BARRY McCANN looks at the hexed China that once belonged to a Cumbrian witch!
The Cumbrian market town of Brampton dates back to the 7th century, its name probably inspired by the thorny shrubs that grow in the area being Old English for brambles. Also thorny is the town’s legendary witch who died in 1817 and was interred in a local cemetery, though her power continues through the legacy she bequeathed.
Though married to a respectable school headmaster, Lizzie Baty became known as The Brampton Witch due to her knack of finding lost objects and reputedly was said to have “acted in a peculiar manner, dressed curiously and generally acted the part (of a witch).”
During her life, she was viewed as a wise woman by many locals, who sought her advice and predictions. Her reputation as a “witch” grew more after her death with grisly tales of visiting bad luck on those who crossed her now circulating.
Don’t mess with Lizzy Baty
One story claims when a market stallholder stopped giving her rations of butter, she then couldn’t get her lard to set. And another tells of when Lizzie told a young bride-to-be “you’ll get a white dress soon enough”, it turned out to be a warning of impending death as the poor woman ended up in a funeral gown.
When Lizzie’s own time came, the 88 year old summoned builder and friend John Parker to her cottage at Craw Hall and there, on her deathbed, gifted him with a china tea set. But it came with a price tag. Any member of his family who drank from the cups will be blessed by good luck. But if the china ever left the family it would bring disaster for the new owner.
In 2010, family descendant Jim Parker Templeton – then aged 90 – spoke to the Cumberland News about the cursed china, feeling that he possibly owed his life to its strange power.
When war was declared in 1939, he was among the first called up to fight. But before reporting for duty, his mother Mary sent him to visit a family member with the intention he should drink a cup of tea from the china. Though not convinced of its magical reputation, he nevertheless did it as told.
Days later Jim joined the Royal Medical Corps where he remained until the end of the war, and was one of only 37 out of the 500 men who returned. He told the newspaper:
“We lost most men in the battle for Salerno, in southern Italy. I would get these feelings as if I were being prompted to move. So I did. And then something would land on the place I had been standing – a shell.”
No one wants to keep the ‘cursed’ China
After returning home Jim married his wife, Annie, and they had three daughters. None of them fancied keeping the china, but ensured it remained within the extended clan for fear of the consequences. Jim also felt a possibility that the spell might have rubbed off on his family.
“When my mother was dying she said to myself and my father ‘You will see my coffin three times’. My dad told us she was just rambling, she was very sick.”
She died and was buried in Brampton churchyard, but the following day there was a landslide. The coffin was reburied, only to be pulled out of the ground again when it was realised Mary’s uncle had not been placed in the ground beneath her as he should have been.
“That was the third time we saw her coffin. We couldn’t believe it.”
Today, the hexed china apparently remains under the guardianship of the Parker family in Carlisle. So should you ever call by on the household for a cup of tea – beware! You may well be partaking of a witch’s brew.