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Legends and traditions of Huntingdonshire online

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well, and they forgive her, she cried nnd confessed ;
but in a day or two she denied all again. Then Mr.
Throgmorton was angry, and threatened to carry her
before the Bishop of Bugden ; and upon condition
that she might not be carried thither, she promised
to confess again, provided that it might be to Mr.
Throgmorton alone ; but he secretly placed men under
the window to hear what she said ; and by this
threatening promise and contrivance, he gained a
second confession." *

"But this confession was not sufficient for the ten-
der and scrupulous conscience of Mr. Throgmorton.
He, consequently, invented a charm, which he declared
had been revealed to him by spirits ; and so great was
the influence he had gained over the mind of this
poor old woman, that he made her repeat it *a hun-

* The remaioder of the story is taken from Mr. Carrutbers'
History of Huntingdon, in which the extract from HutchioBon
is quoted.

Legends, etc., of Htintingdonshire. 15


dred times over.' It was as follows : ' I charge thee,
thou Devil, as I love thee, and have authority over
thee, and am a witch, and guilty of this matter, that
thou suifer these children to be well at present.' The
children for whose benefit this damning exhortation was
uttered, had the faculty it appears, of immediately
recovering from their indisposition, so soon as they
heard this invocation ; and it seems very evident
from a narrative of this trial, published the same
year, that these children of Mr. Throgmorton's were
nothing more nor less than a pack of malicious and
wicked impostors, instigated, no doubt by their
father, for some purpose best known to himself.
The writer of the narrative who was clearly no friend
of the delinquents, confesses with much naivete that
the children would 'come out of their fits' at many
other absurd experiments, as * carrying them abroad or
into the church yard, or even turning their faces one
way rather than another.' It appears, however, that
these urchins never failed to display their pretended af-
flictions in the presence of strangers, and that they
derived a great deal of pleasure from the wonderment of
those silly persons who believed all they saw and heard.
"The Judge (Fenner) seems also to have been fully
determined upon the destruction of this ill-fated
family. Old Samuel sturdily declared his innocence,
and as no positive proof of his guilt had appeared in

54 Legends, etc., of Htmtingdonskire.

evidence against him, this precious expounder of the
law told him, that, * if he would not speak the words
of the charm the court would hold him guilty of the
crime, he was accused of ; ' and thus this poor old
man was urged to a confession, which, untrue and
unjust as it was, occasioned his condemnation and
death ! A circumstance occurred during the trial,
which ought to have convinced everybody of the
innocence of the daughter, Agnes Samuel. This
young girl seems to have been a girl of more than
usual virtue and intelligence. The only crime of
which she was guilty, was hiding herself when the
oflficers came to apprehend her; and repeating, by
compulsion, the damnatory charm already pronounced
by her father and mother. She strenuously main-
tained her innocence to the last ; and some persons
near her advised her, as the only means of prolonging
and perhaps of preserving her life, to plead that she
was with child. But she heard the proposal with
indignation and replied: 'No, I will never do that.
It shall never be said that I am both a witch and

a .' But even this honourable resolution had

no effect upon the bigoted minds of her accusers,
nothing but the death of herself and her aged parents,
would satisfy their bloodthirsty persecutors ; and the
parents and their child were consequently executed at
Huntingdon a few days after their condemnation."

ffiljapter X'^y^^^^


The following circumstances are related by the
Rev. Isaac Nicholson, of Great Paxton, under date,
July 25th, 1808 :—

"In the afternoon of Wednesday, the 17th of
February last [1808], Alice Brown, a young woman
of Crreat Paxton, imprudently ventured to cross the
ice, which then covered the surface of the Ouse. A
thaw of some hours had rendered the ice unsafe, and
she had not walked many yards upon it before it gave
way, and let her into the river. From this perilous
situation she providentially extricated herself and
reached the opposite bank, where her friend, Fanny
Amey, scarcely less terrified than herself at what had
happened, stood anxiously waiting for her. Shivering
and frightened she hastened to her father's house,

156 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

about a quarter of a mile from the river, aud almost
as soon as she entered it, was seized with a strong
epileptic fit. Fanny Amey had been subject to
epilepsy for some months previous to this period, and
therefore it is not at all surprising that she should be
sympathetically affected, and fall into similar con-

