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Lancashire Witches


Waddington lies on the Lancashire Witches Walk: a multi-day hiking trail which follows the route the Pendle Witches took over the Bowland Fells to their trial at Lancaster Castle.

The witches’ tragic story began back in 1612, at a time of political unrest, social superstition, and religious persecution. A time when people lived in fear and poverty, and it was not unusual for poorer folk to claim powers of healing and potions, or extorting money through the use of curses and spells. The trial and execution of these unfortunate women became one of the most notorious trials in history, paving the way for the Salem Witch Trials in New England almost a century later.

The story goes that at Easter 1612, whilst out begging, granddaughter of accused witch “Old Demdike”, Alizon Device, encountered peddler John Law and asked him for some pins. Having refused, she cursed him using the help of a spirit, and Law stumbled and collapsed – paralysed and unable to speak. It appears that John Law suffered a stroke, but rumour quickly spread that Alizon had cursed him using witchcraft.

The matter was soon brought to the attention of the local magistrate, and Alizon Device was summoned to appear before Roger Nowell. Alizon confessed that she had cursed John Law after he had branded her a thief and went on to implicate the Chattox neighbours, and members of her family – including her own mother. Of the final twelve accused, eleven went to trial at Lancaster or York Assizes, the evidence given against them based on superstition, rumours, and memories. The key witness was nine-year-old Janet Device, another granddaughter of Demdike. In July 1612, the first of the accused witches, Jenet Preston was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. Nine more witches were later executed in August 1612, including Alizon, her brother James, mother Elizabeth and two members of the Chattox family.

Almost four centuries after the notorious events that unfolded in the shadow of Pendle Hill, the memory of the Lancashire Witches still casts a powerful spell over the surrounding countryside.

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