THE PENDLE WITCHES

Who were the Pendle Witches? What happened?

The shocking story of a nine-year-old's evidence in a 17th Century witch trial, that  led to twelve people's arrest for the murder of ten people. The case that made legal history in Lancashire.

INTRODUCTION TO PENDLE WITCHES

The Pendle Witch trials occurred in 1612 in a place called Pendle Hill in Lancashire. The twelve-people that were involved were accused of the murders of ten people, by use of witchcraft and sorcery.

 

All but two of them were tried at Lancaster court of Assizes, between the 18th to the 19th August in 1612. The Ten were tried Alongside the Samlesbury witches and others. One of the two, died in prison and the other one, was tried in York. From the eleven left, that had gone to trial, nine were woman, and two were men. Ten of them were hanged after being found guilty. Only one of them was found not guilty.

Six of the Pendle witches came from one of two families.

 

One was an Elizabeth Southern, (aka Demdike) who the head of her family, her daughter Elizabeth Device, grandchildren James and Alizon Device;

The other family was an Anne Whittle, (a.k.a. Chattox) and her daughter Anne Redferne.

 The others accused were a Jane Bulcock and her son John Bulcock, Alice Nutter, Katherine Hewitt, Alice Grey, and Jennet Preston

 

Some of the accusations of witchcraft, came from the two families, the Demlikes and Chattoxs, making allegations about each-other. Both families made living from healing, and begging, and would compete with one another at this.

BACKGROUND OF THE TIME

James VI of Scotland, 1st of England, believed Witches were out to get him, and were plotting against him. In 1590, he was present at the trials of the North Berwick witches, who were convicted of using witchcraft to send a storm against the ship that carried James and his wife Anne back to Scotland.

 In 1597 he wrote a book, Daemonologie, instructing his followers that they must denounce and prosecute any supporters or practitioners of witchcraft. What followed next was a mass hysteria across Both England and Scotland, was the need to find witches and rid themselves of their evil.

By 1612, in the year of the trials, it was asked that a list be made of all those who do not attend church or take communion, as it would be seen as a criminal offence to not do so. Lancashire was ordered to compile a list of recusants were failing to these rules.

PENDLE

Roger Nowell of Read Hall had lived on the edge of Pendle  Forest, he was the JP for Pendle. Nowell was investigating a complaint made to him by the family of John Law, a pedlar, who claimed to have been injured by witchcraft.

Many of those who subsequently became implicated as the investigation progressed. Indeed did consider themselves to be witches, in the sense of being village healers who practiced magic, probably in return for payment, but such men and women were common in 16th-century rural England, which was an accepted part of village life.

It possibly of been difficult for those judging the trial, to understand the kings attitude towards witchcraft, however, one of the judges Sir Edward Bromley, was hoping to be promoted to London, may have felt the best way to gets the kings favour, was to secure convictions of this nature. The other judge was James Altham, was near the end of his judicial career, and already been accused of a miscarriage of justice at the York Assizes.

THE PEOPLE WHO WERE  ACCUSED OF WITCHRAFT

Elizabeth Southern, also known as Demdike, had been regarded as a witch for over fifty years.  Some of the deaths that they would be accused of at the trial, which would be investigated by Roger Nowell, were of those who had died many years previous to what was happening. It would be an event in the March 1612, that brought things to Roger Nowell’s attention and triggered a chain of events that would lead to the execution of those accused.

 

On the 21st March in 1612, Alizon Device, who was the granddaughter of Elizabeth Southerns, was walking through Trawden Forest, where she met a pedlar John Law from Halifax. Elizabeth had asked him for some pins. Pins in this time were very expensive and handmade and usually used for magical things, as wells as used for the treatment of healing, and the treating of warts.

 

Whether she intended to buy them or beg for them is unclear, as she claimed that John Law refused to undo his pack. Only but a few minutes later, John law collapsed, which may have been a stroke, or he may stumble, but never the less he managed to reach a nearby Inn, afterwards.J ohn Law made no accusations against Alizon, but she appears to have been convinced of her own powers. When John Laws son Abraham took her to visit his father a few days after the incident, she reportedly confessed and asked for his forgiveness.

