GEOFF CRAMBIE: Travesty of justice for the Pendle Witches

FOUR hundred years on, and the names are still well-known: “Old Mother Demdike” (Elizabeth Southern), “Old Chattox” (Anne Whittle), “Old Mouldheels” (Katherine Hewitt), Alice Nutter, Elizabeth Device, Anne Redfern, Isobel Robey, Jane Bulcock and Alice Gray - all known today as “The Pendle Witches”.

On Thursday, August 20th, 1612, these plus Alison Device and two male witches, James Device and John Bulcock, were sentenced to be hanged near Lancaster Castle the very next day.

“Old Mother Demdike” escaped the hangman’s noose having died in her cell before the infamous trial.

But the rest were not so lucky!

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There is little doubt today that the accused were victims of what our dictionary calls a “witch-hunt”: a campaign on the pretext of safeguarding the public.

My late teacher, the gentle Edgar Peel, said many years ago: “Under King James I the persecution of perfectly innocent folk began and accusations of witchcraft became commonplace in those terribly superstitious and misdirected times”.

This week’s picture was given to me over 40 years ago by the late photographer of great note Charles Green.

Taken in August, 1952, here we see Roughlee Hall (flying visitor overhead!) which is the believed home of the most enigmatic of the accused witches, Alice Nutter.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the case against Alice back 400 years ago was a true travesty of justice.

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