Joan Eaton's Cross, Church Eaton

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Date:August 1957

Description:Local tradition has opposing legends in respect of Joan (also known as Jane or June) Eaton, including that she was a Village Saint or a Parish witch. She is said to be buried near to the village of Church Eaton, with her grave being a triangular piece of land known as ‘Joan Eaton’s Cross’, at the junction of two winding lanes to Little Onn and High Onn. St Editha’s well stands nearby.

Church Eaton has been well known for its folklore with old traditions handed down from generation to generation. The first of the two legends linked to Joan Eaton declares the triangular site to be the resting place of Joan Eaton, 'Patron Saint' of the village.

The second legend offers a more complicated explanation. Many years ago, a witch named Joan Eaton was in the habit of visiting neighbouring farmer’s cows in the fields and milking them dry. She claimed she could milk the Dun Cow dry at Red House Farm, Little Onn, using only one bucket. The farmer at Red House Farm, challenged the witch to milk his Dun Cow dry, a feat which he had never accomplished. Joan Eaton accepted the challenge and the cow was tethered to a stake ready for milking. Instead of using a bucket she used a sieve, which of course never filled up, she milked and milked, but try as she might she could not drain the animal dry. The cow turning its head to see why the milking was taking such a long time, saw its milk flowing through the sieve on to the ground, she heaved at the stake, which broke, and ran from the field leaving an impression of her hoof on a huge stone by a gate. The cow ran into Worcestershire, where it died, its remains were buried near the Cathedral. Joan Eaton then put a curse on Red House Farm saying that if the Dun Cow stone was removed, dire things would happen and all the cattle in the village would die. She was charged as a witch by the local farmers and was taken to the triangular patch of land near the village, where she was burned at the stake, and a cross was erected over her body.

As the years passed the curse was forgotten, until Little Onn Hall and Red House Farm came under the ownership of a Colonel Ashton, who it has been said, ordered the Dun Cow stone be removed from the farm to the hall. This being done, the occupants of Red House Farm lost all their cattle. The stone was taken back to the farm near to the gate by the farm cottages.

This photograph was published in the Staffordshire Newsletter on Saturday 31 August 1957. Reproduced by knd permission of the Staffordshire Newsletter who retain copyright.

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Creators: Staffordshire Newsletter - Creator

Donor ref:D4527-C15-EC-3 (201/45719)

Source: Staffordshire County Record Office

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