The curse of the Black Witch
This story of a black witch and the circumstances surrounding the death in 1897 of her father , Vincent Waldr Calmady-Hamlyn of Leawood, was told by Sylvia Calmady-Hamlyn in a Western Morning News article in 1953. Her father was squire of Bridestowe.
Sylvia told of how her father telling her that there were bad people called black witches, who did harm to their neighbours. He added, however, that quite harmless old women often got the reputation unjustly — and he and his small daughter used to take soup to such victims, living in great poverty and isolation because villagers refused to allow them to come to the village. But he did make his daughter promise never go on a certain rather poor little farm lying under the Moor, and she never did.
Sylvia continues: “On September 1, 1897 we rode, as was custom, to Lifton Court, the other two magistrates being Mr. Kelly of Kelly and a man whose name I forget. I do not know if he told my step-grandmother what had happened there, but, of course she knew later after his death. The noted black witch had been summoned for the first time by the police for some offence of theft and the magistrates gave her some fine — my father, I think, being in the chair.”
“As they left the courthouse, she stood on the steps and cursed them, giving my father at most three days to live, Mr. Kelly two years, and the third man three years. Of course, Bridestowe village rang that night with the news of the cursing of the magistrates — particularly of the Squire.”
“On September 2, he went out riding about 10:30 a.m. while I was still at lessons. At 12, a frightened tenant came with news of ‘an accident to the Squire,’ and we waited. At three, the Rector came and told us that my father had been found dead, with his horse standing by, at a spot not far from the black witch’s holding. He was 44.”
“Within the week, I was back again at my grandfather’s home in Yorkshire, ‘an orphan and a ward’ until I was 21, and Leawood passed to another. Within two years I was visiting my step-grandmother at Exmouth, where she lived, and saw a paralysed, helpless man in a bath chair – Mr. Kelly, of Kelly, who shortly died. The third magistrate died within the limit of his curse.”
“I did not know the story until, at 21, I returned to Bridestowe to a tiny home of my own, when the Rector told me, and added: ‘I have preached against the power of witch craft all my time and after that it was no longer any good.