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The 'Wonder of this age' (the strange story of Roger Crab, Ickenham's hermit)

Roger Crab, c 1616 to 1680, was raised in the West Country and fought for Parliament in the English Civil War (1642 to 1651), where his skull was 'cloven to the braine'.

By 1646, while living in Southwark, he was described as 'a Preacher, who vents strange doctrines'; and that already he had been complained of  'for speaking words against the King' - nothing so remarkable in an age renowned for its radicalism.

By 1652 Crab had moved to Chesham, Buckinghamshire, where he sold hats. It was there that he experienced a kind of religious 'conversion'. He sold his goods and moved to Ickenham, renting a small piece of ground. There he ritually purified himself through a programme of fasting and prayer, existing on water and broth - a diet which nearly killed him. Even after he recovered, he lived as a hermit, dressed in sackcloth, and ate little more than the herbs, roots, dock leaves, mallows and grass which grew on his land.

Crab claimed a new found knowledge of the effect of astrology on the human body, and he began administering cures to others. At one point he claimed a hundred patients at once, including Captain Robert Norwood, who died of starvation after following Crab's own diet.

Repeatedly imprisoned for his outspoken views against King and government, accused of witchcraft by the Vicar of Uxbridge, and put at least once in the stocks outside Ickenham church, Crab's views can be best summed up by his own verse:

'My body is but Serpents meat,

And that thou wouldst destroy;

Thy honour and glory's but a cheat,

For all must vanish away'.

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Article utilities:  Bookmark and Share Print Print this page Last updated: 15 Aug 2018 at 15:42