If you study a map of the area today you will see the grimly named Dead Maid's Cross and Dead Maid's Farm. Peter Norman's ancestors lived in Dead Maid's Farm from the 1850's till the 1880's and he sent me this photograph of the farmhouse as it is today.
The legend goes as follows:
"A farmer's daughter had two suitors who didn't know about each other. When they found out they fought each other to the death. The first to be killed owned a black dog which proceeded to kill the man who killed his master. The farmer's daughter having lost both suitors committed suicide and was buried at the crossroads - hence Dead Maids Cross and Dead Maids Farm. The dog is supposed to haunt the woods nearby - hence Black Dog Woods!"
This photograph shows a Pearce family group in the doorway of Dead Maids Farm c. 1880.
The seated old lady (right) is Emma Pearce nee Cave
The couple standing are probably Walter Pearce, landlord of the George Inn, Westbury, and his wife Julia.
Two of the other ladies are likely to be Blanche Pearce and Mary Elizabeth Pearce, wife of Ernest Pearce a photographer.
Farm of 151 acres employing 10 labourers in 1851.
Occupants from 1851 to c. 1885
by George Pearce, yeoman farmer born 2 April 1817 at Upton Scudamore, died 14 Nov 1876 at Dead Maids. His widow Emma Cave (6 March 1822- ca 1885) remained there until her death.
Parents of 4 sons and 4 daughters, at least half of whom were born at Dead Maids Farm between 1854 and 1862.
The family preferred to refer to the farm as Thoulstone rather than by its macabre name.
George's younger brother William returned to the area by 1891 and was then a tenant of Clay Close Farm, Dilton Marsh.
Information and photographs provided by Peter Norman