Norfolk Witchcraft – Executions – Ritual objects

Old buildings may contain ritual objects placed inside walls, ceilings, chimneys and other concealed places.  They were thought to protect from witches and evil spirits.

Mummified catsMummified cats. During the 17th Century, it was common in England to bury cats in the walls or ceilings to deter witches or evil spirits from entering the property.

 Remains of a cat were found in at the Dukes Head Hotel in Kings Lynn, in room 10 during October 2011.

 ‘It was largely in the Middle Ages that the black cat became affiliated with evil. Because cats are nocturnal and roam at night, they were believed to be supernatural servants of witches, or even witches themselves. Partly because of the cat’s sleek movements and eyes that ‘glow’ at night, they became the embodiment of darkness, mystery, and evil, possessing frightening powers. If a black cat walked into the room of an ill person, and the person later died, it was blamed on the cat’s supernatural powers. If a black cat crossed a person’s path without harming them, this indicated that the person was then protected by the devil. Often times, a cat would find shelter with older women who were living in solitude. The cat became a source of comfort and companionship, and the old woman would curse anyone who mistreated it. If one of these tormentors became ill, the witch and her familiar were blamed.’ (

Shoes  were hidden in houses when they were being built to ward off evil, usually single shoes and not pairs. They were usually hidden the home near doors, windows and chimneys.  Sometimes other items are hidden with the shoes, coins, pipes, spoons, pots, toys, goblets, food, knives, gloves, chicken and cat bones.

Apotropaic Marks are engraved on to wooden beams, plasterwork on ceilings and on walls. To invoke the protection of the Virgin Mary, mark using the letters VV (Virgin of virgins).  Marks using VM have been seen (Virgin Mary) and the letter P, no one is sure what that means, but maybe it is simply protection.  Runic symbols that were thought to have magical powers and spectacle marks to deflect the evil eye.  The daisy wheel is a compass drawn circle with petal within it (the amount of petals varies) and is seen on buildings and furniture.  It protected against ill fortune and it was thought to be a good luck symbol.

Candle smoke Marks are found on ceilings, often in bedrooms or hallways near bedrooms. They consist of magical symbols written on the ceiling with the smoke from a candle.

Card BACKWitch bottles a common counter spell against illness caused by witchcraft was to put the sick person’s urine (and sometimes also hair and fingernails clippings) in a bottle with nails, pins, or threads, cork it tightly, and either set it to heat by the hearth or bury it in the ground. This, as Joseph Blagrave wrote in 1671, ‘will endanger the witches’ life, for … they will be grievously tormented, making their water with great difficulty, if any at all’ (The Astrological Practice of Physick (1671), 154-5; cited in Merrifield, 1987: 169).
Read more:

Usually buried beneath the hearth or near entrances to buildings.

The recipe was still known in a Norfolk village in 1939:

Take a stone bottle, make water in it, fill it with your own toe-nails and finger-nails, iron nails and anything which belongs to you. Hang the bottle over the fire and keep stirring it. The room must be in darkness; you must not speak or make a noise. The witch will come to your door and make a lot of noise and beg you to open the door and let her in. If you do not take any notice, but keep silent, the witch will burst. The strain on the mind of the person when the witch is begging to be let in is usually so great that the person often speaks and the witch is set free. (E. G. Bales, Folk-Lore 50 (1939), 67) Read more:

1616 Mary Smith

 Cicely Balye criticized Mary Smith for doing an inadequate job sweeping. In retribution, Smith called Bayle “a great fattail’d sow,” but promised that her “fatnesse should shortly be pulled.”

 The morning after an altercation where Mary Smith threatens Cecily Bayle, Bayle awakes to discover a great cat on her chest and Mary Smith in her room. Immediately “after [she] fell sicke, languished, and grew exceeding leane.” Her suffering continued for six months and was only finally relieved when she quit her job and moved.

