Sunday, 12 October 2014

The Lavender Witch part 13

‘Silence!’ the Coroner Edward Foulstone shouted, banging his hand on the desk. ‘Any more noise and this room will be cleared.’
The angry muttering of the crowd subsided.
‘Now I’ll ask you again, what did you see on the night of April 9th?’
‘Nothing,’ said Ava. ‘But I knowed he did it.’ She stared at the rigid form of Robert Beamish sat on the benches near the front of the room.
 Ava pointed at him, trembling and shouted, ‘He murdered her! I know he did. I saw him threatening Hannah before. Sir,’ she pleaded.’ you’ve got to believe me.’  Ava turned to look appealingly at the people in the room, picking out the familiar faces in the crowd.  ‘We all know he did it, he’s a bad man, Sir.’ She wiped the tears that were trickling down her face with her sleeve and stared at the Coroner.
He was staring at the papers on his desk and fiddling nervously with his watch chain, he cast a desperate look at Beamish sitting just in front of him, who stared quietly back at him, a slight smile on his lips.
‘Sir,’ he said quietly stroking the head of his walking stick. ‘If I may just point out that she is just an ignorant farm girl, young and foolish. I tried to discourage her friendship with the woman, who I believed to be a bad influence,’ he paused and glanced across at Ava. ‘And it seems that I was right. She is naturally upset that the woman died in this way and has become overwrought and judging by this outburst hysterical.’
‘Indeed,’ said the Coroner. He stared first at his paperwork and then glanced back at Ava. ‘You are very young and your emotions have made you lose any sense that you, I hope, previously had, Mr Beamish is a respected member of the community and to suggest that he would have had anything to do with this is ridiculous, and,’ he carried on warming to his theme. ‘You are fortunate that Mr Beamish has decided not to sue you for slander. Now.. .’ he went on staring at Ava’s parents.
But Ava jumped to her feet interrupting any further comments that he was about to make and shouted across the courtroom ‘He murdered Hannah and he murdered his brother as well, we all know it,’ and she pointed at the Coroner. ‘And you know it as well.’
‘That’s enough!’ Foulstone’s face flushed and he glared at the young girl and then around the room, quelling the mutterings with his stare. ‘Your testimony will be discounted, any more outbursts and you will be taken downstairs to the cells. It is clear to me, with my medical experience,’ he continued glancing quickly at Beamish, ‘that the woman Hannah Beamish died of water on the brain....’
The rest of his words were drowned by the groans and shouts from the onlookers. Beamish smiled slightly and stood up from the bench and walked quietly through the hostile crowd to the door. Ava could hear, even over the noise from the court room, the sound of his footsteps descending the stone steps to the street below.

‘Beamish wait!’ Edward Foulstone hurried after the figure striding up the street. ‘Wait,’ he repeated.
He turned around. ‘Well Edward, a good result don’t you think?’
Edward stared at him in dislike. ‘This is the last favour I will do for you. I cannot and will not be a party to any more of this; I have my reputation to think of.’ His face twitched as he said this hardly able to meet Beamish’s eye.
Beamish stared at him coldly.
‘Keep your voice down Edward; we wouldn’t want any of this to come out would we? And you should think of your poor sister, an unmarried woman with a baby, that wouldn’t do your family’s reputation any good either, would it?’ He looked him up and down ‘So protesting now is a bit late isn’t it?’ he pushed his face into Edwards and said softly ‘So I  think you had just better keep quiet and we’ll just jog along as we have been doing. After all we’re nearly family now.’ Beamish slapped the man on the arm and left him standing on the pavement outside the court house.
He strode up the street ignoring the hard looks directed his way from the people milling about in the market square and headed back towards the Inn where he had left his horse.
Just in front of him and walking slowly surrounded by her family was the young girl Ava. She heard his footsteps close behind and moved closer to her father.
‘You, Ava!’
The family turned to meet his furious gaze.
