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English Witchcraft

Bury St Edmonds, Canewdon, Chelmsford, Clophill, Coggeshall, Exeter, Faversham, Fressingfield, Lancaster, Pendle Forest, St. Osyth, Salmesbury, Salt Lane, Somerset, Warboys.



The town of Bury St Edmonds was the scene of two witchcraft trials. The first of these trials took place in 1645, it was instigated by General Matthew Hopkins. The second trial in 1662 was instigated by the future Lord Chief Justice Sir Matthew Hale.


The first trial culminated in the arrest of nearly 200 suspects, of whom the most notable was an elderly clergyman named John Lowes. Lowes was disliked as it was believed he was a Royalist sympathizer. Lowes was subjected to torture of swimming, the ordeal known as walking a witch until he confessed everything. Other victims included a woman who was burned for the treasonable murder of her husband by witchcraft.


The second trial involved two widows Rose Cullender and Amyu Duny who were both charged with numerous acts of witchcraft including the bewitching of several children. AT the end of the trial they both were found guilty and they were hanged.


Another case which was bought before Chief Justice Sir John Holt determinedly acquitted an accused witch by the name of Mother Munnings.


The village of Canewdon was refered to as the Witch Country. The witches of this county were renowned for their power to halt machinery and wagons by a single penetrating look or by turning themselves into wheels, and at various times were accused of sending plagues of lice and other unpleasant creatures against their enemies.


The town of Chelmsford was the scene of many outbreaks of witchcraft. The first witch in the records to be executed as a witch was Agnes Waterhouse. She was not the only one trialed in July 1566 for witchcraft along side her was her daughter Joan and Elizabeth Francis. Francis was the first to be charged with causing illness in a man named William Auger and a woman named Mary Cocke and then she was also charged with that of Alice Poole but was unable to escape this charge and was found guilty then hanged.


Elizabeth confessed to being taught everything she knew by her grandmother. Joan was acquitted of the charge.


Another trial involved Elizabeth Francis and three others by the names of Ellen Smith, Alice Nokes and Margery Stanton. Stanton was acquitted of the charges against her but the other three were found guilty and were all condemned to death.


In 1589 there was another trial involving 9 women and 1 man culminated in the execution of three women who were hung within two hours of the guilty verdict. Another trial was in 1610 involving Katherine Lawrett was charged with causing the death of a valuable horse.


In Clophill an alleged coven of witches occured in 1963 when the graveyard had been dug up and the remains of a 200 year old corpse had been laid out in ritual fashion inside the church. This it is suggested was not the act of witches but that of a group of satanists attempting to raise the dead.


In Coggeshall in 1699 a widow Coman was reputed as being a witch and was hounded into confessing acts of witchcraft and subjected to swimming in the village pond. This ill treatment a few months later may have caused the womans death as a result of a chill she ay have contracted. She was not allowed the christian burial of those who were dutiful.


In England their were many witchcraft trials but it was fortunate in that the inquisition never enjoyed much success. The hysteria did not reach here until fairly late. Those in the middle ages found guilty of witchcraft went virtually unpunished as there was no evidence provided.


In Exeter the case of three destitutes accused of witchcraft was one of the last cases of witchcraft involved Susanna Edwards, Temperance Lloyd and Mary Trembles. The three of them confessed which left little room for doubt in the eyes of the public. Some of the evidence brought against them was tenuous but the judge was forced by public opinion to sentence the three accused women to death by hanging. Susanna and Mary wept on the way to the gallows while Temperance chewed not caring.


In Faversham a trial involving Joan Williford who confessed to witchcraft practices and in her confession she also named Jane Holt, Joan Argoll and Elisabeth Harris as witches also and all of them as a result of the facts that people died was enough to seal their fates on September 29 1645 they were executed.


