Witchcraft During The Commonwealth And Protectorate

We have, in the last chapter, traced the history of witchcraft in

England through the Hopkins episode of 1645-1647. From the trials at Ely

in the autumn of 1647 to the discoveries at Berwick in the summer of

1649 there was a lull in the witch alarms. Then an epidemic broke out in

the north of England. We shall, in this chapter, describe that epidemic

and shall carry the narrative of the important cases from that time to

the Restoration. In doing this we shall mark off two periods, one from

1649 to 1653, when the executions were still numerous, and a second from

1653 to 1659 when there was a rapid falling off, not only in death

penalties for witchcraft, but even in accusations. To be sure, this

division is somewhat artificial, for there was a gradual decline of the

attack throughout the two periods, but the year 1653 more nearly than

any other marks the year when that decline became visible.

The epidemic of 1649 came from Scotland. Throughout the year the

northern kingdom had been "infested."[1] From one end of that realm to

the other the witch fires had been burning. It was not to be supposed

that they should be suddenly extinguished when they reached the border.

In July the guild of Berwick had invited a Scotchman who had gained

great fame as a "pricker" to come to Berwick, and had promised him

immunity from all violence.[2] He came and proceeded to apply his

methods of detection. They rested upon the assumption that a witch had

insensible spots on her body, and that these could be found by driving

in a pin. By such processes he discovered thirty witches, who were sent

to gaol. Some of them made confessions but refused to admit that they

had injured any one.[3] On the contrary, they had assisted Cromwell, so

some of the more ingenious of them claimed, at the battle of Preston.[4]

Whether this helped their case we do not know, for we are not told the

outcome. It seems almost certain, however, that few, if any, of them

suffered death. But the pricker went back to Scotland with thirty

pounds, the arrangement having been that he was to receive twenty

shillings a witch.

He was soon called upon again. In December of the same year the town of

Newcastle underwent a scare. Two citizens, probably serjeants, applied

the test with such success that in March (1649/50) a body of citizens

petitioned the common council that some definite steps be taken about

the witches. The council accepted the suggestion and despatched two

serjeants, doubtless the men already engaged in the work, to Scotland to

engage the witch-pricker. He was brought to Newcastle with the definite

contract that he was to have his passage going and coming and twenty

shillings apiece for every witch he found. The magistrates did

everything possible to help him. On his arrival in Newcastle they sent

the bellman through the town inviting every one to make complaints.[5]

In this business-like way they collected thirty women at the town hall,

stripped them, and put them to the pricking test. This cruel, not to say

indelicate, process was carried on with additions that must have proved

highly diverting to the base-minded prickers and onlookers.[6] Fourteen

women and one man were tried (Gardiner says by the assizes) and found

guilty. Without exception they asserted their innocence; but this

availed not. In August of 1650 they were executed on the town moor[7] of


The witchfinder continued his activities in the north, but a storm was

rising against him. Henry Ogle, a late member of Parliament, caused him

to be jailed and put under bond to answer the sessions.[9] Unfortunately

the man got away to Scotland, where he later suffered death for his

deeds, probably during the Cromwellian regime in that country.[10]

We have seen that Henry Ogle had driven the Scotch pricker out of the

country. He participated in another witch affair during this same period

which is quite as much to his credit. The children of George Muschamp,

in Northumberland, had been troubled for two years (1645-1647) with

strange convulsions.[11] The family suspected Dorothy Swinow, who was

the wife of Colonel Swinow. It seems that the colonel's wife had, at

some time, spoken harshly to one of the children. No doubt the sick

little girl heard what they said. At any rate her ravings began to take

the form of accusations against the suspected woman. The family

consulted John Hulton, "who could do more then God allowed," and he

accused Colonel Swinow's wife. But unfortunately for him the child had

been much better during his presence, and he too was suspected. The

mother of the children now rode to a justice of the peace, who sent for

Hulton, but not for Mistress Swinow. Then the woman appealed to the

assizes, but the judge, "falsely informed," took no action. Mrs.

Muschamp was persistent, and in the town of Berwick she was able, at

length, to procure the arrest of the woman she feared. But Dorothy

Swinow was not without friends, who interfered successfully in her

behalf. Mrs. Muschamp now went to a "counsellor," who refused to meddle

with the matter, and then to a judge, who directed her to go to Durham.

