The last 3 witches of Bideford

They say the last 3 witches of England were hung on a sunny June day in 1682, in the little town of Bideford. They were wrong.

3 innocent ladies – Temperance Lloyd, Mary Trembles and Susanna Edwards were their names. Their crimes? Causing people to fall ill, causing the deaths of several others and blinding a women in 1 eye.

They were innocent of course, but someone had to take the fall, or else someone would have eventually got suspicious of me.

I’m ok with it. I have made my peace. It’s been over 300 years, after all. They weren’t the first to fall victim to wrong accusations and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.

Temperance Lloyd, that was a funny one. I put rumours out about her having unnatural teats on her body for the Devil to suckle. Luckily, the stupid locals never thought to check. Probably too scared of getting close to a ‘real’ witch.

The local shop keeper, Thomas Eastchurch was the first to accuse her of witchcraft. He said she caused Grace Thomas to fall ill. Of course it was all my doing, well, with a little help from the Devil.

He nearly got caught, don’t you know. Taking too many chances sneaking about looking like a cat, but the blame fell, yet again, on poor Temperance.

People were much less tolerant in those days, some might say racist. Temperance was the only women kind enough to talk to a black man who visited the area, yet people just assumed he was the devil.

She used to talk to the homeless too, poor Mary Trembles and Susanna Edwards, that was their only crime. Conversing with a so called witch.

Their final parting words before their hanging were: “For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so I am not able to look, they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me”

People stopped believing in witchcraft after that. It became much safer for me to perform my work in the years that followed. The devil continued to visit for many years, on his travels around old England. I still catch a glimpse of him every now and then. We no longer talk, it’s safer for us both that way.

The maid and the maggot

One sunny, late September morning, in Little Langford, a maid went out to forage for nuts in the woodland behind her house.
She filled the basket to the brim and took the short walk back to her cottage, where she washed and prepared them ready for eating.

Just as she got to the last one, she spotted a hole in it. She peered inside and as she got close, out popped the white head of a tiny maggot.

She screamed, dropping the nut on the floor. But the maggot seemed unfazed by the fall and started to crawl away.

The maid took off her shoe and was about to squash the maggot, but she just couldn’t do it, it was just too cruel.

Instead she scooped it up into a box and left a few nuts for it too eat.

Later that day, when she returned to the box, the nuts were all gone and all that was left was a fat little maggot.

Oh dear, she thought. What can I feed you now? She found some stale old bread and left it in the box and went to bed.

The next morning, on her return to check on the maggot, the bread was all gone and she was pretty sure the maggot had grown.

This went on for some time, the maid leaving food for the maggot, with the maggot growing all the while, eventually out growing the box and the house, she had to put it in the stables outside, with the horses.

This was a terrible idea, the maggot was hungry and growing after all, those poor horses never stood a chance.

The maggot grew and grew until the maid ran out of things to feed it. One evening there was a loud crash outside and when the maid went to see what was happening, all she saw was the maggot eating what looked to be the remains of the stable door.

Oh no! Thought the maid what have I done?

But it was too late for the maid, as the maggot had already spotted her and before she knew it, swallowed her whole.

The maggot continued with its feeding rampage and dissappeared into the woodlands.

When the maids father discovered what had happened, he gathered up a hunting party of villagers, who went to the woods to find and destroy the maggot.

They found it in a clearing picking bits from its teeth, using a sharp pointy rib bone, possibly that of a large bull.

The maids father pointed a spear at the maggot and threw it. His aim was perfect but the maggot was just too large. The maggot screached with rage and bolted through the woodland, dragging the poor old man along the floor with it.

He must have travelled several miles before the maggot ran into a great oak tree and stopped stone dead.

As a reminder to all who lived at little langford, never to feed tiny maggots, for fear they may become monsters, the villagers chopped down the great oak tree and had the local carpenter turn it into a huge door for the church. 


At the beginning of the world there was bear. Bear owned fire and tended to its needs and kept it fed. In return fire warmed bear and his people on cold nights.
One day bear came to a great forest full of tasty acorns, so he put fire down at the edge of the forest, and proceeded to eat the acorns.

Gradually bear and his people wondered deeper and deeper into the trees, hunting out more and more tasty acorns.

After some time fire got hungry and called out to bear ‘feed me!’ but bear and his people were too far away to hear, so fire called out again, but louder this time ‘FEED MEEE!! please?’

