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Elizabeth Fyson (1720c-1803) Witch of Holme Hale


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Ran into some intersting info on a family history site about "Old Mother Fyson

the celebrated witch of Holme Hale." I hadn't heard of Mother Fyson before. Holme

Hale is in western Norfolk about 19 miles north of Thetford. The

site says she lived at "the Jolly Farmers Inn, on the border with Necton" and

"for a fee she would foretell the sex of an unborn, and if one wanted to be rid

of a husband, a wife or a lover, she would be able to supply the correct potion."

She ammassed a considerbale amount of money by the standards of her time, which

was wasted in the end by ayoung husband.



She seemed an intriguing person and I have done a little further digging. I'd

be interested to hear if anyone knows more about her, she was succesful enough

to leave more traces than most.



1)From Notes and Queries, 1858, page 427, digitized on Google. Note the "old w_

at home" story which is also told of Pickingill (except that the P story does

not add that he refused to help, and he was an "old b_" rather than an "old w_".

I'm assuming "w_" stands for "whore" here).


Mrs. Fyson (2nd S. v. 315.)”The late Mrs. Fyson of Holme Hale, who died about

fifty years since, was considered to possess the power of witchcraft. I never

heard of any person having felt the effects of her power in that " black art."

Persons having lost articles by being stolen went to her, considering she had

the power of restoring them, compelling the thief to return them secretly. I

have heard speak of two persons going on such an occasion, and just before they

arrived at her house, one said to his companion, " I wonder if we shall find the

old w_ at home." He knocked at the door, was told to come in, as "the old w_ was

at home," and informed him he might return immediately, as she would not give

him any information on the business he came about.


Mrs. Fyson was a doctress, and I well remember taking a female cousin to her who

had a very sore ankle, which had been under a surgeon's care a considerable

time, without deriving any benefit from his attendance. When we came to Mrs.

Fyson and told her the purport of my cousin's coming, she asked permission to

see her ankle, which was then much inflamed; asked if it was natural, or if

caused by hurt. She applied a Elaster to the sore, and gave her others to take

ome, with directions to apply a fresh one about every two days, and to drink a

decoction from stinging-nettles, or, as she expressed it, "You must drink half a

teacup of stinging-nettle tea twice a-day," and let me see you again next week.

My cousin attended strictly to her prescription, and in about six weeks her

ankle became well, and remained whole to the day of her death.


Young females were frequent visitors to the old woman to have their fortunes

told, and to consult her on love affairs, for which she made them pay smartly.


Mrs. Fyson by her mean habits saved a considerable sum, from 500/. to 1000/.,

for which a young fellow of the name of Parfray married her. He built a

windmill, and attempted a watermill; soon made away with all the money, and Mrs.

Fyson died in penury and want. I well remember her coming to a village shop,

where she bought some shoe oil and oiled her shoes as they were upon her feet.

Having the character of a witch, she attracted a deal of attention wherever she

went. Anon.



2) the[1803] Monthly Magazine or British Register Vol15 page 497 (now online

digitized) records the death of "Mrs Parfrey formerly known by the name of

Fyson" at the age of 80 remarking "She was in high repute as a sort of medical

practioner, having performed remarkable cures in the dropsy". Nothing of the

sinister witch who could dispose of unwanted husbands here.

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Talking to oneself is usually seen as a bad sign, it certainly didn't seem to work out for Hamlet. And replying to one's own post is I suppose likely to be seen as a bit sad by some....in any case when, as here, no-one else has replied!


Oh well, I'll take a bullet for the cause here, and do it anyway. I think Elizabeth Fyson is worth it....the tireless researcher Bill the Exile has done some digging and turned up some of Mother Fyson's details. Her maiden name was Robinson for example. For the ongoing search see the "Pickingill" mailing list, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/pickingill/

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Quite an enjoyable history. Thank you for sharing it. I recently hurt my ankle and the doctor didn't do so much for me. But an older woman told me to try contrast baths and gave me a little two sided tub to put hot and cold water in for it. I wonder how often an older woman's advice is more useful than a doctors?

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