‘You brat, how dare you tell such lies in court, showing me up in front of the town and
Foulstone,’ he raged at her.
‘Twas the truth,’ she said boldly. ‘And you know it, we all know it.’
Beamish’s face became mottled with rage. ‘She was an evil old harridan and you’re just as bad, you little bitch,’ he shouted at her.
‘Now that’s enough,’ put in her father stepping in front of Ava. ‘You’ve no right to talk to her like that.’
‘Right! Right! I’ll tell you what rights I’ve got, you and your blasted family,’ he pointed his stick at Ava. ‘I’m warning you now Ava Marsh, if I ever you or yours ever set foot on my soil again, the devil take you! And that’s a promise; it will be the worse for you! Do you hear me girl?’

Gordon switched on the torch and led the way up the church path, past the porch and round behind the church where the majority of the graves were. It was very dark behind the building, a dog barked in one of the houses and they could just hear the sound of music coming from the pub.
Kitty shivered and stayed close to Gordon.  ‘I don’t know why I’m worried, after all what could be worse than Robert?’ she whispered.
‘Not a lot. Where is it?’ he asked Queenie.
‘It’s over there,’ she said gesturing towards the hedge.
They wound their way through the gravestones following the wavering light from Gordon’s torch and stumbling over half sunken kerb stones hidden in the grass. The dog barked again and in the distance a door slammed.
‘I hope nobody’s going to see us,’ said Kitty glancing nervously towards the village.
‘Nobody will notice us up here,’ reassured Sybil.
 William was walking closely by her side with a hand on her shoulder.
 ‘I hope not,’ he added. ‘I haven’t been up here for years,’ he said quietly.
‘Don’t you have anybody buried here?’ whispered Kitty.
‘My wife is buried in Colyton, that was where she was born.’
Queenie slowed and tugged at Gordon’s jacket.  ‘Stop,’ she whispered.
She pointed to the right. ‘Over here,’ she added ‘and be careful you don’t trip on the stones.’
They followed single file after Queenie who had stopped by a neglected grave near the hedge. The headstone had toppled over to one side and the writing was nearly illegible from weathering and the grey lichen that had grown on the stone.
‘Here he is,’ she said quietly.
Gordon knelt down on the grass and read the inscription.
 ‘Robert Beamish Died October 31st 1910. Is that all?’ he asked surprised. ‘It’s not much of an epitaph is it?’
William snorted. ‘What else could we have said about him?’
Gordon stood up wiping the damp grass from his knees. ‘Sorry William, I didn’t mean to be rude.’
Kitty glanced around the graves nearby. ‘Where is his wife buried?’
‘His first wife was buried in Axminster and his second, my grandmother, is buried over there,’ William pointed back to the path. ‘Father didn’t want them together.’
‘I didn’t know he was married twice.’ Kitty said curiously.
 The sound of a zip opening behind her made her jump.
 Queenie pulled out the jam jar from her bag.  ‘Now who’s got the spade?’
‘I have,’ said William. ‘Where do you want me to dig?’
‘Just in front of the headstone will do, I expect the ground is going to be really hard but get as deep as you can.’
There was grunt as William put the spade into the turf.
 ‘You’re right, it’s as hard as rock.’
Gordon handed the torch to Kitty.
 ‘William, let me try,’ and held out his hand for the spade.
‘Okay,’ he said ruefully. ‘You have a go, you’re a bit younger than I am.’
 He stepped back and watched as Gordon began to dig a small hole in front of the headstone.
Kitty kept the torch trained on the hole. The sound of the spade hitting the ground seemed to travel far in the night air and she glanced back towards the village, expecting at any moment to see a curious person coming to investigate the noise.
‘Kitty, keep the torch still,’ hissed Gordon. ‘I can’t see what I’m doing.’
‘Sorry,’ she held it still and pointed it towards Gordon struggling to dig into the hard packed soil.
