BURY OF ST EDMUND'S WITCH TRIALS

What happened in the Bury of St Edmunds between the years 1590-1694. What started the Witch trials and who was accused?  Two of the most remembered trials were in 1645 and 1662 that became historically well known. 

In the Bury of St Edmunds, there was a series of witch trials that happened between 1599 -1694, in the town of the Bury St Edmunds.

 

THE TRIAL 1594

The first recorded Witch trial was in 1594, and involved, a Jordan of Shadbrook

and Joane Nayler, who were tried together, however, there is no record of exact charges nor the verdict.

 

Also in that same year, Oliffe Bartham of Shadbrook was executed, for  "sending three toads to destroy the (rest) sleep of Joan Jordan".

TRIAL 1645:

The trial of 1645, was investigated by the famous Mathew Hopkins (1620-47) Matthew was the self-proclaimed, witchfinder general. Matthew was only twenty -three years old at the time of the trial, his witch hunts mainly took part in East Anglia.

 

The trials were conducted at a special court of John Godbolt, judge and politician who sat in the House of Commons and had presided over many witchcraft trials. Spectral evidence" against defendants was accepted and used in this case, which Matthew Hopkins described the phenomenon in his book The Discovery of Witches. Hopkins was paid by the local parish, for finding and trying witches, so it is obvious, it was also part of his own personal interests to get results.

 

At this trial, there were. one hundred and twenty suspects had been put into Gaol. Two men and sixteen women were put to death by John Golblot, The examiners forbid the swimming test for the accused, swimming tests, was where the accused would be stripped to their undergarments, then tied them to a heavy object, and thrown in the water. If they floated it was said they were a witch, and spurned by the sanctuary of baptism as water would reject them. The accused would have a rope tied to them during this process. However, accidents of drowning did happen. Matthew Hopkins would treat these witch trials as if it was a military campaign. Parliament would receive concerned reports, about Matthew and his team of their activities when retrieving a confession. As a result, there was allot of unease about the affairs in concerning this particular witch-hunt.

 

On 27th of August 1645, no fewer than 18 witches were hanged in one day. In the Bury of St Edmund's.

NAMES AMONGST THOSE WHOM WERE HANGED IN THE TRIAL  OF THE BURY OF ST EDMUNDS OF 1645

ANNE ALDERMAN
REBECCA MORRIS
MARY BACON OF CHATTISH
MARY CLOWES OF YOXFORD
SARAH SPINDLER
JANE LINSTEAD
THOMAS EVERARD
MARY OF HALESWORTH
ANNE LEECH
MARY FULLER OF COMBS
JOHN LOWES, VICAR OF BRANDESTON
SUSAN MANNERS,
JANE RIVET
MARY SKIPPER OF COPDOCK,
MARY SMITH OF GREAT GLEMHAM
MARGERY SPARHAM OF MENDHAM
KATHERINE TOOLY OF WESTLETON.
ANNE LEECH
 

 

 

 

TRIALS OF 1662

The 1662 trials took place on  10th March, a  Rose Cullender and Amy Denny, two elderly widows were accused of witchcraft by their neighbours and faced thirteen charges of the bewitching of several young children between the ages of a few months to 18 years old, resulting in one death.

Both women came from two different classes of background, Cullender was from a property-owning family, whilst Denny was the widow of a labourer. There was only one other link was the fact that they had tried and failed to purchase Herrings from the same  Lowestoft merchant, Samuel Pacy.  Samuel’ Pacy had two daughters, Elizabeth, and Deborah. Both daughters were "victims" of the accused and, along with their aunt, Samuel Pacy's sister, Margaret. Margaret gave evidence against both of the women.

Sir Matthew Hale, Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer, was the judge at their hearing. The jury found them guilty of thirteen charges, under the Witchcraft Act of 1603 of using malevolent witchcraft.

Rose Cullender and Amy Denny, were hanged on the 17th March 1662.

 

Sir Thomas Browne, English polymath, philosopher, and author of varied works was present at the trial, where his citation of a similar trial in Denmark may have influenced the jury's minds of the guilt of two accused women, who were subsequently executed for the crime of witchcraft. He also gave testimony, that the two girls whom, were afflicted with organic problems, but that they undoubtedly also had been bewitched.

In 1655, there was another trial of a family of the name of Boram, a mother and daughter, who were hanged

TRIAL 1694

The last trials were in 1694, when Lord Chief Justice Sir John Holt, "who did more than any other man in English history to end the prosecution of witches". He forced the acquittal of Mother Munnings ' of Hartis on charges of prognostications causing death. The chief charge was seventeen years old, and the second was brought by a man on his way home from an alehouse. Sir John "so well directed the jury that she was eventually acquitted

 

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