With the wet weather continuing to set in why not take the whole family on one of the best days out in Lancashire by driving through the most beautiful scenery the Ribble Valley has to offer and hunting out the Pendle Witches?
It all began back in 1612, at a time of political unrest, social superstition, and religious persecution. A time when people lived in fear and poverty, and it was not unusual for poorer folk to claim powers of healing and potions, or extorting money through the use of curses and spells. A time when the trials and execution of 10 women accused of serial murder by the use of witchcraft evolved into one of the most famous witchcraft trails in history.
The story goes that on 18th March 1612, whilst out begging, granddaughter of accused witch “Old Demdike”, Alizon Device, encountered peddler John Law and asked him for some pins. Having refused, she cursed him using the help of a spirit, and Law stumbled and collapsed – paralysed and unable to speak. It appears that John Law suffered a stroke, but rumour quickly spread that Alizon had cursed him using witchcraft.
The matter was soon brought to the attention of the local magistrate, and Alizon Device was summoned to appear before Roger Nowell on 30th March 1612. Alizon confessed that she had cursed John Law after he had branded her a thief, and then went onto implicate the Chattox neighbours, and members of her family – including her own mother. It is likely that Alizon had some conflicting history in preceding years with the Chattox family, and saw an opportunity to punish and incriminate them.
Of the final twelve accused, eleven went to trial at Lancaster or York Assizes, the evidence given against them based on superstition, rumours, and memories. The key witness was nine year old Janet Device, another granddaughter of Demdike. Some of the accused witches seemed to have genuinely believed in their guilt. Others protested their innocence until the end. On 27th July 1612, the first of the accused witches, Jenet Preston was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. Nine more witches were later executed on 20th August 1612, including Alizon, her brother James, mother Elizabeth, and two members of the Chattox family.
Almost four centuries after the events that unfolded at the foot of Pendle Hill, the memory of the Lancashire Witches still casts a powerful spell over the surrounding countryside and chills those who hear the ghostly stories.
To follow in the footsteps of the Pendle Witches you can download the Lancashire Witches Trail Map.< Back to the blog archive
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