Jarman's Coffin – Little Gaddesden, England - Atlas Obscura

Jarman's Coffin

Little Gaddesden, England

Local legend says this unusual chimney is actually a broken-hearted man's tomb.  


Look closely at this old manor house, and you’ll notice something odd atop its roof. According to local legend, it’s a coffin that holds the remains of one of the house’s past inhabitants.

The estate dates from the 13th century and is known as the House of Lucies. Hundreds of years after the manor house was built, it became the home of William Jarman in the 17th century.

According to local lore, Jarman was a rich man, though he lacked a noble title. Because he was a commoner—though a wealthy one at that—he was still forbidden from marrying his lover, the heiress of Ashridge, who lived nearby.

Jarman was so grief-stricken by his inability to marry the heiress that he died by suicide. His coffin was then put high up on the chimney so his remains could eternally overlook his lover’s house. He’s said to haunt his old manor house, blowing out candles on the anniversary of his death, and, in more modern times, turning off the electric lights at the switchboard.

But as tempting as it is to believe that the coffin holds a broken-hearted man’s remains, it’s more likely that its unusual shape was meant to serve a practical purpose. It’s been speculated that the architectural oddity is an Elizabethan-era safety measure used to hold the chimneys together.

Know Before You Go

The house is no longer open to the public, but you can still see its unusual chimney from the road. There's a car park across the street.

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