She did so and got a warrant; but it was not obeyed. She then procured a

second warrant, and apparently succeeded in getting an indictment. But

it did her little good: Dorothy Swinow was not apprehended.

One can hardly refrain from smiling a little at the unhappy Mrs.

Muschamp and her zealous assistants, the "physician" and the two

clergymen. But her poor daughters grew worse, and the sick child, who

had before seen angels in her convulsions, now saw the colonel's wife

and cried out in her ravings against the remiss judge.[12] The case is

at once pathetic and amusing, but it has withal a certain significance.

It was not only Mrs. Swinow's social position that saved her, though

that doubtless carried weight. It was the reluctance of the

north-country justices to follow up accusations. Not that they had done

with trials. Two capital sentences at Durham and another at Gateshead,

although perhaps after-effects of the Scotch pricker's activity, showed

that the witch was still feared; but such cases were exceptions. In

general, the cases resulted in acquittals. We shall see, in another

chapter, that the discovery which alarmed Yorkshire and Northumberland

in 1673 almost certainly had this outcome; and the cases tried at that

time formed the last chapter in northern witchcraft.

But, if hanging witches was not easy in the north, there were still

districts in the southwest of England where it could be done, with few

to say nay. Anne Bodenham,[13] of Fisherton Anger in Wiltshire, had not

the social position of Dorothy Swinow, but she was the wife of a

clothier who had lived "in good fashion," and in her old age she taught

children to read. She had, it seems, been in earlier life an apt pupil

of Dr. Lambe, and had learned from him the practice of magic lore. She

drew magic circles, saw visions of people in a glass, possessed numerous

charms and incantations, and, above all, kept a wonderful magic book.

She attempted to find lost money, to tell the future, and to cure

disease; indeed, she had a varied repertoire of occult performances.

Now, Mistress Bodenham did all these things for money and roused no

antagonism in her community until she was unfortunate enough to have

dealings with a maid-servant in a Wiltshire family. It is impossible to

get behind the few hints given us by the cautious writer. The members of

the family, evidently one of some standing in Wiltshire, became involved

in a quarrel among themselves. It was believed, indeed, by neighbors

that there had been a conspiracy on the part of some of the family to

poison the mother-in-law. At all events, a maid in the family was

imprisoned for participation in such a plot. It was then that Anne

Bodenham first came into the story. The maid, to judge from the few data

we have, in order to distract attention from her own doings, made a

confession that she had signed a book of the Devil's with her own blood,

all at the instigation of Anne Bodenham. Moreover, Anne, she said, had

offered to send her to London in two hours. This was communicated to a

justice of the peace, who promptly took the accused woman into custody.

The maid-servant, successful thus far, began to simulate fits and to lay

the blame for them on Mistress Anne. Questioned as to what she conceived

her condition, she replied, "Oh very damnable, very wretched." She could

see the Devil, she said, on the housetop looking at her. These fancies

passed as facts, and the accused woman was put to the usual

humiliations. She was searched, examined, and urged to confess. The

narrator of the story made effort after effort to wring from her an

admission of her guilt, but she slipped out of all his traps. Against

her accuser she was very bitter. "She hath undone me ... that am an

honest woman, 'twill break my Husband's heart, he grieves to see me in

these Irons: I did once live in good fashion."

The case was turned over by the justices of the peace to the assizes at

Salisbury, where Chief Baron John Wylde of the exchequer presided.[14]

The testimony of the maid was brought in, as well as the other

proofs.[15] All we know of the trial is that Anne was condemned, and

that Judge Wylde was so well satisfied with his work that he urged

Edmund Bower, who had begun an account of the case, but had hesitated to

expose himself to "this Censorious Age," to go on with his booklet. That

detestable individual had followed the case closely. After the

condemnation he labored with the woman to make her confess. But no

acknowledgment of guilt could be wrung from the high-spirited Mistress

Bodenham, even when the would-be father confessor held out to her the

false hope of mercy. She made a will giving gifts to thirty people,

declared she had been robbed by her maids in prison, lamented over her

husband's sorrow, and requested that she be buried under the gallows.

