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Tamsin Blight : Billy Brewer : John Harries : Dr John Lamb : John Parkins : Judith Philips: Dick Spot
Tamsin Blight

Tamsin Blight [Blee] mid 19th Century
Tammy Blee, the so-called 'White Witch of Helston,' was undoubtedly the greatest of the Cornish conjurors during the nineteenth-century. Born during the closing years of the eighteenth-century, Thomasine Blight (as she was more properly known) achieved great success as a conjuror in West Cornwall, at first during her time at Redruth, and later after her removal to Helston. She began practising as a cunning-woman about 1830 and was certainly well known as one by the time she married James Thomas, another conjuror, in 1835. From the time of her marriage through until the 1850s the two of them formed a remarkable magical double-act, and were widely consulted by their many clients. Many of Blight's customers were farmers who came to see her about sick cattle, others were young women anxious about their marriage prospects. In most cases Blight was able to provide uncanny cures that confirmed her magical reputation. Blight's and James Thomas's marriage came to an end after Thomas proposed sleeping with another man at St Ives, who promptly reported him to the local magistrates. With the threat of arrest Thomas fled Cornwall, and Blight publicly distanced herself from him. The two of them were thereafter estranged. Tammy Blee died on 6 October 1856.
This account is kindly provided by Jason Semmens.

Billy Brewer Billy Brewer 1818 - 1890
The most famous cunning-man in nineteenth-century Somerset. Born to a shoemaker and his wife in Lyng, a hamlet near Taunton. Billy learnt the craft of making clay pipes which he sold door to door around the villages of Somerset, Devon and Dorset. He later settled in Taunton where he became known as the 'Wizard of the West'. Cutting a distinctive figure in a long Inverness cloak and sombrero hat with rings on his fingers, he never married. Unusually he never went to prison, one obituarist said , Brewer "was always careful, in his pretence at fortune-telling and his charms and counter-charms, to keep outside the pale of the law." For more on Billy Cunning-Folk, 2002 and 'A People Bewitched', 1999.
John Harries
Courtesy of the National Library of Wales and Richard Allen
John Harries (1827-1863)
John Harries was the last of the renowned cunning-folk of Cwrt-y-cadno, Carmarthenshire. The magical and divinatory abilities of his father John, and in particular his older brother Henry (1821-1849), made the family name famous throughout Wales and neighbouring counties, and people travelled thirty miles or more to consult them. Educated and well-read the Harries amassed an impressive collection of books on magic and astrology, though unfortunately it was split up after John's death. The general impression gained from the sources is that John's reputation never quite matched that of his older brother.

For further details see Richard Allen's online article on the Harries family at:
Engraving of 'Dr' John Lambe's murder
From 'A Briefe Description of the Notorious Life of John Lambe,

'Dr' John Lambe [d 1628]
Lambe began his career as an English tutor to the children of the gentry of Worcestershire. He set himself up first as a medical man and then went on to identify and counter witchcraft, detect stolen property and tell fortunes. He was not a licensed physician but like many cunning-men adopted the title of 'Dr' to give himself an air of authoritative respectability. Sentenced to death for murder by magic and poisoning, and also for rape, he escaped the death penalty thanks to the influence of his client the Duke of Buckingham. But not long after, on 13 June 1628, he was mercilessly stoned by a London mob as he returned home from seeing a play. He died the next day.

Frontispiece for John Parkins book

John Parkins, [d @ 1830's]
In the late eighteenth century Parkins received some training in the magical arts from the London occultist Ebenezer Sibly. A few years later he set up as a professional cunning-man in Little Gonerby, Lincolnshire. He called his magical establishment the 'Temple of Wisdom' and built up a considerable clientele for his charms and unbewitching services. Unlike most cunning-folk he used printed pamphlets and booklets to advertise his business, which provide us with a unique insight into the world of 'cunning craft'. [For further details see Davies, Cunning-Folk, and King, The Flying Sorcerer].

Engraving of Judith Philips talking to a client
Judith Philips [on the right] consults with a client: from 'The Brideling, Sadling and Ryding, of a Rich Churle in Hampshire, by the Subtill Practise of One Judeth Philips,' (London, 1594/5)
Judith Philips, 16th Century
The wife of a London gunsmith, the cunning-woman Judith Philips was prosecuted and whipped through the City of London in 1594. The pamphlet which details her criminal activities reveals her to be a rather unpleasant con artist. She duped and humiliated a greedy Hampshire couple by convincing them that through her relationship with the 'Queen of Fairies' she could uncover a huge treasure.
Engraving of Dick Spot

Dick Spot [Richard Morris] 1710 - 1793
Morris was born in Bakewell, Derbyshire, and got his nick-name because of a large black spot near his nose. His father was a soldier and died when Morris was six years old. He was subsequently brought up by his aunt, Deborah Heathcote, who made a living as a fortune-teller. As a teenager Morris began to offer his services as a fortune-teller and later progressed to unbewitching and writing charms for various purposes. During the 1760s he moved to Shrewsbury where he continued to practice his trade. He died in Oswestry aged 83.

The illustration shows Dick Spot [to the right] demonstrating his 'magic' by making a pot maker smash his own pots.

Engraving of Dick Spot enspelling a pot maker
Tamsin Blight : Billy Brewer : John Harries : Dr John Lamb : John Parkins : Judith Philips: Dick Spot

@ Owen Davies 2003


[Updated 8/4/03]