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The trials of the Pendle witches in are among the most famous witch trials in English history, and some of the best recorded of the 17th century. The twelve accused lived in the area surrounding Pendle Hill in Lancashireand were charged with the murders of ten people by the use of witchcraft. All but two were tried at Lancaster Assizes on 18—19 Augustalong with the Samlesbury witches and others, in a series of trials that have become known as the Lancashire witch trials.

One was tried at York Assizes on 27 Julyand another died in prison. Of the eleven who went to trial — nine women and two men — ten were found guilty and executed by hanging; one was found not guilty. The official publication of the proceedings by the clerk to the courtThomas Potts, in his The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancasterand the of witches hanged together — nine at Lancaster and one at York — make the trials unusual for England at that time.

It has been estimated that all the English witch trials between the early 15th and early 18th centuries resulted in fewer than executions; this series of trials s for more than two per cent of that total. Six of the Pendle witches came from one of two families, each at the time headed by a woman in her eighties: Elizabeth Southerns a. Chattoxand her daughter Anne Redferne. The outbreaks of 'witchcraft' in and around Pendle may suggest that some people made a living by as traditional healersusing a mixture of herbal medicine and talismans or charmswhich might leave them open to charges of sorcery.

The accused witches lived in the area around Pendle Hill in Lancashirea county which, at the end of the 16th century, was regarded by the authorities as a wild and lawless region: an area "fabled for its theft, violence and sexual laxity, where the church was honoured without much understanding of its doctrines by the common people".

Despite the abbey's closure, and the execution of its abbot, the people of Pendle remained largely faithful to their Roman Catholic beliefs and were quick to revert to Catholicism on Queen Mary's accession to the throne in When Mary's Protestant half-sister Elizabeth came to the throne in Catholic priests once again had to go into hiding, but in remote areas such as Pendle they continued to celebrate Mass in secret.

This demanded the death penalty, but only where harm had been caused; lesser offences were punishable by a term of imprisonment. The Act provided that anyone who should "use, practise, or exercise any Witchcraft, Enchantment, Charm, or Sorcery, whereby any person shall happen to be killed or destroyed", was guilty of a felony without benefit of clergyand was to be put to death. On Elizabeth's death in she was succeeded by James I.

Strongly influenced by Scotland's separation from the Catholic Church during the Scottish ReformationJames was intensely interested in Protestant theology, focusing much of his curiosity on the theology of witchcraft. By the early s he had become convinced that he was being plotted against by Scottish witches.

In he wrote a book, Daemonologieinstructing his followers that they must denounce and prosecute any supporters or practitioners of witchcraft. One year after James acceded to the English throne, a law was enacted imposing the death penalty in cases where it was proven that harm had been caused through the use of magic, or corpses had been exhumed for magical purposes. In earlythe year of the trials, every justice of the peace JP in Lancashire was ordered to compile a list of recusants in their area, i.

It was against this background of seeking out religious nonconformists that, in MarchNowell investigated a complaint made to him by the family of John Law, a pedlarwho claimed to have been injured by witchcraft. It was perhaps difficult for the judges charged with hearing the trials — Sir James Altham and Sir Edward Bromley — to understand King James's attitude towards witchcraft. The king was head of the judiciary, and Bromley was hoping for promotion to a circuit nearer London.

Altham was nearing the end of his judicial career, but he had recently been accused of a miscarriage of justice at the York Assizes, which had resulted in a woman being sentenced to death by hanging for witchcraft. The judges may have been uncertain whether the best way to gain the King's favour was by encouraging convictions, or by "sceptically testing the witnesses to destruction".

One of the accused, Demdike, had been regarded in the area as a witch for fifty years, and some of the deaths the witches were accused of had happened many years before Roger Nowell started to take an interest in Alizon Device, her mother Elizabeth, and her brother James were summoned to appear before Nowell on 30 March Alizon confessed that she had sold her soul to the Devil, and that she had told him to lame John Law after he had called her a thief.

Her brother, James, stated that his sister had also confessed to bewitching a local. Elizabeth was more reticent, admitting only that her mother, Demdike, had a mark on her body, something that many, including Nowell, would have regarded as having been left by the Devil after he had sucked her blood.

She claimed that her father had been so frightened of Old Chattox that he had agreed to give her 8 pounds 3. The meal was handed over annually until the year before John's death; on his deathbed John claimed that his sickness had been caused by Chattox because they had not paid for protection. Both Demdike and Chattox were by then blind and in their eighties, and both provided Nowell with damaging confessions. Demdike claimed that she had given her soul to the Devil 20 years ly, and Chattox that she had given her soul to "a Thing like a Christian man", on his promise that "she would not lack anything and would get any revenge she desired".

