I first came across the name Otter in the City of Lincoln in the UK, when carrying out some work in Otters Cottages, which are in a small lane off Newark Road.
The name intriqued me and made me wonder from where the name had come. Along the road between Lincoln and Gainsborough, part of which is now the A57, between Saxilby and Drinsey-Nook there is Tom Otters Lane and also Tom Otters Bridge.

They have a tale to tell

In 1805 Tom Otter was a navvy engaged in enclosing the old Swanpool at Lincoln. During the time he was engaged upon the works he became acquainted with a girl, and after this acquaintance lasted some time the girl had a child by him, to which she duly swore, according to the practice at that time.
Otter was taken up and ordered to marry the girl, the alternatives being matrimony or Goal
The marriage ceremony took place at Hykeham Church, and as usual, the parties stood between two Constables.
Otter, on the very night of his marriage, was walking home with his wife, when, in the lane leading to Harby, he killed her with a hedge stake.
Otter, at the time had another wife, and this circumstance, perhaps, might have induced him to act a more desperate part.
On the day following the murder he was apprehended in Lincoln and at the Old County Hall was tried and found guilty of murder. He was sentenced to death and the Judge ordered that his body should be hung in irons and gibbetted upon the spot that the murder was committed.
Before he was hung Mr Gazzard, blacksmith went into his cell to measure him for the irons, but of so determined a character was Otter that he would not allow such a proceedings, and as he threatened the blacksmith with not the best treatment, he was not measured.
Thousands of persons were present to witness the death of the murderer, who was executed on the old gallows near to the Union Workhouse. Afterwards his body was encased in pitch, fastened in irons and hung up on a high post in the Lane, which has been since been known as Tom Otters Lane.
By degrees the body fell away and mouldered to mother earth. The chains remained on the post, and have rattled to and fro in many a storm until the present spring (1850) when the post and its appendages fell to the ground.
Otter was hung on the 14th March 1806.

Fifty years ago, there was hardly a man to be found for twenty miles around Lincoln, who had courage enough to walk alone after dark, from the lane end at Drinsey-Nook, leading to Doddington, to the village of Saxilby.
The road bore an evil name, for murder had been committed some few hundreds of yards down the lane, near Drinsey-Nook House; and if you looked, as you walked past, you saw the body of the murderer hanging on the gibbet, and when the wind blew the gibbet irons rattled again, and swung to and fro with a strange screeching, groaning and complaining sound.
There may be a few old people still living in the neighbourhood, who remember that wild windy Thursday, the 20th March in 1806, when Tom Otter was gibbeted, and how difficult it was to rear up the gibbet post, which was thirty feet high, on account of the wind; how Saxilby drawbridge broke down that morning, after the cart passed over bearing the body of the murderer with the gibbet irons fastened to it, and how when the post was erected, the tackle with which the men tried to hoist up the body broke twice -some said owing to the weight of iron- and so injured one of the men underneath, that he died of his injuries on the following morning.
Some said it was a judgement on the man: for the iron bound body of the murderer had just been hoisted up to the beam of the gibbet post, when he it fell upon looked and said with a sneer, "He'll never come down any more," and that the words were hardly out of his mouth before the tackle broke again, and the murderers body, with all its weight of iron, fell upon him and crushed him to the earth.
When they were conveying him to Drinsey-Nook House he said, "I'm a dead man, killed by Tom Otter, who swore he would murder me for appearing as a witness against him. He has kept his word."
