The Grisly Tale of Combe Gibbet

Posted on August 1, 2016

We took the dog up to Combe Gibbet yesterday so I could complete another leg of the Test Way, the walk from Inkpen to Eling in Southampton that is generally only memorable for its ability to cut through Hampshire and skillfully avoid the river it is named after.

Unfortunately, we took the wrong path which means, unwittingly, I have now started the Wayfarers Walk which snakes from Inkpen down to Emsworth on the South Coast and is probably more interesting than the grandiosely titled Test Way.


On arrival I was quite surprised that I have never been to Combe Gibbet before as it is not that far away from where I live, but there again, nor are thousands of other things I haven’t seen yet, as I have recently discovered.

The other day I read that Britain has 450,000 listed buildings, 20,000 ancient monuments, 26 World Heritage sites, 1624 registered parks, 600,000 archeological sites, 3,500 historical cemeteries, 70,000 war memorials, 18,500 medieval churches and 2,500 museums containing 170 million items.

If you gave up doing everything else in life, packed 1000 pairs of Sunday Express nylon slacks and ordered a lorry full of lemon curd sandwiches in tupperware boxes, you still wouldn’t put a dent in those figures, so it is little wonder we see so little, of so much, in the tiny island of ours.

Combe Gibbet, sits on the top of Combe Down, and was erected on top of a Neolithic burial mound at 976 ft above sea level. It was only ever put to its grisly use once in 1676 with George Broomham of Combe, and Dorothy Newman of Inkpen being the unfortunate participants.

They were apparently having a love affair and as a consequence they were brutally killed by Martha and Robert Broomham, George’s wife and son, who had come across them together on the Downs (not in the sexual sense). Unfortunately for them, they were seen committing the crime by the barefoot village idiot know as ‘Mad Thomas’ who managed to convey what he had seen to the authorities.

Oh to have been a fly on the wall at Inkpen nick when ‘Mad Thomas’ told his story.

“Oy saw they ‘aving it away and then along comes Robert and the ‘ol lady and murders them they do.”

“Of course ye did mad Thomas, now on your way.”

Unless it was raining, it couldn’t have been at the weekend this was witnessed, as ‘Mad Thomas’ would have been action for Oakley Cricket Club. If it was possible, Mad Tom could also retrospectively think himself lucky it was the 17th Century he was living in and not the 21st, otherwise he would have undoubtedly fitted up for the crime like a medieval Barry Bulsara.

Mrs Broomham and her son were both tried and then hanged at the Winchester Assizes with their corpses hung on either side of the Combe Gibbet to act as a grim deterrent to others who may wish to climb to the highest peak in Hampshire (now Berkshire) and slaughter adulterers.

This deterrent was an apparent success as it has never been used since, although it came close to being reinstated after some suspicious activity with car keys at an 1970’s dinner party held in nearby Inkpen

It is unknown what happened to ‘Mad Thomas’ but, with his shock of blonde hair and hunched back, it is widely thought he is a close ancestor of Boris Johnson, an MP from nearby Henley on Thames.

So, that was a rather interesting end to July and as is my duty to my dad, here are the best bits in picture…there is a twist of irony in the tune which is ‘Long Hot Summer’ by The Style Council.


2 Replies to "The Grisly Tale of Combe Gibbet"

  • Trevor Hickman
    August 1, 2016 (11:34 pm)

    Thanks Bob, it’s beautiful up by Coombe Gibbet. Didn’t know it had only been used once.

    There’s a lot of horses run along that stretch as well which is pretty cool and a really nice pub nearby with a real fire (can’t remember its name but I remember it had good beer).

    Love the reference to lemon curd sandwiches 🙂

  • Liam Yoder
    September 6, 2016 (7:04 pm)

    I intend to cycle to Combe Gibbet from Reading – looking forward to it!

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