The Tradition of Well Dressing

We are now approaching a fascinating tradition of well dressing. This is an annual event which takes places predominantly in villages throughout Derbyshire, but it is now also spreading to other parts of the country.

There are various ideas as to its origin varying from offering thanks to gods for a reliable water supply, to celebrating the purity of water to celebrating the waters constancy during a prolonged drought. It seems unlikely that the true origin will ever been established, but whatever its origin it is still very much alive and well today.

The village of Tissington, Derbyshire and its well-dressing or well-flowering as it was previously known, was one of the first that we came across in the Georgina era. This article in the Derby Mercury of 26 November 1823 sheds a little more light on the event.

Courtesy of calendarcustoms.com

Tissington ‘Well flowering’, Tissington, Nov 15th, 1823

TO THE EDITOR OF THE DERBY MERCURY

Sir, – Having a few days ago read in the Derby Mercury, some account relative to the above; I am induced with all deference to Mr. Rhodes, as the author, to submit to your notice a few particulars, therein omitted, which, tho’ trifling in themselves, will not, it is presumed, prove altogether uninteresting they form part of a letter, written by a youth at school, to his parents: –

During my residence in this village, I have been gratified by one of the most pleasing sights I ever beheld. I should much wish you to be present upon a similar occasion. I will, however, in the meantime, endeavour to give you something like a description of the festival to which I have alluded.

Holy Thursday, the time referred to, is observed here with an almost enthusiastic respect, amounting, in some instances, to a degree of veneration.

Tideswell Well Dressing

Perhaps, no part of the world is more peculiarly favoured by providence in the gift of good water than this village; and the above-mentioned day appears to have been fixed upon, by an almost immemorial custom, to make merry and return united thanks for the same, in the following impressive manner.

While the younger branches of the community are busily engaged in gathering flowers, moss etc. during the first part of the week, some few, of rather mature years, occupy themselves in preparing the Springs, or, as they are here called ‘Wells’, tho’ not exceeding in depth a foot and a half, to receive their annual decorations.

Arches, or other fancy shapes, are accordingly formed out of a strong plank, upon which, fine clay, worked to the consistence of stiff mortar, is spread, and the embroidering part, if I may be allowed the expression, commences.

A Well Dressing in the making (Hollinsclough, 2006). Courtesy of Welldressing.com
A Well Dressing in the making (Hollinsclough, 2006). Courtesy of Welldressing.com

Various tasteful devices are now sketched on the clay, upon which, short ellipt flowers, of diverse sorts and colours, among which, the blood daisy, from its rich velvet hue, is held in greatest esteem, are stuck thereon, so extremely close and regular that not the least atom of the ground-work can be seen; each Spring also a flower printed Motto, in allusion to the ascension of our Saviour. For instance

I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God’

St John, chapter 20, verse 17.

On the principal Well, May 16th 1822:

The joyous day at length arrives, ushered in by the ringing of bells, and smiling faces; the decorations are speedily erected over the wells, while garlands, bough etc. disposed in the most fantastic and fairy-like manner, embellish the whole.

And now, labourer, stand thou still ‘tis a holyday for all; the poorest peasant has contrived, out of his hard earnings, to brew a ‘peck of malt’ to treat the passing guest; all doors are thrown open, and all comers experience the English Farmer’s hearty welcome.

‘Around the glossy board in sparkling pride,

The oft fill’d Tankard reels’.

One particular which tho’ last not least, is, that an appropriate sermon is preached; after which the music and signers go around, accompanied by hundreds of visitors from many miles and sing a psalm at each Spring.

With regard to the origin of the above, I have not been able to gather any certain information; prevailing opinion however, dates its rise from the Druids; be that as it may, the custom, as practised at Tissington, far exceeds in beauty and chastity of style everything that is generally conceived of Village rusticity.

Holymoorside well dressing celebrating Jane Austen, and with Chatsworth House in the background.
Holymoorside well dressing celebrating Jane Austen, and with Chatsworth House in the background. Via Chatsworth House twitter @ChatsworthHouse.

For those interested in visiting a well dressing this year, this link will take you to this year’s calendar.

