The Dark Conjurer of Batcombe

The Tale of Conjuring Minterne

My relationship to the Minterne family

John MINTERNE (1514 – 1592)
is your 13th great grandfather

Henry ‘of Hooke’ MINTERNE (1546 – 1593)
son of John MINTERNE

Henry ‘the Farmer of Hooke Manor’ MINTERNE (1570 – 1651)
son of Henry ‘of Hooke’ MINTERNE

Henry ‘the Younger of Hooke’ MINTERNE (1607 – 1684)
son of Henry ‘the Farmer of Hooke Manor’ MINTERNE

Henry ‘Rector of Chedington’ MINTERN (1660 – 1723)
son of Henry ‘the Younger of Hooke’ MINTERNE

Samuel MINTERN (1695 – 1746)
son of Henry ‘Rector of Chedington’ MINTERN

Samuel ‘the younger of Hooke’ MINTERN (1708 – )
son of Samuel MINTERN

Henry MINTERN (1740 – 1812)
son of Samuel ‘the younger of Hooke’ MINTERN

Hannah MINTERN (1774 – 1806)
daughter of Henry MINTERN

Jane BEST (1792 – 1870)
daughter of Hannah MINTERN

Emma GALE (1829 – 1871)
daughter of Jane BEST

Charlotte Anna DISKETT (1866 – 1935)
daughter of Emma GALE

Hannah Maud Mabel BARRITT (1890 – 1957)
daughter of Charlotte Anna DISKETT

Rosie May JANES (1930 – 1997)
daughter of Hannah Maud Mabel BARRITT

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In darkest Dorset below the northern scarp slope of the Dorset Downs lies a straggling village called Batcombe, a curious village with one very curious tale.

This story dates from the early seventeenth century, perhaps even the late sixteenth, a period of time when Religious unrest and Superstition was a part of everyday village life.

This is the story about the Dark Conjurer of Batcombe, or as he was known by the villagers of long ago’ ‘Conjuring Minterne’, due to his dealing with the Devil and the use of black magic.

A conjurer or ‘cunning man’ was a wise man with the art of healing, the knowledge of foresight, or a necromancer whose powers came from the black arts.

In real life his name was John Minterne ‘Esquire of Batcombe’ he was born to a well-respected Dorset family who’s connections included the Royal Courts of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. He studied at Oxford like most of his family and was a wealthy man in his own right. Historically it’s difficult to attribute this historically Dorset folk tale to the correct man there are four suspects living in the village by the same name, two which for me stand out from the rest, due to the period in which they lived. (i) John Minterne (1514 – 1592) husband of Margaret Wolley and brother in law to Sir John Wolley, Queen Elizabeth I’s Latin Secretary, and a member of her Privy Council. (ii) John Minterne (1540 – 1631) Son of the first mentioned John and husband to Francis Maye’ daughter to Sir John ‘of Charterhouse’ Maye.

Whichever John Minterne can lay claim to the title ‘Conjuring Minterne’, has surely left his mark on history and his legend has survived the ages, his small square modest sepulcher survives to this very day and is an eerie reminder to all that passes by.

The Legend of Conjuring Minterne

It is said that one day, Conjuring Minterne a well accomplished horse rider set out on his horse, from the village towards Batcombe Hill. As he was riding, he suddenly remembered that he forgot to put his book of Magic and Alchemy away, his magical grimoire had been left wide open on his study desk for all to see, Conjuring Minterne, afraid that someone might take to dabbling with his spell book, called upon the aid of the Devil who appeared forthwith and granted him both speed and strength. Minterne turned with great speed back to the village, and with one kick of encouragement he made his horse take a gigantic leap from Batcombe Hill

The Conjurer glided through the sky on his horse, away from the hill, over the trees, across the village and then suddenly as he descended one of the horse’s fiery hooves clipped one of the four church pinnacles causing it to break away and tumble to the ground. The Conjuror landed safely in a nearby field close to the church known as the ‘Pitching Plot’. Where it is said the imprint of his horse’s hooves may still be seen and the ground remains forever barren of grass.

The pinnacle his horse’s hoof dislodged from the church tower lay where it had fallen for many years after the event. It was believed that bad luck would befall the village if it were ever replaced. In 1906 it was restored and to this day, the restored pinnacle can be seen crooked, and anyone who knows this tale always looks up. Whether bad luck fell upon the village we shall never know.

The Conjuror continued to amaze the villages for several years after this event. When Conjuring Minterne died he left strict instructions that his body should be buried ‘neither in the church nor out of it’.

So as instructed he was placed beneath a modest square sepulcher built into the wall of the family chapel ‘Minterne Chapel’ with his feet and probably most of his legs tucked firmly beneath the chapels masonry walls and the remainder of his body in the church yard.

Sadly, the chapel was demolished during church restoration in 1864, and since then Conjuring Minterne has lain entirely outside the church – his ivy-clad tomb makes a curious spectacle near the porch.

His name however, lives on as a byword for wickedness and devilry. While the Dorset poet and writer Thomas Hardy, makes reference to Conjuring Minterne, though spelt ‘Conjuring Mynterne’ at the beginning of chapter twenty one of his novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

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3 thoughts on “The Dark Conjurer of Batcombe

  1. Hello Stephen, I have visited Batcombe & Yetminster many times & find your family history most interesting. I have only managed to trace my ancestors back to William & Rachel Mintern of Puriton in 1744. Unfortunately some of the church records are missing before then.

    • Hi Roy, Thank you for your message. I had the same trouble with gaps in the parish records, but luckily my Mintern line all left behind Wills and lots more records.
      I will take a little look myself, to see if I can find anything for you. Although its a difficult line to research and took me a few months with the help of a distant cousin.

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