Like the McPherson who danced so wantonly and rantingly beneath the

gallows tree, she remained brave-hearted to the end. When the officer

told her she must go with him to the place of execution, she replied,

"Be you ready, I am ready." The narrator closes the account with some

moral reflections. We may close with the observation that there is no

finer instance of womanly courage in the annals of witchcraft than that

of Anne Bodenham. Doubtless she had used charms, and experimented with

glasses; it had been done by those of higher rank than she.

As for the maid, she had got herself well out of trouble. When Mistress

Bodenham had been hanged, the fits ceased, and she professed great

thankfulness to God and a desire to serve him.

The case of Joan Peterson, who was tried at the Old Bailey in 1652, is

another instance of the struggle of a spirited woman against too great

odds. Joan, like Mistress Bodenham, kept various kinds of powders and

prescribed physic for ailing neighbors.[16] It was, however, if we may

believe her defender, not on account of her prescriptions, but rather on

account of her refusal to swear falsely, that her downfall came. One

would be glad to know the name of the vigorous defender who after her

execution issued A Declaration in Answer to severall lying Pamphlets

concerning the Witch of Wapping. His narrative of the plot against the

accused woman offers a plausible explanation of the affair and is not

improbably trustworthy. As he tells the story, there were certain

relatives of Lady Powell who had been disappointed that her estate had

been bequeathed to Mrs. Anne Levingston. They conspired to get rid of

the heiress, went to a cunning woman, and offered to pay her liberally

if she would swear that Mrs. Levingston had used sorcery to take away

the life of Lady Powell. Unfortunately for the conspirators, the cunning

woman betrayed their schemes. Not discouraged, however, they employed

another woman, who, as their representative, went to Joan Peterson and

offered her a hundred pounds to swear that Mrs. Levingston had procured

from her "certain powders and bags of seeds." Joan refused the

proposition, and the plotters, fearing a second exposure of their plans,

determined that Mistress Peterson should also be put out of the way.

They were able to procure a warrant to have her arrested and searched.

Great pressure was put upon her to confess enough to implicate Mrs.

Levingston and she was given to understand that if she would do so she

would herself be spared. But Joan refused their proffers and went to her

trial. If the narrative may be at all trusted there was little effort to

give her a fair hearing. Witnesses against her were purchased in

advance, strangers were offered money to testify against her, and those

who were to have given evidence on her side were most of them

intimidated into staying away from the trial. Four physicians and two

surgeons signed a certificate that Lady Powell had died from perfectly

natural causes. It was of no avail. Joan was convicted and died bravely,

denying her guilt to the end.[17] Her defender avers that some of the

magistrates in the case were involved in the conspiracy against her. One

of these was Sir John Danvers, a member of Cromwell's council. In the

margin of his account the pamphleteer writes: "Sir John Danvers came and

dined at the Sessions house and had much private discourse with the

Recorder and many of the Justices and came and sate upon the Bench at

her Trial, where he hath seldom or never been for these many years."

In July of 1652 occurred another trial that attracted notice in its own

time. Six Kentish women were tried at the assizes at Maidstone before

Peter Warburton.[18] We know almost nothing of the evidence offered by

the prosecution save that there was exhibited in the Swan Inn at

Maidstone a piece of flesh which the Devil was said to have given to one

of the accused, and that a waxen image of a little girl figured in the

evidence. Some of the accused confessed that they had used it in order

to kill the child. Search was instituted for it, and it was found, if

the narrator may be trusted, under the door where the witches had said

it would be.[19] The six were all condemned and suffered execution.

Several others were arraigned, but probably escaped trial.

If the age was as "censorious" of things of this nature as Edmund Bower

had believed it to be, it is rather remarkable that "these proceedings,"

which were within a short distance of London, excited so little stir in

that metropolis. Elias Ashmole, founder of the Ashmolean Museum at

Oxford and delver in astrology, attended the trials, with John

Tradescant, traveller and gardener.[20] He left no comments. The

Faithful Scout, in its issue of July 30-August 7, mentioned the trial

and the confessions, but refrained from any expression of opinion.

