For The Rooks and Ravens
This rather gruesome little tale revolves around Michael Morey, a woodcutter in his
mid-sixties and his young grandson, James Dove, who lived a poor existence in an isolated cottage at Sullens in the valley
below St George's Down. James' mother died within a month of his birth, and after the remarriage of his father, the child
remained with his grandfather.The known facts of the case are these, that James, age 14, was brutally murdered,
in June 1736 after accompanying his grandfather into Arreton woods. His body being dismembered, placed in two leather bags
and left concealed in the depths of the wood, together with a discarded billhook and bloodstained gloves. Not being able to
offer any explanation for his grandson's disappearance, a warrant was issued for Michael Morey, who absconded for about one
week, but was taken into custody at the end of July 1736 and held in Winchester awaiting trail. Some three months later the
gruesome discovery of the remains of James Dove was made. The body was so decomposed that identification was only possible
from fragments of clothing.
Morey's trial took place at Winchester in March 1737. Although the evidence against him was circumstantial
and he never at any time confessed to the killing, Morey was summarily sentenced to death and within an hour executed at the
public gallows. According to the law his fate was then to hang in chains from a gibbet erected in his home parish of Arreton
for a prescribed length of time - this gruesome practice being intended as a deterrent against crime. The site chosen for
the gibbet was a Bronze Age barrow near to The Hare and Hounds now known as Michal Morey Hump. The gibbet with its exceptionally
long upright cost the parish of Arreton £6.20 paid to John Phillips, the village wheelwright for his work.
It is said the gibbet post was later recycled to recoup some of the cost and used to form the main
roof beam, over 22 feet in length of the original Tap Room of The Hare and Hounds
'Michael Morey's skull'
The Bronze Age barrow on which the gibbet stood has been disturbed or excavated on four occasions
since 1815, revealing in all some nine skeletons thought to date from Bronze Age and Anglo-Saxon times.
Although 'The Hare and Hounds Skull' probably unearthed in 1933, was supposed to be that of Michal
Morey, later research has revealed it to be of prehistoric origin and belonging to a young woman who died in her late teens.
The actual skull of Michal Morey and his place of burial have never been positively identified, but
the crime for which he was convicted and the legends surrounding it live on
Michael Morey's Hump
"Michael Morey he is dead
For chopping off his grandson's head,
He is hung on Arreton Down
For rooks and ravens to peck him down."
Local children sing this rhyme
And still recall the ghastly crime,
Once it was a Bronze Age bump
Now they call it Morey's Hump.
Timbers from the gibbet stand
With his skull near at hand
Now within the tavern found -
Michael Morey's still around.
Should you stop to have a drink,
You may for a moment think
As you take a sip or two,
Morey's skull is watching you.
Keep your peace, button your lip,
Don't let idle mocking slip,
You maybe in for a surprise-
Walls have ears and skulls have eyes.
©Phil Beer/Ashley Hutchings
Arreton has a church that
is a thousand years old
containing a Saxon doorway,
piscina and a piece of
from the same era.
including The Hare and Hounds
wherein is found the skull
of Michael Morey