There’s been a lot of talk of late about Pancake Marion, and the whole “Shrove Tuesday” phenomenon. But just who is she? And why did she do the horrible things that she did? Historian Marcus Ploughmans looks back at the history of one of England’s darkest secrets.
“Pancake Marion, Pancake Marion
Now’s the time to fry them
Pancake Marion, Pancake Marion
Now’s the time to fry
Don’t you dare to drop them
On the table plop them
Tuesday’s day is pancake day
We dance our cares away”
The ever-popular children’s nursery rhyme is now only ever really associated with cooking pancakes. But there was once a time when it was sung to remind children of the dangers of going into the darkness of Marionwood, Herefordshire.
The Raven-Barrow Family Portrait
In 1854, Jonathon Raven-Barrow (a wealthy industrialist from Westminster, London) lost his entire fortune to bad investments made in overseas property. Jonathon, his wife and their daughter, Marion, were homeless and destitute. They were forced to live in makeshift accommodation in the woodlands of Hereford, surviving by eating scraps, scavenged from the dustbins of the local townsfolk.
But, unknown to the Raven-Barrows, the villagers had grown tired of the rogue family’s presence. They saw the family as vermin. The woods were once a play area for children, but had become a no-go area since the Raven-Barrows had taken over. The villagers conspired to trap the family, and, on the night of the 14th of February 1857, caught them deep within the woods.
One by one, they were boiled alive in a vat of rancid eggs and lard…ingredients that were consistently stolen. As Marion was being executed she managed to escape. The villagers assumed that her fierce wounds would finish her off. But they were wrong. She lived. Albeit deformed and unhinged. Her mind twisted by the sight of the murder of her parents.
She fed off wild animals…to begin with! When the animals ran out…she turned to the children of the village. And anyone else who was foolish enough to go into the woods. All were captured…tortured and eaten alive, covered in boiling batter. They called her Pancake Marion.
Armies of men would march into the woods, all carrying weapons…but none would return. In a five year period she claimed over 200 victims. Eventually, the woods were burned to the ground. It seemed the only way to end her reign of terror. And the name of Pancake Marion became a thing of folklore.
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