Margaret Crooke, another witness seen by Nowell that day, claimed that her brother had fallen sick and died after having had a disagreement with Redferne, and that he had frequently blamed her for his illness. The committal and subsequent trial of the four women might have been the end of the matter, had it not been for a meeting organised by Elizabeth Device at Malkin Tower, the home of the Demdikes, [29] held on Good Friday 10 April Friends and others sympathetic to the family attended, and when word of it reached Roger Nowell, he decided to investigate.

On 27 Aprilan inquiry was held before Nowell and another magistrate, Nicholas Bannister, to determine the purpose of the meeting at Malkin Tower, who had attended, and what had happened there.

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Preston lived across the border in Yorkshire, so she was sent for trial at York Assizes; the others were sent to Lancaster Gaol, to the four already imprisoned there. Malkin Tower is believed to have been near the village of Newchurch in Pendle[32] or possibly in Blacko on the site of present-day Malkin Tower Farm, [33] and to have been demolished soon after the trials.

The Pendle witches were tried in a group that also included the Samlesbury witchesJane Southworth, Jennet Brierley, and Ellen Brierley, the charges against whom included child murdercannibalism ; Margaret Pearson, the so-called Padiham witchwho was facing her third trial for witchcraft, this time for killing a horse; and Isobel Robey from Windleaccused of using witchcraft to cause sickness. Some of the accused Pendle witches, such as Alizon Device, seem to have genuinely believed in their guilt, but others protested their innocence to the end.

Jennet Preston was the first to be tried, at York Assizes. Jennet Preston lived in Gisburnwhich was then in Yorkshireso she was sent to York Assizes for trial. She had already appeared before Bromley inaccused of murdering by witchcraft, but had been found not guilty. The most damning evidence given against her was that when she had been taken to see Lister's body, the corpse "bled fresh bloud presently, in the presence of all that were there present" after she touched it.

All the other accused lived in Lancashire, so they were sent to Lancaster Assizes for trial, where the judges were once again Altham and Bromley. The prosecutor was local magistrate Roger Nowell, who had been responsible for collecting the various statements and confessions from the accused. Nine-year-old Jennet Device was a key witness for the prosecution, something that would not have been permitted in many other 17th-century criminal trials.

However, King James had made a case for suspending the normal rules of evidence for witchcraft trials in his Daemonologie. Anne Whittle Chattox was accused of the murder of Robert Nutter. He claimed to remember that Nutter had accused Chattox of turning his beer sour, and that she was commonly believed to be a witch. Chattox broke down and admitted her guilt, calling on God for forgiveness and the judges to be merciful to her daughter, Anne Redferne.

Elizabeth Device vehemently maintained her innocence. The main witness against Device was her daughter, Jennet, who was about nine years old. When Jennet was brought into the courtroom and asked to stand up and give evidence against her mother, Elizabeth, confronted with her own child making accusations that would lead to her execution, began to curse and scream at her daughter, forcing the judges to have her removed from the courtroom before the evidence could be heard. She also said her mother had a familiar called Ball, who appeared in the shape of a brown dog.

Jennet claimed to have witnessed conversations between Ball and her mother, in which Ball had been asked to help with various murders. James Device also gave evidence against his mother, saying he had seen her making a clay figure of one of her victims, John Robinson. However he, like Chattox, had earlier made a confession to Nowell, which was read out in court. That, and the evidence presented against him by his sister Jennet, who said that she had seen her brother asking a black dog he had conjured up to help him kill Townley, was sufficient to persuade the jury to find him guilty.

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The trials of the three Samlesbury witches were heard before Anne Redferne's first appearance in court, [51] late in the afternoon, charged with the murder of Robert Nutter. The evidence against her was considered unsatisfactory, and she was acquitted. Anne Redferne was not so fortunate the following day, when she faced her second trial, for the murder of Robert Nutter's father, Christopher, to which she pleaded not guilty.

Demdike's statement to Nowell, which accused Anne of having made clay figures of the Nutter family, was read out in court. Witnesses were called to testify that Anne was a witch "more dangerous than her Mother".

Jane Bulcock and her son John Bulcock, both from Newchurch in Pendlewere accused and found guilty of the murder by witchcraft of Jennet Deane. Alice Nutter was unusual among the accused in being comparatively wealthy, the widow of a tenant yeoman farmer. She made no statement either before or during her trial, except to enter her plea of not guilty to the charge of murdering Henry Mitton by witchcraft. The prosecution alleged that she, together with Demdike and Elizabeth Device, had caused Mitton's death after he had refused to give Demdike a penny she had begged from him. The only evidence against Alice seems to have been that James Device claimed Demdike had told him of the murder, and Jennet Device in her statement said that Alice had been present at the Malkin Tower meeting.

Many of the Nutter family were Catholics, and two had been executed as Jesuit priests, John Nutter in and his brother Robert in Katherine Hewitt a. Mould-Heeles was charged and found guilty of the murder of Anne Foulds. According to the evidence given by James Device, both Hewitt and Grey told the others at that meeting that they had killed from Colne, Anne Foulds.

