Long Compton is an ancient village. Established in early Saxon times (village legend tells of a visit from St Augustine in the sixth century!), it appears in the Domesday Book and was granted its own Fair in the Middle Ages. During Tudor and Stuart times the village became part of the estate of the Earls of Northampton whilst the small and now deserted hamlet of Weston came under the control of the Sheldon family (of Sheldon tapestry fame). Both families were strong supporters of the King during the Civil War and Long Compton suffered more than most from that devastating conflict – aside from the church, no house in Long Compton pre-dates the Civil War, evidencing the destruction which several armies passing through and staying in the village brought in their wake.

Long Compton was enclosed early in the nineteenth century and many ridge and furrow fields survive to this day. Following enclosure, Long Compton experienced considerable prosperity with many old farm houses developed into large and attractive homes for Victorian farmers. The late nineteenth and early twentieth century saw a change of fortune for the village as agriculture went into decline and the cities of Birmingham and Coventry offered work and a better life for villagers. A falling population and empty tumbledown cottages meant that these were hard times for the village.

Since the Second World War, agriculture and the village have recovered with several successful working farms (mixed farming of arable and livestock is a feature of Long Compton farming), the emergence of a number of craft based businesses and, of course, visitors from all over the world attracted by the village’s Cotswold charm.

Today, the village’s population has almost returned to the numbers experienced in its early Victorian heyday and includes a healthy mix of old village families and “in-comers” all of whom share an enthusiasm for a delightful place to live, work and play – and a pleasure in welcoming visitors to a beautiful, thriving community in the heart of England.

Long Compton Folklore and the sad story of Ann Tennant

‘There are enough witches in Long Compton to draw a load of hay up Long Compton Hill.’

Believe in witchcraft was once very common and Long Compton was a focus of many such allegations to the extent that one area close to the Red Lion pub was known as Witch End. The village is a short distance from the Rollright Stones which folklore says are a group of men who were turned to stone by a local witch. Such allegations were most often directed at elderly women, often widows living alone and in the case of Ann Tennant resulted in murder.

On Sept 15th 1875  at around 7.3pm 44 year old James Hayward was returning home from work in the fields when he saw 79-year-old Ann Tennant and her husband John returning from the village baker. Without warning James attacked Ann with his pitchfork, stabbing her several time in both legs, then hitting her over the head with the fork’s handle. A nearby farmer, heard Ann’s screams and ran to help her. He grabbed Hayward and held him while the village police constable and local doctor were called. Sadly, Ann died 15 minutes after the doctor’s arrival.

Hayward was taken to prison in Shipston on Stour where he showed no remorse saying;

“I hope she’s dead, she was an old witch: there are fifteen more in the village I’ll serve the same. I mean to kill them all.”

He said that earlier in the week, he had been unsuccessfully working  in a bean field for hours,  “as they had witched me.” At his trial it was stated that Hayward’s parents also believed in witchcraft and  brought him up to believe that when anything went wrong in his life, or with his work, it was not his fault but that of witches. Hayward stated  that a Banbury wise man had told him he was possessed, he  believed it was his duty to kill the witch who had possessed him.

Ann’s inquest,  was held at the Red Lion pub on 17 September followed later by the trial of James Hayward at Warwick Assizes  held on Wednesday 15 December 1875, when he was accused of murdering Ann Tennant. It was reported that,

“the prisoner entertained most astounding delusions and superstitions respecting witches and witchcraft, which had haunted him for years, impelling him to murder the deceased’

The farmer who intervened in Ann’s attack, said that although he didn’t believe in witches himself,

“There were many persons in the village whom he knew to be popularly regarded as witches. They were all old women, and mostly widows. He did not know an instance of a young woman or a sick old woman being suspected of being a witch.”

James was found to be not guilty by reason of insanity and was ordered to be detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure.

Ann Tennant is buried in the Long Compton Churchyard.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/videos/category/history/people-believe-in-witchcraft-in-this-corner/

The statement of Richard Clarke, son of an eyewitness to the murder of Ann Tennant.

Warwickshire County Record Office reference CR1892/1

Old Record