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.


  1. Great blog, you express your thoughts a lot better than I or most for that matter. Thanks for the links, I've heard but know nothing of these remains.

  2. Thanks Rhid! The Thackray costs £7 odd to get in, so I guess people tend not to go unless they are on a school trip or are med students...I don't have a huge problem with human remains being displayed, provided its sensitively treated/for legitimate educational purposes. This seems like neither to me!