But it was no use. Fire started to dwindle to small embers and get weak. Just when it was looking like the end of fire forever along came man.

‘Hello?’ said fire in a weak voice.

‘Hello’ said man.

‘I’m hungry’ said fire. ‘Can you feed me?’

‘I don’t know what you eat’ said man. For man had never seen fire before.

‘I eat sticks and logs and woods of all kinds’ replied fire.

So man gathered up some small pieces of wood. He placed the wood at the North side and the south side, the west side and finally the east. Fire flickered orange and blue, growing taller and brighter.

Man went off into the forest to gather some larger pieces for fire and fed them to it. Fire leeped and danced with delight.

Man continued to feed fire and warm himself by the heat of fire, watching the dancing flames. Man and fire were very happy together and man fed fire whenever it got hungry.

A long time later, bear and his people returned from their forage in the forest, looking for fire.

But fire was angry and hissed at bear and said ‘I do not know you!’ Fire blazed so brightly that bear had to shield his eyes with his paws.

‘You left me to go hungry and nearly die, but man saved me.’

Fire roared and flared at bear, the heat sending bear and his people fleeing into the forest.

And now fire belongs to man.

The Moonrakers

In 1733, 4 years after strict laws were bought in to restrict the sale of gin, 2 Wiltshiremen from Devizes took it upon themselves to find a solution.

They would smuggle the barrels from the South coast, into Devizes, and hide them in the pond when the excisemen came to visit, before moving them on to the rest of the country.

This worked well enough for a while, until the time came to get the barrells out again. 

They waited until midnight, when the moon was full and set about retrieving the barrels, using rakes to pull them in.

Just as they were about to get the barrels back, the exciseman, who they believed to have left town, arrived.

“What’s going on here then?” said one of the excisemen.

“Well, er, erm, I mean, what I wanted to say sir, is, well, emm…” said the first man.

“CHEESE!!!” came the shout of the second man. Pointing to the reflection of the moon.

“I’m sorry?” said the exciseman.

“We were trying to collect the cheese from the water.”

The exciseman looked at the reflection of the moon in the water.

“I see,” he said, with a grin. Believing the country folk to be rather simple minded, he left them too it.

‘The Wiltshire Moonrakers’ by Edward Slow’

Taken fron ‘Wiltshire Rhymes and Tales in the Wiltshire Dialect’ (1894)

Down Vizes way zom years agoo, 
When smuggal’n wur nuthen new, 
An people wurden nar bit shy, 
Of who they did their sperrits buy. 
In a village liv’d a publican, 
Whi kept an Inn, The Pelican, 
A man he wur, a man a merrit 
An his neam wur Ikey Perritt. 
Ael roun about tha country voke 
Tha praise of thease yer landlard spoke; 
Var wen any on’em wur took bad, 
They knaw’d wur sperrits could be had; 
An daly it wur nice an handy, 
At tha Pelican to get yer brandy. 
Twer zwold as chep as tis in Vrance, 
Tho a course, twer done in iggerance.

