A Strange and Lamentable Accident

 that happened lately at Mears-Ashby in Northamptonshire. 1642. Of one Mary Wilmore, wife to Iohn Wilmore rough mason, who was delivered of a childe without a head, and credibly reported to have a firme crosse on the brest, as this ensuing story shall relate.

Lamentable was a popular word for titling this kind of lurid tale that prove our tabloid press has a long history. This one is written by John Locke who is described as ‘a cleric’. This was a parable on the denying of baptism for infants which was a hot topic for those of an independent persuasion in the 1640s. Apparently the father of the child had been heard to say that he would rather his son be born with no head and a cross upon his chest than be baptised a child. Sadly, arguments of doctrine apart it seems that the poor child was actually stillborn with no head.

However, there are some nice details here of common women. Mary Wilmore is sitting up in bed in her smock buttoned (or tied) to the throat. The women in attendance are neatly turned out in waistcoats, petticoats, folded neckerchiefs and coifs. The figure facing away from us has a small triangle on the top of her head that just might be the point of a forehead or crosscloth which was part of the coif head covering.

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