antique textiles Hand spinning handspinning History

The Amazing Spinning Cat

By Detroit Publishing Co. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

We hear from Wingrove, near Aylsbury in Bucks., that a few Days ago, one Susanna Hannockes, an elderly Woman of that Place, was accused by a neighbour of being a Witch, for that she had bewitched her Spinning-Wheel, so that she could not make it go round, and offered to make an Oath of it before a Magistrate; on which the Husband of the poor Woman, in order to justify his Wife, insisted on her being tried by the Church Bible, and that the Accuser should be present: Accordingly she was conducted by her Husband, attended by a great Concourse of People, who flocked to see the Ceremony, to the Parish Church, where she was strippt of all her Cloaths to her Shift and Under-Coat, and weighed against the Bible; when, to the no small Mortification of her Accuser, she out-weighed it, and was honourably Acquitted of the Charge…

[Whitehall Evening Post or London Intelligencer (London), February 24, 1759].


Baltimore, in Maryland. Aug.20. We hear from Accomack in Virginia, that lately died there Mrs Eleanor Spicer, aged 121 Years, who retained her Senses and Memory to the last, and worked at her Spinning-Wheel till within six Months of her Death. She never drank any type of Spiritous Liquors.

[St. James’s Chronicle or the British Evening Post (London), November 18, 1773]

Inquest Before Mr Smith, Coroner.

And on Thursday, at Hallow, on the body of a poor woman, of the name of Martha Myddleton, who dropped from her chair whilst working at a spinning-wheel, and instantly expired. Verdict: Died by the Visitation of God.

[Berrow’s Worcester Journal (Worcester), Thursday, March 01,

By Francis Wheatley (1747 – 1801) (British) (Artist, Details of artist on Google Art Project) (Google Art Project: Home – pic) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Animal Sagacity

There is now in the possession of John Abbott, of Follifoot, near Knaresborough, a cat , which is possessed of faculties unknown by any Grimalkin that we have seen or read of. This domestic tiger…can easily open or fasten any door of the cottage, in a manner astonishing to behold, by actually climbing up and placing its foot in a peculiar manner on the latch; but what is most wonderful, Mrs Abbott, who is the last remnant of the olden time residing in that village, occupies some portion of her time in spinning, to which the puss lends all the assistance in her power , exerting her utmost in the carding of the wool, and, when her mistress will allow, will rattle about the ‘spinning wheel’ in a manner that would bring the ‘blush’ on many of our modern female cousins, who would find some difficulty at least, in competing with this self acquired performer on the spinning wheel.

The York Herald , (York), Saturday, March 20, 1841

In the 1841 Census, John Abbott was down as ‘Ag Lab’, in 1851, ‘Cordwainer’; born in Follifoot, in 1773, and married Mary Midgeley on 5th August,  1800 at Spofforth. She was born around 1781, also in Follifoot.  At first I assumed the article was talking about an elderly mother, but there is none living with them, the same month as the article was written, in 1841. So  I am guessing the relict of a byegone age who still spun, was Mary herself, a not entirely ancient 60 when the article went to press.

And finally, a bad 18thC joke:

A Lady lately died at Cleveland in her 100th year, who could card faster than any woman could spin. We believe there are very few old ladies who do not excel more at cards than spinning wheels.

[The Morning Post and Gazetteer (London), Monday, February 15, 1802]


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