Witchcraft and Magic at the John Clare Theatre

Francis Young

This afternoon I spoke at Peterborough’s John Clare Theatre on the subject of ‘Witchcraft and Magic in the Fens’, an event organised by Peterborough Archives. My talk focussed particularly on evidence of witchcraft and magic from Peterborough and the surrounding countryside. I am always delighted on such occasions to hear stories from the audience, and on this occasion I was not disappointed. One audience member reported that, as a small child, her mother (who was born in 1891) suffered from warts and the family was unable to afford a doctor. The girl was accordingly sent to a Peterborough ‘witch’ who lived in a brownstone cottage at the junction of Cobden Street and Walpole Street. The ‘witch’ presented the girl with a snail; the audience member was unable to remember the rest of the story, but it is likely that the snail was meant to be rubbed on the warts…

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The Smoking Baby of Fressingfield

vintage-2792557__340The Fressingfield Witch was inspired by articles from national and local papers about Mary Ann Corbyn and her alleged use of witchcraft to procure the death of her step-granddaughter.  Below is an extract from the Framlingham Weekly News 12 April 1890:

“An inquest was held on Wednesday evening at Gooch’s Farm House, Fressingfield, before C W Chaston Esq touching the death of Edith Margaret Hammond, aged 11 weeks, daughter of Ben Hammond, agricultural labourer…

…Deceased  seemed very queer on Friday, and early on Saturday morning was taken home in a perambulator by witness and his wife.  On the way they noticed smoke issuing from the perambulator and deceased died after arrival home.

Sarah Hammond, the mother, said that when she took deceased out of the perambulator, the clothing was quite hot and dry and smelt of brimstone.  She had no doubt but that deceased’s death was due to witchcraft and wickedness…

…George Corbyn of Wingfield, grandfather to the deceased, gave it as his opinion that his late wife had the powers of a witch and that he in consequence used always to try to do what she wanted him.

The jury found that deceased came to her death from shock to the system, caused by the external application of some irritant, the nature of which there was not sufficient evidence to show.”

 

 

 

 

The Fressingfield Witch…

… and it’s here courtesy of Publishnation who have helped me hit my target of publication by the end of October.

The Fressingfield Witch is a work of fiction based on a series of factual events from the 1890’s. It takes place in Suffolk, England. As usual, one or two of the characters come from my own family tree and the crime is solved with a combination of sleuthing and genealogy.  The book blurb is below:

“During the 1645 Suffolk witch trials, hundreds of innocent women were convicted. Death and uncertainty stalked the land. 

Fast forward to 1890 and two mysterious deaths in the village of Fressingfield stir up rumours of witchcraft again. Lawrence Harpham is dispatched from Bury St Edmunds to investigate. But Lawrence is still tormented by the tragic loss of his family in a house fire. Can he overcome his own demons and discover who is behind the flurry of deaths? 

The Fressingfield Witch is a fictional murder mystery based on true events. Two of Suffolk’s darkest cases of witchcraft are weaved together in one compelling story.”

The Fressingfield Witch can be purchased through the Amazon Kindle Store or  Lulu Publishing

Fressingfield Witch cover small snip

 

 

 

A Writers Life – Taking a break from the day job

IMG_1191It’s the first day of a week away from work. The weather is disgusting. My dog is sullenly pacing round the house eyeing me with disapproval. It’s so foul outside, that today we are going nowhere.

I like a walk. It keeps the dog happy and my Fitbit from nagging. Today my Fitbit sits redundantly on my arm while I contemplate the pile of books I have been looking forward to reading, but have lain gathering dust on my bedside table while other things take priority.

The Fressingfield Witch, is one of those other things. My latest novel is a Victorian murder mystery set in Suffolk and based on a real news item that hit the local headlines in 1890. It was an allegation of witchcraft. The news item was only short, but had an immediate impact on me. For starters, it involved one of my very distant relatives. That’s always a good lure to a genealogist. And it involved death and witchcraft, so my inner writer pricked up her ears. Before I knew it, we had conjured up a novel from this tiny eleven-lined piece of inspiration.

I’ve taken a risk with this book. The real village of Fressingfield has been populated with actual people from the 1891 census. This will be like marmite to some. They will either appreciate the idea of real people living on in print, or they will disapprove of the merging together of fact and fiction. I hope it is the former.

The final cover and finished drafts are with Publishnation and should be ready for purchase very soon. All of which gives me the rest of the week to catch up with a little light reading of my own. Unless the rain lifts and the dog demands a walk. Doing a little rain dance now…..

Front Cover snip

 

 

 

 

Summer sale – Vote for Murder just 99p

My new book has been plotted, written and is now under going a rigorous edit.  Set in the 1890’s in an East Anglian village, it combines fact and fiction with a large dose of mystery and a generous sprinkling of genealogy.  This illustration gives a teaser of the back theme.

TFW (working title) will be published later on this year.  In the meantime, the kindle version of Vote for Murder is on sale in the UK at just 99p.  Suffragettes, secrets and sleuthing – what’s not to like…

Download Vote For Murder Amazon Kindle here

 

Overstrand in the Great War

overstrand-sales-leaflet_sm

This new book, published by Poppyland Publishing with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and Overstrand Parish Council, tells the story of all the soldiers, sailors and airmen of Overstrand and Suffield Park who died in the First World War. It also gives accounts of those who returned to the village after the conflict.

With 208 pages & colour throughout, ‘Overstrand in the Great War’ provides a fitting tribute to the young – and sometimes not so young – men and women of Overstrand and Suffield Park from a century ago.  General the Lord Dannatt kindly contributes a foreword and puts their sacrifice and service into the context of the continuing commitment required of our armed services.

Author – Tim Bennett

Military Research – Martin Dennis