The Felsted Hag
This 400-year-old house tells a tale of witchcraft and woodwork.
In the center of Felsted stands the Boote House, a timber-frame building dating to the 16th-century. The house was constructed by a local builder named George Boote. The timbers on the outside of the house are adorned with many carvings, including Boote’s own mark proudly announcing: “George Boote made this house: 1596.” The most striking feature of the wooden decor is undoubtedly the Felsted Hag, a curiously carved support for the upper floor’s overhang.
Much of the timber used for building the house is thought to have come from local disused ships. If this is so, then the Hag could be considered the building’s figurehead. The Hag, however, bent over and crouched, with her back supporting the floor above, is far less resplendent than the kings and mermaids of most ships.
Shackled in a green girdle, with blood-red lips and chalk-white skin, the hooven effigy is shockingly believed to depict Boote’s wife. According to legend, Boote married his future wife out of pity after she was disfigured by a witch’s curse.
Another theory behind the effigy, unsurprisingly due to its cloven feet, also involves witchcraft. Some believe the Felsted Hag depicts an actual witch. Just three years before the construction of the Boote House, Felsted was the center of a local witch trial. Village resident Alice Alberte was tried and hanged on accusations of bewitching dozens of sheep, a pig, as well as a cow and its calf.
Much like the question of who it depicts, the moral alignment of the Felsted Hag is debated. Some believe Boote installed it with the intent of warding off evil following his wife’s misfortune. Many residents say the figure is best avoided believing it to be evil itself, springing to life on Halloween to stalk the town’s streets.
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