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Thursday, 4 November 2010

The Pendle Witches

In 1612, the town's of Pendle in Lancashire played host to one of the most famous witch trials in British history.
The story begins with a relatively mundane argument between Alizon Device, and pedlar John Law. When John refuses to sell her pins, she threw a casual curse at him. When the pedlar was then instantly gripped by a seizure and collapsed, a panicking Alizon, convinced that she is the cause, confesses she has laid a curse on him and apologised.
The story might of ended here had it not been for Abraham Law, John Law's son, who brought Alizon's confession to the attention of magistrate Rodger Nowell. This led to suspicion falling not only on Alizon, but also her mother, Elizabeth Device, brother James Device and grandmother Elizabeth Southern (known as Demdike).

Demdike was also accused of using witchcraft to kill the daughter of Richard Baldwin, after he refused to pay the family wages due to them after they carried out mill work. It was during a statement from Demdike that Anne Whittle (known as Chattox) and her daughter Anne Redferne became implicated. Demdike said she had found them making clay poppets of the Nutter family.

Chattox stated that she had targeted Robert Nutter not only because he had tried to seduce her daughter Anne but also because his own grandmother, Elizabeth Nutter had requested she help kill him, offering her land in exchange for her assistance.

Both Chattox and Demdike were rumoured amongst locals to be experienced witches, and a feud had developed over the years. This led to the two women and their families making various statements and allegations against the other throughout the investigation. Alizon claimed Chattox burgled her family and even used witchcraft to kill her farther. Chattox claimed that the only reason she became embroiled in witchcraft to start with was due to Demdike's influence.

As the investigations continued more and more people were implicated. Partially due to the 'witches sabbat' that was said to have taken place at Malkin Towers on Good Friday 1612. This meeting, and other general strange occurrences surrounding Malkin Towers featured throughout various statements made. A large number of the people who attended that sabbat made up the accused.

There were 13 people that made up the Pendle Witches. Ten were hanged at Lancaster Gaol, these were; Alizon Device, Elizabeth Device, James Device, Chattox – (Anne Whittel), Anne Redferne, Alice Nutter, Katherine Hewitt, John Bulcock, Jane Bulcock and Isobel Robey. Due to living just over the county boarder Jennet Preston was tried in Yorkshire and hanged at York. Magaret Pearson was found guilty for the crime of witchcraft, but innocent of using it to murder anyone, and sentenced to one year in prison.

Demdike – (Elizabeth Southerns) – was never found guilty of witchcraft or murder. She died whilst in Lancaster Gaol still awaiting trial. Though, the tales of the Pendle witches has led her to be one of the best known witches in British history.

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