Alice Molland

A Witchcraft Tour of England #Halloween #witches

Halloween pumpkins

It’s Halloween and that seems like a good excuse to share this post about some of the intriguing places in England with a history of witchcraft.

England has a long and varied history of witchcraft. As a tradition stretching back centuries, it is hardly surprising that there are a great variety of places that abound with legends, stories and histories about witchcraft, witches, persecution and execution. When researching the topic, I came across lots of interesting stories and made a long list of places that I’d love to visit. Some of them I have been lucky enough to visit although I would like to visit again one day. In fact, what I’d really like to do is go on a witchcraft tour of England – spending time in all these places. All offer something interesting and informative; some are fun and have more to do with legend, myth and fairy tale than the brutal truth of the horror of the witch hunts; other places I have found to be spots where poor, misunderstood and persecuted women (let’s not forget that the majority of the witch hunt victims were women) can be remembered and honoured in some small way. These are the places I’d love to visit and re-visit.

The North West

172Pendle_Witch_Weekend

No witchcraft tour would be complete without a visit to Pendle Hill in Lancashire and it’s a great place to start. Pendle was the location of the famous 1612 trial for witchcraft. The accused all lived in the area, and ten were hanged on Gallows Hill. Of course, rumours now abound that the hill is haunted – TV’s Most Haunted has filmed there. As a sceptic I don’t believe that these women haunt the hill – I like to think they are at peace, free from the horrible persecution they suffered and no longer afraid. But I must admit I’m not sure I’d like to spend the night on the hill!

The North East

witch-pricking

Margaret Brown and thirteen other poor souls were hanged on the Town Moor in Newcastle in 1650. Margaret was a victim of ‘witch-pricking’ – it was claimed she had a devil’s mark on her body that, when pricked by a pin did not bleed. She protested her innocence right up to the last according to Ralph Gardener’s 1655 book ‘England’s Grievance’:

“These poor souls never confessed anything but pleaded innocence and one of them, by name Margaret Brown, beseeched God that some remarkable sign might be seen at the time of her execution.”

The Town Moor is a place I’d like to visit, to pause for a moment and think about poor Margaret and the other terrified accused – hoping against hope that something would end their terror.

Yorkshire

200px-Mother_Shipton

I have heard a lot of stories about Mother Shipton and the ‘Petrifying Well’ or ‘dropping well’ in Knaresborough. It used to be believed that the water was magic – turning objects to stone. Now of course we know that the calcifying is due to the high mineral content of the water – but that doesn’t make it any less fascinating. And Mother Shipton herself is an interesting character – allegedly born in a cave near the dropping well, she has become a legendary figure of folklore, renowned for her prophecies. There is a whole park devoted to her now, with the dropping well, cave, a museum, castle ruins and gardens. You can even buy a petrified teddy bear in the gift shop!

East Anglia

Matthew Hopkins

This area was the stomping ground of Matthew Hopkins – Witchfinder General. There are a wealth of places to visit – though few traces of the man himself remain. I’ve visited Colchester Castle and stood in the cells where Hopkins interrogated his victims (a very spooky and uncomfortable experience). I’ve also eaten dinner in ‘The Mistley Thorn’, a lovely pub that stands on the site of the inn where Hopkins set up his witch finding business and where he is rumoured to have lived. The food is lovely. I did get a bit freaked out when leaving though as we decided to go for a walk in the dark – and I have to say it was incredibly chilling to think we were walking where Hopkins may have walked. My imagination did get the better of me, but that might have been the wine.

The South

burley

Burley is a very pretty village in the New Forest known for its connection with the witch Sybil Leek. Leek moved to the area in the 1950s and opened a shop – ‘A Coven of Witches’ – still open in the village. There are now other shops in the village selling various witch-related items and a tea shop called ‘The Black Cat’. I’ve been to Burley several times and it is a really beautiful place – and a bit of light relief too!

The South West

front-door-witch-museum

Two places of note in the South West – the wonderful Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, Cornwall, and Exeter in Devon.

I won’t say too much about the Witchcraft Museum other than saying again how utterly fabulous it is – quirky and weird, packed full of witchcraft related stuff, but you can read about my visit here.

alice-molland-plaque

I regret not stopping in Exeter on my way to Boscastle as I would have liked to have seen the plaque at Rougemont Castle commemorating the execution of the Bideford witches and Alice Molland – you can find out about Alice here.

