The Pendle Witches





The Pendle Witches:

Elizabeth Southerns (aka Demdike)

Elizabeth Device ( Demdike's Daughter)

James Device and Alison Device (Children of Elizabeth Device and Grandchildren of Demdike)

Anne Whittle ( aka Chattox)

Anne Redferne (Daughter of Chattox)

Jane Bullock

John Bullock ( Son of Jane)

Alice Nutter

Katherine Hewitt

Alice Grey

Jennet Preston


The whole investigation into the 'supposed' evil practices of the Pendle Witches stemmed from an incident that happened on March 21st 1612 when Alizon Device encountered John Law, a peddler from Halifax, on her way to Trawden Forest.  She asked him for some pins.  Law refused to undo his pack for such a small transaction.  Within minutes Law suffered a stroke.  Abraham Law - John Law's Son had been present at the incident and testified that several days later he took Alison to visit his father where she reputedly confessed to cursing him and asked his forgiveness.

After this incident Alison Device, her mother Elizabeth, and her brother James were summoned to appear before Roger Nowell on 30 March 1612.  Roger Nowell of Read Hall  was the Justice of The Peace  for Pendle.  Alison told Nowell that she had sold her soul to the Devil, and that she had told him to curse John Law after he had called her a thief.  Her brother, James, stated that his sister had also confessed to bewitching a local child. Elizabeth was more cautious, admitting only that her mother, Demdike, had a mark on her body that was commonly known as a witch mark.  When questioned about Anne Whittle (Chattox), the head of the other family reputedly involved in witchcraft  Alison perhaps saw an opportunity for revenge. There may have been bad blood between the two families, possibly dating from 1601, when a member of Chattox's family broke into Malkin Tower, the home of the Devices, and stole goods worth  £1, now the equivalent of about £100.   Alison accused Chattox of murdering four men by witchcraft, and of killing her father, John Device, who had died in 1601. She claimed that her father had been so frightened of Old Chattox that he had agreed to give her 8 pounds of oat meal each year in return for her promise not to harm his family. The meal was handed over annually until the year before John's death; on his deathbed John claimed that his sickness had been caused by Chattox because they had not paid for protection.

On 2 April 1612, Demdike, Chattox, and Chattox's daughter Anne Redferne, were summoned to appear before Nowell.  Demdike and Chattox were both blind and in their eighties, and both provided Nowell with damaging confessions.  Demdike claimed that she had given her soul to the Devil 20 years previously, and Chattox that she had given her soul to "a Thing like a Christian man", on his promise that "she would not lack anything and would get any revenge she desired".   Although Anne Redferne made no confession, Demdike accused her of making clay figures.  Margaret Crooke, another witness seen by Nowell that day, claimed that her brother had fallen sick and died after having had a disagreement with Redferne, and that he had frequently blamed her for his illness.  Based on the evidence and confessions he had obtained, Nowell committed Demdike, Chattox, Anne Redferne and Alizon Device to Lancaster Gaol, to be tried for causing harm by witchcraft at the next assizes.

While the four women languished in goal Elizabeth Device and other family and friends organised a meeting to be held at Malkin Tower, the home of the Demdikes, on Good Friday 6 April 1612. The purpose of the meeting was to free the women blow up Lancaster Castle and kill Thomas Covell who was the Keeper of the Castle, Gaoler and also Interrogator of the Pendle Witches.  James Device is reputed to have stole a neighbour's sheep to feed the party.

 When word of the meeting reached Roger Nowell, he decided to investigate. On 27 April 1612, an inquiry was held before Nowell and another magistrate, Nicholas Bannister, to determine the purpose of the meeting at Malkin Tower, who had attended, and what had happened there.  As a result of the inquiry, eight more people were accused of witchcraft and committed for trial.The twelve accused all lived in the area around Pendale Hill and were charged with the murders of ten people by the use of Witchcraft.   10 of the accused were tried at Lancaster Assizes on 18–19 August 1612, along with the Salmebury Witches and others, in a series of trials that have become known as the Lancashire Witch Trials.  One of the witches was tried at York  Assizes on 27 July 1612, and Old Demdike died in prison. Of the eleven individuals who went to trial—nine women and two men—only 8 were found guilty!! Joan and John Bullock were actually found not guilty by the jury but still sentenced to death and executed with the others by the Judges!! one was found not guilty but sentenced to the Pillory.

The man responsible for collecting statements and confessions was called Roger Nowell.  He was known as a very religious man, a magistrate, a witch finder and unscrupulous evidence compiler. He started investigating Chattox and Demdyk as a quarrell between two families and with the help of a nine year old turned it into a full scale witch hunt! He was a man seeking promotion but it never happened!

For the first week after Nowell had taken statements only 3 were held in custody but after the meeting on Good Friday by the friends and family of the accused all were arrested and ended up in Lancaster Goal.

I've read all the statements taken by Roger Nowell and they all seem to be voluntary confessions which I find hard to believe.  They must have undergone torture such as not being allowed to sleep-not given food or drink-questioned for hours on end-stripped naked and search for witch marks. The only reference I have found was that when the accused witch James Device was brought into the court room for his trial he was so weak he had to be held up. He couldn't speak, hear or stand. This is a link to all the confessions taken and the trial of each one.

The cells where they were confined were underground in the Well Tower, It had no windows, no fresh air, they would have lain in there own excrement. It was dark all the time as no light. It was sealed from the outside by 2 thick iron doors with double locks. Only in the cells above were their screams and pleas heard.

They were taken from the Goal by a secret passage that led to a Public House (Now called Three Mariners)  then called The Red Lion to meet and have a last drink with their families.  About the only humane thing that happened to them!! They were then put on  carts sitting on top of their own coffins and proceeded up Bridge Lane, Moor Lane to the place of hanging.

 The Witches didn't suffer a normal hanging where they would have been dropped, their necks broken and a quick death! Instead they where hung so they strangled slowing while a large crowd watched them dying!


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