A pedlar trying to reach the inn at Gradbach was benighted in the woods around the Dane valley and sought shelter in an isolated house. He was admitted, seated beside the fire (between two bloodhounds) and given ale. As he dozed, a little girl came out of the kitchen and said “Oh, what plump hands he has, they’ll make lovely pies”. Alarmed, the pedlar retreated to the door and ran, only to be pursued by the family from the house – and the bloodhounds. He took refuge in the river, under a bridge, and escaped towards Gradbach, but the hounds picked up his scent again and he was pursued. He reached Gradbach, his cries for help awakened the villagers, and he was admitted to a house and given a bed. The villagers went to the isolated house, found the property of other travellers who had disappeared – and several bones – and dragged all the members of the family outside and hanged them; except for the little girl, who escaped through the woods on to the moors, looking for a nice plump adult to take care of her.All that remains of the village of Gradbach is the mill, now a hotel, and a farm. Gradbach Hall has gone; there’s a scout camp where it stood. Both the mill and the hall were haunted, the former by a girl crushed to death in the mill-wheel, the latter by a white lady who emerged from a room carrying a child’s head. The house where the pedlar took refuge, and from which he then escaped, was burned down; in some versions of the story, it was the inn. The bridge under which the pedlar is supposed to have hidden during the pursuit, Caster’s Bridge, still crosses the River Dane – but it is a newer construction. It was once a site where forged coins were made; forgers (coiners) operated in other parts of the locality, too, notably at Three Shires Head near Flash.
A version of the story is given in Byron Machin’s The Folklore of the Staffordshire Moorlands (Seven Stones Publishing, 2018), pp. 67-69. You can read more about the local coiners in pp. 53-56 of the same book.