Mary Bateman, Yorkshire’s other witch

Willoughby Bedford Journal investigating folklore and superstitions

Mary Bateman, well no, I’m not here to meet her but to find out about her, she was born sometime around 1768. And yes, I know, I look old but certainly not that old! She was born possibly near the town of Thirsk, North Yorkshire.

Mary Bateman, Yorkshire’s other witch; not to be confused with witch Mother Shipton over at Knaresborough. Mrs Bateman was one of the last women to be convicted and hanged for witchcraft in 1809.

Well versed in the black arts she was instructed by travelling folk in herbal medicine and soothsaying. She acquired a husband who soon discovered his wife’s mystical powers matched her rather dubious criminal tendencies. It is alleged she charged audiences a penny to see eggs produced by her hen that were inscribed with the words, Jesus is coming.

She instructed a wealthy cloth merchant from Leeds to give her four guineas to rid his wife of evil spirits. Mary took the money and said she would sew it into the bed linen of his wife to ward off the spirits. She also gave the merchant puddings to feed upon and unknown to the couple she had laced the puddings with arsenic.

The wife died in agony, the merchant escaping such a fate was told by Mary that his wife had died because he had not followed the instructions to the letter.

It was only when the merchant discovered what was sown into the bed linen, cabbage leaves, he pressed charges and the arsenic laced puddings were discovered.

Not successful in talking her way out of the court case by claiming she was pregnant the court would hear none of it.

Mary Bateman was executed at York Castle after which her body was given over to Leeds Infirmary for dissection. It was reported that the hospital authorities placed the body on public display, to draw in the crowds and sell pieces of the witch’s skin as souvenirs.

by Willoughby Bedford

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