A READING of a new short play about the controversial life of Blockley legend Joanna Southcott was applauded in two sell-out performances over the bank holiday weekend.

The play “Joanna Southcott:Heroine or Heretic?”, written by Blockley Heritage Society president

Jeremy Bourne to mark the 200th anniversary of her death, was performed to a packed Blockley Heritage Centre on May 25 and 26.

The role of Joanna Southcott was played by a relative newcomer to the village, Joanna Knight, and was performed in collaboration with Blockley Amateur Dramatic Company.

She was joined by a cast of about 20 Blockley folk playing about 30 parts with the story narrated by David Quin who was until recently the interim minister at Blockley Parish Church .

Author Jeremy Bourne said he was delighted with its reception.

“I thoroughly enjoyed writing it”, he said.

The reading told the story of the prophetess, who believed that she was bearing the next Messiah.

She became quite famous and controversial in her time, campaigning for women’s rights and racial justice, and was known to King George IV and Charles Dickens, among others.

She is believed to have spent the later years of her life living at Rock Cottage, in Blockley, and married the property’s owner John Smith shortly before her death in 1814 where a commemorative plaque can still be seen at the entrance.

Robert Willott, Blockley Heritage Society chairman, added: "Many of the audience said they had not appreciated how interesting and influentional Joanna Southcott had been in her lifetime."