Ghost of servant 'flies broomstick over UK town' after witchcraft rumours

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A village church in Great Paxton where Ann Izzard was born (Image: Cambridge News)
A village church in Great Paxton where Ann Izzard was born (Image: Cambridge News)

A ghost of a farmer's servant is rumoured to fly her broomstick over a Cambridgeshire town where she was accused of witchcraft.

Alice Samuel along with her husband and daughter, known as the Witches of Warboys, were executed in 1593 after being accused of causing the nine-year-old daughter of Robert Throckmorton, the squire of Warboys, to suffer from fits. Similarly, Ann Izzard was accused of bewitching children and causing them to have fits.

But several centuries later, she was able to escape with her life after an attempt was made by villagers to throw her into a pond to see if she would float or sink. Ann is believed to have been born in Offord around 1760 and worked as a servant for a farmer in Great Paxton before getting married, moving to Great Staughton, and having a child.

Both Ann and her husband, who had the surname Wright, appear to have been unemployed by 1783, leaving them to apply for parish relief. They were moved back to Great Paxton as local parish officials often wanted to move the burden of providing relief onto other places.

The family continued to receive parish relief until 1808, when one of their six children got a job working for a farmer. The family became very poor without support from the parish and it seems that Ann may have begun begging for food, reports Cambridgeshire Live. In 1808, a few local girls began having fits which were attributed to witchcraft with Ann becoming the prime suspect.

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And on another occasion, Ann was blamed for a cart overturning as it returned from St Neots market. A group of villagers dragged Ann naked from her bed on Sunday May 8, 1808, beating her and scratching her until they drew blood, since they thought this would weaken her power as a witch.

Ann was looked after by a neighbour named Alice Russell, who was then also accused of being a witch. Just over a week later, Alice was dragged from her bed again for another beating. Villagers threatened to throw her in the pond to see whether she would float, but Ann managed to escape. Those who attacked her were arrested, tried, and spent a month in jail in Huntingdon.

Ann later moved to St Neots, where the accusations of witchcraft followed her. And legend has it that she still rides her broomstick over the churchyard in Eynesbury with sightings of her there and other local places.

The two accounts of the Witches of Warboys and Ann Izzard may show how differently people accused of witchcraft were treated between the 1500s and 1800s. But although Ann wasn't killed, the accusations still made her life harder. She was buried in an unmarked grave in St Neots in 1838.

Cait Findlay

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