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friends' gate
In 1612, forty years before the English civil war, 9 people were hanged for witchcraft, close to the present site of Nightingale Hall Farm (many say the stench of death lingers there still!).

In March 1612, young Alison Device (pro. deviss) was walking the road to Colne begging. She asked a pedler, John Law, of Halifax to open his pack, and when he refused, cursed him. Wherupon he collapsed with a stroke and was carried, half-paralysed, to a local hostelry, claiming he was bewitched. His son, Abraham Law, sought out Alison, and brought her to his father's bedside. She freely confessed she had cursed him, and apologised for doing him harm.

witches' towerShe was then taken to Roger Nowell, at Lancaster, who was the Crown Prosecution Service of the time. Not only did Alison confess to being a servant of Satan, but so did her mother, Elizabeth Device, and her mother, 'Old Demdyke'. All the accused were held at Lancaster Castle in the cells of the 'Witches' Tower', where Mother Demdyke, being aged, died awaiting trial.

According to the trial records, copies of which are held at Lancaster Library, the confessions and the conviction were not related to the popular current understanding of witchcraft as the belief system based on Wicca but detailed the worship of 'Satan', a deviancy specific to the patriarchal religions originating with the prophet Abraham. However ancient clay 'egyptian' effigies found at Malkin Towers, Pendle, through the evidence of Alison's 9 year old sister might lead one to speculate that the 'confessions', based mainly as they were on the evidence of children, owed more to what the prosecution wanted to hear than what the illiterate Demdykes, who were not allowed a defence at their trial, had to say.

peaceful resting place
Interestingly, one of the charges brought against Old Demdyke was that she had failed to heal a cow when she was supposed to.

Local legend has it that the nine executed, being refused burial in the town cemetery, were interred in the old Quaker cemetery. If so, there can be few resting places more peaceful and lovely.

However, George Fox, principle founder of the Quaker movement, did not experience his inspirational vision on Pendle Hill until 40 years later. Possibly the site, being just a few yards outside the old city boundaries, was originally used as the burial ground for executed heretics, and others not deemed worthy of burial in consecrated ground. This may have been the same land later purchased by the Society of Friends and made into an enclosed and secluded garden.

If there is anyone out there who can clarify this issue, we'd be grateful if you could contact us with your information.



Guided Walks around Lancaster illustrating the stories of the individuals involved in the Lancashire Witch trials are regularly scheduled throughout the season. Check our our EVENTS section for details.

Additional Web Links

Pendle on the Net
The Pendle web site.

Pendle Witch Country
Information on the Pendle Witches on the Bronte Country web site.

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Special thanks to Joan E. Cope Savage from the USA for help and corrections.


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