Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Back to the Pendle witch trial

Nowadays children can be used to give evidence in court, they are judged on their understanding not their age. But in the past children younger than 14 were seen as unreliable witnesses and could not be sworn under oath, the Pendle witch trial changed this.

I’ve talked and researched the Pendle witch trial in previous posts but here I will look more into 9 year old Jennet Device and leading up to the trial and execution. At the time of the event Lancashire had a reputation for trouble-makers; surrounding villages even described the grandmother Demdike as a "Cunning woman"

After Alizon confessed to bewitching the pedlar she also accused their neighbours of murdering people with witchcraft, this then backfired and the neighbours Anne redferne and her mother Chattox accused Demdike of using witchcraft. This lead to all of the people accused being arrested and put on trial.

This is where Jennet Device was called to court to give information on her own mother and family. It is said that her mother screamed and pleaded at her when she entered the court room. Young Jennet then climbed on top of a table and said her family were guilty of using witchcraft. She had condemned her own family to death, the next day they were hanged at Gallows hill. It’s a mystery why Jennet sent her own family to death, but people say she was too young to understand what was going on, all the people and the pressure of the court room saying her own mother killed a man with witchcraft she could just be agreeing scared for herself without realising the consequences. or she could have been a bit of an outcast of the family, information on her father is not clear she could have some sort of resentment to her family, personally I don’t think she meant to send her family to death. She’s young scared and pressured into something she doesn’t fully understand.

It is said that Jennet was later accused of being a witch herself around 20 years later by a 10 year old boy called Edmund Robinson. Laws had changed then, courts needed more evidence. Eventually Edmund confessed to lying because he has heard stories about Jennet and her past of the Pendle witch trial. 

1. BBC News (2011) The witch trial that made legal history. Retrieved from

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