Mary Smith, angry with Edmund Newton for his success in the trade of Holland cheese, was threatening her business. She allegedly appeared to Newton in the dead of the night, and “whisked about his face (as he lay in bed) a wet cloath of very loathsome sauour,” as a means of threatening him or contaminating him (with illness/ malefic magic, or both).

Edmund Newton sees the vision of “one cloathed in russet with a little bush beard,” who promised to heal the sore on his leg. Perceiving that this being came from Mary Smith and seeing that he “had clouen feet,” Newton refused to be healed by the man, and it disappeared instantaneously.

 Allegedly tormented by a familiar Toad and familiar Crabs sent by Mary Smith, Newton had one of his servants put the toad “into the fire, where it made a groaning noyse for one quarter of an houre before it was consume.” Elsewhere, Mary Smith allegedly endured simultaneous “torturing paines, testifying the felt griefe by her out-cryes.

 Edmund Newton, on the counsel of others, attempts to scratch Mary Smith as a  means of undoing her witchcraft. He finds, however, that he could not hurt her; his nails turned “like feathers” at the attempt.

 Henry Smith stops Elizabeth Hancocke as she travels home and, seeming in jest, accuses her of stealing his wife Mary Smith’s hen. Smith herself arrives and repeats the accusation adding, that she “wished that the bones thereof might sticke in her throat, when she should eate the same.” Hancocke, seeing the hen she was accused of stealing roosting in the thatch of the shop door, in “some passion and angry manner,” wished “the pox to light vpon” Mary Smith.

 Elizabeth Hancocke begins to suffer from a strange, debilitating illness within four hours of cursing at Mary Smith. Although she could still eat, she felt “pinched at the heart, and felt a sodaine weaknesse in all the parts of her body,” a sensation which lasted for three weeks. In the moments she felt well enough to stand, Smith would taunt and curse her again, asking “the poxe light vpon you, can you yet come to the doore?”

 Elizabeth Hancocke, at the sight of Mary Smith, falls into a fit. Throughout the rest of the day and night she suffered extreme pains across her whole body, tore at her hair, became distraught and bereaved of her senses, and was mysteriously tossed about and lifted off bed, all the while she thought Mary Smith stood in the room glowering at her.

Edward Drake, Elizabeth Hancocke’s father, visits a local wizard or cunningman, who diagnoses Elizabeth’s illness as bewitchment and names Mary Smith as the culprit by showing Drake a black glass where he sees her image. He then instructs Drake on how to make a witch-cake, (by mixing Hancocke’s urine with flour, baking the loaf, and covering it with an ointment and a powder). The cake was to be split, applied to her heart and back, and a paper (with a spell on it?) was also meant to be laid on her.

 Elizabeth Hancocke recovers after six weeks of torments after her father administers a counter-magic remedy prescribed by a local wise-man.

 A Great Cat (a pet cum familiar of Mary Smith’s) appears at Hancocke’s home. Despite being stabbed with a sword, beaten over the head with a staff, and thrown in a sack, the cat does not die. It is finally stashed under the stairs, where it disappears of its own accord.

 After he hit her son (allegedly with cause) Mary Smith cursed John Orkton and “wished in a most earnest and bitter manner, that his fingers might rotte off.” He lost his appetite, grew weak, and fell ill with a mysterious disease which lasted approximately eight months. His fingers and toes grew gangerous and were amputated

 John Orkton visits a surgeon (Anonymous 201) in Yarmouth hoping to find a cure for the purification of his flesh. Although the surgeon was believed to have considerable skill, no remedy he applied lasted more than a day. The surgeon’s remedies were not taking care of Orkton’s ailment. At the time of publication, Orkton was still “rotting.”

 Henry Smith allegedly curses Thomas Younges, after he tries to call in an old debt owed to his new wife. Three days later Younges “fell sicke, and was tortured with exceeding and massacring griefes.

 Thomas Young visits a number of “sundry learned and experienced Physitians in Norwich.” Despite following their advice, he does not recover from his (supernatural) suffering.