In Fressingfield a Mrs Corbyn was the focus of allegations of witchcraft in 1890. This was made public as a result of the sudden death of a baby in the village. Examination of the baby's body showed that the baby had died of shock as the result of an applied irritant. The parent's named the step-grandmother who had died on the same day and was said to have siad that the baby would not live much longer either. A few hours later the baby died. The husband of the accused was said to have said that he suspected his wife of witchcraft but that he tried to never anger her for fear of retribution.


In Lancaster or Lancashire as it is also known there were two big trials one in 1612 and one in 1633.


The first in 1612 was the coven active in Pendle Forest involved approximately 20 people with the two central figures being an 80 year old woman by the name of Elizabeth Sowthern and the other a 60 year old woman by the name of Anne whittle.


The local justice questioned the 80 year old woman on whether she was a witch which she confessed to and she also pointed her granddaughter Alison Device and Anne Whittle. Elizabeth Sowthern confessed how the devil had spoken to her and she had given him her soul in exchange for anything. SHe kept turning him away evertime he appeared then one night he came and sucked her blood which made her mad for almost 2 months. She also testified that her daughter had done work for a Richard Baldwyn when Elizabeth and her granddaughter Alsion went to seek payment he told them to get out or he would hang and burn one of them. The devil reappeared and asked her to take revenge at which she said yes. She never saw him again.


Anne Whittle confessed to entering into the witches realm. She was indicted for this act. Alison Device was also indicted for her confession of the daughter of Baldwyn having died and was also for laming an old peddler.


Elizabeth Device and the other families of those inprisoned tried to plan an escape for those imprisoned but were found out and several arreasts were made, in all 20 were tried all testifying against each other and implicating others in their testimonials. 10 people were sentenced to hang. Elizabeth Sowthern died in prison. Margaret Pearson was sentenced to the pillory and 1 year in jail. The rest were found not guilty.


The second trial was in 1633 and involved a young boy by the name of Edmun Robinson who had claimed he was forced to attend a witches sabbat at which there were several people including Jennet Device. Of those that the young boy claimed were witches 17 were convicted. The local justice however thought their was something foul and the cases were referred to the king's council where it was discovered that the young boy had been forced by his father to lie to make a quick dollar. The prisoners who were still alive were released and the boys father was jailed.


In the St Osyth trial there were 14 people involved all being charged with several different charges of witchcraft including one of bewitching to death other people.


The head of the affair was a woman by the name of Ursula Kempe who was a midwife and nursemaid and was also reported to be a witch. Witnesses claimed that she cured a young boy by the name of Davy Thurlowe of illness with incantations but took offence when the boy's mother had refused her employment as nursemaid to her infant daughter. The baby later fell out of its crib and broke her neck, suspicion by neighbors fell upon Kempe. Ignoring this the mother then asked Kempe for a treatment for her arthritis, she was given a method but refused to pay Kempe 12 pence at which the womans condition worsened.


Mrs Thurlowe at this point decided to go to the authorities with her complaint. When Kempe was placed on trial she pleaded her case and even named other witches. Others named were Elizabeth Bennet, Alice Newman, Alice Hunt, Margery Sammon all confessing and naming others such as Joan Pechey, Agnes Glascock, Cicely Celles, Joan turner, Elizabeth Ewstace, Annis Herd, Alice Manfield and Margaret Grevell. Two were not indictted, two were discharged but held for other non-witch illegal activities, four were acquitted, four were convicted but leter reprieved and two were sentenced to hang those were Ursula Kempe and Elizabeth Bennet.


In Salmesbury a trial that involved three women. The charges were brought about by a Grace Sowerbutts against her grandmother, her aunt and another woman by the name of Jane Southworth. According to Grace they had turned theselved into black dogs using an ointment they made from the bones of the child of Thomas Walshman. She also claimed they had feasted on this childs flesh and they had invited her to join in but instead she went to the authorities. The jury however was unconvinced and the charges were dismissed. Grace broke down and admitted to being forced to say these things by a Catholic priest. It was said that the accusations had risen out of a family feud that they had changed to the Protestant faith.


