THE DIARY: They were no angels in olden days...

Yorkshire Witches by Eileen Rennison
Yorkshire Witches by Eileen Rennison
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YOU think life’s tough today?

It is for some but it’s been a damned sight tougher for Sheffielders in the past –especially if you were a bit special.

It’s always been hard enough to make a living as a ‘common labourer’ but it was twice as hard in 17th century Sheffield – especially if your neighbours thought you were a witch.

Such accusations were fairly common in those days and many would have been ignored – but not all.

In a new book called Yorkshire Witches, author Eileen Rennison tells the tale of Thomas Jefferson – no, not that one – and his wife Mary, of Woodhouse.

They were accused in 1658 of having ‘entered evil spirits and took up divers men and women and children out of their graves, and bewitched Mary Almond of Woodhouse’.

Quite what bewitching means is not entirely clear but it does sound pretty gruesome and Mary Almond was said to have suffered ‘wasting’. She and another victim were said to have “suffered strange fits in which they vomited such objects as pins and wood and the handles of knives, one of which was made of marble.”

It all sounds a bit Monty Python And The Holy Grail and the evidence did not completely satisfy the judges even in those dark days and they offered ‘respite for a more deliberate determination’.

Thomas Jefferson was bound-over and freed later that year and his wife was also reprieved.

A third woman accused of bewitching Mary Almond was Margaret Butler who was actually sentenced to death – presumably because Mary Almond had subsequently died – and there is no record of any execution or reprieve.

Apparently Woodhouse is much changed these days and barely any bewitching goes on at all.

Except perhaps a little on a Saturday night in The Angel...