Ann Izzard – the witch of St Neots

The laws against the crime of witchcraft were repealed in 1736 but, in the absence of legal redress, communities periodically took to enacting mob vengeance against suspected witches.

In 1808 several young women in the village of Great Paxton in Cambridgeshire began to suffer from fits and depression – all signs of evil at work. Then a local farmer accused Ann Izzard of magically overturning his cart while returning from the market in St Neots.

Something had to be done. On the evening of Sunday 8 May a mob broke into the cottage of Ann and her husband, and she was dragged semi-naked out into the yard where they beat her in the face and stomach with a club. Others scratched her arms to draw blood, and so break her witchery.

The mob dispersed, but when they heard that a neighbour, a widow named Alice Russel, was harbouring Ann, they threatened her too. “The protectors of a witch, are just as bad as the witch,” it was declared.

The next evening, Ann was attacked again, and word spread that she was to be swum. She wisely fled o another village and instituted legal proceedings, resulting in the prosecution of nine villagers at the assizes.