As we are in the shadow of Halloween, it seems only right that we should look at some famous witch
stories from Glamorgan. Especially as we have some real belters. Arguably our most famous local Witch is the Mallt-y-Nos. She is described in some texts as a witch in others as a ghostly apparition but she is quite unique to the counties of South Wales. She filled the hearts of all who saw her with fear. Another witchlike creature in Glamorgan folklore is the Gwrach- Y-Rhibin. Her phenomenon has been described by many sources across the centuries. My favourite,
a book entitled British Goblins, published in 1880. It has this to say:
“A monstrous Welsh spirit in the shape of a hideously ugly woman whose appearance is typically
with unkempt hair and wizened, withered arms with leathery wings, long black teeth, and pale
corpse-like features. She approaches the window of a person about to die by night and calls their
name or travels invisibly beside them and utters her cry when they approach a stream or crossroads.
She is sometimes depicted as washing her hands there”.
An altogether more conventional witch story though, concerns a lady who used to live at a cottage
which once stood in Cliff Wood on the edge what is today, Porthkerry Park. Its ruins are still there to
be seen. There is a fabulous old legend inspired by her. It involved a lovesick aristocrat and his manipulative servant.
The young man was naive in the ways of love. He wrote poems and letters to the object of his
desires, but she just rebuffed him. Sensing an opportunity, his servant told him of the famous witch
who lived in the woods in Porthkerry. And how she could make the young man a love potion to win
his girl over for a Guinea. Worth about £1.05 now but a lot of money back then. He agreed and followed him into the woods.
They met the witch of Porthkerry, and she made the potion and gave it to the gentleman. As
gentlemen of this era would never carry money, it was always left to the servant to pay for things
from his master’s coffers. But seeing how old and frail the witch was, this unscrupulous man thought
he’d pocket the money for himself and refused to pay her.
Angered by the deception she cast a spell over the two of them uttering ‘May these men never leave
these woods. The two men only got as far as the edge of the woods before turning into two trees.
The master tall and elegant turned into a yew tree. The servant became a twisted and gnarled
hornbeam tree. Both trees are still there and the path they took from the cottage to the edge of the
woods has ever since been known as Lovers Lane.
Now, as much as this story is more than likely absolute bunkum – Here’s the thing. There really was
a lady who lived at this cottage who was widely believed to be a witch. Her name was Ann Jenkins.
Also known as Ann Ddu and she was a provider of potions and remedies. There is written account
that she was inspected for witch marks by the Cowbridge magistrates. There is no record of the
outcome. Were they able to prove that she was in league with the devil? Probably not. Official
records register Ann Jenkins as being buried in the yard at the church of St Nicholas in Barry. If she
had been proven to be in league with the devil she would never have been allowed to be buried in
the yard of a Christian church.
If you want to know more about these stories, they are the subject of my latest YouTube video. Also, they are discussed in more detail in my books about Glamorgan folklore available to buy on this link.
You can also ‘listen again’ to my radio show on Bro Radio where I also interviewed a modern day witch for her take on them.