" Alice Brown did not speedily get over the effects
of her fright : her distressing fits returned at short
intervals and disqualified her for every kind of work;
indeed she was so much reduced by them that her
friends began to despair of her recovery. Inquiring
after the state of her health on the 6th of April,
I was astonished and gi'ieved to hear from her mother
that her fits, weakness, and dejection were ascribed to
the effect of witchcraft. * She is under an ill-tongue,'
said the youth. * As sure as you are alive, sir,' con-
tinued a man who stood by, ' she is bewitched, and so
are two other girls that live near her. There is a
man in the town I came from in Bedfordshire, who
was exactly like Alice Brown — he could do no work,
lost all his strength, and was wasting away very fast,
when a person told him what was the matter with
him and how he might be cured. He filled a bottle
with a particular kind of fluid, stuffed the cork both
top and bottom with pins, set it carefully in an oven
of a moderate heat, and then observed a profound

Legends, etc, of Huntingdonshire. 157

silence. In a few minutes the charm succeeded ; for,
he saw a variety of forms flitting before his eyes, and
amongst the rest the perfect resemblance of an old
woman who lived in the same parish. This was what
he wanted — he was now satisfied who it was that had
injured him, and that her reign would soon be over.
The woman whose figure he saw died in a few days,
and the man immediately recovered. Thomas Brown
tried this charm last night for his daughter, and
though a strange noise was distinctly heard twice by
his wife, who was in bed with the poor girl, it did
not succeed according to our wishes ; so they have
not at present found out, who it is that does all the

"If I was shocked at this man's absurdity and
superstition, I was infinitely more so to understand
it was the general opinion of the people, that Alice
Brown, Fanny Amey, and Mary Fox were certainly
bewitched by some person, who had purchased a
familiar, or an evil spirit of the Devil, at the expense
of his own soul ; and that a variety of charms and
experiments had been tried to discover who it was.

"When the public service was over, I called on
Fanny Amey and Alice Brown. It was not in my
power to judge from the countenance of the former,
that anything was the matter with her ; she was
perfectly collected and looked the picture of health.

158 Legends, etc., of H^mtingdonshire.

Alice Brown was asleep in bed, and therefore I did
not see her. At both liouses T endeavoured to explain
to the relatives and friends of the young women,
that it was an utter impossibility for one human
creature to injure the health of another by any in-
visible and preternatural process, — entreated them to
discountenance notions so wild and irrational, and
begged them to try other means than senseless charms
to recover their children.

"A few minutes before I went into Church on the
following Sunday, Ann Izzard, a poor woman of Great
Paxton, requested leave to speak with me. In tears
and greatly agitated she told me her neighbours pre-
tended they had discovered by means of certain
charms that she was a witch, and blamed her for the
fits and illness of Alice Brown, Fanny Amey, and
Mary Fox : she said, they threatened to punish her,
abused her children, and frightened her so much that
she frequently dropped on the ground in fainting fits ;
and concluded with asserting her innocence in these
words : — * I am not a witch, and am willing to prove
it by being weighed against the church bible.'

"Ann Izzard is a little woman, about sixty years of
age, and by no means ill looking : she has had eight
children ; five are now living.

"After the sermon I addi'essed the congregation
upon the subject, pointed out the folly of their

Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. 159

opinions, that fatal consequences might result from
brooding over them and tried to persuade them, that,
although they might be weak enough to suppose there
was no harm in laying violent hands on a woman,
they madly called a witch, yet the laws of their
country would view their conduct in a very different

"But argument, explanation, and remonstrance,
were in vain ; the mania had taken full possession of
them, and was only to be cured, or restrained by the
powerful arm of the law.

