Margaret Leigh of Jackfields (better known as Molly Leigh) is buried in the churchyard. There are various stories concerning this “witch” but most popular seems to be that Parson Spencer, the minister at the time found her sitting in her rocking chair after her death and burial, after one of his frequent visits to the local public house, the Turks Head. He was said to be so frightened that he summoned up the help of local clergy, exhumed her body and re-buried her. Other variations of this story are that, the day after her funeral, the people came and found her sitting on top of her grave. She is supposed to have told these people that she could not rest unless her body was
buried transversely to the others. The people however did not comply with her request but buried her again as formerly. Again however the next day she appeared as before, so the third time she was buried transversely. These stories are based on the tales being passed down the generations and based on superstition and ignorance. Whatever the truth regarding this old story, her grave is easily recognised from the rest by the fact that it does lie North to South instead of East to West like the others. Her tomb is just outside the South porch of the church. Her burial is recorded in the registers as April 1st 1748.
The last witch was tried by English Court in 1712; and in 1736 the law was repealed in England condemning a witch to death. If Molly Leigh had been a real witch, practising black magic and seeking the spirits of the dead (which is forbidden by God; see Deuteronomy 18 v 10-12, Leviticus 19 v 31, 1 Samuel 28 v 6 and 1 Chronicles 10 v 13-14) she could hardly have gone through a Christian burial service and buried in consecrated ground. However the title “witch” was given to any woman who acted strangely.
Close behind the tomb of Molly Leigh lies a stone coffin and it is generally believed that it once contained the body of Lady Elizabeth, relict of Nicholas, 5th Baron of Audley, who was previously buried in the choir of the Abbey of Hulton. If we now travel westward from the tower, on the left side of the pathway, will be seen, perhaps one of the most curious monuments in the whole of the churchyard. It is erected in the memory of William Frederick Horry, Esq., by his Staffordshire friends. The story is as follows: He is said to have followed his wife to Lincoln and over some dispute, in a fit of temper, he murdered her. For this he was tried, condemned and was hung at the Lincoln Gaol and that was where he was buried. His friends at home took his side in the dispute and held a mock funeral here at Burslem. They erected this tombstone over what is obviously according to these details, an empty grave. Continuing down this same pathway, we reach a cross path and if we go along first to the left, we come to a tomb, which is a memorial to Nathaniel Johnson, who as a young man was killed during the riots in July 1837. The poetic epitaph is very striking:
“Under this stone the body lies
Of a good and faithful child.
His Father’s hope and Mother’s pride
His life was asked but God denied.
I went up town a sight to see,
Met with a shot which killed me.
No mourn for me I beg you, I make,
But love my sister for my sake”
At this point let us retrace our steps along the path we have just come and on our left we shall reach the Wood Family Vault, whence the valuable ornaments already referred to, were extracted. Just outside the South East corner of the church stands the Vault of the Wedgwood Family and behind this is a gravestone with the date 1300 carved on it. Some doubt the authenticity of this because the figures are cut in a modern style. There are those who claim to remember the discussion about re-cutting of the date and consequently have every reason to believe that this tomb is one of the oldest in the churchyard.