Doomed witch and woman 'who grew horns' in Derbyshire's spooky ancient scrapbook

A spooky centuries-old scrapbook featuring ancient witches and a woman ‘who grew horns’ has been found in Derbyshire.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 28th October 2021, 4:23 pm

The late Georgian scrapbook, compiled circa 1790-1820, includes a multitude of engravings of strange and quirky characters.

Mary Bateman, The Yorkshire witch, who was executed for murder in the early 19th century, is among the entries.

The scrapbook says of Mrs Mary Davis of Great Saughall, near Chester: “an excrescence grew upon her head which continued 30 years and grew into two horns’.

Jim Spencer with the ancient spooky scrapbook

Other pages show the front and back of a mermaid displaying giant, floppy hands, a serpent- like tail and pointed head and ‘Mother Damnable, the remarkable Shrew of Kentish Town’.

Then there’s Mr Henry Blacker, ‘The Irish Giant’, who is pictured towering over a room full of men; Joseph Capper, an ‘eccentric inmate at the Horns, Kennington’, and the true effigies of James Whitney, the notorious highwayman’.

The item was discovered in Duffield by Jim Spencer, antiquarian books expert at Hansons Auctioneers. He said: “What a timely find to coincide with Halloween! I love old scrapbooks, the idea of someone compiling all these clippings around 200 years ago, perhaps perusing the spooky characters by candlelight.

“Most scrapbooks I unearth are Victorian, dating from the 1870s, featuring cute puppy dogs, sentimental ‘chocolate box’ scenes and pious greetings cards. They always sell for a lot of money but they’re not terribly exciting.

The Yorkshire witch, bottom right and strange engravings of the mermaid, left.

“Georgian scrapbooks are quite different, with grotesque or bawdy caricatures, peculiar personalities, biting political satire, criminal broadsides and ballads. This album includes some gentle cartoons by Rowlandson, some attractive stipple engravings by Bartolozzi, and some earlier 17th-century engravings after van Dyck.

“But it’s the portraits of these characters that will tickle the public’s imagination while we’re busily carving pumpkins and grabbing our broomsticks.”

The album belonged to Stanley Austen, a notabe author on artists and the history of engraving. The current owner is a descendant of Austin.

“The scrapbook, estimate £300-£500, is due to be sold in Hansons’ December 14 Library and Harry Potter Auction. Further entries invited. To arrange a free valuation, email Jim Spencer: [email protected]

Mrs Mary Davis described in the scrapbook as having two horns on her head.