Bideford Witches

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.