There were other trials in this period; but they must be passed over

rapidly. The physicians were quite as busy as ever in suggesting

witchcraft. We can detect the hand of a physician in the attribution of

the strange illness of a girl who discharged great quantities of stones

to the contrivance of Catherine Huxley, who was, in consequence, hanged

at Worcester.[21] In a case at Exeter the physician was only indirectly

responsible. When Grace Matthews had consulted him about her husband's

illness, he had apparently given up the case, and directed her to a wise

woman.[22] The wise woman had warned Mistress Matthews of a neighbor

"tall of stature and of a pale face and blinking eye," against whom it

would be well to use certain prescribed remedies. Mrs. Matthews did so,

and roused out the witch, who proved to be a butcher's wife, Joan Baker.

When the witch found her spells thwarted, she turned them against Mrs.

Matthews's maid-servant, who in consequence died. This was part of the

evidence against Joan, and it was confirmed by her own kinsfolk: her

father-in-law had seen her handling toads. She was committed, but we

hear no more of the case.

That random accusations were not feared as they had been was evidenced

by the boldness of suspected parties in bringing action against their

accusers, even if boldness was sometimes misjudged. We have two actions

of this sort.

Joan Read of Devizes had been reported to be a witch, and on that

account had been refused by the bakers the privilege of using their

bakeries for her dough.[23] She threw down the glove to her accusers by

demanding that they should be brought by warrant to accuse her. No doubt

she realized that she had good support in her community, and that her

challenge was not likely to be accepted. But a woman near Land's End in

Cornwall seems to have overestimated the support upon which she could

count. She had procured a warrant against her accusers to call the case

before the mayor. The court sided with the accusers and the woman was

brought to trial. Caught herself, she proceeded to ensnare others. As a

result, eight persons were sent to Launceston,[24] and some probably

suffered death.[25]

We have already seen what a tangled web Mrs. Muschamp wove when she set

out to imprison a colonel's wife. It would be easy to cite cases to show

the same reluctance to follow up prosecution. Four women at Leicester

searched Ann Chettle and found no evidence of guilt.[26] In Durham a

case came up before Justice Henry Tempest.[27] Mary Sykes was accused.

Sara Rodes, a child, awakening from sleep in a fright, had declared to

her mother that "Sikes' wife" had come in "att a hole att the bedd

feete" and taken her by the throat. Of course Sara Rodes fell ill.

Moreover, the witch had been seen riding at midnight on the back of a

cow and at another time flying out of a "mistall windowe." But the

woman, in spite of the unfavorable opinion of the women searchers, went

free. There were cases that seem to have ended the same way at York, at

Leeds, and at Scarborough. They were hints of what we have already

noticed, that the northern counties were changing their attitude.[28]

But a case in Derbyshire deserves more attention because the justice,

Gervase Bennett, was one of the members of Cromwell's council. The case

itself was not in any way unusual. A beggar woman, who had been

liberally supported by those who feared her, was on trial for

witchcraft. Because of Bennett's close relation to the government, we

should be glad to know what he did with the case, but the fact that the

woman's conviction is not among the records makes it probable that she

was not bound over to the assizes.[29]

We come now to examine the second of the sub-periods into which we have

divided the Interregnum. We have been dealing with the interval between

the war and the establishment of the Protectorate, a time that shaded

off from the dark shadows of internecine struggle towards the high light

of steady peace and security. By 1653 the equilibrium of England had

been restored. Cromwell's government was beginning to run smoothly. The

courts were in full swing. None of those conditions to which we have

attributed the spread of the witch alarms of the Civil Wars were any

longer in operation. It is not surprising, then, that the Protectorate

was one of the most quiet periods in the annals of witchcraft. While the

years 1648-1653 had witnessed thirty executions in England, the period

of the Protectorate saw but half a dozen, and three of these fell within

the somewhat disturbed rule of Richard Cromwell.[30] In other words,

there was a very marked falling off of convictions for witchcraft, a

falling off that had indeed begun before the year 1653. Yet this

diminution of capital sentences does not by any means signify that the

realm was rid of superstition. In Middlesex, in Somerset and Devon, in

York, Northumberland, and Cumberland, the attack upon witches on the

part of the people was going on with undiminished vigor. If no great

discoveries were made, if no nests of the pestilent creatures were

unearthed, the justices of the peace were kept quite as busy with

examinations as ever before.