While Halloween is supposed to be light-hearted and fun, it is also a time, for me at least, to remember all those who suffered because of suspicion and ignorance.

wiccanWishing you all a peaceful Samhain!

 

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Rougemont Castle ~ Exeter

A great post about Rougemont Castle where you’ll find a plaque remembering the last ‘witches’ to be executed in England.

After reading Alison Williams’ extremely interesting “A Witchcraft Tour of England’ post (which you can find here) I decided to check out one of the places I’d never seen and actually knew nothing about. Rougemont Castle in Exeter. The castle was built on a small hill and the name Rougemont came from the Norman French rouge mont, meaning red hill, because of its red volcanic rock.

Only the castle walls and gatehouse, which you can walk round, remain, but nevertheless when I see something like this…

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especially since reading Alison’s book The Black Hours, I get chills imagining what could, and more than likely did, happen on the other side of those bars. The so-called witches, Temperance Lloyd, Susannah Edwards, Mary Trembles and Alice Molland were the last to be tried here. They were found guilty and executed. This plaque is by the gatehouse.

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A Witchcraft Tour of England

Halloween is a great time to discover some of the places connected to England’s history of witch hunting and witchcraft and there are plenty of them 🙂

Alison Williams Writing

pendle witches

England has a long and varied history of witchcraft. As a tradition stretching back centuries, it is hardly surprising that there are a great variety of places that abound with legends, stories and histories about witchcraft, witches, persecution and execution. When researching the topic for my novel  ‘The Black Hours’, I came across lots of interesting stories and made a long list of places that I’d love to visit. Some of them I have been lucky enough to visit although I would like to visit again one day. In fact, what I’d really like to do is go on a witchcraft tour of England – spending time in all these places. All offer something interesting and informative; some are fun and have more to do with legend, myth and fairy tale than the brutal truth of the horror of the witch hunts; other places I have found to…

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The Mystery of Alice Molland

When I began writing ‘The Black Hours’ I read many accounts of horrible trials, terrible persecutions and much suffering, mainly inflicted on poor, vulnerable women who have largely been forgotten and denied justice. These women, accused and executed for witchcraft, are all too often merely names on a long list. Their sufferings have become scary stories; the fact they were human beings, with hopes, dreams, fears and families somehow disregarded. Now we picture witches as ugly old hags, flying on broomsticks with cats in tow, casting spells and causing misery.  I wanted to pay homage to these forgotten women in some small way, and decided to name the characters in my book for those that had suffered in reality. So Alice Pendle’s surname is in honour of the Pendle witches, who will be the subject of a future post, and her Christian name is in honour of a certain Alice Molland, reputed to be the last person to be executed for witchcraft in England.

Alice was one of the ‘Devon witches’ also known as the ‘Bideford witches’ commemorated by  a plaque in the ruined gatehouse of Rougemont Castle in Exeter. As can be seen from the plaque, Alice was executed three years after Temperance Lloyd, Susannah Edwards and Mary Trembles. The trial of the first three women is well documented and has been extensively written about. There has even been a campaign to have them pardoned. Temperance was accused of causing death through witchcraft, while Susannah and Mary faced charges of causing illness in the same way. Under terrible pressure and no doubt utterly terrified, the women blamed each other for their alleged crimes. Not surprisingly, they were all found guilty and were hung in 1682.

Alice Molland plaque

Little is known about Alice, however. In most articles she is merely an afterthought in the last lines. And despite the plaque, her death is sometimes stated as having occurred in 1684. I have been unable to find out exactly what she was accused of, whether she confessed, or even how old she was and whether she had any children or a husband to mourn her passing. If you happen to visit the castle, then please consider spending a moment or two to pause at the plaque, and spare a thought for poor Alice Molland and the many others like her, forgotten by history, her story lost to us. And if anyone knows any more about her, I would be delighted to hear from you.

http://www.exetercivicsociety.org.uk/plaques/devon-witches/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10127246/Hanged-witches-could-be-pardoned-four-centuries-later.html

http://www.devonlife.co.uk/people/the_bideford_witches_of_north_devon_devon_s_fascinating_history_1_1632356