“At Long Compton on 15th September 1875, Ann Tennant, aged 79, wife of John Tennant, Labourer – Wilful Murder – Deliberately stabbed to death by James [Hayward] with a fork under a delusion of witchcraft.”
“An Inquest was held on Friday 17th at the Red Lion Inn, Long Compton. Many of the witnesses remarked that Mr. Hayward had ‘delusions about witches’ and threatened to kill 15 or 16 of them. Interestingly, it was not only women who were threatened:
John Ivens reports that his grandfather was named by Mr. Hayward.”
“On the night in question, between seven and eight o’clock, the poor old woman left her cottage for the purpose of going to a small shop in the village for a loaf of bread. On her return she met Hayward, who had just left his work in the harvest fields and who, without a word on either side, attacked Mrs Tennant with a fork which he was carrying, inflicting such injuries upon her head and body that she died in the course of three hours. In fact, had it not been for the assistance of Mr John Taylor, a farmer, who resided near where the attack took place, he would have killed her on the spot. The only reason that can be assigned for the murder is that Hayward, for some time past, had been under the impression that he was influenced by witchcraft and that Mrs Tennant and several other women in Long Compton were witches, and he was determined to rid the village of them.”
My interest in this sad tale is to identify who John Ivens was, and perhaps more to the point, who his grandfather was.
There are two contenders: The first is one John Ivens who was born in Long Compton in 1835, – making him 40 years old when the murder took place. His parents were Joseph Ivens and Harriet Gardner, and John was the eldest of six siblings.
His father’s father – i.e. Joseph’s father – was also John Ivens. He had originally come from Stow on the Wold where he was born in 1763, and moved to Long Compton by 1795 when (and where) his eldest son William was born. Joseph, the second son (as far as I can tell) was born 18 years after William which seems a little odd……. and so starts a journey to unscramble this family.
John, the grandfather, had married Ann Hale in Little Rollright (location of the mysterious and entrancing Rollright Stones which are on the hill just above Long Compton) in 1793, and we can see the marriage record to prove it.
But then nothing – no baptism records – until the 1841 census which show John Ivens aged 75 (b.1766) living with William aged 45 (b.1796) and his wife, Ann and their 5 children – Harriet, William, Thomas, Caroline and Daniel. But no sign of the younger brother, Joseph Ivens – or indeed his son John who would have been about 5 years old (and who one might imagine to have grown into the person mentioned in the report who claimed his grandfather had been accused of witchcraft.)
The eldest girl of William’s children was Harriet born in 1827. And the record of her baptism is in the non-conformist register and under the name of Ivines which might explain the lack of success in finding evidence of William’s supposed brother and nephew.
So, I need to find evidence of Joseph and his son John.
The 1851 census shows us John (born 1763 in Stow, so therefore the grandfather) now a pauper, living with Joseph and Harriet (b.1813), along with their son William, in Long Compton. So the familial link between John and Joseph is established, but where was Joseph in 1841?
When Joseph married Harriet in Rollright in 1835, his name was interpreted as Hivens. And when their son, John, was born in August 1835, the name in the register is also Hivens.
Knowing this, we can now find Joseph Hivens with Harriet in the 1841 census, but only with their son William, aged 4, living in Harborne, Warwickshire. And to add to the supportive evidence, living with them is Timothy Gardner, presumably a relation of Harriet’s. [Incidentally, the census describes the Parish of Harbornne in the Chapelry of Warwick, and within the Superintendent Registrar’s District of Kings Norton as being in the county of Stafford.]
So where’s John whose baptism was registered in 1835, and the whole point of this post. If he died in his early years, then who is the John who reported that his grandfather was accused of witchcraft?
Or perhaps, John and William are one and the same person.
It was not unusual for a son named William John, to choose to use his 2nd name as he grew older. I did it myself – discarding my first name awarded as a tribute to earlier generations – in favour of one more contemporary.
But perhaps William decided that he wanted to use his grandfather’ name, and whether it was actually his name was not the point. It was what he became known as.
His public comment as to his grandfather’s accusation by James Hayward could be seen as an innocent comment, but in another interpretation, as one from one who knew his grandfather well, had great respect for him, and was keen to talk about him.
Who knows? Even if this hypothesis is true, do the dates work?
But before I go there, there is a 2nd contender: John b.1821, son of William and elder brother to Harriet referred to earlier. Trouble is, he died in 1854 – his widow Phoebe is seen in the 1861 census as Ivings with son George – and therefore wasn’t around at the time of the murder in 1875 to talk about his grandfather. So, back to the story…
John Ivens – the grandfather, also died before 1861 census. The fateful murder took place in 1875. That would suggest that James Hayward had been accusing the local folk for 14 years – at least!
As far as I can tell, James Hayward was born in 1819, making him 56 at the time of the murder. In 1861 he was living with his brother Thomas and his family over at Barton (on the Heath), in the Parish of Little Compton – just 2.5 miles up and over the hill. Ten years earlier in the 1851 census, James was recorded as the Head of the family, and his brother Thomas and family were the junior members. Perhaps this change in who is perceived as ‘Head of House’ reflects James’ declining mental state.
It could be that in the early days the ‘witch’ thing was just a general term of abuse around the village, but became more entrenched as the years went by. But it is worth noting that in 1861, James was still unmarried, aged 42.
10 years on again, in the 1871 census, his brother Thomas can be seen to be still living in Barton on the Heath, Little Compton.
But right next door, low and behold lives Joseph Ivins (b.1808), his wife Mary, and their two girls Elizabeth and Fanny, and their son Frederick. This Joseph Ivins was the nephew of the original Grandfather John, who was accused!
Small world! and spellings have changed from Ivens, to Ivins to Hivens to Ivings to Ivines. And they’re all related back to William Ivens of Stow on the Wold (circa 1740). In all, there are 142 descendants of this family on the Ivens database.