The village of Canewdon… did you know in Essex it’s called THE VILLAGE OF WITCHES!
Well, if you’re not a witch or from Essex then you may not have heard of Canewdon.
Canewdon is a small village about 4 miles northeast of the town of Rochford.
If you fancy paying a visit to this spooky place then head for Rochford and then take the Ashingdon Road north until you come across the Canewdon Road on your right which will, as the name suggests, take you into Canewdon.
Canewdon is located on one of the highest hills along the Essex coastline and its name comes from the ancient Saxon for the ‘hill of the Cana’s people’.
The impressive 14th century Parish Church of St Nicholas at the end of the village High Street is a well-known local landmark…
The infamous ghost of St Nicholas Church is that of the faceless grey lady in the poke bonnet!
The Devil, Ghosts and Witches of Canewdon Church
OK so let’s start with the Devil…
If you’re feeling energetic then there’s a local legend which goes something like this…
If you run anticlockwise around the church or a certain tomb in the graveyard on Halloween then the Devil will appear!
Now there are variations on this legend, some say witches or ghosts will appear instead of the Devil and some even say that you will travel back in time…
So, due to these local legends, one presence that will defiantly appear on Halloween is that of the local law!
You see, every year the police cordon off the church on Halloween to prevent thrill seekers causing mischief…
Apparently, it becomes a bit like Piccadilly Circus in rush hour!
Now the infamous witches…
Local legend says that there will always be at least six witches within Canewdon.
Three of cotton and three of silk which means three of lower class and three of higher class!
Canewdon tradition also says as long as the church’s steeple exists so will the six witches remain in the village.
And every time a stone falls from the church’s tower one witch will die but another will take her place!
Nobody really knows the precise time in history when Canewdon became associated with witches…
But back in 1580 there was three witch trials which span ten years.
The spinster Rose Pye was accused of bewitching to death Johanna Snow who was a toddler from a local farm.
Rose was acquitted but unfortunately she died in jail probably because she couldn’t to pay the fee to secure her release.
In 1585 Cicily Makyn was charged with practising witchcraft.
She was sentenced to a five-year stretch to mend her occult ways.
But five years later in 1590 Cicily was indicted for witchcraft…
So it didn’t look like she mended her ways!
She was punished by being excommunicated which today doesn’t seem too bad but in Medieval England it meant that your soul would be damned to everlasting torment in hell!
So surprisingly only two women were ever charged with witchcraft in Canewdon…
One was innocent and the other guilty but treated leniently!
So why is Canewdon infamously linked with witchcraft?
Well a gentleman called George Pickingill who lived in the village during the late 19th century and the writer Charles Lefebure might have had something to do with it.
George Pickingill was said to practice a combination of Arabic mysticism, Christian heresy, Danish paganism and French witchcraft.
He famously wrote ‘The Pickingill Papers’ which covered the history and anthropology of Wicca.
It’s believed with his guidance nine covens were created in Essex, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Sussex and were under his control.
And it’s said that he would call his witches for a gathering to a spot close to St. Nicholas church with the aid of a wooden whistle!
It’s said that he provided herbal remedies for the sick of Canewdon but would also cursed people he didn’t like with his infamous walking stick.
So many locals were terrified of offending him just in case he cursed them.
Pickingill character was probably made out to be a lot darker than it really was by the writer Charles Lefebure.
Lefebure wrote that Pickingill had close relations with black magicians and that he sold his soul to the devil!
Many locals believed that Pickingill’s bad reputation is unfair.
They feel that he was just a simple man who practiced the traditional arts of a folk healer.
One thing for sure, the stories of George Pickingill and Cicily Makyn have added to the mystery of Canewdon.
OK, so let me now tell you about the ghosts of St Nicholas…
Many people have witnessed strange paranormal phenomena such as orbs around Canewdon’s church.
One terrified guy saw the apparition of a young woman dancing in the churchyard after he walked around the church tower…
Maybe it was a ghost of a witch!
The infamous ghost of St Nicholas which has been witnessed in the graveyard and the west gate car park is that of the faceless grey lady in the poke bonnet…
Most sightings happen on moonless nights.
She’s seen to float from the church’s west gate and head down towards the River Crouch.
It’s said that once she has reached the river she then crosses it by walking on the water!
Another ghost witnessed at the church is that of a headless woman.
It’s said that anyone who’s unfortunate enough to come across this headless spectre will be lifted in the air and roughly dumped into the nearest ditch…
Quite an uplifting experience!