One winter, Crismis time about, 
Thease lanlords tubs as ael ran out. 
Zays he, this yer’s a purty goo, 
Var mwore what ever shall I do; 
Thie smugglin Zam’s a purty chap, 
Ta lave I here wieout a drap; 
An wen a promised dree months back, 
A hooden vail ta bring me whack. 
Bit praps tha zizevoke voun his trail, 
An med a pop’d inta jail, 
Howsemdever, I’ll zen and zee, 
Ta marrer wats become a he. 
Zoo nex day at nite he off did start, 
Two girt chaps wie a donkey cart. 
Ta Bristil town thay took ther way, 
An got there as twer gettin day; 
Tha smugglers house tha zoon voun out, 
An tould’n wat they wur com about. 
Ael rite, zays he, I’ve plenty bye, 
Bit we mist keep a cuteish eye, 
Var tha zize voke, they be in tha watch, 
An two or dree have lately cotch. 
Zoo tell woold Perritt thats tha razin 
I coudden zen avore ta pleaz un. 
Soo wen twur dark thase smuggler bwold, 
Got dree tubs vrim a zacrit hould; 
An unobsarved he purty smart, 
Zoon clap’d em in tha donkey cart; 
An tha top a covered up we hay, 
Then zent tha chaps an cart away; 
Ael droo tha streets quite zaef an zound, 
Thay zoon jog’d out a Bristil town. 
An vore tha vull moon ad rose, 
To ther neative pleace, wur drawin close; 
Wen to ther girt astonishment, 
Thay met wie a awkurd accident, 
In passin auver Cannins Brudge, 
Tha stubborn donkey hooden budge; 
Tha chaps thay leather’d well his back, 
Bit a diden keer var ther attack; 
Bit jibb’d an beller’d, shook his mean 
Then kick’d bouth shafts right off za clane. 
Up went tha cart, tha tubs vill out, 
An in tha road zood roll’d about; 
An vore tha chaps cood ardly look, 
Ael dree ad roll’d straite in tha brook. 
Well here’s a purty goo zays one, 
Why will, wat ever’s to be done? 
I’d like ta kill thic donkey quite, 
If thee wurst, zays Tom, tid zar un rite. 
Doost knaa wat tha matter wur? 
I thinks a got a vorester; 
Var I nevir knaw’d un hack like this, 
Unless zummit wur much amiss. 
Look at un now he’s in a scare, 
An gwain as hard as he can tare; 
We bouth shafts danglin on tha groun, 
A wunt stop till he gets wom I’m bown. 
Zoo let un, I dwoant keer a snap, 
Var then thay’ll gace thease yer mishap; 
An zen zumbiddy on tha road, 
Ta help ess get wom saef tha load. 
Bit zounds, while thus we do delay, 
Tha tubs, begar, ull swim away; 
We mist get em out at any price, 
Tho’ the water be as cwoold as ice. 
Dwoant stan geapin zo, var goodness zeak, 
Run to thic rick an vind a reak; 
I thinks that I can reak em out, 
Var ther thay be swimmin about. 
Two reaks wur got, an then thaese two 
Did reak an splaish we much ado; 
Bit nar a tub diden lan, 
Thay hooden zeem ta com ta han. 
Zays Tom, I’m tired a tha job, 
An hooden a tuck un var ten bob; 
I ad a mine ta let em goo, 
An zoo I will if thee hoot to. 
Get out, girt stup, we mist get in, 
Tho we do get wet ta tha skin. 
Till never do ta let em be, 
Zo tuck thee pants up roun thee knee. 
Tha chaps then took tha water bwould, 
Tho thay wur shram’d ni we tha could; 
An jist as thay did heave one out, 
Ael at once a feller loud did shout– 
HEL’OH, me lads, wat up to there, 
NIGHT POACHERS, ah, if teant I swear. 
Let goo, zays Will, I’m blow’d if tent, 
Vizes excizemen on tha scent; 
Push off tha tub var goodness zeak, 
Get out tha brook, teak hould a reak; 
Reak at tha moon a shinin zee, 
An dwoant thee spake, I’ll tackle he, 
Bit av ad a mishap as ya see. 
Comin frum Vize we donkey cart, 
On tha bridge tha donk mead zudden start; 
An jirk’d, an jib’d, then gied a kick, 
An het bwouth shafts off purty quick. 
Out went our things wich as ya zees, 
Lays ael about, an yer’s a cheese; 
He roll’d rite on straite in thease brook, 
An Tom’s a reakun vor’un look! 
Tha Zizeman swallered ael o’t in, 
An ta zee Tom reakun, gun ta grin, 
Girt vool, zays he, as true’s I’m barn, 
Why that’s tha moon, thee beest reakun vor’n 
An then a busted out agean, 
An zed of ael, that beat all clean; 
Ta zee a crazy headed coon, 
Reak at the shadder of the moon. 
Will wink’d at Tom, Tom wink’d at Will, 
Ta zee how nice he’d took tha pill; 
Ah, zur, you med laff as long as ya please, 
Bit we be zure it be a cheese. 
Zee how he shows hisself za plain, 
Com Tom, lets reak vor he again. 
Zo slap an dash went on reakin, 
While Zizeman he var vun wur sheakin; 
An off a went houlden his zide, 
Var longer there a cooden bide. 
We grinnin his eyes did auverflow, 
Ta zee thay chaps a reakin zo; 
An ta think that now he’d tould em zo, 
Tha girt vools hooden ther frake vergo. 
Zoo up a got upon his hoss, 
An as tha brudge a went across, 
He zet up another harty grin, 
Wen a look’d an zeed em bouth get in; 
An zed girt vools till zar em rite, 
If thay da ketch ther deaths ta nite. 
Bit wen he ad got clane away, 
Tha tubs wur got wieout delay; 
And hid away, quite zeaf and zoun, 
Var a dark nite wen tha moon wur down.

