Much Wenlock’s famous witch Nanny Morgan
Nan Morgan was stabbed with an eel spear by one William Davies who was supposed to marry her, but they had a furious row over the ownership of a watch. Davies was found guilty and was duly transported for life. Nanny’s evil eye must have followed him, because he drowned when his ship sank.
Nanny Morgan was the daughter of Eichard Williams, and she war born and bred in a little house up at Westwood, on the way to Presthope. Yer must often have seen the place, as yer go to Five Chimneys. Nan war a fine, strapping lass when first I remembered her. Dark, tall, with steel-grey eyes. Her got into trouble when quite a maid for having a finger in the pie of robbing Mrs. Powell at Bourton. Her was tried at Shrewsbury for the robbery, and lay in prison, they said, a long time. When her got out of prison her own people wouldn’t harbour her, they said, and she went and lived with the gipsies. There she learnt card tricks, tellin’ of fortunes, and took to wandering and unchristian ways. Us didn’t see her at Wenlock for a long while, but one day she turned up at Wenlock Market on a Monday, and told a friend that her had taken ‘dad’s old house’ and meant to settle down and bide in the old place.The 1851 census shows an Ann Morgan living with Thomas Morgan, her agricultural labourer husband, at Westwood. She was aged 55 so born circa 1796 – making her 61 at the time of her murder.
Her called herself then Nanny Morgan, though who Morgan war I never rightly knew, most like some tinker man. Anyway, her went to Westwood, and there her lived, told fortunes by cards and by hand-readin’, sold love drinks, and was hired out as a curser — and of all the cursers, there war none that could curse with Nan. For her cursed the goin’s in and the goin’s out of folks, the betwixt and between, the side-ways and slip-slaps, till, as they said, there wasn’t foot-room for folks to stand on, nor a thimbleful of air for a creature to breathe, that hard could Nanny curse.
She was terrible to meet. Once as I war walkin’ back to Homer after marketing at Wenlock, I looked up and Nan was full in my road, straight against the sky. How her had corned there, I don’t know, but there her war, terrible fierce and sudden, and her great eyes seemed to look through and through me, and I fair quailed before her, as they say a partridge does afore a hawk. Every one war feared of Nanny, for they felt before her as innocent as a child, and what war there as she couldn’t do to them?
Nan lived on at Westwood and none dared say her nay, or to refuse her ought, and all the while she went on practising devil’s arts, till her got her death.”
Well, it war years agone. ‘Twas in the year 1857 that Nan got her deserts.
There war a young lodger as had a hed at Nan’s, and Nan took to him terrible, and the lovinger her got
the more he held back ; and the witch played with ‘um same as a cat does with a mouse, and wouldn’t let ‘un off to marry his own sweetheart. So one evening, he went into Wenlock, and he bought a knife, and he stole back to her house, and she called him soft like a throstle. Then while she stirred her pot, he stabbed her to get free of her love philters. When Mr. Yates, who war mace-bearer and barber, comed up, he found Nan, they said, lying in a pool of blood, but they durst not undress her for fear of getting witch’s blood, and we all know that that is a special damnation.
Her led a bad life, did Nan, her kept a swarm of cats, and one she called Hell- blow and another Satan’s Smile, and her had a box of toads to work mysteries with, and these, they said, would hop at night, and leer and talk familiar as spirits, and besides these, there war a pack of wicked books. You yourself, mam, have her card-table where her used to sit. One leg of it higher than the rest, and the ledge below, was where her wickedest toad used to perch — it as they called ‘Dew,’ and that had been bred up on communion bread, to reveal secrets. Sometimes, I’ve heard. Nan would fall a-kissin’ that toad and whisper to it all sorts of unclean spells. I couldn’t abear the table. It might fall to speaking itself at nights, and then the devil only knows what it would say.”After Nan war buried, the books one and all war brought down to the Falcon’s Yard Inn and burnt publicly. So that war her end, and a wickeder woman never lived