If you enjoy our work on local history and 19th century prisons – perhaps it’s inspired you find out more about your own local lock-ups and criminal prisons? – then we’d love to hear about it.
Our quick survey gives us a chance to show that people are making use of our data and resources for various purposes, which is critical for future funding