Parish Church of St Nicholas, Canewdon
The Parish Church of St Nicholas in Canewdon dates from the 14th century and according to tradition and local legend, has associations with ghosts, witchcraft and the Devil. The following description of Canewdon was published on 13 October 2014 in the Essex Chronicle within an article by Emily Talbut entitled ‘The 14 most haunted places in Essex to visit this Hallowe’en’
Legend has it if you if you walk around it seven times on Halloween you’ll see a witch, 13 times you will become invisible and if you run round it anti-clockwise, the Devil will appear, meaning Essex Police often seal this area off on October 31 to avoid an influx of people prepared to give it a go.
The most widely seen apparition is that of a faceless grey lady who has been spotted floating on moonless nights from the church’s west gate towards the river. Many of these ghosts are believed to be the spirits of supposed witches who wander the earth unable to rest due to injustices committed against them when they were alive.
Another legend suggests that there would be six witches living in Canewdon as long as the tower of the Parish Church of St Nicholas stands. Three would be lower class (cotton) and three of a higher class (silk). Whenever a stone fell from the tower it is said one of the witches would and then be replaced.
One story states the Devil lives under one of the tomb stones in the churchyard and children would protect themselves by dancing around the churchyard.
George Pickingill (Born 1816 – Died 1909) is buried at the Parish Church of St Nicholas in Canewdon. Pickingill was a farm labourer and lived in a cottage near the church. There are suggestions that Pickingill was a member of a hereditary witch cult, the head of a Canewdon coven (which was disbanded shortly before his death) and the founder of nine other covens.