The Witch and the Toad

monochrome image of Gothic influenced cottage with dramatic sky behind

An old woman from Antony was known as Aunt Alsey. She had a very violent temper and people said she was a witch. Her landlord, John Richards, lived in a place that was then known as Dock. He had to cross the Tamar and walk up to Anthony to collect the rent owed on his cottages. Aunt Alsey never had any money for anything much and never paid her rent. She had lived in the cottage year on year and saw it near as her own. One dark stormy day there was a violent scene between Landlord Richards and Aunt Alsey, echoing the storm that raged overhead. The old lady stamped her wood heeled shoes like a thunderclap, shook her dark curled head and threw him a string of curses to the winds. She cursed Richard’s wife and unborn child and everything he owned with a look of unforgiving menace. Hastily retreating back down the lane, Alsey’s landlord thought he’d call back on a brighter day, preferably with some reinforcements to help to evict her. He needed his rent money after all, even if it would go on much needed repairs for the cottage. Richard's home was to the back of a grocery shop where his wife served customers and he did such tasks as ordering and accounts. They were sat in their usual places; her out front, him at the kitchen table; when a large toad fell from a beam knocking off the grocer's scales which squashed Mrs Richard's arm. It was the very same toad that had taken to appearing on the shop floor. Richard’s wife was in a faint, he tried to revive her. In frustration he picked up the hot tongs from the fireplace, scorching the toad as he threw it out the window. When next day he went in remorse to bury the toad, it was nowhere to be seen but a messenger from Antony arrived and told him how Aunt Alsey had died in a fire at her cottage and was found branded as if by a pair of hot tongs. Naturally enough, Richards became fearful for his unborn child as Aunt Alsey had cursed him also. Well the boy was born healthy and he grew up strong enough to join the navy. He made his parents extremely proud, even posthumously as he died at sea.


retold by Anna Chorlton

Reference: 'Popular Romances of the West of England' Hunt





  • Rame Peninsula