The Salt Lane witches were two white witches according to folklore they were called white witches as they would use their magic for good as opposed to bad. For sixpence they would help people free their carts from the mud one day a wagoner was trying to bargain with them, he noticed a piece of straw on his horse's back. Thinking it was part of their magic, he cut it in half causing one witch to fall dead. The cart was freed and he fled. The second witch according to legend turned a troop of soldiers into petrified figures when they appeared in town trying to collect taxes. These figures are according to legend at the main road that passes through Worcester.


The Somerset witches was two alleged covens that were exposed in the area in 1664. According to the accusations there were two full-scale covens active. Those involved in these covens were charged and pursued with zeal by the local justice Robert Hunt until his superiors intervened asking hm to desist from further enquiries. There were those that complained saying that there were more covens but they were never allowed to find out.


The Warboys witch trial involved three alleged witches by the names of Alice, John and Agnes Samuel and was as a result of the fact they were suppose to have caused the fits of five daughters of Robert Throckmorton and for the murder Lady Cromwell.


The case was brought to justices of the peace and Mrs Samuel was brought to them at which she confessed all. All three of them were found guilty and Agnes refused to decline pregnancy argueing that "it shall never be said that I was both a witch and a whore", they were all hung and their estate was given to Henry Cromwell who used it for an annual sermon against witchcraft.


Legendary and Folk Witches


Joan of Navarre 1370-1437. Duchess of Brittany who was the wife of King Henry

IV of England was accused of being a witch and wanting to bring down the king.

Later she was pardoned and reinstated.


Mother Shipton a 15th Century Yorkshire witch. She was said to have powers of

healing and spell-casting, and her prophecies about modern time such as those

of airplanes and cars has come true. Also scientific inventions, new technology,

wars and politics.


Anne Boleyn 1507-1536, she was the second wife of King Henry VIII of England

was abeheaded and her reputation was smeared due tothe fact she was unable

to bear her husband a child so he claimed she was a witch. She had a sixth finger

on one hand which was believed to be a sign that the young lady was a witch.


Caroline of Brunswick 1768-1821 she was Queen to King George IV Of England.

It is told that she felt she was constantly being neglected by her husband and she

decided to make a wax effigy of him and stick pins and thorns into it and then melt

in a palace fireplace.


the North Berwick Witches a group of men and women who were accused of

witchcraft in Scotland in the 16th century. On minimal evidence they were

condemned and tortured and burnt. They were supposed to have created a storm

to the drown the King James 1.


Tamsin Blight 1798-1856. Famous Cornish witch healer and a person who is able

to remove curses or spells from a person. She was also said to have put spells on

those who did not please her. Also known as Tammy Blee and Tamson.


Mary Butters late 18th century-early 19th century. She is known as the Carmoney

Witch and narrowly escaped trial for the killing of a cow and three people. She

claimed at her inquest she saw a black man who killed the three people and that

she was knocked unconscious causing the ingredients to become toxic. The

incident was made into a humorous ballad.


Old Dorothy Clutterbuck 1880-1951. Clutterbuck was allegedly the high priestess

of a coven of witches and was suppose to have initiated Gerald B. Gardner into

witchcraft. It also said that Clutterbuck was actually not the hight priestess but a

protector of the high priestess that the real high priestess was a woman by the

name of Dafo. She was a woman of high respect and wealth. When she died she

left a hefty amount of money more than 60,000 pounds.


Isobel Goldie ?-1662. It is said that she had wild sexual escapades with the devil

who had initiated her into the art of witchcraft. She confessed this several times but

many thought that it was just a story she had made up and that it was just a game

that had gotten out of hand. There are no records as to what had happened to her

or other people she confessed to being witches as well. In all likelihood they were

all hung as her confessions were so obscene for the time.