Featured Image

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Lover's Leap, Eyam, Derbyshire, Looking West, 1890s by William Highfield (1870-1957), Courtesy of Eyam Museum

‘Lover’s Leap’, Derbyshire

Just outside the village of Eyam, in the Peak District lies the village of Stoney Middleton where, according to folklore, in 1762 a young woman by the name of Hannah Baddeley, who was born in the late 1730s, tried to commit suicide by throwing herself over the cliff top.

This is her story as told by a somewhat over enthusiastic reporter for The Buxton Herald, some 80 years later the event, so read into it as you wish! We have tried to find references to the story closer to its time, but somehow the press of the day managed to miss this story, despite reporting similar ones, as you will see at the end.

Lovers Leap. In 1762 Hannah Baddeley was the most beautiful girl in Stoney Middleton. Unable to face the future after being rejected by her lover William Barnsley, she decided to end her life. She climbed the cliff above you, proclaimed her love for William and jumped. Her woollen petticoats billowed out and parachuted her down to safety, Cured of her desire for William, she died December 12th 1764. Derbyshire folklore
© Copyright David Lally and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Hannah Baddeley, a very beautiful young lady was greatly admired for the ardour of love which her incomparable charms created in the bosom of the village swains of Stoney Middleton, the place of her birth and residence. Amongst the many who sought to obtain the affections of the innocent young Hannah, was a young, intelligent man, named Baldwin, who, after countless visits had the happiness to think that his labour would be crowned with success. Enraptured with joy, Baldwin became even more assiduous until he beheld in ecstasy the unequivocal signs of reciprocal affection.

Humble in worldly circumstances, yet the loving couple felt all the blissful glow, the undefinable and delicious sensation of first, pure love. Often, they walked forth and enjoyed their lonely wandering a happiness that to them momentarily increased. The tangled walks along the rugged steeps which overhang the village of their homes, were as a paradise; their hearts were entwined round each other in all the glowing fervency of concentrated bliss.

Months passed away, yet the blissful sunshine of love, in which Baldwin and Hannah walked seemed to increase in glowing, fervent and deeply intoxicating splendor: they were happy and dreamed not of its transitory nature. Alas! Alas! experience tells us of countless instances, in which suns have risen in hope and glory, in which bright prospects of future happiness have been suddenly overshadowed and darkened by the sable shades of maddening disappointment, bitterly agonizing.

Inscrutable as are the operations of the human mind, still, from certain effects, it may be presumed that there is in reality a kind of similarly exiting between the immaterial portion of man, and the material things of the world. When any physical agent or instrument is exercised immoderately, it is soon destroyed; so with the mind, if any of its affections be excited to an unnatural height or pitch, it will, if not regulated in time, lose its zest, become in a manner paralyzed and decay.

The conduct of Baldwin might be instanced in corroboration of the opinion here advanced: for, strange and novel as it may appear, in about twelve months from the commencement of his love for the lovely Hannah, he relapsed gradually into a state of luke-warmness as respects his passion, and at length into total apathy. His visits became less frequent and soon ceased forever. But how was this borne by the lovely confiding Hannah she sank beneath the stroke with all the terrible anguish of a broken spirit. For hours she would sit gazing at the wall in silent stupefaction; then would burst forth a flood of tears bringing short solace. Hapless Hannah! Despair at length began to urge her to escape the bitter pangs she endured by self-destruction: terrible – awful remedy!

A Country Girl by Paul Sandby, c.1760s. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
A Country Girl by Paul Sandby, c.1760s. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

After a few months past in this deplorable condition, Hannah resolved to put period to her miserable existence by throwing herself from one of the highest rocks in Middleton dale, a resolution too horrible to contemplate. She repaired to the top of a towering rock early in the morning of the day following her resolution. Her bonnet and handkerchief she laid on an adjoining thorn, and with clasped hands and loose hair waving in the morning breeze, she passionately thus exclaimed

‘O my Baldwin, my Baldwin, false Baldwin, no I will not call thee false, my love, my life, thee whom I loved, I still love thee still. O my love, wilt thou not come to my grave and shed one tear to the memory of her who died for thee? I’ll bless thee again, my love, and then from this dizzy height I’ll cast myself and prove to thee and the world, my love is stronger than death. I sink, I go, my love, my love’.