Mary Smith is executed as a witch on January 12, 1616 (?), having confessed “her confederacy with the Diuell, cursing, banning, and enuy towards her neighbours, and hurts done to them, expressing euery one by name,” including John Orkton, Cecily Bayles, Elizabeth Hancocke, and Edmund Newton.

 (cited from Uszkalo, Kirsten C. The Witches in Early Modern England Project. 2011 Witches in early modern England

  1644 – Elizabeth Bradwell

 Elizabeth Bradwell allegedly created a wax image of John Moulton, thrust a nail in the images head, and buried the image, as a means of slow, languishing, bewitchment

 Matthew Hopkins looked for the wax image which Elizabeth Bradwell allegedly buried in a graveyard to bewitch John Moulton. The image is never found, but child soon recovered and ‘grew lusty again

 Elizabeth Bradwell allegedly confessed to John Sterne, that she has made and uses wax images; she remains anonymous in his text.

 Elizabeth Bradwell allegedly signs her name, in blood, in the devil’s book.

(cited from Uszkalo, Kirsten C. The Witches in Early Modern England Project. 2011 Witches in early modern England

Thomas Oliver ) (from Norwich, UK) married Bridget Bishop   and Bridget was the first witch to be hanged in the Salem Witch Trails.

William and Joanna Towne left Great Yarmouth, Norfolk in 1637 and arrived at Salem, Massachusetts in 1640. Two of their daughters, Rebecca Nurse  and Mary Easty (Estey)  were executed, accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trial of 1692 .  Sarah Cloyce another daughter was released without charge of being a witch.  Sarah pressed charges for the killing of her sisters and for her unlawful arrest.  Three Sovereigns for Sarah is a true story based on transcripts of the Salem Witch Trials on the Towne family.


List of Witch Trails in Norfolk, UK.

1465 two males – Accused of summoning demons to find buried treasure.

1573 onwards over 70,000 killed in England.

1575 Katharine Smythe of Norfolk.

1582 Cecilia Atkins of Great Yarmouth of Norfolk.

1582 ‘Mother’ Gabley of Kings Lynn of Norfolk – Hanged.

1582 Elisabeth Butcher of Great Yarmouth of Norfolk.

1575 Katharine Smythe of Norfolk.

1582 Joan Lingwood  of Great Yarmouth of Norfolk.

1583 ‘Mother’ Gabley of Norfolk.

1584 Elizabeth Butcher of Norfolk.

1584 Joan Lingwood of Norfolk.

1587 Helena Gill of Norfolk.

1590 Margaret Grame of Norfolk.

1590 Margaret Read at Kings Lynn of Norfolk – Burned at Tuesday Market place.  Her heart hit a nearby building and the mark can still be seen.

1598 Elizabeth Housegoe of Norfolk.

1600-1680 in Great Britian 40,000 executed.

1600 Margaret Fraunces of Norfolk.

1603 Ales Moore of Norfolk

1610 Christiana Weech of Norfolk

1612 Mary Woods of Norfolk

1616 Mary Smith of Kings Lynn of Norfolk – Hanged

1624 ‘Mother’ Francis of Norfolk

1624 Joane Harvey of Norfolk

(last name unknown), Meggs: a baker of Norwich, England (year unknown, but in 1640s)

1645 (1647) Maria Blackburne (Blackbourne) oft Great Yarmouth of Norfolk – Hanged.

1645 (1647) Elizabeth Bradwell at Great Yarmouth of Norfolk – Hanged.

1645 Alice Clippwell (Clisswell) of Great Yarmouth of Norfolk – Hanged.

1645 (1647) Elisabeth Dudgeon of Great Yarmouth of Norfolk – Hanged.

1645 Nazareth Fasset of Great Yarmouth of Norfolk.

1645 Bridgetta Howard of Great Yarmouth of Norfolk.

1645 Joan Lacey of Great Yarmouth of Norfolk.

1645 (1647) Dorothy Lee at Kings Lynn of Norfolk – Hanged.

1645 Elisabeth Linstead of Great Yarmouth of Norfolk.

1645 ‘One’ Meggs of Norwich of Norfolk.