To be sure, an analysis of cases proves that a larger proportion of

those haled to court were light offenders, "good witches" whose healing

arts had perhaps been unsuccessful, dealers in magic who had aroused

envy or fear. The court records of Middlesex and York are full of

complaints against the professional enchanters. In most instances they

were dismissed. Now and then a woman was sent to the house of

correction,[31] but even this punishment was the exception.

Two other kinds of cases appeared with less frequency. We have one very

clear instance at Wakefield, in York, where a quarrel between two tenant

farmers over their highway rights became so bitter that a chance threat

uttered by the loser of the lawsuit, "It shall be a dear day's work for

you," occasioned an accusation of witchcraft.[32] In another instance

the debt of a penny seems to have been the beginning of a hatred between

two impecunious creatures, and this brought on a charge.[33]

The most common type of case, of course, was that where strange disease

or death played a part. In Yorkshire, in Hertfordshire, and in Cornwall

there were trials based upon a sort of evidence with which the reader is

already quite familiar. It was easy for the morbid mother of a dead

child to recall or imagine angry words spoken to her shortly before the

death of her offspring. It was quite as natural for a sick child to be

alarmed at the sight of a visitor and go into spasms. There was no fixed

rule, however, governing the relation of the afflicted children and the

possible witches. When William Wade was named, Elizabeth Mallory would

fly into fits.[34] When Jane Brooks entered the room, a bewitched youth

of Chard would become hysterical.[35] It was the opposite way with a

victim in Exeter,[36] who remained well only so long as the witch who

caused the trouble stayed with him.[37]

Closely related to these types of evidence was what has been denominated

spectral evidence, a form of evidence recurrent throughout the history

of English witchcraft. In the time of the Protectorate we have at least

three cases of the kind. The accused woman appeared to the afflicted

individual now in her own form, again in other shapes, as a cat, as a

bee, or as a dog.[38] The identification of a particular face in the

head of a bee must have been a matter of some difficulty, but there is

no ground for supposing that any objection was made to this evidence in

court. At all events, the testimony went down on the official records in

Yorkshire. In Somerset the Jane Brooks case,[39] already referred to,

called forth spectral evidence in a form that must really have been very

convincing. When the bewitched boy cried out that he saw the witch on

the wall, his cousin struck at the place, upon which the boy cried out,

"O Father, Coz Gibson hath cut Jane Brooks's hand, and 'tis bloody."

Now, according to the story, the constable proceeded to the woman's

house and found her hand cut.

As to the social status of the people involved in the Protectorate

trials there is little to say, other than has been said of many earlier

cases. By far the larger number of those accused, as we have already

pointed out, were charmers and enchanters, people who made a penny here

and twopence there, but who had at best a precarious existence. Some of

them, no doubt, traded on the fear they inspired in their communities

and begged now a loaf of bread and now a pot of beer. They were the same

people who, when begging and enchanting failed, resorted to

stealing.[40] In one of the Yorkshire depositions we have perhaps a hint

of another class from which the witches were recruited. Katherine Earle

struck a Mr. Frank between the shoulders and said, "You are a pretty

gentleman; will you kisse me?" When the man happened to die this

solicitation assumed a serious aspect.[41]

Witchcraft was indeed so often the outcome of lower-class bickering that

trials involving the upper classes seem worthy of special record. During

the Protectorate there were two rather remarkable trials. In 1656

William and Mary Wade were accused of bewitching the fourteen-year-old

daughter of Elizabeth Mallory of Studley Hall. The Mallorys were a

prominent family in Yorkshire. The grandfather of the accusing child had

been a member of Parliament and was a well known Royalist colonel. When

Mistress Elizabeth declared that her fits would not cease until Mary

Wade had said that she had done her wrong, Mary Wade was persuaded to

say the words. Elizabeth was well at once, but Mary withdrew her

admission and Elizabeth resumed her fits, indeed "she was paste

holdinge, her extreamaty was such." She now demanded that the two Wades

should be imprisoned, and when they were "both in holde" she became well

again. They were examined by a justice of the peace, but were probably

let off.[42]