Great pains were taken to keep this accident a secret, nor was it much noticed at the time, as several people were injured on that day, through Saxilby bridge breaking, the gibbet post falling, and the spectators suffocating one another, to get sight of the body, with its iron fetters on, lying in the cart before it was gibbeted.
The Sun Inn at Saxilby was densely crowded all that day, for it was in the room facing the Fossdyke where the body of Mary Kirkham was placed, when it was removed in a cart from the the lane where it was discovered lying in a ditch. It was also that room where Tom Otter was brought on the day following the discovery of the murder, in a post chaise from Lincoln, by Samuel Tuke, one of the Lincon constables, who kept guard over him in the post chaise and first saw the blood upon themurderers jacket, as the sun shone through the window of the Sun Inn; and they do say that the water in the Fossdyke was the colour of blood after the murdered body had passed over the Saxilby drawbridge.
Through some omission no straw was put into the rickety old cart which bore the murdered body from Drinsey-Nook lane to the Sun Inn at Saxilby, so that there were stains of gore all the way along the Fossdyke and on the drawbridge, especially on the steps of the inn door.
John Rowe's servants for years after declared that neither sand nor freestone, nor all the scrubbing in the world would ever remove those stains, and many a servant gave him notice to quit rather than attempt even to scour the door stone of the Sun Inn of which he was then landlord.
For years after they say the cries as of a new born child, were always heard in the room where the murdered woman was placed for one night in every year, and that was every 3rd of November. It was on the 3rd of November that Tom Otter married her in the morning at South Hykeham and murdered her in Drinsey-Nook Lane, soon after 7 o'clock on the evening of that very day and only a few hours after he had married her.
The hedge-stake used by the murderer was in the possession of George Cartwright of Thorney, up to nearly twelve months, from the evening when the murder was committed, excepting the day of the inquest, when it was put into Tom Otter's hand, while the murdered woman lay on the table before him, at the Sun Inn, when he denied ever having seen it before.
That hedge-stake was removed from its place, at the Sun Inn twelve months to the very day and on the very night the murder was committed twelve months before. It was found again the following morning, just as it was after the crime had been committed, and as wet as when Mary Wilson, of Saxilby, picked it up with the patten(shoe?) in the stubble close, on Monday morning the year before.
For years after, no matter who had possession of the murderers hedge-stake, it was always found in the same close, wet with gore, on the morning of the 4th of November. The marks on the Inn wall at Torksey Lock were pointed out only some twenty years ago, where it was secured with iron hoops, and torn away in the night of the third year of the murder, by some unearthly power. It was the same when the landlord of the Peewee Inn, or Waves House, beside the Fossdyke took charge of it, and Dick Naylor, the blacksmith of Saxilby, made three strong staples to fasten it to the wall: even then it was torn away on the night of the 3rd of November, and the staples thrown through the blacksmith window into his bedroom. He had helped to make Tom Otter's gibbet-irons.
It may be a saying still about Lincoln, for it was very common then, that a new rope, or a chain, or anything that required to be made very strong, was always ordered with a saying "Ma"ke it strong enough to hold Tom Otter's hedge-stake."
The hedge-stake was at last burnt in the yard of Lincoln Minster, before the large round window, by order of the Bishop of Lincoln, as no doubt some few living can certify, though it was destroyed secretly and in the night.