Hannah sprang from the rock, which is upwards of eighty feet high, but incredible as it may seem, she fell upon a rocky projection, then among some thorns which then grew from the side of the rock, and reached the ground very little injured. The villagers were soon on the spot, and the rash maid was conveyed home, but the sense of her miraculous escape totally erased from her mind the maddening it of love under which she had laboured. She lived a few years after, unmarried and died after having spent that period in a pious and highly exemplary manner*. Such is a brief outline of the story which has been given the designation ‘Lover’s Leap’ to the high and romantic rock in Middleton Dale – a story well authenticated, as may be satisfactorily proved.

Not until the last line of the article does the author tells their readers that ‘the name Baldwin is assumed in consequence of the author not having any means at hand to ascertain the real name of Hannah’s lover‘. Quite why he came up with that name will remain a mystery!

As with any folklore story, newspapers over time have recorded events somewhat differently, some saying that her fall was broken by some small trees and when found she was taken home and gradually recovered from the serious injuries, although she was crippled as a result of the fall.

Other accounts say that she was found by workmen at the pit and when asked how she fell she said that she had been walking up the dale to fetch the cows and her foot slipped.

We know that Baldwin was not the real name of the gentleman, but other reports name him as Johnson and say that he was quite a charmer and told all the young girls the same story about how much he loved them, Hannah was, apparently, just one of many and that he moved on from the neighbourhood after this occurrence. According to reports locally however, the gentleman in question was in fact a William Barnsley.

This idea of young women throwing themselves off high cliffs after being rejected seems to have been somewhat more commonplace than you would have imagined, as there are several places named ‘Lover’s Leap’ around the country, all with similar stories as their origin. We’ve listed a few below, including one leap down the necessary!

True Briton, Wednesday, February 1, 1797

 

St. James’s Chronicle or the British Evening Post, April 25, 1769 – April 27, 1769

 

* Although we have not been able to view the parish records for Stoney Middleton, another site appears to confirm Hannah’s burial on the 12th December 1764 and gives her parents’ names as William and Joan Baddeley.

Sources used:

Derbyshire Courier, 21 September 1878

The Derby Mercury, Wednesday, February 14, 1883

The Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald, Saturday, May 04, 1889

True Briton, Wednesday, February 1, 1797

Featured Image (although not Georgian it shows exactly where Lover’s Leap is):

Lover’s Leap, Eyam, Derbyshire, Looking West, 1890s by William Highfield (1870-1957), Courtesy of Eyam Museum

 

Punch or May Day by Benjamin Robert Haydon, 1829; Tate;

May Day: the tradition of the Jack-in-the-Green and chimney sweeps

May Day, or, Jack-in-the-Green

We’ll banish Care, and all his Train

Nor thought of Sadness round us play

Fly distant hence, corroding pain

For happiness shall crown this Day.

(20th June 1795)

A Jack-in-the-Green was once a traditional sight amongst English May Day celebrations. Dancing at the head of processions on the day, often noisy and drunk, the Jack-in-the-Green was a man who covered himself in a conical or pyramidal framework decorated with green foliage, concealing his body. He resembled a walking tree or bush. The parades were riotous affairs, usually consisting of a King and Queen (or a Lord and Lady) as well as the Jack-in-the-Green, together with jesters, clowns, chimney sweeps and musicians.

A Jack-in-the-Green procession in a village, with the Jack in the centre flanked by two figures, and two children dancing in the foreground. c.1840. © The Trustees of the British Museum
A Jack-in-the-Green procession in a village, with the Jack in the centre flanked by two figures, and two children dancing in the foreground. c.1840. © The Trustees of the British Museum

It is believed that the custom began from the tradition of making garlands of flowers for May Day and got a little out of hand, resulting in the Jack-in-the-Green being covered head to foot. Although no-one is too sure why the Jack-in-the-Green is usually associated with chimney sweeps. One theory is that it was the Sweeps Guilds who increasingly enlarged the size of the May Day garlands, hoping that the people watching the procession would give them their coins as they passed by rather than donate them to the other participants in the parade. (May Day was a traditional holiday for chimney sweeps; it is sometimes known as ‘Chimney Sweeper’s day’.) First recorded in London, Jack-in-the-Greens were soon appearing across the country.

