witches dancing

We may sometimes think of witches and wizards as something straight out of a Harry Potter book and of Halloween as something American and trashy, but in the past there have been many frightening or mystical tales that were very real for the inhabitants of the local area.
We want you to find out about the spooky myths and stories in your local area either by visiting their connecting location or researching them and sharing your findings.
To enter the competition, you need to:
• Investigate your local frights and folklore by visiting one of the locations listed below and taking a scary selfie
• Tell us about another local myth or legend (we will be judging the entries and will be looking for tales that have historical grounding, so stories of modern ghosts and suspect poltergeist encounters will not be likely to interest our judges!).
• Upload your selfie or local story to the museum’s Facebook or Twitter page with the hashtag #LocalFrights, before 7th November to be entered into the competition, the best one will be chosen on 8th November and will receive a museum goodie bag.


witches dancing


1 – Weston ‘Witch’ Patty Parsons
Mystical or Spooky Link:
In 1810, there was a Weston super mare witch by the name of Patty Parsons. People were very suspicious at this time and Patty was so feared that she was able to visit homes, including those of both Rev. Wadham Piggot and John Piggot and be assured not only of a good meal, but food to take home also. There were many tales told about Patty placing spells and turning herself into various animals, but she certainly enjoyed dressing in black and wafting up and down the sea front to scare people. When she finally died, it is said that “a panful of toads and any number of black cats were her chief mourners”. Some believe that Patty is buried in Kewstoke Churchyard, though there is no evidence of this, others that she simply climbed up onto her broomstick and disappeared up the chimney “in the good old fashioned way”, though it’s doubtful we shall ever know the real truth about her demise.
Try replicating Patty’s apparent liking for wafting up and down the seafront dressed in black!

2 – The Wimblestone
Mystical or Spooky Link:
It is said that the ‘Wimblestone’ at Shipham can walk freely over the countryside and that it sits on a pile of gold. Numerous tales have been told of people trying to uproot the stone and claim its treasure, such as that of the man who hitched his team of oxen to the stone but as they took the strain they all fell down dead. Another farmer tried with his two strongest horses but even when he tugged as well, the task was fruitless and they went home. As soon as they were out of sight the stone uprooted itself and went over the hills to the Waterston at Wrington to take a drink at its never failing basin of water and tell it of the farmer’s stupidity. A general belief says that misfortune will fall on those who dig for its treasure. Zeberdee Fry, a haymaker, when walking down Shipham Lane one night, saw the Wimblestone dancing around its field and a pile of gold lying where it had stood.
It is said that the Wimblestone dances on the first moon in May but on the other nights he is content to simply walk and does so when he hears the clock strike twelve. On one of his rambles the Wimblestone got tired and lay down for a rest. In the moonlight a farmer mistook him for a trespassing cow and gave him a blow with a stick. The stone rose up and rolled at the frightened man who fled to Rowberrow churchyard. The stone could not enter the consecrated ground and stood outside all night. The farmer had to wait there until dawn, when the stone was forced to roll home.
The Wimblestone stands in a field at Pylle Well, to the North-West of the Star Inn. It can be identified via its proximity to an Ash tree, and from the following dimensions:
Height: 5.6 feet, Width: 6.2 feet, Thickness: 18 inches

3 – Coffin Paths
Mystical or Spooky Link:
If a village did not have its own church then people were obliged to carry the dead to the nearest church. These dedicated routes are known as coffin paths.
Fuller’s Lane and Eastwell Lane at Winscombe once served as the coffin path from Sidcot. At Long Ashton there is a coffin path from Clarkencombe, over the golf course to the church. There is another at Backwell, from Downside, over Healls Scars to the church. Another led from the coast at Kingston Seymour, to the church there.

4 – The Murder of Mary Fisher, the Devonshire Inn
Mystical or Spooky Link:
Joel and Mary Fisher were the innkeepers at the Devonshire Inn in 1844; they had a difficult relationship and argued regularly. After a particularly bad disagreement in June, Joel burst in on Mary, whilst she slept alongside her two children and the maid, and beat her across the head with an iron bar. He then fetched a knife and slit her throat before calmly sending his son to fetch a local constable in order to turn himself in. Joel was convicted of murder and hung at Wilton Jail in Taunton in August of that year.
The Devonshire Inn was located where the current London Inn now stands on the High Street, Grove Village, in Weston Centre.

