Mersea Island's Only Recorded Witch....
1542 was the year the first English Act against witchcraft was passed & this was quickly repeealed before too much harm was done.
In 1563 a later Act netted many vitims, Essex was the first to hang a 'witch' under this Act in Chelmsford in 1566.
An alleged Mersea witch was presented to the Essex Summer Sessions in Witham on the 27th July 1584. Joan Colton or Colston was from East Mersea, she was a spinster who was charged for bewitching John Wager, son of Richard on the 11th January 1583, John died on the 20th August the same year.
The court clerk noted that 'She pleads not guilty and appeals to the verdict of her countrymen, they find her guilty, she has no goods to forfeit to the Crown.'
Although Joan's fate is unknown, it is believed she was sent back to jail to await further charges.
From the information out there, it is assumed Joan was not married and very poor. Joan's alleged victims were obviously children as the fathers were named in each case.
Although the details of Joan's trial are not recorded. it may well be that she was one of many lonely old women on bad terms with her neighbours and who became a scapegoat ready to hand when children fell ill.
Joan is the only recorded witch of Mersea Island. Fortunately Mersea was too small to attract the attention of the self-styled 'Witchfinder General' Matthew Hopkins some sixty years later, when he toured Essex and neighbouring countries netting many innocent victims.
Witchcraft laws were not abolished until 1736 in England.
Information from A Short History of Mersea by Elsie M. Karbacz
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