The story of Diana Crosse at Exeter is a more pathetic one. Mrs. Crosse

had once kept a girls' school--could it be that there was some

connection between teaching and witchcraft?[43]--had met with

misfortune, and had at length been reduced to beggary. We have no means

of knowing whether the suspicion of witchcraft antedated her extreme

poverty or not, but it seems quite clear that the former school-teacher

had gained an ill name in the community. She resented bitterly the

attitude of the people, and at one time seems to have appealed to the

mayor. It was perhaps by this very act that she focussed the suspicion

of her neighbors. To go over the details of the trial is not worth

while. Diana Crosse probably escaped execution to eke out the remainder

of her life in beggary.[44]

The districts of England affected by the delusion during this period

have already been indicated. While there were random cases in Suffolk,

Hertfordshire, Wiltshire, Somerset, Cumberland, and Northumberland, by

far the greatest activity seems to have been in Middlesex, Cornwall, and

Yorkshire. To a layman it looks as if the north of England had produced

the greater part of its folk-lore. Certain it is that the witch stories

of Yorkshire, as those of Lancaster at another time, by their mysterious

and romantic elements made the trials of the south seem flat, stale, and

unprofitable. Yet they rarely had as serious results.

To the historian the Middlesex cases must be more interesting because

they should afford some index of the attitude of the central government.

Unhappily we do not know the fate of the Yorkshire witches, though it

has been surmised, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that they

all escaped execution.[45] In Middlesex we know that during this period

only one woman, so far as our extant records go, was adjudged guilty.

All the rest were let go free. Now, this may be significant and it may

not. It does not seem unreasonable to suppose that the Middlesex quarter

sessions were in harmony with the central government. Yet this can be no

more than a guess. It is not easy to take bearings which will locate the

position of the Cromwellian government. The protector himself was

occupied with weightier matters, and, so far as we know, never uttered a

word on the subject. He was almost certainly responsible for the pardon

of Margaret Gyngell at Salisbury in 1655,[46] yet we cannot be sure that

he was not guided in that case by special circumstances as well as by

the recommendation of subordinates.

We have but little more evidence as to the attitude of his council of

state. It was three years before the Protectorate was put into operation

that the hesitating sheriff of Cumberland, who had some witches on his

hands, was authorized to go ahead and carry out the law.[47] But on the

other hand it was in the same period that the English commissioners in

Scotland put a quietus on the witch alarms in that kingdom. In fact, one

of their first acts was to take over the accused women from the church

courts and demand the proof against them.[48] When it was found that

they had been tortured into confessions, the commission resolved upon

an enquiry into the conduct of the sheriff, ministers, and tormentors

who had been involved. Several women had been accused. Not one was

condemned. The matter was referred to the council of state, where it

seems likely that the action of the commissioners was ratified. Seven or

eight years later, in the administration of Richard Cromwell, there was

an instance where the council, apparently of its own initiative, ordered

a party of soldiers to arrest a Rutlandshire witch. The case was,

however, dismissed later.[49]

To draw a definite conclusion from these bits of evidence would be rash.

We can perhaps reason somewhat from the general attitude of the

government. Throughout the Protectorate there was a tendency, which

Cromwell encouraged, to mollify the rigor of the criminal law. Great

numbers of pardons were issued; and when Whitelocke suggested that no

offences should be capital except murder, treason, and rebellion, no one

arose in holy horror to point out the exception of witchcraft,[50] and

the suggestion, though never acted upon, was favorably considered.[51]

When we consider this general attitude towards crime in connection with

what we have already indicated about the rapid decline in numbers of

witch convictions, it seems a safe guess that the Cromwellian

government, while not greatly interested in witchcraft, was, so far as

interested, inclined towards leniency.

[1] Whitelocke, Memorials, III, 63, 97, 99, 113.

[2] See an extract from the Guild Hall Books in John Fuller, History of

Berwick (Edinburgh, 1799), 155-156.

