Who were the witches of Belvoir? What happened at the trial?

The witches of Belvoir trial occurred in 1618 and involved a mother and her two daughters, who were all accused of witchcraft. The mother, Joan Flowers died in prison, and her two daughters Margaret and Philippa were hanged at Lincoln.



Joan and her daughters were known as a herbalist and used their herbs for healing. Life had been very difficult for them. They eventually found employment, with a Francis Manners, the 6th Earl of Rutland. at Belvoir Castle near Grantham in Lincolnshire. The Earl, was in need of extra staff, due to a special visit that was to be made by King James the 1st  of England.


 Joan and her family were not favoured by people from where they worked and accusations of theft amongst other things happened. Joan and her daughters end up being sacked and only Joan was paid, forty shillings, and given a mattress made wool and a pillow.


Not long after they had been dismissed, the Earl and his wife became ill and their son Henry soon died. Their other younger children also came down with a sickness.  Then a few years down the line, their other sons Francis died. Henry Manners had died first in the July of 1613 then Francis Manners died in 1620.



In 1616, three years after the death of Henry Manners, in the town of Leicester nine women were hanged on the charges of witchcraft, for bewitching a boy, and it was said that they even kept cats, as familiars.

In the Christmas of 1618, five years after the Flowers had been dismissed from the employment of the Manners, the Earls second son Francis died, and the Earl decided to have charges brought against the flowers which led to them being arrested.


In February 1619, the flowers were interrogated by the Earl of Rutland Francis Manners, Francis Lord Willoughby de Eresby, Sir George Manners, Sir William Pelham, Sir Henry Hastings, clergyman Samuel Fleming. After the Flower’s had their interrogation they were sent to Lincoln Gaol.


Joan Flowers, professed her innocence, however, because she didn’t go to church, people were dubious of her. Joan asked for bread as a substitute for the Eucharist and requested to have a trial, by bread and claimed a witch couldn’t have something so blessed and live. Joan however after just taking one bite of the bread, died by choking.


Margaret Flowers claimed her mother Joan had been a witch. Her sister Philippa admitted to witchcraft on behalf of herself and her mother and sister Margaret. The sisters admitted to having familiars in helping them with their schemes. The mother's familiar was a cat named Rutterkin.


The sisters said they had stolen a glove from the Earl (Francis Manners) and give it to her mother. Their mother then dipped it in boiling water, and then stroked it on their cat’s back, and pricked it. Then mixing it then with some incantations this supposedly caused Lord Ross (Francis), the Earls son to become ill and die. Apparently, they had even taken feathers from the Earls bed and used in spells, to prevent the Earl and his wife having more children. Both sisters admitted to having visions of devils and had visitations from familiar spirits




Both sisters, Margaret and Philippa, gave names of other whom they said helped them. Anne Baker of Bottesford; Joan Willimot of Goadby and Ellen Greene of Stathern, these women all claimed to have had a vision of familiars.


Joan Willimot claimed her familiar was called Pretty, who had been blown into her mouth by her former master in the form of a fairy and later coming back in the appearance of a woman asking for her soul.Joan Wilmot claimed she would never hurt anyone and would only help people, and her familiar only helped her in doing so.


Anne Baker said she had a familiar in a form of a white dog. Ellen Greene said that she had accompanied Joan Willimot into a wood where she said Willimot had conjured up two spirits in the form of a kitten and a "moldwarp" (mole). The Mole which had climbed on her shoulders and sucked at her ears. Ellen claimed to have sent these familiars to kill a man and a woman, to whom she had argued with, and they had both died within a fortnight.




After being tried by Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, Henry Hobart and Edward Bromley, a Baron of the Exchequer. Margaret and Philippa Flowers were found guilty and hanged on the  11th of  March 1619, at Lincoln Castle,


Francis was a prominent member of the court of James the 1st of   Scotland. He and his wife and family resided at Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire. Francis had been made a knight of the garter in 1616. Both of Francis sons that had died was to his second marriage. On his sons their tomb, it is written.


 They died due to wicked practises and sorcerye!


Francis’s only daughter Katherine, married George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham. George was the favourite and speculated lover, of King James I of England.




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