Sweeps' Day in Upper Lisson Street, London, British School, c.1835-37. Museum of London
Sweeps’ Day in Upper Lisson Street, London, British School, c.1835-37. Museum of London

Although Jack-in-the-Greens can still be seen in some town and village May Day celebrations, often associated now with the custom of the Green Man and signifying spring and rebirth, the custom largely died out in the Victorian era, replaced instead by a more sedate May Queen.

We’ve found some references to eighteenth-century May Day celebrations which include Jack-in-the-Greens in the newspapers. The earliest known reference dates to 1775.

Jack of the Green had made his garland by five in the morning, and got under his shady building by seven…

(Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser, 2nd May 1775)

May Day - or Jack in the green, 1795. © The Trustees of the British Museum
May Day – or Jack in the green, 1795. © The Trustees of the British Museum

May Day in London, 1786 was awash with events which caused the newspapers to take note. Warren Hastings, statesman and first Governor of the Presidency of Fort William in Bengal, India was facing questions by government ministers over his role in the Maratha War, Frances Lewis stood trial at the Old Bailey for the murder of Ann Rose and a Jack-in-the-Green merrily cantered through the London streets.

LONDON

Yesterday being the first of May, several curious Circumstances took Place. – The Sweeps and Milkmaids, with Jack o’ th’ Green, danced through the Streets – Mr. Hastings appeared at the Bar of the House of Commons to defend his Cause, though no Impeachment is yet made out – And a Woman tried a the Old-Bailey for the Murder of another Woman, was found guilty of Manslaughter.

(Northampton Mercury, 6th May 1786)

View of the large detached Montagu House at the north west corner of Portman Square, its name derived from Elizabeth Montagu, who the house was built for; figures in colourful costumes dance on street outside supported by men with instruments, a small crowd gathers to watch, the building was demolished in the Blitz. 1851 © The Trustees of the British Museum
A later view of the large detached Montagu House at the north west corner of Portman Square, its name derived from Elizabeth Montagu, who the house was built for; figures in colourful costumes dance on street outside supported by men with instruments, a small crowd gathers to watch. © The Trustees of the British Museum

LONDON

Yesterday being the 1st of May, the Honourable Mrs. Montague entertained the Chimney-sweepers according to annual custom, with roast beef, mutton, and baked plumb-pudding, in the lawn of her house in Portman-square, and after their regale gave them each a shilling. Mrs. Montague appeared in good spirits among the Nobility whom she invited to see the motley company. The outside of the place was thronged with people, carriages, and carts; among the latter several broke down by being overloaded with spectators. The Duchess of York, in her curricle, stopped some time, and seemed highly delighted with the Jacks in the Green, the pyramids of tankards, and the dancing of the sweeps and their ladies on the lawn.

(Staffordshire Advertiser, 6th May 1797)

Frederica, Duchess of York, 1795. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
Frederica, Duchess of York, 1795. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

We’ll leave you with this video of a modern day Jack-in-the-Green, from the May Day Festival at Hastings in 2016.

Sources not mentioned above:

Jack in the Green – a chimney sweep’s tale by Lucy Lilliman, Social History intern at Leeds Museums and Galleries, 2013

The Company of the Green Man – The Traditional Jack-in-the-Green

Header image:

Punch or May Day by Benjamin Robert Haydon, 1829; Tate;

Fortune-Telling using Moles

Yes, this is folklore, unless anyone can confirm otherwise, and no, we are not talking about the small furry creature kind of moles! These are often referred to as birth marks or beauty marks and judging back the lack of images we have been able to find depicting people with moles, it seems likely that the artists of the day possibly ignored these.