John Dunberly's was the only human eye that saw the murder committed, except the murderer himself. He had been drinking at the Sun Inn at Saxilby, which he left just after six in the evening, ten minutes after Tom Otter and his victim passed over Saxilby drawbridge.
John Harrison, of Saxilby, passed him between the bridge and Drinsey-Nook, and so also did Obediah and William Denham, and both spoke to John Dunberly. Obediah said "You'll have company John," for he had seen Tom Otter and the woman turn down Drinsey-Nook lane, and concluded that they were going to Doddington, where John Dunberly then lived. But neither of them thought any more of the matter, or of they did, concluded. that John Dunberly had stopped at Drinsey-Nook House, as he was partial to the ale tankard.

The confession of John Dunberly on his deathbed was:

"I heard this man say,'sit down you can rest here'. I climbed through a gap and got into the stubble close: nowt but the hedge divided us. I could have touched Tom Otter if I had put my arm out when he came and tore a stake out of the hedge, he must have been a strong man from the way he pulled out the hedge-stake, which was two feet into the ground; the moon shined into his face at the time and his eyes frightened me, for there was a fiery look in them such as a cats eyes when seen in the dark."
"I heard him say to his-sen, (himself) 'This will finish my knobstick wedding'; then he made three strides to where she was sitting with her head hanging down, and swinging the hedge-stake with both hands, hit her a clout on the head. She ged (gave) but one scream, and called on God for mercy then tumbled with her head on the ground. He hit her head again as it lay on the grass that grew by the lane-side, and that time the knock sounded as though he had hit a turnip. I saw her legs and her arms all of a quiver like for a minute, and then she was as still as a cobble-stone."
"I went of in a faint. When I cum round again the hedge-stake he had murdered her we' (with) lay close beside me. I took it up, and my hand was covered we' red and my smock sleeve dabbled with it. The I thought that if I were fun (found) in that state that they would take me up for the murder and hang me. And for days I wandered about - I can't tell you for how long - working on the roads, and getting a job how I could. I came back to Doddington on the 20th March in the spring, and heard for the first time who it was who had done the murder, and I helped to pull the tackle when they hoisted him up in irons. I was under his body when it fell and was hurt badly. When they picked me up I had hold of one of his hands, and as sure as I am a dying man it gripped my hand quite tight. I had the marks of his clutch on my hand for some time after. But I said nowt, only that I had trapped my fingers, when anybody axed (asked) me what was the matter we' it".
"I went back to my old place and nobody ever named a word to me about the murder, nobut (none but) Robert Cooper who kept the Saxilby toll-gate, and he said 'Why, John, you must have been close on to their heels on the night of the murder. didn't you see them?' I said 'I might have seen them turn down Drinsey-Nook lane.' but he said nowt no more to me, only made a bit of a game with me about getting out of the way of being summoned as a witness."
"Well, nowt happened to me any more till Sunday night, twelve months after the murder, though I often walked down to John Row's down at the Sun Inn, Saxilby, frae (from) Doddington, and in course I never passed the ditch or the gibbet post without looking up at him, where he hung in his irons, and looking down at the spot where she was sitting when he murdered her. Sometimes he shaked his head at me, but that I didn't mind much, but shook mine at him again, and said 'You did give me a bit of a turn once we' your eyes, and made my hand quite bad, but you'll not do nowt at me no more.' Well do you kno' he kicked his leg and would have sent one of his shank bones at my head, if it hadn't been made fast to the gibbet-irons. After that I allus (always) went on the tother side of the road, though I never trod on the spot where I seed (saw) her sitting wa' (with) her head hanging down,when he ged her a clout with the hedge-stake."
"Well, that night twelve months after the murder I felt quite doley-like (funny, strange ?) and couldn't keep wacken (awake) try all I would, so I went gatus (tired?) to bed soon after dusk-hours; and what I'm going to tell you, is as true, as I saw him murder her we' my own eyes."
"What time it was I shall never kno', but Tom Otter comed to me and said, 'Its time, come along,' and I went we' him: and he said again, 'Fetch it, make haste,' and I went into th' Sun Inn, at Saxilby, and fetched the hedge-stake that he murdered her we' frae off the nail where it was hanging up, and when I got outside o'th' door, they were both waiting for me, and we all three went over the Saxilby draw-bridge together: the woman walking behind, and carrying a paper box in one hand and a pair of pattens (shoes?) in the other, and wearing the same light blue gown that she had on that very night and Tom Otter also wore the same light drab velveteen jacket and breeches that he had on when he came to the fence and tore up the hedge-stake that I was then carrying. It was a kind of misty twilight we seemed to be walking in, We turned down Drinsey-Nook lane and reached the very same spot which we reached before, when he also used the very same words, and said 'Sit down, you can rest here,' and she sat down, with her head drooping on her breast, just as she did that night twelve months ago; then he came to me - with his eyes more fiery than they was beforetime, and said 'Now, then, quick.' And I was compelled to lift up the hedge-stake we' both hands, and murder her just in the same way that he had murdered that very night twelve months before."
"And every 3rd of November for years, no matter where I might be, the same doley feeling came over me, an' I couldn't keep wacken no how but went gatus to bed: and Tom Otter came to me and said, 'Now then, its time,' and I had to go fetch the hedge-stake frae ever it might be, and do the same murdering over again; and once when it was fastened up with staples, he come and helped me pull it down, and said 'You could pull hard enough when you helped to gibbet me.' And for years this kept on, and the hedge-stake was always found in the stubble field next morning, where I was forced to throw it: and when I woke in my bed, after all this was done, my hands were allus red, just they was when I took up the hedge-stake after I come out of my faint in the stubble close on the night she was first murdered. And I hadn't no peace till the hedge-stack was burnt at the Minster-Yard; for after that was done they never came to fetch me to go we' 'em to murder her no more."
Such was the strange unearthly confession of John Dunberly, of Doddington, on his death bed; and twenty years ago there were scores of people living who could testify to the hedge-stake having been always found in the stubble close every morning of the 4th November for years.
One night, on the 3rd November, while it was fastened to the wall of the Peeweet Inn, or Wave House, as it was sometimes called, a party met in the room where it was secured, determined to watch its removal, but about 12 o'clock at night a deep sleep came over them all, and when they awoke the hedge-stake was gone. After that the Bishop of Lincoln commanded it to be burnt, as before stated

Let all those who have ever committed murder,
Or have been present when murder was committed and have never confessed
Read this and tremble.

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