He straightened after a few minutes, panting and wiping the sweat off of his forehead.
 ‘Is this deep enough?’
Queenie peered forward in the dark. ‘I can’t see, how far have you gone down?’
He knelt on the grass and pushed his hand into the hole. ‘It’s about ten inches deep,’ he looked up at her. ‘That’s about as far as I can get, it’s too hard and rocky here.’
She patted him on the shoulder. ‘That should do.’
Queenie held out the jar to William. ‘I think you should be the one to put it in.’
He nodded and took it carefully from her hand and bent stiffly over the hole. She held his arm to steady him as he placed it in.
‘Do we need to say anything?’ William asked.
‘Let Gordon put the soil back first.’
William straightened, moved back to Sybil’s side and watched as Gordon refilled the hole.
‘It’s going to show where I’ve dug,’ Gordon sounded worried and glanced up at the two sisters. ‘Somebody is going to notice all this fresh soil.’
‘Nobody comes over this side of the graveyard so don’t worry.’
‘I’ll come up tomorrow and disguise it,’ added Sybil. ‘I’ll put some flowers on top of it or something, and Arnold isn’t due to cut the grass for another week.’
Gordon carried on reassured. ‘Okay if you’re sure, now what?’ he asked Queenie who was opening her bag again.
She handed him a bundle of short sticks. ‘I want you to push these in around the hole and get them in as far as possible.’
Kitty peered over her husband’s arm and directed the torch beam at his hands.
‘What are they?’
‘Rowan, holly, bramble, the same as the sticks I put around the jar. They are all magical protective trees which will hold his spirit in the grave and prevent it from wandering.’
‘Couldn’t his spirit have just been sent on to where he should be?’ Kitty hesitated. ‘It just seems a bit cruel to trap him in there forever.’
‘Are you feeling sorry for him?’ asked Sybil acidly. ‘Because we don’t, he deserves this.’
Queenie put her hand on her sister’s arm.  ‘Now Sybil don’t be like that,’ she said calmly and looked across the grave at Kitty in the dim light. ‘You see, I’m afraid our sympathies lie with Hannah, not Robert.
Kitty nodded ‘I know but,’ she hesitated and stared at them, their faces were unusually grim. ‘I’m sure you know best,’ she finished lamely.
‘Well, I for one agree with the girls,’ Gordon said firmly hefting the spade in his hand. ‘Is that it? I’ve pushed the sticks in.’
Queenie peered at the filled hole. ‘Push them down a bit farther, until they are level with the ground. I don’t want anybody spotting them and pulling them all up.’ she instructed.
Gordon tapped them down gently with the flat of the spade.
‘That’s better, now.’
Queenie stood over the grave of Robert Beamish and breathed deeply and extended her hands slowly over the grave. All around the grave yard the sounds of the night grew still, even the soft breeze dropped, it became so quiet that Kitty could hear the grew still, even the soft breeze dropped, it became so quiet that Kitty could hear the blood pounding in her ears.
Queenie began to quietly speak, the torch light casting strange shadows across her face.
‘When the witching hour rings true,
and the moon is burning bright above,
Let mine will be done this night.
Answer now my Pagan spell,
Lend thy power to these words,
Protect us and banish his spirit,
and let evil be no more.’
Kitty watched a chill in her heart as Queenie imprisoned the spirit of Robert in his grave forever.
Her words hung in the breeze for a while and then slowly all around them the usual night time noises started in the hedges and fields and an owl hooted in the trees. They all shifted and looked at Queenie.
 She sighed. ‘Well that should do it,’ and stared down at the grave for a minute only turning away when Sybil spoke.
‘A cup of tea now, don’t you think?’ Sybil put her hand on William’s arm making him jump.
He dragged his eyes away from Queenie. ‘What? Oh yes, a cup of tea, that would be nice.’ He glanced doubtfully across the grave at her sister. ‘I think it’s time we got out of here.’
