When were the St Osyth Witch trials? What happened and who was the people involved ?

In 1582, near the town of Essex, a series of witch  trials took place in which fourteen women were put on trial in Brightlingsea in Essex, St Osyth.


Ursula Kemp was one of the named women, who was tried and hanged for witchcraft.  Ursula had been accused of (and apparently did confess to) using familiars to kill and bring sickness to her neighbours. Ursula was regularly asked by her neighbours to give ailments to help with the sick, however, later she was accused of causing their sickness herself. In February 1582, Ursula stood trial on charges of witchcraft. She was accused of causing the deaths of Edna Stratton and also the deaths two children, Joan Thurlow and Elizabeth Letherdale



 Grace was one of the neighbours whom Ursula had helped, was another person who gave evidence against her. Grace explained how she had turned to Ursula when her son was sick, and he did get better, however after an argument over the care of her child. The same child fell from the cradle and died. Grace said she had gone to Ursula when she was herself lame, Ursula said she would need to be paid twelve pence first, however when Grace couldn’t afford to pay and after they argued, she found herself iller



Alice testified that Ursula had asked her for some scouring sand (an abrasive cleaner) and that she had refused her, knowing Ursula to be a "naughty beast”. Alice Letherdale's daughter Elizabeth later saw Ursula, who "murmured" at her. When Elizabeth fell ill and died, Alice blamed Ursula for bewitching her daughter to death.



Ursula ’s own eight-year-old son testified against his own mother and said that she had kept spirits and familiars. He said he had seen his mother feed these same familiars and give blood to them. Thomas even testified against Alice Newman, Ursula’s friends, saying she said that his mother had given Newman an earthenware pot, which he believed to contain the familiars. When she returned the pot, that same one she had used it, to send the spirit to kill a local man and his wife.

Thomas’s testimony sealed his own mother’s fate.



Brian Darcy said that Ursula had given a full confession to him in private. Ursula had apparently said she had visited a woman ten years ago and it was said, she had been bewitched and couldn’t undo it. Ursula had turned to the woman for help with lameless.



Ursula’s was accused of numerous things, from the preventing of beer being brewed  to causing death, all through witchcraft. However, it was through her reputation of being to undo curses that led to her accusations.

Elizabeth Bennet was another among those who was hanged along with Ursula, for murdering four people through witchcraft. Elizabeth also confessed to having two familiars


Ursula named twelve other women as witches, six of whom were hanged, including herself. Many of those accused of the witchcraft, pleaded guilty, even though they knew their fate would be death, maybe they thought pleading guilty would avoid torture.

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