Ward's Book of Days.

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What happened on this day in history.


On this day in history in 1814, died Joanna Southcott.

Southcott was a farmer’s daughter and domestic servant who became a prophetess.  

Southcott was born in Gittisham, Dorset. She had sufficient education to read and understand the bible. She worked as a servant, in what by all accounts a satisfactory manner, until at the age of forty when she began to prophesy. She dictated prophesies in rhyme and declaimed herself as the ‘woman clothed with the sun’ [Revelations 12:1].  

In 1802, she relocated to London where she began to seal the 144,000 elect [Revelations 7:4], charging a fee, it was said, varying from ten to twenty shillings per person. At the age of sixty-four, Southcott declared that, on 19th October 1814, she was to give birth to the new Messiah. This birth did not take place and Southcott went into a trance until Christmas Day when, her followers say, she was delivered of male child who was taken up to heaven. Southcott died two days later.  

The mystery did not come to an end with Southcott’s death. She left behind a sealed wooden box with instructions that it must not be opened except in the case of a national emergency and then only with twenty-four bishops present. It was proposed to open the box during the Crimean War and invitations were sent to the entire bench of bishops but none attended. This happened again during the First World War.  

In 1927, the conditions were disregarded and the box was opened in the presence of only one bishop.  The box contained nothing of worth except for a horse-pistol and a lottery ticket. However, Southcott’s followers, the Panacea Society of Bedford, claim that the genuine box is in their possession and declare that it shall not be opened until the requisite number of bishops attend.  

In the 1930’s there was a campaign to have the box opened, which excited great public interest. Since that time, the box has rarely been mentioned in the media, although it was once the subject of a Monty Python sketch.

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