Out & About …

… on the North York Moors, or wherever I happen to be.

Nanny Newgill, the Broughton Witch — Part II

Back on the Cleveland Hills after a few days break. I was reminded crossing Urra Moor that I need to post the second part of Richard Blakeborough’s 1902 tale of Nanny Newgill, the Broughton Witch1BLAKEBOROUGH, RICHARD ‘Nanny Newgill, the Broughton Witch’. Part 2. | Northern Weekly Gazette | Saturday 29 March 1902 | British Newspaper Archive’. 2022. Britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk <https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/BL/0003075/19020329/236/0031?browse=true> [accessed 23 October 2022].

For Part I see here.



Dinah Curry, a Broughton girl, marries a stranger to the village, but her husband leaving, she returns to her uncle’s, and by her jealous companions is accused of having never been married. Her uncle dying, she is turned out of doors by another uncle, but taken in by Nanny Newgill, the Broughton witch, both being cited to appear before the Stokesley Magistrates. The former is charged with being of ill-fame, and the latter of casting evil spells.


Serious charges of this nature having, as has been said, been duly sworn to against Nanny Newgill, the Broughton witch, and against Dinah for her misdeeds, and because she had willingly taken up her abode with Nanny, and there given birth to a child, declaring the same to be borne in wedlock, such being known to be untrue, it was judged the witch should be set in the stocks from eight in the morning until four of the clock in the afternoon, and that Dinah be stripped to the waist and be publicly whipped at the post as a common drab.

Owing to Dinah’s weak state, this double punishment was not to be carried out at once, a month’s grace being most considerately conceded. What happened during that month to her cruel uncle no one knew, but both he and those who had been active and instrumental in obtaining judgment against Nanny and Dinah, began to look haggard, and those few who had taken Dinah’s part whispered to one another, “that they were all, ay, ivvery yan on ’em, soul-struck and mind-sore.” And said they: “You mark, it’ll come home to ivvery yan on ’em.

Truly it seemed, as the days went on, as if it had already “come home” to every one of them. A story came to be whispered abroad that whilst a few friends were playing cards at the uncle’s, a voice was heard. From whence it came, or whose voice to liken it to, none knew; but all then present heard the words: “Ere many days shall pass, sure judgment shall catch thee up, and on that day, those who backed thee in thy lies, when they would spit them forth, shall find that they will cleave to their tongue; what thou has done shall not, be undone by thee.

The story, as then told, went on to say that, when the voice in its solemn tone ceased speaking, invisible fingers snatched the ace of spades from the uncle’s hand, dashed it upon the table, when it was instantly consumed by a blue flame. They all sat as still as death, being too frightened to move; yet everyone heard, underneath the table, a pattering or dancing as of cloven feet.

One man, ” a certain Mr Haugh,” not a frequent visitor at the house, and who had taken no part in the Nanny and Dinah affair, sprang to his feet and demanded his hat, saying :

Ah’s sorry for ti leave i’ sikan a horry, bud ez Ah ‘ev ‘ed neea hand i’ t’wrang-deening ‘at some o’ you a’e mixed yersens up wi, Ah’ll by gitting mahsel yam , lest au ‘d scrat aims at Ah’s yan o’ ya, an puts a mark again ma. Bud afore Ah gan, mind yau, Ah mean ya ti understan’ at Ah deean’t ho’d wi’ nowther what ya said, nor nowght ‘at ya’ve deean again yon tweea. Ya mum think on that ‘at’s nowght ti me, may prove summat ‘at’s bad ti bide wi’ some o’ you.” So saying, he hurried from the house, and those remaining were not long in following his footsteps.

Very naturally, the story of the ace of spades was soon noised abroad, and before many hours its general character had so altered that those who had been present at the time hardly recognised their own account of what had really taken place.

The Devil had bodily stalked into the room enveloped in a cloud of blue, sulphurous smoke, snatched the card from the uncle’s hand, which card had been burned to ashes with the flames which shot from his eyes as he looked at it. He had then spit fire on certain of those present, and then vanished through the floor.” So said those who spread the story abroad.

Some declared that the witch showed not the least concern or fear as the day for her punishment draw near, adding, “There’s summat ‘at t’aud lass knaws ‘at maks her put a bou’d face on.” Then someone started a report to the effect that some person who did not wish their name mentioning had, when passing Nanny’s cottage late one night, seen young Garrett and Dinah come forth and walk down the lane. So much amazed had this person been on seeing the two together that he, or she, which ever it was, had knocked at Nanny’s door and questioned her about the matter; but the witch had not given a satisfactory reply. Indeed, she merely said: “If ya seed ’em ya seed ’em; if it war nobbut ‘magination, ya’ll a’e been mistaken; good-neet.

As it was a good three nights off the date appointed for their joint punishment, a watch was set on her cottage, but as no one, either man, woman, or child was seen to enter or leave Nanny’s abode, the gossips came to the conclusion that there was no foundation or truth in this last report.

