REV. HENRY CRABTREE
of Todmorden 1662-1685)
self-styled "rustic court magician" by the name of Henry
Crabtree descended on Todmorden in 1662 to take up the curacy
of St. Mary's. He has to be the most eccentric odd-ball ever to
hold the position of vicar, yet he lasted there for an unbelievable
23 years. He wasn't a scholar, but was a blunt and honest Yorkshire
man, born in Sowerby. He worked in an age when superstition and
belief in witches and wizards was rife, and all daily misfortunes
were blamed on such witches and wizards.
was not only a clergyman but also a physician, mathematician and
astrologer. His wages of £12 a year from the Parish were
augmented by attempts at healing the sick. Blood letting was his
favourite treatment, but he preferred prevention rather than cure.
In 1685 he wrote and had published a book entitled "Merlinus
Rusticus", or Country Almanac, in which he gave a month by
month prescription for keeping healthy.
February it is:
"exceeding good to take a little quantity of honey of
roses every morning 3 hours before dinner, it will comfort the
stomach and cleanse the whole body"
"if you stand in need you may vomit, purge, or bleed,
but be sure you keep warm this month"
vomit and let blood, but abstain from wine and strong drink for
it more defiles the blood in this month than in any other"
early, walk in the fields by running streams of water, and feast
thy lungs with fresh air. Sage and sweat butter is an excellent
breakfast. Clarified whey, wild sage and scurvey grass, ale and
wormwood beer are now very wholesome."
"beware of lying on the ground this month, and of drinking
hastily or too much when you are hot. Let honest labour and moderate
exercise procure your sweat. To lie too much or long upon the
lower sheet is very hurtful for the body this month. A sparing
and thin diet is best."
of purging, vomiting or bleeding. This month eat no strong meats,
nor drink over much strong drink"
eat sage is wholesome. All meats and herbs that are moderately
cold of quality are wholesome. A glass of brisk wine moderately
taken is good."
"this month is good for blood letting. Take diet drinks
several mornings together to prevent diseases in the winter and
preserve your bodies in health till the next spring"
time now requires that you consult with your tailor, as well with
your physician. A good suit of warm clothes is worth two purges
and one vomit"
"the best thing this month is clothes, good diet and
strong drink. The best exercise is hunting or tracing hares, but
be sure that the pack or Lordship be your own, and then you need
not fear an indictment or fine at the next Sessions."
best thing this month is good meat and the strongest drink you
can get, warm clothes and moderate exercise".
is credited with being the first incumbent to keep Parish records
of baptisms, marriages and burials at St. Mary's. Far from the
often brief entries of his counterparts to follow, he added many
an astrological comment to the register, and sometimes very caustic
June 23rd 1669 he buried Edmund Kershaw, adding in the register
"with all men's consent", whilst Ruth
Fielden was "well buried" on 24th May 1670.
In 1685 he baptised James Taylor, who he comments "was
born near the setting of the sun and also near a full moon - a
sure sign of a short life." His parents were more than
likely very unimpressed.
longest obituary in the burial register concerned the death of
John Bairstow, who had lost his wife and daughter not long previously.
presently began offering sacrifice unto Bacchus.."
He goes on to describe how John Bairstow took to the hills to
drink himself senseless in an effort to "comfort the cockles
of his heart". Henry concludes:
"it is to be supposed that being over-charged with immoderate
sorrow, his heart burst from grief and he died in a rage for want
of ale, and he came to Todmorden to be buried."
antics may now be considered quaint, but Henry had a dark side
to him. He and his immediate followers were great QUAKER hunters.
At that time, non-conformist beliefs were illegal, and considered
dangerous to and by the Established Church. Henry and his men
broke into peaceful Quaker meetings and took the names of all
present, which were then handed to the authorities.
particular instances have been recorded whereby they broke
into the house of Henry Kailey at Todmorden Edge and the home
of Daniel Sutcliffe at Strait Hey in Langfield. The men's
names were taken and they were later called before the Justices
of the Peace. The heads of the families of those two houses
were fined substantial amounts of money, and the others lesser
Barn at Todmorden Edge in 2004
of these Quakers refused to pay their fines and distraint orders
were issued. The FIELDENS of Bottomley and others at Mankinholes
in Langfield and Shore in Stansfield were subject to these distraint
orders, and suffered the indignity of having their household goods
seized in lieu of the fine. Some of them were sent to prison.
All thanks to the Rev. Henry Crabtree.
actions as a physician were eventually his downfall. His biggest
mistake was treating a young man who suffered from fits by over-zealous
blood letting; "enough for six men at once". He was
accused of being in league with the devil and discredited for
the rest of his life. He died before 1695 in Todmorden and is
buried in an unmarked grave with no reference to the burial in
the registers he so carefully created. His wife outlived him and
was buried at St. Mary's on December 15th. 1718.