‘Yes, let’s go,’ Gordon said shakily and took Kitty’s arm, they walked carefully back to the path skirting around the gravestones. A light autumnal mist had risen and swirled around their feet.
 ‘Careful where you’re walking,’ warned Gordon. He paused and stared back at Queenie who was still staring down at the grave. ‘Coming?’
She looked up blankly before replying, ‘Yes, yes, I’m right behind you,’ and followed her sister back to the path.
To their left the church still stood dark and quiet, a light wind whistling around the tower, rattling the rope on the flag pole. A slight noise came from the front porch and they paused looking nervously into the dark space in front of the church and out from the shadows strolled the grey cat.
Kitty sighed in relief, bent down and picked it up, welcoming the warmth of its fur.
 ‘Hello puss,’ she said. ‘What are you doing wandering around a dark churchyard?’
‘It’s probably thinking the same about you Kitty,’ whispered Gordon. ‘Come on let’s go, I have had enough fun for one night,’ and led her towards the steps.
Behind them they could hear the voices of the two women close behind them.
 ‘Have you got any cake Sybil? I am feeling a bit peckish.’
‘Rose brought me a fruitcake yesterday, so we can have that.’
‘Oh dear, well I hope it’s better than her sponges,’ she said acidly.

Sybil unlocked her front door and pushed it open.
‘Come in, William can you put the fire on? My feet are so cold and wet from that grass.’
She bustled about switching on the lamps around the room and pulling out chairs for everybody.  ‘Now, tea everybody?’ she asked.
‘Tea would be great, Sybil.’
‘Would you like some help?’ offered Kitty, putting the cat down near the hearth.
‘No, no, dear you sit down and relax for a while, you’ve had a long night,’ and disappeared into the small kitchen at the back of the house.
William knelt in front of the gas fire and fiddled with the ignition switch.  ‘Now, let’s see if I can get this thing to work,’ there were a few clicks and the flames flared up and started to leap up over the false coals.  ‘There, lovely,’ he said and looked sideways at the grey cat who had sat down next to him. ‘Well, well, I’m not getting hissed at,’ he said and struggled stiffly to his feet. He rested his hand on the mantelpiece and smiled at Kitty. ‘Come and sit here Kitty, you look quite done in.’ He shifted one of the armchairs closer to the fire, ‘There you’ll soon warm up.’
‘Thanks William,’ she stepped carefully over Nigel and the cat and settled into the chair.
Queenie sat down in the chair opposite and felt in her pockets.
 ‘Anybody seen my cigarettes?’ she complained staring around the room.
 William pulled up a chair and sat down next to her, he looked at her questioningly.
 ‘I thought you had given up?’
‘Bad night to quit smoking,’ she said seriously and leant back in the chair and sighed. She closed her eyes and a slight frown appeared on her face.
‘Are you feeling alright?’ asked Kitty.
Queenie was looking very pale and tired and there was big bruise turning purple on the side of her face. She opened her eyes and looked over at Kitty and gave a rueful grin.
 ‘Not as young as I used to be, and boy did I feel it tonight!’ she sighed and rubbed her forehead. ‘Well that’s over with anyway.’
Gordon had sat down at the small dining table and found Queenie’s cigarettes hidden beneath a church magazine.
He passed them over and said ‘Here you are I think you deserve one of these. Just finish it before Sybil gets back otherwise you’ll be in trouble again.’
Queenie pulled one out of the packet and lit it, taking a deep pull, she sighed and blew out a puff of smoke. ‘That’s better,’ she offered the packet around. ‘Anybody else? No? What about you William, have you given up?’
He looked sheepish. ‘I caved into the nagging I’m afraid.’
She grinned and winked at him. ‘She’s half your size you know.’
William laughed. ‘It doesn’t make any difference, she still bullies me.’ He shrugged his shoulders at Kitty as she laughed.
