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