ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Lancashire Witches

Updated on May 16, 2012

Although the Pendle Witches are probably the best known of the witches tried for practising witchcraft in Lancashire in the 17th century, there were others who deserve our attention due to the ordeal they went through and in some cases the terrible punishments they received.

The 1612 Witch Trials

The main cluster of witch trials in Lancashire took place in 1612. James 1st had been on the throne since 1603. A staunch protestant, he was intolerant of Catholics and witchcraft. He had even published a treatise on the occult called ‘Daemonologie’ and passed an act of parliament condemning those convicted of witchcraft to death.

The Gisburn Witch

Strictly speaking not a Lancashire witch at all; Jennet Preston lived in Gisburn, which in 1612 was in Yorkshire (a county boundary change in 1974 means Gisburn is now in Lancashire). However, Roger Nowell heard evidence that she had been at a meeting with the Pendle Witches. Because she was from Yorkshire her case was heard at the York Assizes on July 27th 1612. She was charged with murder by Witchcraft of a man who had died four years earlier and the jury were also told about her meeting with the Pendle Witches. She was found guilty of causing death by witchcraft and hanged.

Knowing that a woman, who had met with them, had been found guilty and hanged just days earlier must have been terrifying for the Pendle witches.

The Southworth family crest.
The Southworth family crest. | Source

The Samlesbury Witches

These were three women from Samlesbury who were tried for witchcraft in the middle of the Pendle witch trials. They were:

Jane Southworth – a widow. Her dead husband was the son of the owner of Samlesbury Hall.

Jennet Bierley

Jennet’s daughter Ellen Bierley.

The three women were accused by 14 year old Grace Sowerbutts, of child murder, cannibalism, orgies with spirits or devils and attending a witch’s sabbat (meeting). Grace was Jennet’s granddaughter and Ellen’s niece. According to Thomas Potts the court recorder, all who heard the evidence were appalled and convinced of their guilt. An unusual aspect of the case is that it is the only one where orgies and cannibalism are offered as acts of evidence of witchcraft, which had never been associated with British witches before.

Crucially, during the trial, Jennet was found to have been ‘groomed’ by a priest to testify against these women and they were found ‘not guilty’. The priest was known to have travelled through Europe and is likely to have picked up his knowledge of witchcraft practices from there.

Thomas Potts included the Samlesbury witch trials in his book the wonderful discoverie of witches in Lancashire. The suspicion is that he did this to highlight how fair the trials were and how determined the judiciary were to distinguish between innocent people who were falsely accused and the truly guilty.

Samlesbury Hall

Samlesbury Hall looks much as at did in 1612 at the time of the Lancashire witch trials.
Samlesbury Hall looks much as at did in 1612 at the time of the Lancashire witch trials. | Source
Samlesbury Hall parlour fireplace, would almost certainly have been familiar to Jane Southworth, widow of the owner's son.
Samlesbury Hall parlour fireplace, would almost certainly have been familiar to Jane Southworth, widow of the owner's son. | Source

The Padiham Witch

Margaret Pearson from Padiham was accused of killing a horse by witchcraft. Evidence was given by Chattox of Pendle (herself accused of witchcraft) and another Padiham resident. Margaret was found guilty and given a punishment of one year in prison and 4 days in pillory. The pillory was two blocks of wood, one on top of the other with holes for the occupant’s arms and neck. Once fastened down the occupant would be stuck in there and the object of ridicule to passers-by.

Punishment by Pillory

The pillory and stocks were common punishments in Britain in the 1600s. Pillories were wooden blocks with arm and neck holes trapping the occupants in place whereas stocks had leg holes. They were usually in a busy place such as a market so that the prisoner could be humiliated in public - hence the phrase 'he was the laughing stock' and the verb pilloried.

The Windle Witch

In 1612 Windle was still in Lancashire. (it is now part of Merseyside, which didn’t exist as a county in 1612.)

Isobel Robey from Windle was accused of causing sickness (not death) by witchcraft. It was claimed that two of her victims had called upon wise men to break the spell. In spite of the fact that one of the wise men had concluded that Isobel Robey wasn’t a witch the evidence convinced the judge at the trial and she was found guilty of causing sickness through witchcraft and hanged alongside the Pendle witches.

Huncoat Stocks

The Stocks at Huncoat, Lancashire. The earliest recorded use of the Stocks in Huncoat was 1535. With four leg holes this would have held two prisoners.
The Stocks at Huncoat, Lancashire. The earliest recorded use of the Stocks in Huncoat was 1535. With four leg holes this would have held two prisoners. | Source

The Home Locations of those Accused in the 1612 Lancashire Witch Trials.

Padiham, Lancashire, UK

get directions

Margaret Pearson's home

Pendle, Nelson, Lancashire BB9, UK

get directions

The home of 9 people accused of witchcraft.

Samlesbury, Lancashire, UK

get directions

The home of Jane Southworth, Jennet and Ellen Bierley

Windle, Merseyside, UK

get directions

The home of Isobel Robey

Gisburn, Lancashire BB7, UK

get directions

The home of Jennet Preston

The 1633 Pendle Witch Trials

In 1633 at least 17 Pendle inhabitants were taken into prison and then tried at Lancaster having been accused of witchcraft. A lot of the evidence came from an 11 year old boy. Interestingly, one of the accused was Jennet Device, whose evidence had condemned her own brother, sister, mother and grandmother to death during the Pendle Witch Trials of 1612.

In February 1633, 17 of those accused were convicted of witchcraft and a report sent to King Charles 1st who had succeeded the throne from his father James 1st in 1625. He summoned four of these down to London, including Margaret Johnson who had freely admitted to being a witch.

The boy and his father and uncle were also brought down to London. Further questioning lead the boy to reveal that his evidence was false and his father had encouraged him to make the story up. Since physical examinations of the accused had also failed to reveal evidence that they were witches, they were acquitted.

This whole process was painfully slow – the medical evidence was dated July 1635 and in 1636 it is known that some of the original 17 were still being held in Lancaster Prison.


The Pendle Witch-Trial 1612 by Rachel A.C. Hasted 1993

The Wonderful Discovery of Witchesmodernised by Robert Poole 2011

The Trials of the Lancashire Witchesby Edgar Peel and Pat Southern 1985

Devilish Practices by Richard Macsween 2012


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)