The Yorkshire Witch: The Life and Trial of Mary Bateman by Summer Strevens

‘When Mary Bateman was born, she was of so little importance that the date of her birth went unrecorded. When it came to her final moments on the gallows however, thousands of spectators witnessed her execution upon York’s ‘New Drop’ on the morning of Monday 20th March 1809, some of whom, packed shoulder to shoulder in the crowd, were convinced to the very end that the Yorkshire Witch would save herself from death at the last moment by employing her supernatural powers to vanish into thin air as the noose tightened. Needless to say, she didn’t.’

Mary Bateman was no witch! More a petty thief and fraudster with a sociopathic personality. She was intelligent and used her reading and writing abilities (a rare attribute for women of this era) for unsavoury financial gains.

This was an interesting account of crime in the early 1800’s, as rarely were women seen to be of criminal mind, often simply being deemed ‘mad’ and locked away in an asylum.

Mary was charming and manipulative and had an inventive imagination, often making up non-existent characters, used purely to back up her dodgy dealings, to improve her chances of getting more money out of her victims.

She was labelled a witch because of her wicked ways, having some knowledge of herbs and remedies and offered her own kind of ‘healthcare’ to many unfortunate women. Poisonings were her main go-to MO all in the name of lining her own pockets.

I enjoyed how Strevens’ put this book together, it read well as a nonfiction and had enough creativity to keep me reading. I particularly liked how the time period was described, this added to my reading experience in a positive way. The centre of the book has glossy photos which always gets bonus points from me in a nonfiction read!

As I was coming to the end, I really enjoyed how macabre this era was. I won’t give too much away, but the following picture shows how Mary ended up! As a museum exhibit, of all things, how shocking!

I’d recommend to British history enthusiasts, particularly folk who have lived in and around Leeds and York. A lot of settings would be familiar to folk who dwell in these parts!

The Yorkshire Witch gets 4 stars from me!

I’d like to say thank you to those lovely folk at Pen & Sword Publishers, in particular Rosie, who kindly sent me my copy in exchange for an honest review.

About the author

Born in London, Summer Strevens now lives and writes in Oxfordshire. Capitalising on a lifelong passion for historical research, as well as penning feature articles of regional historical interest, Summer’s published books include Haunted Yorkshire Dales, York Murder & Crime, The Birth of Chocolate City: Life in Georgian York, The A-Z of Curiosities of the Yorkshire Dales, Fashionably Fatal , Before They Were Fiction and The Yorkshire Witch: The Life and Trial of Mary Bateman.

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The Case that Foiled Fabian: Murder and Witchcraft in Rural England by Simon Read

The Case that Foiled Fabian: Murder and Witchcraft in Rural England by Simon Read

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a fascinating read about an unsolved murder case that took place in Lower Quinton, a sleepy little Warwickshire village back in 1945.

Chief Inspector Robert Fabian of Scotland Yard was sent in to solve this grisly crime, as he was considered the best man for the job. But as the title suggests, it completely foiled him, and to this day, it remains unsolved.

Rumours of witchcraft and satanic worship in the picturesque village played a part in this real life murder mystery and the locals remained tight-lipped throughout the investigation. Nobody knew or saw anything. In such a small farming community, somebody somewhere must of seen or heard something, surely.

Fabian spent countless police hours trying to fathom out why Charles Walton was viciously attacked and killed with a pitchfork, his torso left pinned to the field where he was working that February morning. Who would do such a thing to this elderly gentleman?

What I enjoyed most of all about this fascinating book by Simon Read, wasn’t the main crime story itself. The author incorporated a thoroughly interesting insight into the early workings of police procedural and the establishment of the CID into the police force in early 1900’s England.

It’s incredible to think how the police themselves would completely ruin a crime scene, because their knowledge of forensics were somewhat limited. Filling a footprint with cement and examining clothing fibres was about as technical as it got back then! Luckily, Fabian was a breath of fresh air for our police force, and quickly made a name for himself as Scotland Yards most successful Inspector, with a habit of locking up countless criminals for murders, robberies and suchlike throughout his career.

The book covers various other crimes that Fabian was involved in solving, as well as very interesting chapters on Witchcraft and ancient Pagan traditions. In addition, there’s black and white photographs of the village of Lower Quinton, including the church and graveyard, as well as a macabre photo of the ACTUAL murder scene!

I gave this book 3.5 stars rounded up to 4 because it was a very different read for me. I’m always reading crime fiction where the murder gets solved, forensics have all the tech and gadgets, and it’s a complete story. This non-fic, however, left me with lots of questions, and the fact that Fabian was foiled by whoever committed this gruesome crime, and actually got away with murder makes a real change.

I also liked the chapter about ‘The Beast’. And by that, I don’t mean Mark Labbett from The Chase! This is the original Beast, the one and only Aleister Crowley, the infamous occultist and ceremonial magician who reeked havoc and mayhem with his crazy, but rather intriguing beliefs!

Overall, this book was enjoyable because it was so educational, and the photos enhanced the experience. I learned a lot about the history of the police, it has reminded me that true crime is a great genre and I must read more of it. (Oh my poor TBR!)

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