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The Trials of the Pendle Witches: The Assize in Action


Lancaster Castle

Image courtesy of https://www.visitlancashire.com/


The trials of the most of the Pendle witches took place at the Lancaster Assizes at Lancaster Castle before two judges, a jury, and witnesses. Reliable records produced by Thomas Potts, the clerk of the Lancaster Assizes, give us a first-hand account of the trials.


9-year-old Jennet Device was a key witness for the prosecution. On August 18, she gave evidence against those in attendance at the Malkin Tower gathering and also against her mother, sister and brother. Her mother was furious and had to be removed from the courtroom.

On July 27th Jennet Preston was tried at the York assize. The other eight defendants were tried at the Lancaster assize at Lancaster Castle on 18–19 August 1612: Anne Redferne, Alice Nutter, Katherine Hewitt, Jane and John Bulcock, Alizon Device, Isabel Robey and Margaret Pearson. All were found guilty of witchcraft. Only one of the accused, Margater Pearson, escaped a death sentence-she was accused of non-capital witchcraft. She was sentenced to the pillory at the next open market day followed by one year in prison.


The other nine were sentenced to death by hanging. To die by hanging could take up to 20 minutes.

The hanging of Pendle Witches at Lancaster Castle as depicted in a 17th century woodcut.

(English School)

Image courtesy of Getty Images

The burial places of the Pendle Witches have never been found.

Anne Whittle Ann Redfearn

Elizabeth Device Alizon Device

Alice Nutter James Device

Katherine Hewitt Jane Bulcock

James Bulcock Isobel Robey

Elizabeth Southerns (died awaiting trial)

Later in her life, Jennet Device was one of 20 witches accused of witchcraft (1633) . Her accuser was a 10-year-old boy named Edmond Robinson. The accusations were proved to be false when Edmond confessed to inventing his story. Jennet was still in prison in 1636, perhaps not having the money for her jail bond. Tudor prisoners often had to pay room and board for their stay. There are no more records of her after this date.

Sculpture of Alice Nutter in commemoration of 400th anniversary of Pendle Witch trials

Located in the village of Roughlee, at the foot of the hill where the Device and Whittle

families once lived.

Image courtesy of Flickr

Based on several confessions during the trials, why do you think some of the accused thought

they were actually guilty of witchcraft?

Why do you think James and Jennet accused their family members of witchcraft?

Sources:

Almond, Brett. “History of witchcraft in UK from distant past to modern day”.

“Timeline - World History Documentaries: The Trials of the Pendle Witches”. YouTube video.


*Also look at “Searching for the witches’ Tower”, an article on the search for the remains of Malkin Tower at https://www.archaeological.org

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