"On Thursday, 5th of May, Ann Izzard was at
St. Neots market ; and it so happened that her son,
about sixteen years old, was sent the same day to St.
Neots by his master, a respectable farmer, John Bid-
well, of Great Paxton, for a load of corn. When ho
returned his mother and another woman accompanied
him. Contrary to the better advice of her neighbour,
the latter insisted upon putting a basket of grocery
upon the top of the sacks of corn. One of the horses
which drew the cart was young and unmanageable,
and on going down the hill which leads into the
village of Paxton, by his plunging and restiveness,
overturned it. By this unfortunate accident, the
shopkeeper's grocery was materially damaged ; and,
because Ann Izzard had repeatedly advised her not
to put the basket upon the sacks, she charged her

i6o Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

with overturning the cart by means of her infernal
art, on purpose to spoil her goods. It will scarcely
be credited that in an hour after, the whole parish
was in an uproar : *She has just overturned a loaded
cart, with as much ease as if it had been a spinning
wheel,' was echoed from one end of it to the other.
Men, women, and children, raised their voices, and
exclaimed, ' we have now proof positive of her guilt —
this last act in open day speaks for itself — she is the
person that does all the mischief, and if something is
not done to put a stop to her baseness, there will be
no living in the place.' Xor did this extraordinf ry
fit of frenzy terminate till they had made two attacks
upon her, which, atrocious as they appear to me, are
considered by themselves as not only justifiable, but
highly meritorious. The dark and uninstructed
Caffrarian would look upon such actions as a per-
petual scandal to himself and an everlasting disgrace
to his country.

"A considerable number of people assembled to.
gether as it grew dark on Sunday evening, the 8th
of May, and taking with them the young women
ridiculously supposed to be bewitched, about ten
o'clock proceeded to the cottage of Wright Izzard,
which stands alone, at some distance from the body of
the village. When they arrived at this solitary spot,
so favourable for the execution of their villainous

Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. i6i

designs, they broke into the poor man's house, dragged
his wife out of bed, and threw her naked into the
yard ; where her arms were torn with pins, her head
was dashed against the large stones of the causeway —
and her face, stomach, and breast, were severely
bruised with a thick stick that served as a bar to the
door. Having thus satiated themselves the mob dis-
persed. The woman then crawled into the house, put
her clothes on, and went to the constable, who said,
'he could not protect her, because he was not sworn.'
The humanity, protection, and assistance which she
could not find at the constable's, very happily for
herself, she found under the roof of a poor widow.
The compassionate and honest Alice Russel unlocked
her door at the first call, wrapped up her neighbour's
bleeding arms with the nicest linen rags she had,
affectionately sympathised with and comforted her,
and gave her a bed. But with the deepest grief I
relate it, the compassion and kindness of this poor
woman, were the means of shortening her days. 'The
protectors of a witch are just as bad as the witch and
deserve the same treatment,' cried the infatuated
populace the next morning. The envenomed shaft
flew direct to its mark, and, the widow Russel, neither
eat nor slept again : she died a martyr to fear and
apprehension on Friday, the 20th of May.

" In the evening of Monday, the 9th of May, Ann

1 62 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

Izzard was a second time dragged out of her house,
and a second time were her arms torn with pins till
they streamed afresh with blood. Alive the next
morning, and apparently likely to survive this attack
also, her enemies resolved to have her ducked, as soon
as the labour of the day was over. On hearing this
she hastily quitted her home, and took I'efuge in a
neighbouring village, where their inhumanity and
malevolence could not reach her."

Two years later, in 1810, Mr. Nicholson published :
*' An abstract of the proceedings laid against Joseph
Harper, James Slaughton, Thomas Biaybrook, Mary
Amey, Fanny Amey, Alice Brown, Edward Briers,
Mary Hook, and Mary Fox, for assaulting Ann Izzard,
of Great Paxton, in the county of Huntingdon, on
the 8th and 9th of May, 1808, under the pretence of
her being a witch." There were two indictments, the
prisoners being first tried at the Huntingdon assizes,
and afterwards at the court of King's Bench, at
Westminster, on November 23rd, 1809. On the
latter occasion, Mr. Justice Grose, in passing sentence
upon the prisoners, said : " You are each of you to
receive the sentence of this court, convicted of an
outrageous and alarming misdemeanour, in riotously
assembling and breaking into the dwelling house, —
breaking open the doors, and in truth, bursting into
the house of Wright Izzard, for the purpose of

Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. 163

seizing and possessing, by force and violence, and
afterwards assaulting, Ann his wife, in which force
and violence you dragged her from her bed — pierced
her hands, arms, and other parts of her person, with
pins and other sharp instruments, and wounding her
in a most painful manner, and creating a great
disturbance in the neighbourhood, and behaving in
a most outrageous manner .... It appears that
some of you held the husband, Wright Izzard, while
others of you assaulted the wife, and with pins and
other instruments, you pricked, goaded, and wounded
her arms, and injured other parts of her person, and
that so cruelly, that, to use the language of a witness,
' her arms were all over in a gore of blood.' ... At
the trial this ill-used woman, the prosecutrix, de-
meaned herself most properly ; and from her conduct
then, I should have imagined her to be a sober,
discreet, and intelligent woman. Her evidence was
given with propriety and temper, and it appeared
that her ouly wish was, to get protection against
force and violence, a protection which it is the right
of every subject in this country to have. Your crimes
call for the sentence of the law, nor can the justice of
the country be satisfied without marking this breach
of the peace as a great outrage upon an inoffending
individual, and it is impossible to pass this offence
unpunished. Therefore to protect the prosecutrix

164 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

against future violence, and to preserve the public
peace, and also to fix in your minds, proper principles
of humanity and a ready obedience to the law, as well
as to protect the character of the prosecutrix, and to
enforce that which the law and justice of the country
demand, the court, having taken into consideration all
the circumstances of the case, doth order and adjudge,
that for this your offence, you and each of you, be
imprisoned in the common jail of Huntingdon, for
one calendar month ; and that you, Edward Briers,
Mary Hook, and Mary Fox, convicted of a similar
offence on the 7th day of May, you and each of you,
be imprisoned in the common jail, of Huntingdon,
for one calendar month — and that you, James Staugh-
ton (convicted in a second indictment) be imprisoned
in the same jail for another calendar month, to com-
mence at the expiration of the first imprisonment."

In addition to this, they were each ordered to find
security for their good behaviour for two years, or
be further imprisoned until such security should be
given. But all this did not quite put a stop to the
evil, for on the 16th of October, 1809, Ann Izzard
appeared before Henry Pointer Standley, Esq., J.P.,
of Little Paxton, and lodged a complaint against a
mother and her daughter named Day, for assaulting
her. In default of finding bail for their good be-
haviour, they were sent to Huntingdon jail.

(Rmttv X5X-


The following is extracted from the History of
Huntingdon, by "E.G." [Mr. Carruthers] :— "In
the year 1646, (Charles I.) several persons fell
victims in Huntingdon, to the absurd and abominable
superstition of witchcraft. The names of two of
these wretched sufferers were Elizabeth Weed and
John Winwick," "A tragical story," says Mr. Gough,
"we have in the whole trial and examination of Mrs.
Mary Hicks, and her daughter Elizabeth, but nine
years of age, who were condemned at the last assizes
held at Huntingdon, for witchcraft, and there ex-
ecuted the 28th July, 1716, With an account of the
most surprising pieces of witchcraft they played
whilst under their diabolical compact, the like was

1 66 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

never heard of before : their behaviour with several
divines, who came to converse with them whilst under
the sentence of death, and last dying speeches and
confession at the place of execution. — A substantial
farmer apprehends his wife and favourite child, the
latter for some silly illusions practised on his weakness,
the former for the antiquated folly of killing her
neighbour in effigy; and Judge Powell suffers them to
be hanged on their own confession, four years after
his wiser brother had ventured his own life to save
that of an old woman at Hertford."

There are, however, very strong reasons to believe
that this story is an entire fabrication. The pamphlet
which is supposed to record all the particulars is not
now in existence, or if it is, it has escaped the
attention of all the local collectors. Lord Esm6
Gordon's libraiy, one of the finest Huntingdonshire
collections in England, contains no copy of it. The
Rev. E. Bradley ("Cuthbert Bede"), who has been a
collector of matters relating to Huntingdonshire for
upwards of 40 years, has stated * that he has never
yet been able to find one, and a descendant of Judge
Powell, who is alleged to have passed sentence of
death on the alleged witches, also declares that,
although he has taken every means to ascertain the

* Letter to Peterborough Advertisr, July 20th, 1885.

Legends y etc, of Htmtingdonshire. 167

existence of such a pamphlet, he has never seen one,
nor has he found any one else who ever had.