Joan of Arc 1412-1431. She was not charged as most people have said for

practising witchcraft but for being a relapsed heretic who denied the authority of the



Margaret Jones ?-1648. The first witch to be executed in Massachusetts Bay

Colony, she was accused of being a witch after patients under her care as their

physician had gotten sicker. The reason why many patients got worse was

because they refused to take medicines prescribed for them.


Lady Alice Kyteler ?-1324. Lady Alice was a wealthy woman from Ireland who was

accused of witchcraft as a result of the fact that her fourth husband and his family

believed she had lured him into marrying her more money. These charges were

dropped and later she moved to England were she lived in luxury until her death.


Marie Laveau 1794?-1881 and 1827-1897. The most renown voodoo queen in

North AMerica was actually a mother and daughter. Their appeal was their magical

powers, control ofone's lovers and enemies, and sex. Marie I was a most poerful

women who was told all the secrets by women and was able to use these to

increase her powers. Marie II was feared more and inspired subserviance.


Florence Newton mid 17th Century. A trial most famous in Ireland was that of

Florence Newton also known as "the Witch of Youghal". She was accused of

bewitching people into fits and of killing them with these fits. Her trial unlike most

trials involved no torture. One young lady who was bewitched by her went through

fits of which many things were vomitted up by her and many different things were

thrown at her. If Florence newton was left unhandcuffed the young lady would have

fits and fall ill but if handcuffed would remain calm and have no fits.


Dolly Pentreath 1692-1777. Was born in Cornwall, England. Never married but

had a son. She was acredited with the knowledge of astrology and possessed

magical powers which people would come and use her for. She was able to use

her powers for good and bad.


Elisabeth Sawyer ?-1621. Elisabeth Sawyer also Known as "Witch of Edmonton"

was accused of bewitching her neighors children and cattle because they refused

to buy her brooms. When she was being harrassed she finally confessed to being

a witch. She was hanged for confessing to be a witch.


Toad-Witch these are self-initiated witch in English folkore who are accredited

with possessing the power to overlook or cast the evil-eye over a person. They

were powerful and most feared. They had powers also over horses, pigs and men.

It was considered dangerous being a Toad-Witch as one was likely to go insane

because of the supernatural powers possessed and usually died a violent death.


Witch of Endor was accredited with raising of the spirit of Samuel at the request of

King Saul of Israel. In the bible it is said teh at Saul wished to find out whether he

should fight the Philistine Army. Some say that the witch was a fake and that she

threw her voice to sound like Samuel when in fact she lied about seeing god or

angels, about incantations. Some believed that their may have been a spirit

conjured but that it was more likely to have been the Devil but some believed that it

was not the Devil as he would have been repelled by the word God or Jehovah and

that the Devil would not have punished someone but would have encouraged

them to do more evil.


Joan Wytte 1775-1813. Cornish woman also known by the name of the Fighting

Fairy Woman of Bodmin. She was said to be clairvoyant and that people would

seek her services as a seer, diviner and healer. She was known to visit a holy well

where she tied clouties (a charm that is a strip of cloth taken from a sick person.

Which would decay and was suppose to heal the person in a magical way. Still

done today.) on the branches of trees.


Later on as a result of a tooth abscess she became very ill-tempered and would

shout at people. She became involved in a large fight with people where she used

her remarkable strength and bashed people and threw them across a room. She

was arrested and sent to jail where she died as a result of the poor conditions.

When she died her body was dissected and the skeleton was placed in a coffin,

later on it was recovered and used as a joke in a seance which went wrong as it

was alleged the lid of the coffin in which the skeletal remains was placed, flew

open and started going around and assaulting the people taking part in the

seance. After this the bones were to pass onto an antique dealer, and later on a

founder of a Museum of Witchcraft. It was later said that while on display in the

museum they started to experience poltergeist at which a witch was bought in to

consult them of what to do and it was said that Wytte's spirit said that she wished

to be laid in a proper burial.


The empty coffin remains on display along with a plaque accounting her story.


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