Friday, 30 September 2011

The Witches of Hart (& Elwick) (NZ470351)

From A History of the County of Durham, Volume 3 (1928):-

Its near neighbourhood to the port of Hartlepool produced in Hart an unenviable number of witches and women of immoral life.  In 1454, ‘Helena de Inferno, alias morans in inferno, alias Meldrome,’ seems to have been as bad as her name implied.  On 28 July 1582, Alison Lawe of Hart was prosecuted for being ‘a notorious sorcerer and enchanter.’  Two women of the neighbourhood had consulted her and asked her for cures for the sick.  Fortunately this was before the outbreak of the witch superstition in the 17th century, and Alison was condemned only to stand with a paper on her head once in Durham market, once in Hart Church and once in Norton Church.  She was peacefully buried at Hart six years later on 5 August 1588.  In 1596, Ellen Thompson ‘fornicatrix and excommunicated’ ‘was buried of ye people in ye chaer at ye entrance unto ye yeate or stile of ye church-yard on ye East thereof.’  On 12 February 1641, Old Mother Midnight of Elwick was buried, but it does not appear how she earned her name.

It is believed that the three latter, ‘confirmed’ witches are buried over the sty from Hart Cemetery so that locals could regularly walk over their graves in unconsecrated ground on their way to and from church.  This would ensure that they would be kept well-and-truly trodden underfoot.

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