But the story itself, as related, when closely criti-
cised, leaves little doubt that it is an entire fabrication.
There were three judges of the name of Powell, the
last of whom is referred to as having tried and
condemned Mrs. Hicks and her daughter, on their
own confession, on the 28th of July, 171 C. This,
however, is an impossibility, for in 171 G there was
no Judge Powell living ! The last judge of that name
died in 1713. Therefore, there is to start with, this
serious discrepancy, either Mrs. Hicks and her daughter
were not executed in 1716 or Judge Powell Avas not
the jndge. No two dates are given, but in two
different accounts another judge is mentioned in lieu
of Judge Powell, but it does not help the matter.
The other judge is said to have been Mr. Justice
Wilmot. But the same objection applies to this also,
for in I7IG there was no Mr. Justice Wilmot. He
was not created a judge until several years after 1716.

The date is furthermore a very good reason for
doubting the accuracy of the story, for every one
knows that after the commencement of the 18th
century there were no judicial executions for witch-
craft, and the date assigned is within the reign of
George I. It may, however, afford an explanation,
that about that time, and more especially in the previ-

1 68 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

ous reign, there were swarms of unprincipled pamph-
leteers, who Avrote only from sordid motives, and as
often as not invented the circumstances which they

At all events, before the trial and execution of the
Hicks's family can be accepted as historically true,
much stronger evidence than has yet been alleged in
support of it will have to be produced.

'^'^li ''()'i^<^<! i « sW* ^s"- s> <>';'<' <i> i


©Japtei* XX*


What may be called a Huntingdonshire Fairy
Morgana is recorded to have taken place near St.
Neots in 1820. The real Fata Morgana is the ap-
pearance of spectral ships on the sea, and is due to
reflective peculiarities in the atmosphere. I have
only an indirect description of the phenomena said to
have been witnessed at St. Neots ; it is stated to have
been similar to phenomena which occurred on Souter-
fell in 1743 and 1744. On referring to this I obtain
the following: "On the 23rd of June, 1744, about
7 o'clock in the evening, a number of persons wit-
nessed a troop of horsemen riding apparently on the
side of Souterfell, in pretty close ranks, and at a brisk
pace. The spectres became visible at a place called
Knott, and advanced in regular troops along the side

lyo Legends, etc., of Hu7itingdonshire.

of the fell, till they came opposite Blake Hills, when
they passed over the mountain after describing a kind
of curvilinear path. They moved at a regular, swift,
and walking pace, and were watched for upwards of
two hours, during which time it is alleged they were
visible, the approach of darkness at length concealing
them from view. Many troops were seen in succession,
and frequently the last but one in a troop quitted his
position, and galloped to the front and took up the
same pace with the rest. The number of persons who
saw this spectral army amounted to about ^^, and the
attestation of the facts signed by two of the party
boars date, 21st July, 1785."

In the previous year "on a fine summer's evening
a singular meteorous appearance was observed on
Souterfell. It resembled the figure of a man with a
dog in pursuit of horses, running at a rapid pace till
they got out of sight at the other end of the fell.
On the following morning, two men ascended the
mountain in full expectation of finding the man dead,
and of picking up some of the horses shoes, which
they thought must have been cast while galloping at
such a furious pace, but no traces of man or horse
could be found. Indeed the place is so exceedingly
steep that a horse could scarcely travel on it at all."

I have referred to these matters at length, because
the phenomena witnessed at St. Neots is said to have

Legends, etc., of Huntingdo7ishire. 171

been similar to them, but no further details are given.
There are records of spectral troops and persons being
seen near Stockton in the Forest, Yorkshire, in 1792,
and at Harrogate, on June 28th, 1812.

"Whenever such things have been seen the common
people have attributed them to supernatural agencies,
and this may have given rise to the number of legends
which exist, not only in all parts of England, but on
the Continent, of spectral troops and spectral horsemen.
It may be that the atmosphere of the county of
Huntingdon has reflective qualities peculiarly its own,
for it is stated in the Peterborough Advertiser, that a
mirage was witnessed at Fletton, in 1885.

Possibly the spectral huntsmen at Wilton castle, in
Durham, and the headless horses drawing a carriage
up the hill at Balby, in Northumberland, may have

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