Then at the Pelican thease chaps, 
Purty zoon wur tellen ther mishaps; 
Bit ael ther troubles they vergot, 
Wen they’d emptyied well tha landloards pot, 
An wen he a coose did pay em well 
Thease little stowry not ta tell; 
Zo wen tha Zizemin nex did com, 
Woold Perritt he a coose wur mum. 
An in a glass did jine wie glee, 
Wen Zizemin twould tha tale ta he; 
Bit he laff’d mwore wen zeaf one nite 
Tha tubs wur brought wom snug an tite; 
An many a bumper went a round, 
To think thay’d beat tha Zizemin zound.

Bit he tha tale did zoon let out 
To ael the countery roun about; 
An to thease day, people da teeze, 
All Wilsheer voke about tha cheese. 
Bit tis thay as can avourd ta grin, 
To zee ow nice a wur took in. 
Zoo wen out thease county you da goo, 
An voke da poke ther vun at you; 
An caal ee a girt Wilsheer coon, 
As went a reakun var tha moon. 
Jist menshin thease yer leetle stowry, 
And then bust out in ael yer glowry, 
That yer smeart Excisemin vresh vrum town, 
Wur took in wie a Wilsheer clown.

The Battle of Appledore

The year was 878. King Alfred the great was the ruler of Wessex, and not a lot else. He was pinned down to the Isle of Athelney in Somerset, battling the hairy and brutal Viking armies on a daily basis.
Another Viking army had made a base in South-west Wales, under the leadership of a fiercesome Chieftain named Ubba, son of the infamous Ragnar Lothbrok.

They formed a plan to trap King Alfred and attack from another side. They sailed across to North Devon with 1200 men on 23 ships.
Upon arrival in Devon, in a field now known as ‘the bloody corner’ a large battle took place against a defending party, under the leadership of Odda, Ealdorman of Devon.

The Vikings had pinned Odda and his men into a fortress, known as Cynuit. All seemed lost for the Saxens, so they made one final charge at Ubba and his men.

The Danes managed victory over Odda, but after losing 840 men, including their leader, Ubba, the Danes could not continue with the campaign to defeat Alfred the great.

Ubba’s men retreated to Lundy island before burrying him in a place near the river, at Appledore, now known as Hubbastone, under a cairn made from Lundy granite. No longer visible, either washed away or built over, a memorial has been installed by the river in his honour

King Alfred went on to successfully defend Wessex, and his decendents eventually ruled over England. And Odda, for his efforts, got a street named after him in Appledore, now called ‘Odun road’

The Making of Cley hill

“There once was a man called the Devil,

Who walked a long way with a shovel.

He walked to Devizes,

Which hurted his thighses

So he made a big hill and went home”

Once upon an old road, the devil, while on his travels, paid a visit to the town of Devizes. Upon entering the town he discovered that all the people in the town had converted to Christianity.

‘I can’t have this’ he said ‘I must put a stop to this nonsense before it spreads to the other towns’

He continued on his travels, all the while with the idea of Devizes playing on his mind. It was only upon his arrival in Somerset that he came up with an idea.

‘I will bury the town of Devizes under a pile of earth. That’ll teach everyone a lesson!’

So he stole a huge sack from a nearby farm and got to work filling it with soil.

It was quite a long journey back to Devizes and the Devil wasn’t one for paying too much attention, and so, here’s the thing – he got lost.

Luckily there was a man walking towards him, so he stopped him to ask directions. He was an old looking man with white hair and a long beard.

‘excuse me, sir’ said the Devil. I’m looking for Devizes, am I heading the right way?’

The man looked down at the holes in his boots  and back up at the devil.

‘You know’ he said ‘I’ve been looking for Devizes for quite some time myself. I forget how long, but my beard was black at the time’.

This threw the Devil into a rage and so he dumped his sack at the side of the road, burying the man underneath it.

And thus Cley hill was born. Sometimes in the gloom of the early evening people have been known to catch a glimpse of the Devil, still wandering around and muttering to himself about the whereabouts of the town of Devizes.