A FORMER MP who’s turned his hand to writing is releasing a new history book - which chronicles the tales of local witch hunts.

David Hinchcliffe, who served as MP for Wakefield throughout the 1990s, has already published one book before that looked at the 1821 Norcroft pit disaster in Cawthorne.

Now though his work has turned to the supernatural, as his new book - titled A Most Gross and Groundless Prosecution: The Denby Witchcraft Case of 1674 - looks at the story of how one family were tried for witchcraft in Barnsley.

He said: “To begin with it came about because I’m interested in family history.

“So as I was looking into my family’s history I came across this witchcraft case.

“The story’s been mentioned in passing in other books, but it’s never been looked at as in depth as this.”

While David has had an interest in this story for some time now, he felt like now was the perfect time to publish the book, as it coincides with the case’s 350th anniversary.

A 16-year-old girl, Mary Moor, testified to magistrates that she had overheard Joseph and Susannah Hinchliffe, and their daughter Anne Shillitoe, discussing their use of evil powers over people.

Anne had married Thomas Shillitoe at Royston Church in 1663 and the Shillitoes would appear to have held land close to Jowett House, near Cawthorne, around this time.

“During the summer of 1674, Susannah and Anne seem to have been held for a time in Barnsley’s prison, known as a ‘grate’, located below the Moot Hall, situated near the top of the town centre’s Market Hill,” David added.

“They were later bound over by magistrates to appear at the Spring Assizes in York accused of witchcraft.

“A remarkable petition of over 50 people was drawn up in support of the accused women but, as the book makes clear, it could have been counter-productive and matters concluded in the most tragic of circumstances.

“So with the 350th anniversary coming up it was a perfect time to release a book on the subject.”