In the 30th March 1612, Alizon, and her mother Elizabeth and brother James were all summoned to stand before Roger Nowell. Alizon had confessed she had sold her soul to the devil.  Apparently Alizon had told John Law to lame after he had called her a thief. Then later her own brother James said, that his sister had confessed to bewitching a local child in their home village. Elizabeth, when questioned, also turned and said that her mother, who was known as Demdike, had a mark on her body that Roger Nowell would have recognised as being a scar left from the devil. When questioned about Anne Whittle (Chattox), the matriarch of the other family reputedly involved in witchcraft in and around Pendle, Alizon perhaps saw an opportunity for revenge. Since 1601, there had been allot of bad blood between the two families, maybe Alizon has seen this an opportunity for revenge. Alizon accused Anne Whittle of killing men by witchcraft, and her father John Device who had died in 1601. Alizon claimed her father had been that afraid of Anne, that he had agreed to give her money and oats each year as in return that she would not hurt his family. However, on the year of his death, on his deathbed, she had claimed that he was to die because he had not paid her.

 

On the 2nd of April 1612, Demdike, Anne Whittle, and her daughter Anne Redferne, were all summoned before Roger Nowell. Anne whittle and Elizabeth Southerns, were in their eighties and blind.  Both woman provided damaging confessions. Although Anne Redferne made no confession, Demdike said that she had seen her making clay figures.

Another witness was a Margaret Crooke, she had claimed that her brother had fallen sick and died after having another disagreement with Anne Redfern, her brother previously had blamed Anne Redfern for his ill health.

Based on the evidence and confessions Roger Nowell had obtained, he committed Elizabeth, Anne whittle., Anne Redferne and Alizon Device to Lancaster Gaol, to be tried for maleficium – causing harm by witchcraft – at the next assizes

 

That may have had of been the end of the matter, had it not been a meeting held and organised by   Elizabeth Device, on Good Friday 10th of April 1612 at Malkin Tower, which was near the village of New church Pendle. To feed the party at this meeting, James Device stole a neighbour's sheep. When word had got out, about this meeting, people were arrested who had attended, and there were allegations to commit a murder through acts of witchcraft.  In some cases, it may have been a situation of being in the wrong place at the worst possible time.

When word of this incident had reached Roger Nowell. He again decided to investigate more. On 27th April 1612, an inquiry was held before Roger Nowell and another magistrate, a Nicholas Bannister, to determine the true purpose of the meeting at Malkin Tower. Who had attended and what had happened there. As a result of the inquiry, eight more people were drawn in and accused of witchcraft and committed for trial. The accused were all taken and held in Lancaster Castle.

 

  • Elizabeth Device

  • James Device,

  • Alice Nutter

  • Katherine Hewitt,

  • John Bulcock

  • Jane Bulcock

  • Alice Grey

  • Jennet Preston.

 

All but one, of the accused, were sent to Lancaster Gaol. A Jennet Preston,  who  lived on the border of Yorkshire.

THE TRIAL

All the accused were tried in a  group. This group also included the “Salisbury witches”. The Samlesbury witches were three women from the Lancashire village of Samlesbury, who had accused of sorcery. The Samlesbury witches were, Jane Southworth, Jennet Brierley, and Ellen Brierley, the charges against whom included child murder and cannibalism. 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, in York Assizes
 
On the 27th of July 1612, was the trial of Jennet Preston. Janet was charged with the murder by witchcraft of a local landowner, Thomas Lister of Westby Hall,  she had put pleaded not Guilty. Janet had already appeared before one of her judges in the past, Edward Bromley Janet had been accused then of murdering a child, but had been acquitted of that charge. The most damning evidence given against her this time was that when she had been taken to see Thomas Lister's body, the corpse had "bled fresh bloud “. In the presence of all that were there. This had happened after she had touched it. Janet had also attended the meeting at Malkin Tower.
 On the 29th of July 1612, Jennet Preston was found guilty and hanged in Knavesmire, the present site of York Racecourse.
 
