The Old Woman and
the Conjurors

A Journey from Witch Scratching to
The Conjurors, and The Southcottian
Millenarean Movement of
The Early 19th Century

Troy Books is extremely pleased to welcome Michael Slater with the publication of his new book The Old Woman and the Conjurors: A Journey from Witch Scratching to the Conjurors, and the Southcottian Millenarean Movement of the Early 19th Century.

The writing of “The Old Woman and the Conjurors” began as a result of a complete co-incidence. The author, whilst researching for a friend, discovered a story in an adjacent newspaper column containing familiar names and places. It described an attack on an old woman in a Devonshire village who was suspected of being a witch. This woman turned out to be the author’s ancestor, and the subsequent investigation into her story led to the uncovering of a veritable pandemic of “witch scratching” and even murder of mostly elderly women during the period studied. The figure of the village “conjuror”, a West Country term for somebody who could remove the Evil Eye, loomed large behind the scenes along with odd connections to non-conformist and millennial religious groups. The enigmatic Exeter prophetess Joanna Southcott and her followers make an appearance along with the Leeds witch, and murderess, Mary Bateman.  The long-held belief that, by drawing blood from a witch, one could negate her power was also behind the famous murder of Ann Tennant, in the Warwickshire village of Long Compton in 1875, a deed that was influenced by a cunning man who was one of the “water doctors” of Northamptonshire. This book examines the lives of these curious and often eccentric characters, their families, beliefs, clients and unfortunate victims, in an effort to shed a little more light on the more recent history of belief in the supernatural.

The author is based in Bristol, UK and has studied extensively the occult history of that region, and has presented talks on the subject for local groups. He has had other writings published in Cauldron Magazine and Scarlet Imprint anthology Mandragora and was a veteran performer with a Wiltshire group of Mummers for many years.

Promotional video for ‘The Old Women and the Conjurors’ we follow Michael to various locations featured in the book

Available in the following editions:

Standard Hardback Edition: a light blue cloth case binding with black foil blocking to cover & spine, 90gsm cream paper stock, blueberry endpapers, with electric blue and tail bands.

Special Edition: a limited edition of 150 hand-numbered examples, bound in a Royal Blue faux leather binding, with copper foil blocking to the front and spine, 90gsm cream paper stock, blueberry endpapers, with electric blue head and tail bands.

Size: All editions are Royal format 234 x 156mm.

Pagination: 144 pages extensively illustrated with drawings and photographs.


Prologue: Superstition, Witchcraft, and the Courts

Chapter 1: Scratching the Witch
Susannah Bolt
Why Were These Women Attacked in This Manner?
Scratching the Witch (above the Breath)
The Long Compton Murder – A Late and Fatal Example of Such an Attack
The Wise Man of Croughton
Water Doctors of Northamptonshire
Scratching—A Supposed Theory of Operation

Chapter 2: On the Trail of the West Country Conjurors
Ann Burges and the Bryants
Who Was Old Baker?
Hints of another conjuror in the area
Conjuror Perry
Esther Peadon
Johnny Hooper – The Ladock Conjuror
Polwhele’s Account
Foxy pie
Ann Hill (alias Nan Sharp) of Malmesbury
The Wiltshire Account
The Dorset Account
The Petition
William Abrahall and the Monkton Combe Ghost
Mary Francis of St. Philip’s
Mary Boon and John Field of Staverton

Chapter 3: Joanna Southcott and the Visitation
Richard Brothers (1757–1824)
Arrest and the Asylum
Joanna Southcott (1750–1814)
George Turner (1755–1821)
Joanna Southcott’s Followers
The Panacea Society
John Wroe (1782–1863)
James Jershom Jezreel (1849–1885)

Chapter 4: Mary Bateman, the Leeds Witch
Mary Bateman, the Sorceress

Chapter 5: The Southcottians in the West Country
The Revd Dr. Robert Hoadley-Ashe
Edmund Baker and the Dowlish Southcottians
Joseph Southcott and the Bristol Southcottians
Conjuror Perry: Was He a Follower?


Appendix 1 – The Will of Richard Baker of Westleigh
Appendix 2 – The Will of Benjamin Baker of Westleigh
Appendix 3 – The Family of Richard Baker of Westleigh, Devon
Appendix 4 – The Family of Henry Perry of Dowlish Wake, Somerset




Paperback Edition

£13.50 plus shipping

For shipping information click here

Standard Hardback Edition

£19.50 plus shipping

For shipping information click here

Special Edition

£27.50 plus shipping

For shipping information click here

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