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According to ‘Every lady’s own fortune-teller, or an infallible guide to the hidden decrees of fate, being a new & regular system for foretelling future events’ which was published towards the end of the 1700s, experience shows that the presence of moles can provide clues as to one’s future. So do let us know if you have a mole and if the statement pertaining to it is true – we would love to know.

First it is necessary to know the size of the mole, its colour, whether it is perfectly round, oblong or angular because each of those will add to, or diminish the force of the indication. The larger the mole, the great will be the propensity or adversity of the person; the smaller the mole, the less will be his good or bad luck.

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A mole on either cheek signifies that the person never shall rise above mediocrity in the point of fortune, though at the same time he never will sink to real poverty. Image courtesy of Lewis Walpole

If the mole is round, it forebodes good; if oblong, a moderate share of fortunate events; if angular, it indicates a mixture of good and evil.

The deeper its colour, the more it announces favour or disgrace; the lighter the less of either.

If it is very hairy, much misfortune is to be expected, but if few long hairs grow upon it, it denotes that your undertakings will be prosperous.

We will further remark only, that moles of the middling and common size and colour are those we speak; the rest may be gathered from what we have said above; but as it may frequently happen that modesty will sometimes hinder persons from showing their moles, you must depend upon their own representation of the for your opinion.

A mole that stands on the right side of the forehead or right temple, signifies that the person will arrive to sudden wealth and honour.

On the right eyebrow, announces speedy marriage, and that the person to whom you will be married will possess many amiable qualities and a good fortune. On the left of either of those three places, announces unexpected disappointment in your most sanguine wishes.

A mole on the outside corner of either eye, denotes the person to be of a steady, sober and sedate disposition; but will be liable to a violent death.

A mole on either cheek signifies that the person never shall rise above mediocrity in the point of fortune, though at the same time he never will sink to real poverty.

A mole on the nose, shows that the person will have good luck in most of his or her undertakings.

A mole on the lip, either upper or lower proves the person to be fond of delicate things, and very much given to the pleasures of love, in which he or she will commonly be successful.

A mole on the chin, shows that the person will be attended with great propensity and be highly esteemed.

A mole of the side of the neck show that the person will narrowly escape suffocation, but afterwards rise to great consideration by an unexpected legacy or inheritance.

A mole on the throat denotes that the person shall become rich by marriage.

A mole on the right breast, declares the person to be exposed to a sudden reverse of comfort to distress, by unavoidable accidents; most of his children will be girls. A mole on the left breast, signifies success in undertakings, an amorous disposition and that most of his children will be boys. Under the left breast over the heart shows that a man will be of a warm disposition, unsettled in mind, fond of ramblings, and light in his conduct; in a woman, it shows sincerity in love, quick conception and easy travail in childbirth.

A mole of the belly denotes the person to be addicted to sloth and gluttony; selfish in almost all articles and seldom inclined to be nice or careful in point of dress.

A mole on either hip shows that the person will have many children and that such of them a survive will be healthy, lusty and patient of hardships.

A mole of the right thigh shows that the person will become rich and have good luck in marriage. On the left, denotes that the person suffers much by poverty and want of friends.

A mole on the right knee, signifies that the person will be fortunate in the choice of a partner for life and meet with few disappointments in the world. One on the left knee portends that the person will be rash, inconsiderate and hasty, but modest in cool blood, honest and inclined to good behaviour in every sense of the word.

A mole on either ankle denotes a man to be inclined to effeminacy and elegance of dress: a woman to be courageous, active and industrious.

A mole on either foot forebodes sudden illness or unexpected misfortune.

A mole on the right shoulder signifies prudence, discretion and wisdom. On the left, declares a testy contention and ungovernable spirit.

A mole on the right arm denotes vigour and undaunted courage; on the left resolution in battle.

A mole near either elbow denotes restlessness, a roving and unsteady temper, also a discontentedness with those the person is obliged to live constantly with.

A mole between the elbow and the wrist promises the person prosperity, but not until he has undergone many hardships.

A mole on the finger or between it and the ends of the fingers, signifies industry, fidelity and conjugal affection.

A mole on any part of the shoulders to the loins signifies imperceptible decline and gradual decay, whether of health or wealth.

A mole on the loins shows vigour, especially in the duties of love.

 

Featured Image

Legends of the sea

There have always been rumours of mermaids and mermen in the seas, and these appear to have been seen on a fairly regular basis during the eighteenth-century with the newspapers so helpfully providing us with detailed descriptions of such creatures. We will leave our readers to judge for themselves whether any of these accounts could have even a grain of truth.

The Mermaid of Galloway by William Hilton II (1786–1839) Tabley House Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-mermaid-of-galloway-103846
The Mermaid of Galloway by William Hilton II (1786–1839)
Tabley House Collection

Weekly Journal or Saturday’s Post, Saturday, August 31, 1717

Letters from Leghorn of the 15th tell us that there has been seen in those seas a terrible mermaid or rather merman; that it shows itself at least 13 or 14-foot-high above the water; but if any boat or vessel makes towards it, then it makes a strange frightful noise and plunges into the sea. Several that have been it represent it as the most hideous monster that has ever been seen in the world.

Dublin Journal, Tuesday, October 12, 1725

Some particular advices from Brest, in France say that on that coast has lately appeared a strange sort of sea monster, in the form of a man, eight-foot-high call’d a merman; his teeth are white as ivory, he hath black curl’d hair, flat nose and in other members proportionable to his stature without deformity.

Weekly Journal or British Gazetteer (London, England), Saturday, December 11, 1725 provides a somewhat lengthy and detailed description of the merman, sadly there seems to be no evidence of any of the people named actually existing – unless you know otherwise, if so, we would love to hear from you.

The wind being easterly, we had thirty fathoms of water, when at ten o’clock in the morning a sea-monster like a man appeared near our ship; first on the larboard where the mate was, whose name is William Lomone, who took a grappling iron to pull him up: but our captain named Oliver Morin, hindered him, being afraid that the monster would drag him away into the sea. They said Lomone struck him only on the back to make him turnabout, that he might view him the better. The monster being struck, showed his face, having his two hands closed, as if he had expressed some anger. Afterwards he went round the ship. When he was at the stern he took hold of the helm with both hands and we were obliged to make it last, lest he should damage it. From thence he proceeded to the starboard, swimming still as men do. When he came to the forepart of the ship he viewed for some time the figure that was in our prow, which represented a beautiful woman; and then he rose out of the water, as if he had been willing to catch that figure. All this happened in sight of the whole crew. Afterwards he came again to the larboard, where they presented to him a codfish banging down with a rope. He handled it without spoiling it and then remove the length of cable and came again to the stern where he took hold of the helm a second time.

At that very moment, Captain Morin got a harping iron ready and took it himself to strike him with it, but the cordage being entangled he missed his aim and the harping iron touched only the monster, who turned about sowing his face as he had done before. Afterwards he came again to the fore part and viewed again the figure. The mate called for the harping iron but he was frightened fancying that this monster was one La Commune, who had killed himself in the ship the year before and had been thrown into the sea in the same passage. He was contented to push his back against the harping iron and the monster showed his face as he had done at other times.

Afterwards he came along the board so that one might have given him the hand. He had the boldness to take a rope held up by John Mazier and John Dessiere who being willing to pluck it out of his hands, drew him to our board and rising out of the water to the navel we observed that his breast was as large as that of a woman of the best plight. He turned upon his back and appeared to be a male. Afterwards he swam again round the ship and then went away; we have never seen him since.

I believe that from 10 o’clock till 12 that this monster was along our board, if the crew had not been frightened he might have been taken many times with the hand being only two feet distant.

The monster is about eight-foot-long: his skin is brown and tawny without any scales. All his motions are like those of men; the eyes of a proportionate size, a little mouth, a large and flat nose, very white teeth, black hair, the chin covered with a mossy beard, a sort of whiskers under the nose, the ears like those of men, fins between the fingers and toes of his hands and feet, like those of ducks. Which is certified to be true by Captain Oliver Morin, John Martin, pilot and the whole crew consisting of two and thirty men.

Figure of a man with the tail of a fish, large prominent ears and four talons to each hand and foot, standing on a beach clutching a fish; said to be a life-drawing of a merman captured near Exeter, 1737. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Figure of a man with the tail of a fish, large prominent ears and four talons to each hand and foot, standing on a beach clutching a fish; said to be a life-drawing of a merman captured near Exeter, 1737.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Common Sense or The Englishman’s Journal, Saturday, July 29, 1738 (we’re loving the title of the publication in light of the subject matter!). It provides us with a completely different description of a merman.

4 feet and a half in length, having a body much resembling that of a man, with a genital member of considerable size; together with jointed legs and feet extending from his belly 12 or 13 inches, with fins at this thighs and larger ones, like wings in the form of which those angels are often painted, at his shoulders, with a broad head of very uncommon form, a mouth 6 inches wide, smellers, or kind of whiskers at his nostrils, and two spout holes behind his eyes through which he ejected water when take 30 or 40 feet high.

And for our final offering we have, from the Universal Spectator and Weekly Journal), Saturday, May 5, 1739 the following:

They write from Vigo in Spain that some fishermen took on that coast a sort of monster, or merman, 5 feet and a half from its foot to its head, which is like that of a goat. It has a long beard and mustachoes, a back skin somewhat hairy; a very long neck, short arms and hands longer and bigger than they ought to be in proportion to the rest of the body; long fingers, like those of a man with nail like claws; very long toes join’d like the feet of a duck and the heels furnish’d with fins resembling the winged feet with which the painters represent Mercury. It has also a fin at the lower end of its back, which is 12 inches long and 15 or 16 broad.

Header image: The Carta Marina, a map of the Nordic countries showing various sea monsters (via Wikimedia).

A case of 18th Century Witchcraft in Silsoe Bedfordshire

We came across this curious case in the British Mercury or Annals of History, Politics, Manner, Literature and the Arts 1788 and thought we would share it with you.

A few months since some extraordinary particulars were given in this paper relating to the daughter of Mr. Capon, a considerable farmer at Silsoe, in Bedfordshire, discharging from her stomach 52 brass pins, a pincushion stuck with pins and needles, a pair of small scissors, with an iron chain etc.

The strange propensity of this child to swallow the above and various other indigestible substances, was by the ignorant attributed to the power of witchcraft and a man named Saunders, a gardener at Silsoe, was reprobated as a wizard and was accused of having exerted his diabolical influence over Mr. Capon’s daughter.

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Courtesy of Lewis Walpole

About eight years ago Mr. Saunders and his wife were ducked at Silsoe till they were nearly drowned, on the supposition that one was a witch and the other a wizard.

About a month since the above mentioned Saunders died, and Mr. Capon’s daughter having, through the assistance of the Faculty much recovered in health, the ridiculous notion that her singular conduct was the effect of the super-natural agency of Saunders is amazingly strengthened; for though since April the child had been gradually recovering from a very ill state of health, the untaught multitude obstinately insist that the favourable change is but the natural consequence of the death of Saunders, who notwithstanding the strong prejudice against him was, by the more rational part of his neighbours always considered as an industrious, inoffensive man. Not only in Bedfordshire, but in many other parts of the Kingdom, the absurd notion of the power of witchcraft is as strongly prevalent as at Yatton, Bristol or any part of Somersetshire.

V0025858 A wizard casting spells from his magic circle by the light Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org A wizard casting spells from his magic circle by the light of his cauldron surrounded by creatures. Engraving by I. Wood. By: I WoodPublished: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
V0025858 A wizard casting spells from his magic circle by the light
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

The case also attracted interested from the media with the national ones giving similar accounts, some stating that the child had to be watched day and night in case she decided to start eating other things not designed for human consumption. We have done some research to try to find out who the child was and so far no luck, so if any of our readers have any luck in tracing her please do let us know. The wizard aka Mr Saunders could have been Thomas Saunders who was buried on 22nd April 1788 at Southill, Bedfordshire but apart from that there don’t appear to be another possible matches, so if those names mean anything to any of our readers please do let us know, we’d love to find out whether there was any truth in the story.

Source:

The British Mercury Or Annals of History, Politics, Manners, Literature, Arts Etc. of the British Empire, Volume 6, Issues 27-39, 1788