The day a fallen scarecrow was mistaken for a dead body

An illustration of the incident in a newspaper at the time

An illustration of the incident in a newspaper at the time - Credit: Contributed

Margaret Lewis, curator of Allhallows Museum, writes for the Herald

Margaret Lewis (outside the Honiton Museum) is keen for the building to host the town's new TIC. mhh

Margaret Lewis (outside the Honiton Museum) is keen for the building to host the town's new TIC. mhh 25-16TI 2287. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

On a Sunday morning in September 1883 Honiton residents really were alarmed when they heard the rumour that a man had been found lying dead in a hedge a short distance from the town on St Cyrus Hill.

A young woman named Rose Moore, who was an employee of George Dent, the silversmith in Honiton High Street, was picking blackberries on the previous Friday. She saw what she supposed to be the body of a man lying in the hedge apparently dead. This naturally frightened the girl, who told some labourers who were working nearby what she had seen. Then she walked home and told Mr Dent, jnr. of her discovery. He took no notice and did not believe her and so he took no action on the matter.

However, by the Sunday morning the police had been informed of the circumstances, and so Police Sergeant Jeffery and Police Constable Webber proceeded to the designated spot to determine the truth of the report.

A crowd of around fifty people followed after them. When they passed the rear of the premises belonging to Mr George Neumann of Tracey, they acquired a donkey cart and placed a door on it thinking that it would be suitable to use in removing the dead body. There was no donkey or pony nearby to draw the cart, so men took turns between the shafts to pull it. They worked hard to get the cart up the steep hill to the spot where they thought the body was.

Arriving at their destination, the eager crowd stood by while the police lifted up and turned over the body. To the great amusement of everyone(and probably relief) it was seen that the supposed corpse was simply a cleverly made effigy of a man which Robert White, the iron founder had been using in his field to scare away the crows. Mourning cards were printed and circulated throughout the Honiton: ‘In memory of Bob White’s dummy, which was found dead on St Cyrus Hill, Sunday 16th September 1883. Who for many years kept faithful watch over Bob White’s potato plot.’