[3] Thomas Widdrington's letter to Whitelocke (Whitelocke, Memorials,

III, 99). Widdrington said the man professed himself "an artist that

way." The writer was evidently somewhat skeptical.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ralph Gardiner, England's Grievance Discovered in Relation to the

Coal Trade (London, 1655), 108.

[6] Ibid.

[7] See John Brand, History and Antiquities of ... Newcastle (London,

1789), II, 478, or the Chronicon Mirabile (London, 1841), 92, for an

extract from the parish registers, giving the names. A witch of rural

Northumberland was executed with them.

[8] The witches of 1649 were not confined to the north. Two are said to

have been executed at St. Albans, a man and a woman; one woman was tried

in Worcestershire, one at Gloucester, and two in Middlesex. John Palmer

and Elizabeth Knott, who suffered at St. Albans, had gained some

notoriety. Palmer had contracted with the Devil and had persuaded his

kinswoman to assist him in procuring the death of a woman by the use of

clay pictures. Both were probably practitioners in magic. Palmer, even

when in prison, claimed the power of transforming men into beasts. The

woman seems to have been put to the swimming test. Both were condemned.

Palmer, at his execution, gave information about a "whole colledge of

witches," most of them, no doubt, practisers like himself, but his

random accusations were probably passed over. See The Divels Delusions

or A faithfull relation of John Palmer and Elizabeth Knott ... (1649).

[9] Ralph Gardiner, op. cit., 109.

[10] See ibid. At his execution, Gardiner says, he confessed that he

had been the death of 220 witches in Scotland and England. Either the

man was guilty of unseemly and boastful lying, which is very likely, or

Scotland was indeed badly "infested." See above, note 1.

[11] This narrative is contained in Wonderfull News from the North, Or

a True Relation of the Sad and Grievous Torments Inflicted upon ...

three Children of Mr. George Muschamp ... (London, 1650).

[12] The story of the case was sent down to London and there published,

where it soon became a classic among the witch-believing clergy.

[13] See the two pamphlets by Edmond Bower described below in appendix

A, Sec. 5, and Henry More, Antidote against Atheisme, bk. III, ch. VII.

[14] Wylde was not well esteemed as a judge. On the institution of the

protectorate he was not reappointed by Cromwell.

[15] Aubrey (who had it from an eye-witness) tells us that "the crowd of

spectators made such a noise that the judge could not heare the

prisoner, nor the prisoner the judge; but the words were handed from one

to the other by Mr. R. Chandler and sometimes not truly repeated." John

Aubrey, Remaines of Gentilisme and Judaisme ... (ed. J. Britten, Folk

Lore Soc. Publications, IV, 1881), 261.

[16] For the case see The Tryall and Examinations of Mrs. Joan Peterson

...; The Witch of Wapping, or an Exact ... Relation of the ...

Practises of Joan Peterson ...; A Declaration in Answer to severall

lying Pamphlets concerning the Witch of Wapping ..., (as to these

pamphlets, all printed at London in 1652, see below, appendix A, Sec. 5);

French Intelligencer, April 6-13, 1652; Weekly Intelligencer, April

6-13, 1652; The Faithful Scout, April 9-16, 1652; Mercurius

Democritus, April 7-17, 1652.

[17] The French Intelligencer tells us the story of her execution:

"She seemed to be much dejected, having a melancholy aspect; she seemed

not to be much above 40 years of age, and was not in the least outwardly

deformed, as those kind of creatures usually are."

[18] For an account of this affair see A Prodigious and Tragicall

History of the ... Condemnation of six Witches at Maidstone ...

(London, 1652).

[19] It was "supposed," says the narrator, that nine children, besides a

man and a woman, had suffered at their hands, L500 worth of cattle had

been lost, and much corn wrecked at sea. Two of the women made

confession, but not to these things.

[20] See Ashmole's diary as given in Charles Burman, Lives of Elias

Ashmole, Esq., and Mr. William Lilly, written by themselves ...

(London, 1774), 316.

[21] In his Certainty of the World of Spirits (London, 1691), 44, 45,

Richard Baxter, who is by no means absolutely reliable, tells us about

this case. It should be understood that it is only a guess of the writer

that the physician was to blame for the accusation; but it much

resembles other cases where the physician started the trouble.