 ‘I’m sure Sybil wouldn’t call it bullying, it’s all for your own good you know,’ she said mockingly.
The cat opened her eyes on hearing Kitty laugh, stretched and delicately stepped over the sleeping dog and jumped up into her lap. She gently scratched behind its ears feeling the deep throbbing purr reverberating through her legs.
Sybil tottered in bearing a loaded tray.
‘Here, let me take that for you Sybil.’ Gordon stood up and put the tea tray onto the table.
In the middle of the tray sat a very pale flaccid looking fruit cake.
‘Well I have brought in the cake but don’t blame me if you get a stomach ache tomorrow, I didn’t make it,’ she said firmly handing out cups of tea.
William looked at the cake. ‘Rose’s is it?’ he asked. ‘Well I’m sure it’s fine.’ He took a slice from Sybil and bit into it, ignoring the snort from Queenie and chewed slowly. ‘Um yes I see what you mean.’ he said grimacing.
Sybil handed him a plate of biscuits ‘Have one of these instead dear.’ Sybil grinned and offered the sliced cake around. ‘Cake anybody?’
Her sister grunted in disgust. ‘What do you think she does to her cakes to make them taste like that?’
Sybil shrugged and put it back on the table.  ‘I have no idea. I’ll throw it out in the morning, she’ll never know.’
Gordon passed over the plate of biscuits to Kitty. ‘Would you like one?’
She shook her head ‘No thanks, I’m just thirsty.’
‘How are you feeling now dear?’ asked Sybil reaching over and refilling her cup.
Kitty sipped her tea and nodded slowly.  ‘Okay, considering,’ she smiled slightly. ‘It’s been an interesting night hasn’t it?’ Kitty looked across the room at her husband ‘Are you okay?’ she asked.
He nodded and smiled reassuringly.
Queenie drained her cup and sighed ‘Well that was a good night’s work.’
‘Do you think Hannah will be satisfied with this? I mean is she going to feel that justice has been done, or will she still be haunting us?’ asked Gordon, he still looked worried. ‘I would like to think that was it.’
Queenie looked up from her contemplation of the cat that was still curled up and purring contentedly on his wife’s lap.
 ‘Oh I think so.’
The two sisters exchanged a strange look and Sybil smiled. ‘Definitely happy now,’ her smile became broader as the cat jumped down from Kitty’s lap and walked across to William. It fixed him with a stare from its pale coloured eyes then sprang up onto his knee.
‘Well I am honoured!’ he said quietly and put out a tentative hand to stroke it.
‘Well I think it’s all settled now, don’t you think sis?’ said Sybil.
‘William, if you don’t think I’m being nosey,’ asked Kitty quietly. ‘What happened to his first wife?’
Gordon snorted. ‘That is being nosey Kitty.’
‘No, no it’s okay Kitty, after tonight I don’t think I have any secrets from you,’ William smiled slightly. ‘Rachel his first wife died trying to give birth to his third child.’
‘Third? Oh of course,’ she exclaimed. ‘He had two other sons’ didn’t he?’ she turned to Gordon. ‘We saw that on the census form. What happened to those two boys?’
‘I’m not too sure, all I know is that they left home as soon as they could and nobody heard from them again. Although I’m sure my mother knew something, she kept it very quiet but I think she used to get letters from one of them. She never told grandfather about it of course,’ he said thoughtfully. ‘Mother did let it slip once that one of them had gone into the army.’
‘And his second wife?’ prompted Kitty.
William smiled at the protest that came from Gordon.
 ‘I’m sorry William, you’ll have to excuse my wife, she never knows when to stop.’
Queenie laughed. ‘Don’t take any notice of him Kitty, ask away, I think you have earned the right.’
He sat back and raised his hands. ‘Okay,’ he laughed. ‘Just don’t give her your bank account number William, she loves shopping.’
William grinned at Kitty’s indignant face.  ‘Well if you want to know, my gran was born in Medbury, she was the daughter of Rose who used to work in the dairy at the farm.’ He sighed and looked thoughtful. ‘Why she married him I’ll never know, well actually I do,’ he admitted looking uncomfortable. ‘Let’s just say that my father was a seven month baby.’
Kitty looked baffled and glanced at Queenie.
Queenie started laughing. ‘He used his charms on her, dear and got her in to trouble!’
She winked at Kitty as it slowly dawned on her what Queenie meant.
‘Oh, you mean?’
‘Yes, that’s right Kitty.’ William said and gently stroked his hand along the cat’s backs. ‘I suppose he wanted an heir as the two boys had gone. Sad really, two sons and he drove them away.’
Kitty looked at the old man. ‘What a way to live, hating everybody and everybody hating you.’ she shivered and looked around the room. ‘He should be pitied really.’
‘Kitty!’ said Sybil.
William turned and looked at his friend sat at the table.  ‘No Sybil, she’s right, my grandfather had everything that he could want, a family, a good farm, a lovely home and he wasn’t happy. There’s many a man that would have given his right arm to have all that, so what went wrong with him?’
Sybil banged down her cup and glared at the back of his head. ‘Huh,’ she snorted. ‘He was a horrible evil man and I for one am glad that he got his just deserts.’
‘You won’t convince my sister that he deserves any pity, you know!’ Queenie grimaced. ‘I think the worst thing is that if Hannah had been still alive she would have been able to save Rachel and his third son, I wonder if that ever crossed his mind?’
‘Ah but,’ said Sybil firmly, ‘if she had saved Rachel then he wouldn’t have married William’s gran and William wouldn’t have been born. So there!’ she finished triumphantly.
Queenie nodded. ‘You are right Sybil, but I think you’re getting off the point a bit though,’ and lit another cigarette staring at her through the smoke.
‘Queenie, not in the house!’

The night air was quite cool, the mist had gone and the sky was clear and full of twinkling stars. Kitty shivered as she waited by the car outside Sybil’s cottage. They gathered around her talking in hushed tones, their voices carrying on the night air.
‘Are you going to spend the night at the house?’ William asked.
Gordon hugged Sybil and looked across at the old man. ‘No,’ he said. ‘We’ll go back to the guest house tonight and come back in the morning. We will start clearing up then and I’ll have to board that window up,’ he looked up at the cloudless night sky. ‘Doesn’t look like rain, thank goodness so I’m sure it will be okay for tonight.’
William nodded. ‘Well make sure you come and get me in the morning and I’ll give you a hand,’ he added thoughtfully ‘I’m sure there is some wood in one of the sheds that we can use.’
Kitty smiled at him and gave him a hug. ‘Thanks William.’
He gave her a kiss on the top of her head and said seriously ‘You’re welcome my dear.’ He turned to Sybil. ‘I’d better be off, it’s getting late. Queenie, will I see you in the morning before you go home?’
 She nodded, finishing another cigarette and flicked the glowing butt into the road.
‘I‘ll be off in the afternoon so we will drop in on you sometime in the morning, just to see how you are getting on with the cleaning, not that we are going to help of course.’ she grinned as Gordon reached forward and hugged her.
‘Thanks for all your help Queenie and you too Sybil, I don’t know what we would have done without you.’
Queenie gave him a kiss on his cheek.  ‘We should thank you, especially Kitty,’ she reached across and squeezed her hand. ‘It gave us a chance to finish this business and put it right, and without you we wouldn’t have been able to.’ She moved over to William’s side and patted him on his arm. ‘Sorry that you had to find out about it like this, we tried to keep you out of it, but I’m glad you were there William. You have been a good friend to us over the years and we appreciate everything that you have ever done for us,’ she looked around at her sister ‘Oh dear this is getting very mawkish isn’t it? I’ll shut up now,’ she laughed.
