Witches Executed at Lancaster

Upon evidence of this kind no fewer than ten of these unfortunate people were found guilty at Lancaster, and sentenced to suffer death.

Eight others were acquitted; why, it is not easy to see, for the evidence appears to have been equally strong, or rather equally weak and absurd, against all.

The ten persons sentenced were:

  • Anne Whittle alias Chattox
  • Anne Redferne daughter of Chattox
  • Elizabeth Device daughter of Demdike
  • James Device son of Elizabeth Device
  • Alison Device daughter of Elizabeth Device
  • Alice Nutter
  • Jane Bulcock
  • John Bulcock son of Jane Bulcock
  • Katherine Hewitt alias Mould-heels
  • Isabel Robey

They were executed at Lancaster on the 20th of August, 16I2, for having bewitched to death 'by devilish practices and hellish means' no fewer than sixteen inhabitants of the Forest of Pendle.

These were:

  • Robert Nutter of Greenhead
  • Richard Assheton of Downham
  • A child of Richard Baldwin
  • John Device of Pendle
  • Ann Nutter of Pendle
  • A child of John Moor
  • Hugh Moor of Pendle
  • John Robinson alias Swyer
  • James Robinson
  • Henry Mytton of Rough Lee
  • Ann Towneley wife of Henry Towneley
  • John Duckworth
  • John Hargreaves of Goldshaw Booth
  • Blaize Hargreaves of Higham
  • Christopher Nutter
  • Ann Folds near Colne

John Law, a Pedlar, was also bewitched, so as to lose the use of his limbs, by Alison Device, because he refused to give her some pins without money, when requested to do so by her on his way from Colne.

Alison Device herself was a beggar by profession, and the evidence sufficiently proved that Law's affliction was nothing more than what would now be termed paralysis of the lower extremities.

In his introduction to Pott's Discovery of Witches, Mr James Crossley observes:

"the main interest in reviewing this miserable band of victims will be felt to centre in Alice Nutter. Wealthy, well conducted, well connected, and placed probably on an equality with most of the neighbouring families and the magistrate before whom she was brought and committed, she deserves to be distinguished from the companions with whom she suffered."

From Lancashire Folklore, 1882
John Harland and T.T. Wilkinson.

A Witches Cat

Description of Elizabeth Device

This odious Witch was branded with a preposterous mark in Nature, even from her birth, which was her left eye, standing lower then the other; the one looking down, the other looking up, so strangely deformed, as the best that were present in that Honourable assembly, did affirm, they had not often seen the like.

From Discovery of Witches, 1613
Thomas Potts (clerk of the court).

The Witches of Salmesbury

The trials of these persons took place at the same assizes, and before the same judge.

Against Jane and Ellen Bierley and Jane Southworth, all of Samlesbury, charged with having bewitched Grace Sowerbutts, the only material evidence was that of Grace Sowerbutts herself, a girl of licentious and vagrant habits, who swore that these women (one of them being her grandmother), did draw her by the hair of the head and lay her upon the top of a hay-mow, and did take her senses and memory from her that they appeared to her sometimes in their own likeness and sometimes like a black dog.

She declared that they by their arts had induced her to join their sisterhood; and that they were met from time to time by 'four black things going upright and yet not like men in the face', who conveyed them across the river Ribble, where they danced with them etc.

The prisoners were also charged with bewitching and slaying a child of Thomas Walshams by placing a nail in its navel; and after its burial, they took up the corpse, when they ate part of the flesh, and made an 'uncious ointment' by boiling the bones.

This was more than even the capacious credulity of the judge and jury could digest.

The Samlesbury Witches were therefore, acquitted, and a seminary priest named Thompson alias Southworth, was suspected by two of the county magistrates (the Rev. William Leigh and Edward Chisnall) to whom the affair was afterwards referred, of having instigated Sowerbutts to make the charge, but this imputation was not supported by any satisfactory evidence.

From Lancashire Folklore, 1882
John Harland and T.T. Wilkinson.

The Witch Alice Nutter

The Evidence of Jennet Device

Against Elizabeth Device the testimony of her own daughter Jennet, a child nine years of age, was received; and the way in which her evidence was given, instead of filling the court with horror, seems to have excited their applause and admiration.

Her familiar had the form of a dog and was called 'Ball', and by his agency she bewitched to death John and James Robinson and James Mitton; the first having called her a strumpet, and the last having refused to give Old Demdike a penny when she asked him for charity.

To render her daughter proficient in the art, the prisoner taught her two prayers, by one of which she cured the bewitched, and by the other procured drink.

James Device was convicted principally on the evidence of his child sister Jennet, of bewitching and killing Mrs. Anne Towneley, the wife of Mr. Henry Towneley, by means of a picture of clay; and both he and his sister were witnesses against their mother.

This wizard (James Device), whose spirit was called 'Dandy', is described as a poor, decrepit boy, apparently of weak intellect, and so infirm, that it was found necessary to hold him up in court on his trial.

From Lancashire Folklore, 1882
John Harland and T.T. Wilkinson.

Killing by Witchcraft

The said Elizabeth Southerns (alias Demdike) confesseth and sayth:

"The speediest way to take a mans life away by witchcraft, is to make a picture of clay, like unto the shape of the person whom they mean to kill, and dry it thoroughly. And when they would have them to be ill in any one place more then an other; then take a thorn or pin, and prick it in that part of the picture you would so have to be ill. And when you would have any part of the body to consume away, then take that part of the picture, and burn it."

"And when they would have the whole body to consume away, then take the remnant of the said picture, and burn it: and so there-upon by that means, the body shall die."

Discovery of Witches, 1613
Thomas Potts (clerk of the court).