BIDEFORD WITCH TRIAL
Who were the Bideford Witches? .When was the Bideford Witch trial, who was involved? and what was the outcome?
In 1682, in the town of Bideford in Devon, three women were tried and hanged for allegations of witchcraft. These women would be known as the Bideford Witches.
Temperance Lloyd, Mary Trembles and Susannah Edwards, were all accused of witchcraft. Only Temperance Lloyd confessed her guilt, but she never fully recanted.
These three women were the last to have been recorded to have been hanged for witchcraft in England.
On a Saturday in July 1682, a shopkeeper called Thomas Eastchurch, complained to the town’s constable, that Temperance Lloyd, was practising witchcraft. Temperance was then arrested and locked in a place called the old chapel. Thomas Gist, the Mayor of Bideford and John Davie both interrogated Temperance on the following Monday morning.
Temperance after her interrogation was then faced with charges of having used sorcery upon the body of a Grace Thomas, a woman who had been ill at the time. Grace believed her illness was all down to Temperance. All because in the previous September, after Grace had been ill and then regained her health, Temperance had wept with joy. This reaction provoked suspicion.
Temperance had also questioned about witchcraft, by another neighbouring woman, Anne Wakely, This was after she saw a magpie fly to Thomas Eastchurch chamber window. Anne Wakely, claimed that that Temperance was visited by a "black man" in the form of a bird. Anne Wakely said that Temperance had said that this black man had sucked her extra teats.
Thomas Eastchurch was a respected man, his statement was treated seriously. He claimed, that she confessed to meeting "something in the likeness of a black man" who tempted her to go and torment Grace Thomas. Temperance had claimed that at first, she refused but then agreed, following him to Grace Thomas's home where the black man told her to pinch Grace several times. Temperance, then said, on leaving the house, to have seen a tabby cat go into Thomas Eastchurch's shop. To what she believed the cat to have been the Devil.
Temperance had said she had met the same black man again, at a later date. The man told her to kill Grace Thomas, . Whereupon Temperance did go to the house with the black man and that she went into the chamber where Grace Thomas lay. Then further did confess that she did pinch and prick Grace Thomas again in several parts of her body, declaring with both of her hands how she did do it. After doing this, Grace Thomas did cry out terribly. Temperance confessed, that she would be invisible during this attack.
Elizabeth, who was Grace Thomas’s Sister said she had found nine pricks in her knee, and suspecting witchcraft, then confronted Temperance Lloyd, who replied that she had pricked a piece of leather nine times.
Temperance was questioned by the rector, Michael Ogilvy. Although Temperance confessed to turning into a cat, stealing a doll and placing it in Grace Thomas's bedchamber, she denied using image magic despite the specific questioning by Michael Ogilvy.
William Herbert was the final witness against Temperance. On the 2nd February 1671, William said that he had heard his father whisper on his deathbed, that Temperance had bewitched him and sent him to his death. He then had found marks on his father’s body after he had died. William then had Temperance charged with witchcraft.
On the 8th July, Temperance was sent to Exeter Gaol and waited for her trial. At her execution, she tried to give justification for her actions, and said, "The Devil met me in the street, and bid me kill her, and because I would not he beat me about the head and back."’
MARY TREMBLES AND SUSANNA EDWARDS
A Mary Trembles and a Susanna Edwards were the other two woman that were investigated for witchcraft. After a local woman, Grace Barnes blamed Mary Trembles for her illness on the 18th of July 1682. Mary Trembles was accused, and arrested, along with Susanna, who had only joined this woman’s company while begging for food. Due to there being a food shortage in the country.
John Barnes, Grace’s husband, spoke first, saying that Mary Trembles had hurt his wife with witchcraft. Another man William Edwards said he had actually heard a confession from Susanna Edwards. While these two women were locked up, people would come and have a look at them out of curiosity.
A Joan Jones claimed that she had heard a confession about witchcraft, to a visitor. Joan claimed that Mary Trembles had asked Susanna Edwards how she first becomes a witch. Susanna Edwards replied that a man wearing clothes "all of black" had made an offer that she would never be in want if only she did one thing for him”. That when she asked, “what, in God's name, that might be”. The man then vanished. Joan claimed she had even heard them. Talking about pricking Grace Barnes, she even claimed to have heard that Susanna said she had sex with the devil at least four times.
Joan’s husband Anthony Jones, took part in the interrogations against the accused. Then at one point during the interrogations, he took a shaking fit and claimed it was because after he had questioned Susanna Edward of trying to torment someone. He had caught her hands twitching, that is was then she had bewitched him. It is possible his shaking fit was all faked, to support the accusations of witchcraft against this woman.
After Anthony Jones had recovered from his shaking fit. The following day, he put his own statement forward. Mary and Susanna were both searched for strange marks on their bodies, and then sent onto Exeter gaol, where Temperance Lloyd was.
Mary Trembles, in her confession, blamed Susanna Edwards for initiating her into witchcraft, and Susanna blamed Mary in the same respect back.
Dorcus Coleman was a doctor and had said he was unable to help Grace Barnes illness, which she had suffered since 1680. He said it must have been down to witchcraft, witchcraft would been easy things to blame than admit he just couldn’t help her. Dorcus Coleman then blamed Susanna Edwards for being Grace’s tormentor.
THE EXECUTION OF MARY TREMBLES AND SUSANNA EDWARDS
Once Temperance Lloyd, Mary Trembles and Susanna Edwards had been sentenced to death, they awaited in Exeter Gaol for their execution. On the 25th of August 1682 at Heavitree just outside Exeter they were all hanged.
Susanna Edwards was the first to be hanged, followed by Mary Trembles. When Temperance Lloyd mounted the scaffold, she was observed to be apparently to be unconcerned about her impending death.