[22] William Cotton, Gleanings from the Municipal and Cathedral Records

Relative to the History of the City of Exeter (Exeter, 1877), 149-150.

[23] Hist. MSS. Comm. Reports, Various, I, 127.

[24] Mercurius Politicus, November 24-December 2, 1653. One of these

witches was perhaps the one mentioned as from Launceston in Cornwall in

R. and O. B. Peter, The Histories of Launceston and Dunheved

(Plymouth, 1885), 285: "the grave in w^ch the wich was buryed."

[25] Richard Burthogge, An Essay upon Reason and the Nature of Spirits

(London, 1694), 196, writes that he has the confessions in MS. of "a

great number of Witches (some of which were Executed) that were taken by

a Justice of Peace in Cornwall above thirty Years agoe." It does not

seem impossible that this is a reference to the same affair as that

mentioned by the Launceston record.

[26] Leicestershire and Rutland Notes and Queries (Leicester, 1891,

etc.), I, 247.

[27] James Raine, ed., A Selection from the Depositions in Criminal

Cases taken before the Northern Magistrates, from the Originals

preserved in York Castle (Surtees Soc., no. 40, 1861), 28-30. Cited

hereafter as York Depositions.

[28] Yet in 1650 there had been a scare at Gateshead which cost the rate

payers L2, of which a significant item was 6 d. for a "grave for a

witch." Denham Tracts (Folk Lore Soc.), II, 338. At Durham, in 1652,

two persons were executed. Richardson, Table Book (London, 1841), I,


[29] J. C. Cox, Three Centuries of Derbyshire Annals (London, 1890),

II, 88. Cox, however, thinks it probable that she was punished.

[30] It is of course not altogether safe to reason from the absence of

recorded executions, and it is least safe in the time of the Civil Wars

and the years of recovery.

[31] Middlesex County Records, ed. by J. C. Jeaffreson (London, 1892),

III, 295; Hist. MSS. Comm. Reports, Various, I, 129.

[32] York Depositions, 74.

[33] Hertfordshire County Sessions Rolls, compiled by W. J. Hardy

(Hertford, 1905), I, 126. It is not absolutely certain in the second

case that the committal was to the house of correction.

[34] York Depositions, 76-77.

[35] Joseph Glanvill, Sadducismus Triumphatus (London, 1681), pt. ii,


[36] Cotton, Gleanings ... relative to the History of ... Exeter, 152.

[37] In the famous Warboys case of 1593 it was the witch's presence that

relieved the bewitched of their ailments.

[38] York Depositions, 64-67.

[39] Glanvill, Sadducismus Triumphatus, pt. ii, 120-121.

[40] Hist. MSS. Comm. Reports, Various, I, 120.

[41] York Depositions, 69.

[42] Ibid., 75-78.

[43] See the story of Anne Bodenham.

[44] Cotton, Gleanings ... Relative to the History of ... Exeter,


[45] James Raine, editor of York Depositions, writes that he has found

no instance of the conviction of a witch. Preface, xxx. The Criminal

Chronology of York Castle, with a Register of Criminals capitally

Convicted and Executed (York, 1867), contains not a single execution

for witchcraft.

[46] Inderwick, Interregnum, 188-189.

[47] Cal. St. P., Dom., 1650, 159.

[48] There are several secondary accounts of this affair. See F. Legge

in Scottish Review, XVIII, 267. But a most important primary source is

a letter from Clarke to Speaker Lenthall, published by the Scottish

History Society in its volume on Scotland and the Commonwealth

(Edinburgh, 1895), 367-369. See also a tract in Brit. Mus. Thomason

collection, Two Terrible Sea Fights (London, 1652). See, too, the

words of Thomas Ady, A Candle in the Dark, 105.

[49] Cal. St. P., Dom., 1658-1659, 169.

[50] When the council of state, however, in 1652 had issued an act of

general pardon, witchcraft had been specifically reserved, along with

murder, treason, piracy, etc. Cal. St. P., Dom., 1651-1652, 106.

[51] Inderwick, Interregnum, 231.

The Literature Of Witchcraft From 1603 To 1660 Witchcraft Under Charles Ii And James Ii facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail