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English Witchcraft and Witches Page 1

    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.

    English Witchcraft Page 2


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