The Pendle Witches
by Dylan Hay (age 11)
It is perhaps the most notorious witch trials of the 17th century. It is the legend of the Pendle witches. It is one of the many dark and gruesome tales of imprisonment and execution at Lancaster castle. In total 12 people were accused of witchcraft one of which died in prison while the remaining eleven were sent to trial. One was tried in York and found guilty and the other ten were tried in Lancaster. Only one of the eleven was found not guilty of witchcraft. Altogether in England there were just under 500 people executed on suspicion of witchcraft. At the beginning of the year 1612 people were told to make lists of people who did not attend church because back then it was a criminal offence to not attend church.
The story all begins when there was an altercation between one of the accused, Alizon Device, and a pedlar, John Law. Alizon was either travelling or begging on the road to Trawden Forest and passed John Law and asked him for some pins. It is not known whether she was going to pay for them or if she was begging. He refused to give her the pins and she cursed him. It was not too long after this even that John Law suffered from a stroke, for which he blamed Alizon for cursing him with her powers. When this happened the incident was brought before Justice Nowell and Alizon confessed that she had told the devil to lame John Law. It was on further questioning that Alizon accused her grandmother, Old Demdike, and also Chattox, of witchcraft. However the two families had been feuding for years, perhaps since Chattox broke into the home of the Demdikes and stole things with a value of up to £1 ( roughly the equivalent of £100 now ).
The death of four other villagers had occurred many years before the trial were raised and the events were blamed on witchcraft performed by the Chattox. James Demdike also confessed that Alizon had cursed a local child some time before and Elizabeth confessed her mother had a mark on her body, supposedly were the devil sucked her blood and left her mad. On further questioning both Old Demdike and Chattox confessed to selling their souls. Also Annie (daughter of Chattox ) was seen many times creating clay figures. After hearing all of this evidence, the judge detained Alizon, Anne, Old Demdike and Old Chattox and waited for trial.
That would have been the end if it weren't for a meeting held by James Device ( Alizon’s brother ), for which he stole a neighbours sheep. Word reached the judge who felt compelled to investigate. As a result of this, eight more people were taken in for questioning and then trial.
The trials were held between 17th and 19th of August 1612. Old Demdike never reached trial as the dungeons were damp and filled with diseased rats which was too much for Old Demdike who died down in the dungeons. In conclusion, it seemed to be a wide range of exceptional circumstances which led to the extent of the trials.
Eventually the Pendle witches were sentenced to death. They were hanged at Gallows Hill in Lancaster on the 20th of August 1612.