So the days sped by, until at last the all-eventful morning dawned when Nanny and were to pay the penalty of their supposed evil doings. It was a lovely morning when the twain left the cottage to wend their way to stocks and post. The one to have her old bones racked with pain for many hours, seated in a most trying position upon the bare cobble stones, unless someone bolder than the common crowd, and possessed of a little spark of sympathetic feeling laid some straw upon the ground; the other to be whipped and put to public shame at the post. The day’s entertainment, as everyone knew, was to conclude by the ducking of the witch.

As Nanny and Dinah drew near to the place of torture, they found a large crowd already gathered together. Groans and jeers greeted the old dame on all sides, and from the lips of some of the coarser-minded ones’ remarks reached Dinah’s ears which brought the hot blood of shame to her pale cheeks. But one lout, trespassing beyond all bounds of decency, had hardly uttered the last word of his brutal jest at the poor young wife’s expense, when he was felled to the ground, and the man—a stranger—who had struck the blow, cried, “Make a ring and he shall have a fair chance to give me my change.” As might be expected, the man who, under cover of a crowd, would thus attack a defenceless woman, had but little liking or relish to defend himself in open fight. It began to be whispered amongst those present that other men had been equally summarily dealt with in acknowledgment of their coarseness, so that a feeling arose amongst the holiday-makers that there was an element present distinctly in favour of the two females—an element which was quick to resent that which it considered wrongful treatment of either Dinah or Nanny.

Arrived at the stocks, the poor women stood encircled by a ring of those who had come from far and near to witness the fun. Long before their arrival, some rowdy had mounted a cart hard by and shouted out a “Stock and Ducking doggerel2A comic verse composed in irregular rhythm..” Little is now remembered of the former, which began (the name of the culprit always being used): —

For Nan’s ill-deeds fast in these stocks
This day here locked sha’ll lig;
Seea when her elbows are red raw,
Sha can rist her on her rig.

Though the rhyme is forgotten, it is remembered that it went on to say that “all those present were to behave themselves properly and decently towards those about to be punished, and to refrain from throwing rotten eggs at them, unless they knew of deeds which those in the stocks had committed worthy of such treatment. Then, in a case of that kind, they were to throw anything they had a mind.” This was always greeted with loud peals of laughter, the crowd well knowing what such a request really meant: that they had to pitch as much filth as they liked. The doggerel reciter went on to say Nanny has also been condemned to be ducked.

NOTE.—The following ducking doggerel was originally used at the ducking of “Molly Cass, of Leaming Mill.” This was carried out at the common ducking place at Bedale on Tuesday, 16th June, 1801. There is, however, still in existence the lines used on such occasions at Stokesley. Unfortunately they are not to hand at the moment, these being given in their place as a good example of how such lines ran :

To the iron hoop we’ve tied thi hands,
All bone and wrinkled skin:
An’ tiv t’ chair legs thi shins wa’ve bun
Afore wa dip tha in.
An’ tiv its seat thi seat wa’ve tied,
Wi’ t’rope aboot thi waist,
An’ ower baith thi hips wa’ve looked
T’ esh seat beam ti’ war taste.
Thi’ een fra sockets commaist strain’d,
Wi’ shakking gums an’ chin,
Wi’ quiv’ring bru an’ blanched check,
Lythe ya! wa’ll sos tha in.
An’ when thoo’s doon wa’ll t’ bubbles cooat
Whahl theteen bost ther skin,
An’ than wa’ll pull up again,
An’ yance mair drop tha in.


Fer smittin’ Mary’s bairn wi’ t’ pock,
Fer warkin’ mich ill deed
Wi’ Tommy’s yows an’ Hannah’s ducks,
An’ makkin’ Sally bleed
Warse ‘an a new stuck pig, fersooth;
An’ likewise wa all sweear,
Fer castin’ pains i’ Martha’s bed
Past owght a wife can beear;
Fer setting Willie’s stack o’ fire,
Wi’ some Hell fleeams thoo gat,
An’ being sa varra kind wi’ Nick
‘At t’ Divil went an’ spat
Nigh ‘t altar rails, an’ in t’ chetch poorch
An’ thrice times on t’ Toon Brig.
An’ mair ‘an yance thoo spell’d au ‘d Tom,
An’ laid him on his rig,
Fer dryin’ up Ann Jepson breast,
Afore her bairn war speaned,
Fer brewing strife ‘mang wedded folk.
Wa yan a’e deamed,
‘At thoo s’all be a watter Queean,
Thoo evil minded witch;
Wa’ll swing thy trone (throne) an’ slacken t’rope,
An’ nine times duck thoo, bitch.

The iron hoop mentioned was a bent iron bar in the form of an arch, being fastened to both arms. The culprit, when seated in the ducking chair, had each wrist bound at either aide of this bar. There was an eyelet ring fastened to the top of the arch, into which the hook of the rope was thrust. In line seven, for hips read thighs. The ash beam was a hinged board, with two arches cut therein, and when shut down came over each leg, holding them quite securely.

It is interesting to note how wide the influence of a witch was believed to extend, for doubtless the whole of the charges herein given were at that time by very many fully believed in.