Kitty moved slowly over to stand next to Sybil. ‘Sybil,’ she started diffidently. ‘Tomorrow do you think you could come up to the cross roads with me?’
She looked at Kitty and raised her eyebrows. ‘The cross roads? What do you want to go up there for?’
Queenie heard the surprise in her sister’s voice and turned away from her conversation with William.
 ‘What?’ she asked.
‘Well I would like to take some flowers up there and put them on Hannah’s grave and I don’t know where it is,’ she went on quietly. ‘It just seems awful that she’s up there on her own.’
Kitty felt embarrassed that everybody was staring at her and cast an appealing look at Gordon. ‘Don’t you think that it would be nice to put some flowers up there for her?’
The two sisters started laughing.
‘Oh bless you, Kitty,’ said Queenie putting an arm around her and giving her a hug.
‘Hannah’s not at the crossroads.’
‘But Beamish had her buried up there,’ protested Gordon looking from one sister to the other.
‘Yes, him and the Vicar. But they weren’t going to leave her up there. That night, Michael Guppy and the Trevitt boys dug Hannah up and took her body down to the graveyard.’
Kitty sighed and closed her eyes. ‘Thank you,’ she said blinking back a few tears. ‘Do you know where?’
‘Of course we know dear,’ she smiled softly at Kitty. ‘They buried her with Samuel and her little baby boy.’ She patted Kitty on the arm. ‘We’ll show you where their grave is tomorrow.’
Kitty wiped her eyes and smiled in relief at her husband who had moved closer to her.
Gordon sighed. ‘Nowhere near Robert I hope?’
They both shook their heads.
‘Good,’ he put an arm around Kitty’s shoulder. ‘We’ll come down tomorrow and visit the grave,’ he reassured her. ‘And now I think it’s time we went. Kitty, I think you have had enough excitement for one day, I know I have.’
He opened the car door for her and helped her into the passenger seat. Gordon paused, his hand on the car door and stared at the two old women standing in the dim light in front of the cottage.
‘Would I be right in assuming that you both have the same abilities, as you call it, that
Hannah had?’
Queenie looked at him; a strange light flickered for an instant in the depths of her pale coloured eyes and she smiled slightly.
‘It runs in the family dear,’ they said in unison.

The End

Authors Note

The Lavender Witch is based on the true story of Hannah Henley who lived in the small remote village of Membury in Devon during the early 1800’s. She is now the most famous witch in Devon and was rumoured to have killed several people in the surrounding area. Hannah was believed to have been able to change form at will and would regularly be hunted by the local hounds. She angered several of the local farmers in Membury by constantly begging for food and money, when they refused and ill luck came their way Hannah was blamed. One of the wealthier farmers hired a white witch from Chard who spent a month living in the farmhouse trying to get rid of her. At four in the morning on Good Friday 1841 he went to Hannah’s cottage and found her body lying over the branch of a tree wound in a sheet. There was blood and glass inside the cottage and her body was also covered in bruises and cuts, looking as though she had been dragged through a window. It was widely rumoured in the village that she had been taken by the devil. Villagers had met her several days previously and noted that she had seemed frightened, stating ‘that he was going to come for her’. They assumed in hindsight that she had meant the devil but did she?
One hundred pounds at that time was a lot of money; was it enough to kill for?
The young servant girl who was friends with Hannah would often visit her before her death and the so called witch would give her food; the excellence of her cooking was well known in the village while in another account it stated that despite being poor she was known for keeping a clean and tidy house and was often seen around the village wearing a silk bonnet and clean white pinafore.
Despite the strange manner of her death the inquest found that she had died of water on the brain. There are no full records of the inquest as no coroners records have survived from before 1940 and there is no record of her death.

I would like to thank Prof. Mark Brayshay  Hon. Editor of the Devonshire Association for allowing me to quote from the Transactions Volume 14 concerning Hannah, however I have edited it slightly, for the full account visit their website

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