The Foxearth and District Local History Society

The Hysterical Hystorian

For occasional articles, snippets and announcements by the Resident Historians. (Andrew Clarke and GH) These articles are presented in date order, but if you explore the back-catalogue, you may find much of interest. Historical information doesn't really go out of date! Any member of the F&DLHS may add an entry or make a comment to an existing entry once they have got their userID and password from the Webmaster.

If you'd like to publish any interesting material about the history of East Anglia on the site, then please send an email to the Resident Historians at Andrew.Clarke@Foxearth.org.uk and we'll add it.

Family Historians have their own area on the site, so look there if your main interest is in tracing your family history.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Weighed down by the Bible

East Anglia was by no means the most superstitious region of Britain, but it was notable for the persistence of archaic beliefs. The belief in Witchcraft was an occasional nuisance to the authorities even in victorian times, and was widespread in the previous century. Here is a typical example, which gives a hint of the revulsion that the better educated felt towards the persecution of people accused of witchcraft.

Norwich Gazette: Sept. 1752

By a letter from Woodbridge in Suffolk, we learn that the country people about Aspal Stonham in that neighbourhood are still so full of ignorance and superstition that they imagine there are several witches and wizards in that neighbourhood and they have tied up two or three old people in sheets with cords round their middles and flung them into the rivers to see if they could save themselves. But whether the cords held them up or Providence supported them, the poor wretches, it is certain have got safe to shore. This has confirmed their opinion and to them they attribute their loss of cattle, bad harvests &c, and insist that these poor wretches shall be tried by the church bible whether they are witches or no, for if witches, the bible will turn round and not weigh them down or such idle stuff.

The short publication on this site, 'The Swimming of Witches' is one of our more popular ones, and the whole topic of folk-lore and superstition is a fascinating one for the local historian, expecially for us, because the site of Borley Rectory, once dubbed 'the most Haunted House in England' by the tabloid press, is within the area of the four parishes covered by the F&DLHS, and the draft of the book 'The Bones of Borley', is also on the site.

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