Jennet Device also picked Katherine out of a line-up, and confirmed her attendance at the Malkin Tower meeting. Potts does not provide an of Alice Grey's trial, simply recording her as one of the Samlesbury witches — which she was not, as she was one of those identified as having been at the Malkin Tower meeting — and naming her in the list of those found not guilty. Alizon Device, whose encounter with John Law had triggered the events leading up to the trials, was charged with causing harm by witchcraft. Uniquely among the accused, Alizon was confronted in court by her alleged victim, John Law.

She seems to have genuinely believed in her own guilt; when Law was brought into court Alizon fell to her knees in tears and confessed. Almost everything that is known about the trials comes from a report of the proceedings written by Thomas Potts, the clerk to the Lancaster Assizes. Potts was instructed to write his by the trial judges, and had completed the work by 16 Novemberwhen he submitted it for review.

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Bromley revised and corrected the manuscript before its publication indeclaring it to be "truly reported" and "fit and worthie to be published". Although written as an apparently verbatimThe Wonderfull Discoverie is not a report of what was actually said at the trial but is instead reflecting what happened.

The trials took place not quite seven years after the Gunpowder Plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in an attempt to kill King James and the Protestant aristocracy had been foiled. It was alleged that the Pendle witches had hatched their own gunpowder plot to blow up Lancaster Castle, although historian Stephen Pumfrey has suggested that the "preposterous scheme" was invented by the examining magistrates and simply agreed to by James Device in his witness statement.

It has been estimated that all the English witch trials between the early 15th and early 18th centuries resulted in fewer than executions, so this one series of trials in July and August s for more than two per cent of that total. Neighbouring Cheshirefor instance, also suffered from economic problems and religious activists, but there only 47 people were indicted for causing harm by witchcraft between andof whom 11 were found guilty. Pendle was part of the parish of Whalleyan area covering square miles km 2too large to be effective in preaching and teaching the doctrines of the Church of England : both the survival of Catholicism and the upsurge of witchcraft in Lancashire have been attributed to its over-stretched parochial structure.

Until its dissolutionthe spiritual needs of the people of Pendle and surrounding districts had been served by nearby Whalley Abbeybut its closure in left a moral vacuum. Many of the allegations made in the Pendle witch trials resulted from members of the Demdike and Chattox families making accusations against each other.

Historian John Swain has said that the outbreaks of witchcraft in and around Pendle demonstrate the extent to which people could make a living either by posing as a witch, or by accusing or threatening to accuse others of being a witch. Altham continued with his judicial career until his death inand Bromley achieved his desired promotion to the Midlands Circuit in Potts was given the keepership of Skalme Park by James into breed and train the king's hounds. Inhe was given responsibility for "collecting the forfeitures on the laws concerning sewers, for twenty-one years".

A woman with that name was listed in a group of 20 tried at Lancaster Assizes on 24 Marchalthough it cannot be certain that it was the same Jennet Device. All but one of the accused were found guilty, but the judges refused to pass death sentences, deciding instead to refer the case to the king, Charles I. Under cross-examination in London, Robinson admitted that he had fabricated his evidence, [78] but even though four of the accused were eventually pardoned, [80] they all remained incarcerated in Lancaster Gaol, where it is likely that they died.

An official record dated 22 August lists Jennet Device as one of those still held in the prison. In modern times the witches have become the inspiration for Pendle's tourism and heritage industries, with local shops selling a variety of witch-motif gifts. A petition was presented to UK Home Secretary Jack Straw in asking for the witches to be pardoned, but it was decided that their convictions should stand.

Victorian novelist William Harrison Ainsworth wrote a romanticised of the Pendle witches: The Lancashire Witchesfirst published inis the only one of his 40 novels never to have been out of print. The writer and poet Blake Morrison treated the subject in his suite of poems Pendle Witchespublished in The novel Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman later adapted for television features several witch characters named after the original Pendle witches, including Agnes Nutter, a prophet burned at the stake, and her descendant Anathema Device.

Gaiman confirmed the homage in a tweet. The novel The Familiars by Stacey Halls includes historical figures as characters in a story that is based at the time of the Pendle witch trials. The story focusses on Fleetwood Shuttleworth, a noblewoman who becomes pregnant at the age of seventeen, and becomes involved in the trial of her midwife Alice Gray who is accused of witchcraft. Events to mark the th anniversary of the trials in included an exhibition, "A Wonderful Discoverie: Lancashire Witches —", at Gawthorpe Hall staged by Lancashire County Council.

A life-size statue of Alice Nutter, by sculptor David Palmer, was unveiled in her home village, Roughlee. Blake Morrison published a volume of poetry, A Discoverie of Witches. English witch hunt and trial in See also: European witchcraft. ISSN X. It and Agnes's surname come from the names of Pendle witches" Tweet.

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Pendle witches