Sunday, 4 September 2011


Canewdon is an ancient village near Rochford, Essex .  Canewdon is situated on one of the highest hills of the Essex coastline from which St. Nicholas church affords wide views of the Crouch estuary.

The interior of St Nicholas Church
 The name Canewdon predates the Danish King Canute the Great by about 400 years but the area is claimed to be the site of an ancient camp used by Canute, during the Battle of Assandun in the course of his invasion of Essex in 1016. Remains of Canute's camp are thought to be marked in the entrenchments between the village and the river.

The village name is derived from the Saxon ‘hill of the Cana's people,’ first documented in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Carenduna.

 There is much unsubstantiated superstition surrounding the village. George Pickingill (1816-1909) who, living in the village during the late 19th century, was said to practise a combination of Danish paganism, Arabic mysticism, Christian heresy and French witchcraft.

Generations were influenced by the Danish with Canute the Great's invasion in the 11th century and that of French and Flemish weavers, some of whom brought French witchcraft and heretical beliefs of the Cathars to England. Although rooted in the Old Craft, George was feminine-centric, based on goddess worship and search for female witches. Under his guidance, 9 covens were created in Essex, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Sussex. He apparently called witches for a meet near St. Nicholas church with a wooden whistle.

Local legend proclaims that there will always be at least six witches, three of cotton (lower class) and three of silk (higher class).

The earliest written accusation of witchcraft appears to be that of Rose Pye, a spinster who in 1580 was said to be living as a witch and responsible for bewitching to death in August 1575 Johanna Snow or Johanne Snowe, a 12 month old child from Scaldhurst Farm in Canewdon. The case went to court where Rose pleaded not guilty. Although acquitted, Rose remained and died in jail a few months after her acquittal. Five years later Cicely Makin was accused of witchcraft and unable to find five people who would swear that she was not a witch. After given five years to mend her ways without success, Cicely was excommunicated from the church.
The Church Tower of St Nicholas
 Ghosts and Witches
There are many ghost stories within the village, mostly central to the 14th century Parish Church of St Nicholas. The most famous ghost is the grey lady who reportedly floats down from the church's west gate towards the river Crouch.

Apparently legend has it, that if you run anti-clockwise round it on Halloween, the Devil will appear. Another legend states that any female novice seeking membership of the dark coven had to dance round the church twelve times at midnight; by doing so, she summoned the devil who appeared in order to perform her initiation into the sisterhood. Occult indeed.

Another piece of folklore dictates that if you see a stone fall from the church tower, you can be certain that a witch has died ... but another has replaced her in her coven.

It might also be interesting to note that Canewdon Church is one of those places which appear on several ley lines.

The Anchor pub in the village has been the location of some seriously weird phenomena.

A past Landlady Francesca Roche claims to have seen TV remote controls flying across the room, heard mysterious baby cries and smelt unexplained perfume. Staff at the pub say they’ve witnessed knifes travelling across the pub’s kitchen.

Francesca said, "I don’t mind it too much, as long as I’m not on my own. I won’t lock up on my own."

The ghost in question is supposedly a young woman called Sarah. Back in the 1500s she had an affair with a wealthy landowner and became pregnant.

The man’s wife found out and told him to lock Sarah away. She was held in the building that later became the Anchor pub. After having the baby, Sarah was murdered.

In November 2010, I and Haunted Earth members visited the church and videoed the subsequent investigation of legends attached to the village and that of nearby Ashingdon.

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