No sooner was the doggerel concluded than those in authority ordered Nanny to seat herself and lay her ankles within the stocks.

An’ thee strip thisel, thoo—” the rest of the sentence, uttered by a recent addition to the assembly, was so coarse, that many present called shame on the speaker.

Sha’s what Ah said, an’ Ah’s riddy ti upho’d what Ah’ve just said, if ther’s onny here doots what Ah’ve said,” loudly proclaimed the great bully brute of a man.

For what you have just dared to utter I with my voice call you a cowardly liar, and with fist I fell you. ” Suiting the action to the words, he struck the braggart fair between the eyes, bringing him to the ground like a bullock in the shambles.

Mak a ring, mak a ring,” he cried, scrambling to his feet mad with passion. “He teeak ma unawares; mak a ring, Ah’ll larn him ‘at he can’t hit Tom Robson fer nowght. Ya ken me, lads? Ya ken Tom Robson o’ Seamer? Come on thoo young cock sparrow! Ah shoots yuck fer Seamer, see ya ! leeak ya !” he screamed, dancing round in a perfect frenzy of wild passion and excitement. “Ah wets mah heel, an’ slaps mah shoon, Ah’ve deeant a’en’t Ah ?” he shouted to the pressing crowd, to which there was a ready response.

Ay, thoo’s wetten’t an’ slapped thi shoon fair fer all ti see. Noo then fling thi jacket off an’ git thi sen ti wark.

He’s nobbut hauf thi size Tom. Thoo ought ti tak him wi’ yah han’.

Can’t ta put him ti bed, diz ta aim ?

Thee tak’ care ‘at he dizn’t gi’e tha a soond benseling. Onnyway thoo despert weel desarves yan,” said a third person, a strong, well-built young fellow, adding, as he pushed his way to the front, “An’ think on all o’ ya, ‘at up ti noo the fight’s nut mine, bud it seean can be, if onny o’ ya aims owght bud fair. Noo gentlemen toe the mark,” he cried, making a long deep line with his heel.

No second invitation did the stranger need, but quietly waited the attack of his antagonist. With the rush of a mad bull Robson dashed at his opponent. There was a sickening thud, and down again he went. Full length upon the ground he lay, a senseless heap of human brute force.

Throw some water ower him and he’ll soon come round again,” was all the concern the victor extended to his fallen foe, as he turned towards the stocks, the crowd following his footsteps, and the greater number entirely won over to his way of thinking, whatever that way might be, and ready to do his instant bidding. Dinah’s uncle, was calling loudly for some one to bring the key of the stocks; he had had found them locked, and no one seemed to know where the key had gone.

I have the key,” said the vanquisher of the redoubtable Tom Robson.

And why have you the key ?” demanded the uncle in no friendly tone of voice.

I’ll let you know in a minute or two,” was the quiet answer, as he turned the lock, and threw the stocks open, saying as he did so —

Pop him in lads, he ought to have been there long ago, let him taste his own gruel.

As the order was given a half dozen stalwart looking fellows, whom no one knew, seized him by the shoulders and legs, and before he fairly grasped what was happening, he was laid upon his back, his legs laid and locked within the friendly embrace of the stocks. The crowd stood agape with amazement, and before they had sufficiently recovered from the shock of this last unlooked for event, the young fellow set their singing, when he called aloud—

Dinah, my wife, come here.

Then it was that they in sense began to understand how it that both he and the old witch had looked so unconcerned that morning, and for long before that morning. Linking Dinah’s arm within his own, he continued, addressing his remarks to her discomfited uncle.

And now, sir, let me explain to you and those here gathered together, one or two facts, which will explain much, anyway as much as it is needful for you and those now present to know. I married your niece, and quite intended in the fulness of time returning to Broughton. There were reasons which I need not enter into here, which made it necessary that our having married should be kept secret. The reason why I have so long remained away from my wife is not as you and others of your way of evil-minded thoughts imagined that I deserted her, for I dearly love my wife, but owing to the simple fact that I was seized by the pressgang. Fortunately the war is ended, and I arrived here some weeks ago, only to find how you, who have no claim to either stick or stitch about the place, had turned her to the door. It so happens that her dead uncle showed me the place where his will was hidden, I am going there now to take possession of it.

To you who have spoken kindly of my dear wife I bid you to our christening feast; to you who have thought evil, and I have been amongst you long enough to know you well, I beg you to do us the great pleasure of keeping away.

Then leading his wife and old Nanny away from the throng, and followed by half a dozen of his shipmates, he sent the old dame rejoicing home, whilst he and his friends took possession of Dinah’s old home.

Weary with an hour’s forced confinement in the stocks, the uncle a sore and sad man, returned to the village, so that he might the next day pack up his belongings and return to where he came from.

Dinah and her husband sold the homestead, and took up their abode at her husband’s hoe. Broughton knew them no more but happy were they ever afterwards.

The above story is but a picture of country life as seen a hundred years ago, and chronicling the fact that the once widely-known and much feared Nanny Newgill, the Broughton witch, did on more than one occasion succour those wrongfully treated.




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