In 1612 the renowned Pendle Witches trial took place in Lancashire., Now 400 years on, the county has arranged an array of events and activities to mark the anniversary, making it a great time to visit on a short break. The trials are some of the most famous witch trials in English history, with ten people being executed on the moors above Lancaster, having been found guilty of witchcraft at Lancaster Castle. Their apparent crimes included causing madness, cursing and bewitching and, most importantly, using witchcraft to murder the villagers around them.
Five of the accused came from two families who were headed by women in their eighties: Elizabeth Southern, also known as Old Demdike, and Anne Whittle, known as Old Chattox. The two families were rivals for work in the community making their living from begging, setting themselves up as wise women and selling charms and healing ailments. From these two families accusations of witchcraft arose and ended in the arrest and execution of the ten Pendle Witches.
The rich history of the Pendle Witches has been one of Lancashire’s biggest attractions throughout the years. From the grandeur of Lancaster Castle where the accused were imprisoned before their execution, to Pendle Witch Experience tours around Pendle Hill there is plenty to discover.
This year the city of Lancaster and the surrounding area are planning a series of events, exhibitions and plays to commemorate the trials of 1612:
1 April – 3rd November: Spellbound: Superstition, stories and the silver screen.
This exhibition at the Judges Lodgings in Lancaster explores the role of witches and witchcraft in popular culture. It includes illustrations from Quentin Blake, Korky Paul who illustrated Winnie the Witch and Paul Kidby who worked on the Diskworld series.
13th May – 22nd July: Guided Walks
A series of guided walks following the real events and exploring the sites from the Pendle Witch trials.
7th – 16th June: Sabbat – The Trials of the Pendle Witches
After playing to record breaking audiences in Spring 2009 the story of The Lancashire Witches is revived for the 400th anniversary. Performing at The Dukes theatre in Lancaster.
15th – 18th June: Pendle Witch Camp
The 8th Annual Pendle Witch Camp. This year the focus will be on the 400th anniversary of the trials and executions of the Pendle Witches, with story telling, talks and workshops.
27th July – 29th September: A Wonderful Discoverie: Lancashire Witches
Exhibition at Lancaster City Museum exploring the people involved in the trials, the known facts and the historical and social context within which these trials unfolded.
As well as what’s listed above there are an array of engaging activities and events going on across Lancashire. For anyone interested in English history, witchcraft or the justice system of the 16th and 17th Centuries there is plenty to discover in Lancashire this year. The Revenue Manager of the Penny Street Bridge Hotel in Lancaster commented “There’s no doubt that the lure of the Lancashire Witches is still strong; from a small village in Pendle to the great courtrooms and impressive surroundings of Lancaster Castle, Lancashire’s landscape is infused with stories and folklore connected to the famous trial of 1612.”
Will you be heading to Lancaster to find out about the Pendle Witches?