Mary Bateman - The Yorkshire Witch
20th March 1809

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Mary Bateman - The Yorkshire Witch

Mary Bateman - The Yorkshire Witch


While the last proper execution for witchcraft happened itself in England sometime in the first half of the 17th century, Mary Bateman was probably the last 'witch' ever executed.

As a young serving girl in Thirsk she lost her position thanks to her fondness for petty thievery. It became a pattern of behaviour she would continue to follow for the rest of her life. Using her powers of persuasion to con the gullible, she often ran afoul of the law. Fleeing Thirsk, she ran first to York and latterly to Leeds, where she set up selling charms and trinkets and telling fortunes.

By the end of the 1700s, she had achieved some local notoriety/infamy as a prognosticator of the future.

in 1806, William and Rebecca Perigo believed that had been put under a curse after Rebecca began to suffer from chest pains. In desperation they approached Mary Bateman for help. Over the next few months, the 'witch' fed them both a special 'porridge' which was in fact laced with poison. While William never managed to eat more than a spoonful, Rebecca developed a taste for the deathly meal and her condition steadily declined until she died in May 1806.

Such was William's faith in Mary that he continued to buy charms and 'protection' from her for a further two years - despite the death of his wife at her hands. It was only in 1808 that he discovered that one of the charms he had purchased from her was effectively worthless that the scales finally fell from his eyes.

Reporting her to the authorities, Williams was then used to help lure her to a meeting where she was arrested. Her home was searched and several things that had belonged to the Perigos were found. Eventually, she was tried at York in 1809 and despite a last minute claim that she was pregnant (disproved by a physical examination by a jury of matrons) she swung from the gallows at York Tyburn on March 20th 1809.

Even during her last few days, she found time to commit one final fraud - convincing a fellow prisoner that sewing some coins into her stays would somehow bring her lover to visit her in prison. When the promised visit failed to materialise the girl tore open her stays and discovered that the coins had been taken. To this crime, as to all her others, Mary Bateman protested her innocence.

Following her execution, her body was taken to Leeds where, despite the late hour of its arrival at around midnight, a huge crowd turned up to see her body. How large a crowd can be judged by the fact that 30 was raised for the Leeds Infirmary by charging the curious threepence to view her body in the hearse.

Her body was finally placed on public display and, ironically, strips of her skin sold as magic charms to ward off evil spirits.

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Author: Ian Freud   |  Last updated: 7th June 2013 | © Weird Island 2010-2020
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