Old Martha could run - backwards

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Old Martha from Plumpton, was a strange, witch-like old lady of the 19th century. Reputedly 100 years old, she was held in awe by all who knew her.

She lived in a hovel but was reputed to be rich, with houses and land of her own.

She made no secret of the fact that somewhere she had hidden a bagful of golden guineas.

Dressed in outlandish attire she would tramp the countryside for miles singing and dancing as she went and ringing little bells. Despite her great age she was as nimble and fast as a hare, into which it was maintained she would change on occasion.

She would cover great distances with an enormous basket under her arm,

often running backwards, destroying the peace of mind of many a lone traveller. A journey over the Downs to Brighton, picking up many pounds through the practice of her magic arts, was commonplace.

The secret of the golden guineas, by the way, died with her.

* Gold of another kind is associated with Plumpton Place, a half.timbered Tudor house surrounded by a moat and the most impressive building in this pretty but scattered Downland village.

During the reign of Henry VIII, Sir Leonard Mascall is said to have introduced golden carp and golden pippins to England here. According to an old proverb: ‘Turkeys, carp, hops, pickerel and beer, Came into England all in one year.’

The illustrious Sir Leonard seems to have held an important post in the household of the Archbishop of Canterbury. He is called ‘clerk of the kitchen’, presumably a kind of steward.

In his own home he appears to have been something of an experimental farmer, with flocks and herds that grazed on the Downs above his house, and he wrote many books from. ..the Arte and manner howe to plant and graffe all sortes of trees, howe to set stons and so ewe Pepines, to make wild trees graft on to how to take spots and staines out of Silks, Velvets and Linen, and Woollen Clothes. Not riveting

titles, but they became best sellers.