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A Belated Introduction

Like writing a biography or a CV, an introduction post is a bloody difficult thing to write. Its essentially defined by trying to strike a balance upon the fine line between self promotion and chronic narcissism. In reality introduction posts on blogs probably serve no purpose at all anyway besides acting as a psychological aid to me as the writer. I know that nobody is ever likely to read this, but then I guess I need to start somewhere with it. So why not here.

Although this blog is fresh and devoid of any previous posts, it had been running with a number of posts on it up until a few weeks ago, but after sitting down and thinking about the direction I wanted to go with both this written blog and my Youtube account, I decided to reset the whole thing and start over from scratch. When I get the time, the posts that were on here before the purge will be sorted through for grammatical errors and reposted, but its probably going to take at least a few weeks before I get around to doing …

Witchcraft In England (Newspaper Letters)

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Southend Standard 11th February, 1960 Letters by Eric Maple and H. E. Priestly. Sir, - Recently, while investigating the legends of Carewdon (sic), Essex (still known as “the Witch County”) I met an old lady of eighty-six who had lived in the village as a girl.

She told me that at the age of fourteen she had been present at a ritual in her own home, at which several old women tried to destroy the power of another whom they regarded as a witch. They sat in a darkened room and burned nail parings and human hair upon the fire.

Does anyone know of a later instance of such a ceremony.

Eric Maple.

London, E.18

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James “Cunning” Murrell

“Cunning” Murrell appears in the Census of 1841, as a shoemaker, aged 51. If this is the case, he was born about 1790, but this is not certain as in the early censuses people were never very particular to a year or two when giving their ages.

Also in the census return, living at the same house were “Elizer,” ages 20; Matilda, 18; Edward,…

The Dark World Of The Essex Witches

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Southend Times 28th December, 1960 By Eric Maple Essex is the traditional home of folk legends, those strange tales of ghosts and devils which were once so common in country districts. These stories were often sad, sometimes morbid, embodying the spirit of people whose minds were steeped in the darkest of superstitions, Witchcraft.

Foremost amongst the characters who helped to keep the old beliefs in witches alive for more than 50 years after they had died out else where, was the strange Hadleigh shoemaker, Cunning Murrell who lived in a little lane near Hadleigh church. James Murrell was probably the last of the old English White Wizards, for the rites that he practiced belonged to the 16th century rather than the 19th century when he actually lived, and it is indeed remarkable that his curious craft should have survived for so long in the quiet corner of Essex known as The Rochford Hundred.

Cunning Murrell cured warts, prescribed herbal remedies for ailing humans and amulets for si…

Are There Witches At Canewdon?

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Sunday Times 14th of August, 1957 Phenomenist Research, which has its headquarters in Fairfax Drive, Westcliff, organised a 'ghost hunt' to St. Nicolas' Church, Canewdon, on Friday.

Local legend has it that as long as the church tower remains there will always be six witches at Canewdon – three in silk and three in cotton. The Churchwarden told members of the expedition that if a person circles the church alone at midnight the witches and ghosts will come out and sing to them.

Several members of the party experienced a strange psychic 'cold' near the altar, and two of them say they saw “a weird aura of light surrounding the top of the tower.”

Although each member in turn walked around the church they spotted no spectres. Mr. P. B. Godfrey-Bartram carried out a mercury test which proved negative. Reliable authorities state that if there is a strong psychic influence mercury will vibrate.

The St. Osyth Witches Had Their Bones Riveted

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In Essex Countryside Magazine, Vol 69, October 1962By Eric Maple During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the shadow of cruel persecution overhung the whole of the eastern counties, particularly the Tendring hundred of Essex, bringing terror into the lives of those unfortunates who came under suspicion of witchcraft. Any family whose remotest ancestor had been charged with this crime was suspect, while those who practiced the minor idolatries of white witchcraft, healing and charming away warts, were always likely to come under the hammer of Puritan intolerance.

The village of St. Osyth, or Tosey to use the local pronounciation, suffered dreadfully during this reign of terror, when there were two severe persecutions, one in 1582 and the second in 1645, each of which supplied victims to the hangman.

Then with the decline of the Puritan power the terror receded and the dreadful incidents slowly faded from Essex memories, until in 1921 when this story opens the witch persecutions a…

Witchcraft Was Rife

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In Essex Countryside Magazine
Issue 132, January 1968 Witchcraft! The blood curdling tales of witches, wisemen and cunningmen. Evil enchantments and herbal brews. Horrific stories of torture and hanging of many quite innocent people, whose only crime was being a little too simple-minded, or having used some herbal remedy to cure an ill.
These are certainly not the sort of thing we associate with our peaceful Essex countryside, yet in the 15th to 17th centuries, and in some places even into the 19th century, witchcraft was rife, and in Essex alone 550 people were accused of witchcraft, and at least 55 of them sentenced to hang.
Witchcraft once hung like a pall over the south east coast of Essex, in such places as Rochford, Leigh, Hadleigh and Manningtree to name but a few, with Canewdon said to be at the heart of it all. 
It is thought that the ancient belief in witchcraft originated from far-off days when northern invaders found the south east coastline of Essex a good place to land.
T…

Smugglers Who Used Witches as Cover

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Evening Echo 1st May, 1970 Witchcraft keeps rearing its ugly head in Essex.

The position was summed up by the vicar of Little Wakering in his parish magazine in 1933.

He said: “Deep in the heart of country people is still a religion of secret paganism which causes a mysterious resistance to the essential truths of Christianity?"

Today's clergy have changed. One told me he had much more important things - “honestly,” he said “much more important” - to worry about than witchcraft taking place about 100 yards from the spot in Southend where he was standing.

But today's people have no changed. The evidence?

I phoned someone in Southend, asked her if she knew any witches and was immediately told of two;About six out of ten people in Essex to whom I spoke warned me against leaving anything behind when I spoke to a witch, in case it put me in the witch's power;Something akin to witchcraft is growing among people who work with computers. There is an incredible widespread beli…

Toads and the History of Essex Witchcraft

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In Essex Countryside Magazine, Issue 320, Page 31. 1983 Written by Dr. John Leo Grange In 1609 an Essex witch called Redcap confessed under torture that she and her coven collected toads for the sabbath, and when they presented these animals to the Devil he blessed them with his left hand, after which they were killed and cooked with fat in a stewpot to make “an unguent which is of virtue to help us in our arts and pleasures and our trasportations”.

More than 300 years later, in the Sunday Chronical for September 9, 1928, a Horseheath resident told how a dark stranger had called on a woman nearby called Redcap (a traditional and sometimes hereditary witch name in Essex) and asked her to sign her name in a book, where-upon he promised her she would have five creatures to obey her. Shortly afterwards she was seen with a rat, a cat, a ferret, a mouse, and a toad, which were assumed to have been her familiars. She boiled up the toad with fat to make an ointment with which she smeared hers…

Southend Was Surrounded by Witches and Ghosts

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Southend Standard 29th of December, 1960 By J. K. Payne Long ago on dark winters nights those who believed in ghosts and were at all nervy must have found it an ordeal to travel the roads in and around Southend. An old Barling inhabitant told the writer some years ago that during his childhood, spent not far from Barling, such tales of witches and other frightening things were told that he was scared to go to the door at night.

Those who passed by the north front of Southchurch Lawn, now Eton House School, might have been startled by the ghost with a lantern that is said to haunt that spot and if they went on to Little Wakering, at Baker's Grave, they might have heard a ghostly baker if the night was windy. A baker of that neigbourhood is said to have hanged himself on a tree where the three roads meet and on windy nights his heels were heard knocking together as if he still hung on to it. If one were brave enough to run a hundred times round the tree one could see the baker knead…

A Revival Of Witchcraft In Essex

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In Essex Countryside Magazine.  Issue 283, Pg.26. By Eric Maple While lecturing on Essex superstition at a village hall last summer I was asked by a member of my audience: "Why is Essex so often called the 'Witch County'?” This happens to be a frequent question for which there is a ready answer. Essex acquired its doleful reputation as a “Witch county” due to certain tragic events of the seventeenth century when the infamous witch finder general, Matthew Hopkins, operating from Manningtree, became responsible for the trial and execution of scores of women whom he accused of practicing the black arts and co-operating with the Devil. On one dreadful day in 1645 no less than nineteen of these had been hanged on a single gallows at Chelmsford. The skeleton of one victim was found riveted bone to bone in a garden at St. Osyth.

For long afterwards, Essex folk continued to harass suspected witches often with tragic results. Just over a hundred years ago in 1863 a mob at Sible H…

The Chelmsford Witches

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In Essex Countryside Magazine, Issue 112, May 1966 By Raymond Lemont-Brown The very fact that Sir Gilbert Gerard, Queen Elizabeth I's Attorney General, came to the trial gave the whole proceedings an air of dignified importance. July 27, 1566, was extremely hot as most of the population of Chelmsford pushed and jostled for a good vantage point from where to view the entertainment the like of which had never been seen since Sampson's troupe of brown bears had broken loose in the market place.

The people were almost silent, their hearts full of fear as well as excitement. On an elevated platform sat the inquiry board, now in the second day of it's investigations. In the centre sat the Attorney General, to his right John Southcote, a justice of the Queen's Bench, and to his left Thomas Cole, the phlegmatic parson from the edge of town, and with him Sir John Fortescue. The crowd were greatly awed by the presence of such distinguished gentlemen.

As the inquiry board membe…

Canewdon - The Bedeviled Village

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In Essex Countryside Magazine Issue 283, Pg.26 By Eric Maple While lecturing on Essex superstition at a village hall last summer I was asked by a member of my audience: "Why is Essex so often called the 'Witch County'?” This happens to be a frequent question for which there is a ready answer. Essex acquired its doleful reputation as a “Witch county” due to certain tragic events of the seventeenth century when the infamous witch finder general, Matthew Hopkins, operating from Manningtree, became responsible for the trial and execution of scores of women whom he accused of practicing the black arts and co-operating with the Devil. On one dreadful day in 1645 no less than nineteen of these had been hanged on a single gallows at Chelmsford. The skeleton of one victim was found riveted bone to bone in a garden at St. Osyth.

For long afterwards, Essex folk continued to harass suspected witches often with tragic results. Just over a hundred years ago in 1863 a mob at Sible Heddi…

A Case of Nineteenth-Century Witchcraft at Easthorpe

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In Essex Countryside Magazine,

Issue 115, August 1966

By G.W Martin The peace of the small village of Easthorpe was shattered during the summer of 1858 by rumours of witchcraft, and some amazing scenes took place that were reminiscent of the seventeeth-century witch-hunters.

It appears that one Emma Brazier, ages twenty-two, the daughter of a labourer living in the village, started the commotion. Shouting around the village and using the most abusive language, she maintained that she had been bewitched by a Mrs. Mole, aged seventy-five, the wife of a labouring man – both very highly respected villagers.

Mrs. Mole was also accused by the Braziers of working marvellous spells upon their livestock, such as causing one of their pigs to climb a cherry tree and help itself to the fruit from the topmost branches.

To counter the so-called witch, the Brazier family called in the services of a “cunning man” named Burrell who lived in the neighbouring village of Copford. This man, nicknamed “the wi…