Joanna Southcott

From Kook Science

Joanna Southcott
Born April 1750
Tarford Farm, Ottery St. Mary, Devon, England, G.B.
Died 26 December 1814 (64)
London, England, U.K.

Joanna Southcott (April 1750 - December 1814) was an English prophetess who was active in her prognosticating — in the form of rhyming poetry — from 1793 until her death, drawing a following of some one hundred thousand Southcottians in her lifetime. She declared herself to be the "Woman of the Apocalypse" spoken of in the Book of Revelation (12:1-6), and her crowning prophecy was that she would give birth to the "Prince of Peace," "Shiloh of Genesis" (Genesis 49:10), on 19 October 1814, a date that came and went, two months after which she died.

Selected Works of Prophecy

  • The Strange Effects of Faith (London: E. J. Field, 1802)
  • The True Explanation of the Bible, Revealed by Divine Communications to Joanna Southcott (London: S. Rousseau, 1804)
  • The Book of Wonders (1813–1814)
  • Prophecies announcing the birth of the Prince of Peace, extracted from the works of Joanna Southcott to which are added a few remarks thereon, made by herself, ed. Ann Underwood. (London: 1814)


  • Reynolds, Arthur (1921), "Southcottians", English Sects: an Historical Handbook, London: A. R. Mowbray, p. 184-187, 

    THESE amazing sectaries, of whom there exists only a scanty remnant, are the followers of Joanna Southcott, a reputed prophetess, born in 1750. Until she reached the age of forty she was a Methodist. She then developed a belief that she was inspired to predict coming events in the political world, but more especially the Second Coming of our Lord. The divine communications which she professed to have received she at first committed to writings, which she put away under seal and kept for several years. When, later on, they were opened, she boasted that events had happened exactly in accordance with her predictions. That was an age when prophetic claims were readily acknowledged by the credulous, especially if those who made them appeared to have a message to bring concerning the Millennium. Accordingly she attracted an enormous following, estimated at 100,000, about the time of her death in 1814.

    It is remarkable that this quondam domestic servant should have been able to appeal successfully to people much higher than herself in the social scale, and that they lacked discrimination to estimate at their true value the incoherent doggerel verses in which she began to utter her prophecies in 1792. Still more remarkable is it that their suspicions were not aroused when Joanna set up what was practically a business, the sealing of the 144,000 saints at prices ranging from twelve shillings to twenty - one shillings a head. But so it was, and we can only marvel.

    When she was past sixty years of age Joanna gave out that, having supernaturally conceived, she was about to become the mother of the Shiloh, the Prince of Peace, who must come to inaugurate the Millennium. The announcement created an immense amount of interest in the press of the year 1814. In August of that year a London physician actually affirmed that Joanna's account of her condition was a true one, but after her death in the following December a post-mortem examination corrected his diagnosis. When she was dying she declared that she was about to fall into a trance, on awaking from which she would give birth to the promised child.

    Her death, and the non-fulfilment of her promises, coupled with the direction she left to her followers that they should hold no more meetings until the Prince of Peace was born, but attend on Sundays some Protestant place of worship, greatly de pressed the sect. Some of the members, however, disregarded her command, and met as before. It is not surprising that an impostor took advantage of Joanna's prophecies. In 1825 a person called Charles William Twort appeared on the scene, giving himself out to be the Shiloh. He was imitated by a Southcottian named George Turner, whose name was assumed by a little group of Turnerites. Finally, John Wroe, a Yorkshireman, put forth the same claim, adding to it the attractive announcement that the lost tribes would shortly be gathered in, and that the Christian Israelites, his particular followers, were chosen as the instruments of that ingathering. A visit to Australia, where he died, gave Wroe the opportunity to propagate his doctrines, which were accepted in that country more eagerly than here. At home, however, the name and influence of Joanna were kept alive by various means. A lady of some wealth left a considerable sum of money for the publication of The Sacred Writings of Joanna Southcott. These writings numbered as many as sixty, all ungrammatical and incoherent. This lady's will was disputed, but the Court of Chancery confirmed it. While Wroe was preaching in Yorkshire he found the means to build a fine house near Wakefield as the centre of his mission. It is said to have been sumptuously appointed. This was in 1855, but on his death in 1863 it was discovered that he had left the property away from the sect, which has dwindled away almost, if not quite, into extinction.

    There is a story, whether true or not, that Joanna left behind her a strong box of sealed writings, which, no doubt, would convey to the world some surprising revelations. She is said, however, to have made it a condition that it should be opened only in the presence of the bishops. From time to time interest in this mysterious box revives. Quite recently there have appeared in The Times advertisement columns announcements that "England's troubles will continue until the Bishops open Joanna Southcott's box of Sealed Writings." So far the Episcopate has shown no desire to under take the responsibilities which the testatrix is declared to have imposed on them, and the world is compelled to wait for Joanna's final testimony.