Wednesday, September 15th 1875 was just another normal day in the village of Long Compton in Warwickshire, but events that took place later that day made it a tragic day for the Tennant family.
John and Ann TENNANT had lived in the village since their marriage in 1819. In fact, Ann had been born there in 1794 to Edward and Eliza Smith. John and Ann had raised 7 children and by 1875 they had many grandchildren, all living in Long Compton.
On the evening of September 15th at about 8.00pm, Ann TENNANT left her husband in their cottage in Hells Lane and made her way to the local bakers to buy a loaf of bread. On her way home, she met a group of farm workers returning home from their day in the fields. Amongst them was a close neighbour, James Hayward who had been known to the family for many years. James Hayward had not had a successful day at work, and he had been drinking cider. On seeing Ann TENNANT, he suddenly, without warning, attacked her with the pitchfork he was carrying and stabbed her several times in the legs and hit her about her body and head.
Mr Taylor, a local farmer heard her screaming and ran out and pulled James Hayward away from her. Poor Ann Tennant was bleeding profusely and her daughter, Elizabeth Hughes, who lived close by, heard her mother's screams and rushed to her aid. They took Ann TENNANT into Elizabeth's cottage and called for her husband John. Mr Taylor held onto James Hayward until the arrival of John Simpson, the police constable stationed at Long Compton.
A message was sent out to Chipping Norton to Dr George Wright Hutchinson who arrived at Long Compton about 11.00pm. Here he found Ann TENNANT to be in a very poor state. She had puncture wounds on her left temple and behind her ear and many wounds on both legs. She was bleeding from all these wounds and was in a state of collapse. Before Dr Hutchinson had finished dressing these wounds, Ann TENNANT sadly died. She was 79 years old.
James Hayward was taken to the police cells at Shipston on Stour, close by to Long Compton where he was interviewed by Superintendent James Thompson. He told the Superintendent that he believed Ann TENNANT to be the leader of a pack of 15 witches who resided in Long Compton and that she had "bewitched him" all day and had prevented him from working. He said that he meant to kill her and would do the same to the other witches. He said he could see witches in a glass of water he was given and consequently, he was only tried for manslaughter because of the state of his mind. His trial took place at Warwick Assizes and he was admitted to Warwick jail and it is believed he died there a few months later.
The inquest into Ann Tennant's death was held at the Red Lion, Long Compton on Friday 17th September where the coroner, T.B.Couchman recorded a verdict of "WILLFUL MURDER, DELIBERATELY STABBED TO DEATH BY JAMES HAYWARD WITH A PITCHFORK UNDER THE DELUSION OF WITCHCRAFT"
To find out more about the TENNANT family click here.