1645 Mark Pryme of Great Yarmouth of Norfolk.

1645 Margaret Read of Norfolk.

1645 Mary Verdy of Great Yarmouth of Norfolk.

1645 Maria Vervy of Great Yarmouth of Norfolk.

1645 Mark Wilkinson of Great Yarmouth of Norfolk.

1645 (1647) Grace Wright at Kings Lynn of Norfolk – Hanged

1645 Mark Price at Great Yarmouth of Norfolk – the charges were dropped

1645 150 people were killed in England in the last six months of 1645

1646 no details apart from accused by Matthew Hopkins & Co.

1646 (1647) Grace Wright at Kings Lynn of Norfolk – Hanged

1647 Bridget Howard at Great Yarmouth of Norfolk – Hanged

1648-1650 over 220 people killed in England and Scotland on evidence of a Scottish witch-finder.

1648 2 people executed at Norwich.

1649 Mary Oliver & Mother Tirrell ‘ Of the Hospital’ of Norwich of Norfolk – Sent to death upon the city gallows in the castle ditches.

1659 (1658) Mary Oliver at Norwich of Norfolk – Burned for murdering her husband and accused of witchcraft.

1668 Mary Bannister of Heaverland of Norfolk – the charges were dropped.

1679 Elisabeth Blade of Whissonsett of Norfolk.

1679 Eliasabeth Crowe of Whissonsett of Norfolk.

1679 Ursula Skippon of Whissonsett of Norfolk.

1679 Mary English of Whissonsett of Norfolk.

No date Mary Findall of Tatterford of Norfolk.

The dates in brackets are conflicting years on different sites.

The Jolly Farmers Inn, on the border with Necton, was a well known coaching inn and was once the home of Old Mother Fyson, the celebrated witch of Holme Hale. For a fee she would foretell the sex of an unborn, and if one wanted to be rid of a husband, a wife or a lover, she would be able to supply the correct potion. She saved the equivalent of £150,000 in today’s money and married a young man named Richard Parfray who built a windmill to the west of the house and a watermill on the River Erne. He later squandered all of his wife’s money and she died in poverty in 1808 (

 Fye Bridge in Norwich is a site of a medieval ducking stool that was used for witches and if they survived they were burned to death.

Lollards Pit was where witches were burnt at the stake.

Witches at Great Yarmouth were tried before the court in the Tolhouse.  Matthew Hopkins visited Great Yarmouth during 1645.


The Discovery of Witches, by Matthew Hopkins for a full copy, click here or on the picture.

For more information on:

History of Witchcraft

Malleus Maleficarum

The Witch Finder General

How to tell a witch

Witch trials

Please go to my previous article here


List of Witch executions

13 responses to “Norfolk Witchcraft – Executions – Ritual objects

  1. Pingback: Norfolk Witchcraft – Executions – Ritual objects | Other News of Interest·

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  5. 215727 754018Hey! Im at work surfing around your blog from my new apple iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts! Keep up the outstanding work! 552161

  6. This is just the information I’m looking for. Well researched and excellently presented, am currently looking for old books on the subject, and Tracy’s blog has given me plenty of leads. Marvellous work.

  7. Really nice blog. Thank you! I was searching for some info on Witches Bottles and Google linked to you. I get so sick of reading articles and blogs on witches which are poorly sourced (when I say “poorly”, I am being kind, I really mean they pinch other people’s work and claim it as their own!) and which contain no references to other information and, frankly, are simply full of personal bias and unsupported evidence. It’s a real pleasure to find a blog which is both informative and properly researched. Really nice to see. Thanks so much. 🙂

  8. Hello , maybe you can help me, I’m looking for information on a which burning in Norfolk.
    My grandmother used to speak of a witch burnt in the village of stanhoe in Norfolk, and I wondered if you’ve ever come accross any information about this?
    Your blog is fascinating, thank you


  9. Pingback: Deterring Witches – Norfolk Tales, Myths & More!·

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