The Pendle Hill Witches

Pendle Hill WitchesSometimes when you write a book, you don’t always know where, or what, it will lead to. Whilst researching for the fourth and final book in the Moon Stealer series (due out at the end of the year!), I was recommended by Audrey Carden, a Facebook friend, to look into the Pendle Hill Witches. I found myself being pulled into a fascinating period of English history.

Nance_Redferne_&_ChattoxPendle Hill is a small area in Lancashire, in the north of England. In the 1600’s two rival witch families called the Demdike’s and the Chattox’s lived around the hill. On the whole, both families used their powers to earn a living by healing and creating L’Elisir d’amore, or magical love potions!

When King James I of England and Scotland took the throne, he made witchcraft punishable by death following the curse from a Scottish witch who had been successfully convicted of using witchcraft, to send a storm against a ship that carried him and his wife Ann from Denmark to Scotland.

The 1600’s were tough times. Lancashire was known as a wild and lawless region. Earning an honest living had become harder than ever, resulting in the competing Demdike and Chattox families turning on each other. Each family made wilder and wilder claims of their powers, trying to out-do each other. Accusations of bewitching local children, murdering and making lame by witchcraft were thrown between the families. They were summoned before Roger Nowell, the Justice of the Peace for Pendle and were later tried and hanged for witchcraft.

Looking back to those times, it’s incredible to think that witchcraft was taken so seriously. But it was! King James even wrote a book on the subject called Daemonologie. Up until the year 1750 when witchcraft ceased to be punishable by death, an estimated 35,000 – 50,000 people had been executed after being successfully tried for witchcraft. 75-80% of them were women. Some scholars estimate the number of deaths to be much higher.


4 thoughts on “The Pendle Hill Witches

  1. It’s a fascinating period in history isn’t it Tim? So sad for the women who were hung as witches. I often wonder if some of them, old Demdyke especially might have suffered from a personality disorder maybe through illness. Any form of ‘healing’ or potions spelled the end for you in those days.
    My mother Audrey Nutter suffered a brain aneurysm which changed her personality beyond recognition and it’s an hereditary condition. I inherited it from my mum and suffered a brain hemorrhage but fortunately not as severe. I have made a good recovery but still experience the effects and I am still re-learning the things I forgot.
    It’s just a thought of course but who knows? Things like this were not understood all those years ago, if they survived them that is. 🙂

    1. It amazes me how many women were actually killed across Europe, for no genuine reason! There are illnesses that cause people to act in many different ways that would never have been considered back then, instead they go for the easy option – mad or bewitched? Glad you enjoyed reading the article. Will post some more at a later stage.

  2. Great post, its a very interesting time in our history and is well recognized around Lancashire, with everything from memorials and buses named after the pendle witches them self’s, thank you for sharing 😀

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