Monday, 14 March 2011

Letter to Thackray - Mary Bateman

I wrote an email to the Thackray detailing my issues with the display of Mary Bateman's remains. It went as follows:

"I am writing in the regards to your current display of the remains of Mary Bateman, who you advertise as 'The Yorkshire Witch'. I find the display of an executed woman's remains, especially one who you identify as a witch, ill-fitting with the ethos of a progressive and scientific educational establishment. The incomplete skeleton seems to me to have little educational value beyond morbid shock value, genuine human skeletons that have been legitimately donated are not hard to come by and would be a far greater benefit to children and adults visiting the museum. The continued ill-treatment of her remains for the past 202 years seems to far exceed the nature of her crimes, however serious. This woman paid the ultimate price for her misdeeds during her life, she died pitifully and publicly. To continue to punish her now by displaying her in a disrespectful manner while other women and men who were also executed at the time were eventually buried and laid to rest begs the question, why is Mary Bateman still displayed? To me it seems obvious that her status as a witch seems to give cause to sensationalise her death and to monopolise on the barbaric treatment of her corpse post-mortem. I'm sure her body brings in good revenue for the museum, but I think the neglect of the moral issues of displaying a corpse for little other reason than her connection to a set of folk-beliefs is somewhat archaic. This woman is a part of our cultural heritage, she is a child of the city who's genetic material is still living, walking and breathing around us. From a scientific point of view, I think a display surrounding the continuing nature of DNA would be a far greater benefit, and of a far less morbid nature.

I think a burial for Mary Bateman is 202 years late, and the costs should be met by Leeds University, or whoever has profited the most from the display of her bones. However, I am quite willing to fund raise to help towards the costs."

I have no idea how much interest this small campaign has beyond myself and a few associates who have discussed it with me, but if anyone else wishes to write to them, you can email the museum at

Monday, 7 March 2011

Mary Bateman

Image by Simon Bradley
The Yorkshire Witch is on display at the Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds. Her incomplete skeleton, held together by sinew and flakes of mummified flesh seems to me to serve little purpose as an educational tool for children, more a spectacle of the kind supposedly abandoned along with side show 'freaks' and public hangings. A woman, who was nursing a baby at her breast in the hours before her execution at York, who has paid a far greater price than just death; not only was her corpse pickled, displayed, flayed and sold as strips for charms but now she is dealt further indignity as a permanent exhibit, an item of morbid curiosity.

I feel haunted by viewing her remains, I see little benefit in viewing them, more so an uncomfortable understanding that her status as 'cunning woman' alone resulted in the series of post-mortem assaults. She lived on Timble Bridge, near Leed's Parish Church, under which flowed the beck I see daily. I think of her every time I see the beck, and have traversed through the underground culverts to view the now-subterranean bridge, where once she too must have daily seen the water pass by.

I wish to free the Yorkshire Witch. I hope that within the next two weeks I can implore Leeds University, who own her remains, to give Mary Bateman's bones a burial. The 202nd anniversary of her execution falls on Sunday 20th of March 2011, the vernal equinox. I will write a letter, and post up a petition in the next few days to send to both the museum and the university.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Ilkley Moor

Just to quickly share some photos I've taken of Ilkley Moor in the mist. I have a distinct fondness for Ilkley Moor, and it has a personal significance in my life as a common setting for dreams. It began to feature heavily in my dreams at the start of last year, and has been a place I have returned to at points of key change in my life in the past few years. Dream Ilkley moor and the real moor are indistinguishable, they blend together seamlessly and are each as unchartable as the other.

we happened upon this wolf sculpture howling over the edge of Windgate Nick on the way to the Doubler Stones.