Sarah Moore was married twice but after her second husband died she was left with 9 children to look after. 6 of them died. Due to a difficult time and exhausting time looking after the family she became very tired and weak and turned to witchcraft. She would do charms for people and read peoples fortune for a penny, by sprinkling sand into a bucket (similar method to reading tea leaves). For a penny she would also bless sailors with a good wind. One day a (foreign) Captain of a fishing smack forbade his sailors to give her any money. Sarah flew into a terrible rage after hearing about this and went down to the quayside and called up a huge storm. As the smack went out the wind rocked the boat from side to side. One of the sailors shouted 'It's the witch! It's the witch!', blaming Sarah. The Captain took an axe and with three strokes cut down the mast, with the wind subsiding as soon as it fell. The boat returned to Bell Wharf, whereupon they found the dead body of Sarah Moore on the ground with three axe wound in her body.
An alternative ending to this local legend is that the storm comes up, but they can't get the rigging down and the boat capsises, with the loss of all souls except the Captain. He manages to swim back to Bell Wharf where he proclaims vengeance upon the witch. The next day Sarah's headless body is found floating in Doom Pond, the drowning pool on Leigh Road.
Other, possibly related legends.
The great storm of 1870 is famous for devastating damage in the area. Sarah Moore did exist as a person but her burial registration states that she died on December 9th 1867 aged 80 years. In the 1851 census she was living at Strand Wharf aged 50, occupation Mangler (laundress). The two stories could have been combined.
The Sarah Moore pub used to have a sign, which was painted in the 20's, depicting Sarah with a hook nose and big chin, bent over carrying a large 'witches' sack, which could have easily been a bag of laundry.
1852, Sarah already had a reputation as being a witch. She lost 2 sons within 4 days of each other, and a year later on the anniversary of their death there was a cholera outbreak. So, she made a potion and left it on the doorstep of the house with afflicted. None of the babies in those houses survived (as we would probably deduce now due to no medicine or vaccine for Cholera) but everyone in Leigh thought she had poisoned them due to resentment of her own childrens' deaths the year before.
Three years later, on a windy day, she left her shack. Four children were playing in the alley outside and noticed the door was unlocked and banging because of the wind. They wanted to see what the 'witches lair' was like so they went in, and because it was so dark, lit a candle and put it on the table. They looked through the potions for a cure for one of the girls warts (17 year old). It was on a high shelf and tipped over her and the 4 year old girl next to her, just as they heard Sarah coming back home. In the panic they knocked over the candle and set fire to the girls. Sarah opened the door and the wind caused the flames to turn into a fire ball. The legend has it that fire came from Sarah's eyes and turned them into a fire ball. The children ran out, chased by Sarah with her witches sack trying to put out the flames, but the legend says that she was trying catch them. Later one of the boys said that he thought the contents of the bottle was paraffin.
One of the first interviews we did for this project was with local author and novelist Syd Moore , who was a wealth of local knowledge and folklore. She has conducted extensive research connected to Essex witches and Matthew Hopkins and recounted a lot of stories on these topics, which we were very grateful for.