The Tale of Conjuring Minterne
Location: St. Mary Magdalene Church, Batcombe
Deal with the Devil
In the seventeenth century, 'a conjuror' 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.
The village of Batcombe once had a conjuror by the name John Minterne. The villagers of Batcombe nicknamed him 'Conjuring Minterne' as he was known in the village to have dealings with the Devil and the black arts.
One day, Conjuring Minterne sets out on horseback, from the village to Batcombe Hill. As he was riding, he suddenly remembers that he forgot to put his book of spells away. Left wide open for all to view upon his desk, Conjuring Minterne, afraid that someone might take to dabbling with his spell book, called upon the aid of the Devil and turned forthwith back to the village by making his horse take one gigantic leap from Batcombe Hill.
As the Conjuror glided through the sky on his horse across the village, one of the horse's fiery hooves clipped one of the church pinnacles causing it to tumble to the ground. The Conjuror landed safely in a nearby field close to the church known as the 'Pitching Plot'. It is said that the spot in which the Conjuror had landed remains barren of grass.
The pinnacle his horse's hoof was supposed to have dislodged from the church tower lay by the tower for many years after the event. The pinnacle was believed to bring bad luck upon the village if it was replaced back upon the tower. In 1906 it was restored and to this day, the restored pinnacle can be seen crooked. Whether it brought bad luck or not to 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'.
Since the removal of the Minterne chapel, was used to rebuild the chancel in 1864. The weather-worn half tomb covered with rampant ivy looks quiet out of place in the graveyard of St. Mary Magdalene church. There is no evidence of any inscriptions on the tomb, but it is worth to note two plaques, which were removed from the Minterne Chapel to the west tower, refer to two John Minterne's one of 1592 and the other 1716. Whether one these plaques refer to our mysterious conjuror of Batcombe we shall never know or in what century the conjuror performed his amazing feats.
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.