Between the 18th to the 19th of August 1612, was the trial of Lancaster Assizes held in Lancaster Castle. Once again, the same judges who sentenced Jennet Preston were here to conduct the trial. The Nine-year-old Jennet Device, was a key witness for the prosecution, something that would not have been allowed in many other 17th-century criminal courts. King James had made a case for suspending the normal rules of evidence for witchcraft investigations in his book Daemonologie. Elizabeth, confronted with her own child’s Jennet’s accusations against her. Jennet’s testimony would lead to her own mother’s execution. Elizabeth began to curse and scream at her daughter, forcing the judges to have her removed from the courtroom before the evidence could be heard properly.
 James Device, also gave evidence against his own mother, saying he had seen Elizabeth making a clay figure of one of her victims, a John Robinson. As well as identifying those who had attended the Malkin Tower meeting, James evidence would not save him, as Jennet Would Turn on her own brother, claiming he used charms and practised the craft. Jennet had given evidence against her own mother, brother, and sister.
An identity parade was organised for the Young Jennet to point out who had attended the Malkin Tower meeting. By the end of the two-day trial, most of Jennet’s family and some of her neighbours were found guilty of practising witchcraft. Only Alice Grey was found not guilty. Elizabeth Southerns, the head of the family had died in prison while waiting for the trial. It was alleged that the Pendle witches had hatched their own gunpowder plot to blow up Lancaster Castle
Thomas Potts, the clerk to the Lancaster Assizes, was ordered by the trial judges Sir James Altham and Sir Edward Bromley to write an account of the proceedings. Thomas was the author of “The Wonderfull Discoverie, “, and had been brought up in the household of no other than Thomas Knyvet, the man who is 1605 was credited with apprehending Guy Fawkes in his attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament and thus saving the life of King James I.
 
The accused were all hanged on Gallows Hill, in Lancaster on the 20th of August 1612, after a two -day trial, Death was not quick, and may of taking up till at least twenty minutes. Elizabeth and Alice Nutter never confessed to the crime they were accused of, not even at their point of death,
 
Jennet Device, who gave evidence against her own family, would find herself on the court for accusations of witchcraft twenty-one years later in November 1633. The story of the trial she took part in, would remain in the town where she lived for years, and come back to haunt her.  As in 1633, she amongst others would become the victim of a young boy’s tales. Edmund Robinson was an English ten-year-old boy from Wheatley Lane, Lancashire, who sparked a witch-hunt. However, Jennet and the others accused would be spared the same fate as her mother. When the young boy broke under pressure and admitted his witness statement came derived from tales about The Device family and their association with witchcraft

CHARGES OF THE ACCUSED

NAME
ANNE WHITTLE
ALIAS CHATTOX
 
ELIZABETH DEVICE
ALIAS DEMDIKE
 
ALICE NUTTER
ELIZABETH SOUTHERNS
JAMES DEVICE
 
 
ANNE REDFERNE
 
 
JANE BULCOCK
 
 
JOHN BULCOCK,
 
 
KATHERINE HEWIT
ALIAS MOULD-HEELS
 

LIFETIME

1532-1612

 

 

HANGED ON AUGUST 20TH 1612

 

 

 

 

 

 

HANGED ON

AUGUST 20TH 1612

 

HANGED ON

AUGUST 20TH, 1612

 

HANGED ON AUGUST 20TH, 1612

 

DIED AUGUST 20TH, 1612

CHARGES
MURDER OF ROBERT NUTTER& JOHN ROBINSON
MURDER OF JOHN ROBINSON
 
 
MURDER OF HENRY MITTON.
MURDER OF HENRY MITTON.
MURDER OF ANNE TOWNLEY AND JOHN DUCKWORTH
MURDER OF CHRISTOPHER NUTTER
 
 
MURDER OF JENNET DEANE
 
 
MURDER OF JENNET DEANE
 
 
MURDER OF ANNE FOULDS

THE JUDGES THAT SAT ON THE TRIALS OF THE PENDLE WITCHES

ROGER NOWELL,
JAMES ALTHAM
EDWARD BROMLEY
MAGISTRATE
ENGLISH JUDGE
ENGLISH LAWYER, JUDGE

ADDITION INFORMATION:

  • Pendle Hill continues to be associated with witchcraft; large numbers of visitors climb it every Halloween, although in recent years people have been discouraged by the authorities. Four hundred years later, an On Saturday, August 18, 2012, a total of 483 people amassed on Barley Green dressed as witches in order to commemorate the tragic events (The Witch Trials) of four hundred years earlier.

  • Thomas Covell was the jailor of the Pendle witches during their imprisonment at Lancaster Castle. He had been a keeper of Lancaster Castle for forty-eight years and mayor of Lancaster six times.

  • The name Pendle comes from the Cumbric word 'Pen' meaning hill

 

 

  • The Witches of Pendle, (1977) FILM

  • The Lancashire Witches, written by William Harrison Ainsworth's. Is a novel is based on the true story of the Pendle Witches

FICTIONAL PORTRAYALS OF THE PENDLE WITCHES 

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