Dead Man’s Acre is an acre of land on the side of the hill below Selsley common in Stroud, Gloucestershire, England. It is noticeable from virtually anywhere in the town from which the common can be seen. It is noticeable because it is surrounded by a hedge and wall, which makes it look like an island in the mass of common.
The plot gets its unusual name from local legend, the most common version of which is as follows:
Sometime in the fourteenth Century a man was caught trespassing on a rich man’s land. The rich man was to have the trespasser executed but the man begged for his life and a deal was struck, if he could hedge and wall an acre of land in one day, not only would his life be spared, but the rich man was willing to give him the land. However, if he failed, he would be killed. Naturally the man accepted the bet.
Now the story goes that in order to win the bet he struck a deal with the Devil, if the Devil could give him the power to wall and hedge the acre he would give the acre to the Devil. The Devil agreed, and the man won the bet. However the man then refused to give the Devil the acre, the Devil seemed defeated, until, six days later, the man was found lying, dead, in his field. He had been pinned to the ground by a three pronged pitchfork, but no-one had been near the field that night. It’s said that there was a trail of cloven hoof prints near the man.
And so the field got its name of Dead Man’s Acre.
Nowadays the field is a small private owned plot of land, it has a fence running through the middle and a small barn at the far end. It is often a dare at Halloween to camp in the field for a night, and so you occasionally find a tent in the middle of the field, with a few freaked out teenagers sitting telling ghost stories inside.