5 – The Fairy Well in Barrow Gurney
Mystical or Spooky Link:
The veneration of water has occurred since prehistoric times and still continues today, with people tying rags to holy wells or throwing coins into wishing wells. Saints were often associated with wells and springs. Rituals, cures and fertility treatments were carried out, with particular wells having special functions. Water sprites, ghosts and secret tunnels are also associated with wells.
At Barrow Gurney, there are four wells. One of the wells, called the Fairy Well, is associated with the little folk.
Go up Wildcountry Lane at the staggered crossroads on the edge of Barrow Gurney for about half a mile, watching out for the dip in the road where it crosses the stream. Walk up the stream for a couple of hundred yards, keeping an eye peeled for the small spring on your left just past where a footpath crosses the stream.

6 – Villa Rosa Bridge
Mystical or Spooky Link:
There are tales of a ghost whose presence can be felt at the ornamental bridge at the top of Shrubbery Road; some stories say that it is the ghost of a police officer that was thrown off of the bridge. In actual fact, the police officer in question, P.C. Alfred Pavey, did not die at the bridge, but his death is possibly connected to a dangerous event that occurred nearby. P.C. Pavey was making his rounds one night in 1861 and came across two burglars trying to break in to the property alongside. He gave chase and got into a violent fight with the two men, after which they fled, leaving him for dead. P.C.Pavey managed to slowly make his way to a nearby house of a fellow officer and seemingly later recovered from his injuries. Six months later, however, P.C. Alfred Pavey unfortunately died from what was attributed at the time to be tuberculosis, but has later been suspected of being linked with his injuries sustained during the fight.
Ornamental footbridge spanning Shrubbery Road – 14 Shrubbery Road, Weston, BS23 2DN

7 – Uphill Church
Mystical or Spooky Link:
At Uphill, the old church which stands on the top of the hill was originally supposed to be at the bottom. As building commenced, stones and timbers were mysteriously transported at night, up to the top of the hill, and while the workmen tried as hard as they could to assemble all necessary material in the right place, it was constantly removed to the very top. Eventually they realised that St Nicholas wanted the church to be at the top, so that is why it is built here.
The solitary, partially ruined Norman church stands alone on the hill. Head to Uphill Way, Weston, BS23 4TN

8 – Stanton Drew Standing Stones
Mystical or Spooky Link:
The most famous legend about standing stones comes from Stanton Drew. The monuments are made up of three stone circles, a semi-circular arrangement of stones and Hautville’s Quoit.
The tale is recorded in 1664 by John Aubrey and has been recounted many times since. A local couple got married on a Saturday and held their wedding celebrations in the fields just outside Stanton Drew. As the dancing continued the bride became more and more enthusiastic about the entertainment. The fiddler stopped at midnight and announced that being Sunday he would no longer play. The bride was furious, but no amount of anger would persuade the musician to break the Sabbath. As he left, another musician appeared who said that he was willing to carry on where the other had left off. He began by playing a slow tune, which did not please the bride. To please, he played a faster tune and all the company danced with energy and enthusiasm. Such was the speed of the tune and such was the compulsion of the music, that none could resist it, and though they cried for mercy, could not stop their headlong flight. As the cock crew, the fiddler departed and as dawn broke the dancers no longer danced, but were turned into blocks of stone that remain there to this day. The stones are known locally as ‘The Fiddlers and the Maids’ or ‘The Wedding’.
There are variations on this story. One source stated that the wedding took place on Midsummer’s Eve and that a cock crew, warning the dancers of the approaching doom at midnight. Another tells how it was a piper that provided the music on both occasions and that the first and righteous musician stayed under the hedge, witnessing the whole fair. He was discovered half dead from fright the next morning. All, however, agree that it was punishment for breaking the Sabbath which caused the tragedy, that it was the bride who insisted on continuing beyond the midnight hour and that the devil himself led the dance in the form of a fiddler.
The stones are situated in the garden of the Druids Arms Public House (BS39 4EJ), East of Stanton Drew Village (BS39 4EW). They can be located via satellite navigation using the Druids Arms Postal code, in combination with the following settings:
Latitude: 51.367139, Longitude: -2.5760365
The stones may be accessed during daylight hours, a £1 entry fee is charged by the landowner and access is provided at their discretion.