Sunday, 8 July 2012

Which Witch is Which?

                         April 2nd 1612 – Fence, Lancashire. Roger Nowell had Elizabeth Southerns (called Demdike), Anne Whittle (called Chattox) and her daughter Anne Redferne brought before him. Both Demdike and Chattox were in their eighties, and both were blind. Also present, giving evidence, were John Nutter of Higham, his sister Margaret Crooke, and their friend, James Robinson. The brother and sister spoke first, telling how Chattox and Anne Redferne had killed their older brother, Robert, some eighteen or nineteen years previously. Robert and John had been travelling with their father, Christopher, and John had heard Robert say to Christopher that he had been bewitched, and added, “I pray you cause them to be layed in Lancaster Castle”, to which his father had replied, “Thou art a foolish Ladde, it is not so”. Margaret took up the story, saying Robert had become ill and insisted ‘a hundred times’ that Anne Redferne and her family were to blame, before he died. The father, Christopher, also became ill and before he died, he too said he had been bewitched, although he did not give any names. James Robinson continued the story, relating how he had served in the household of Nutter’s grandfather, and had heard Robert threaten Thomas Redferne (Anne’s husband) with eviction. Robinson confirmed that both Chattox and Redferne were known locally to be witches, and had once spoiled a barrel of ale in his house. 

A witch, the devil and a familiar

Then Chattox was questioned by Nowell, and gave a different slant on the story presented by the first three witnesses. Robert Nutter had, she said, tried to seduce Anne Redferne, but she, being a married woman, had refused his advances and humiliated him as he rode away, in a fury. Chattox added that her familiar, Fancie, had appeared later in the form of a man, and she had asked him to revenge her on Robert Nutter. She went on to say that Robert Nutter’s grandmother had once approached her and two other women, now dead, and asked them to kill her grandson so that ‘the women the coosens might have the land’, but Thomas Redferne had dissuaded them from the act. Nowell drew out from Chattox how a ‘thing like a Christian man’ had sought her soul for about four years, and promised her that should want for nothing, adding that she should call him ‘Fancie’. 

Chattox and Anne Redferne

When Demdike came to be questioned, she too told of familiars, of how a boy called Tibb, dressed in a black and brown coat, had come to her near a stonepit in Goldshaw (Newchurch), and she had given her soul to him. Tibb returned six years later, and had sucked her blood. Some time later Richard Baldwin had refused to pay her daughter, Elizabeth, for some work she had done, so her granddaughter, Alizon Device, had taken her to him, when Tibb appeared and was told to ‘revenge thee either on him or his’, Baldwin’s daughter became ill and died after a year. 

She said how she had seen Chattox and Redferne making ‘pictures of clay’ of Robert and John Nutter, and Margaret Crooke, when Tibb, in the form of a black cat, appeared and told her to make the same. She refused, so Tibb pushed her into a ditch, disappeared and then reappeared further down the road in the form of a hare, which then followed her. Anne Redferne refused to make a confession of any sort, or to implicate anyone in the allegations being made, but on the strength of the evidence before him, Roger Nowell committed Alizon Device, Demdike, Chattox and Anne Redferne to be taken to Lancaster Castle, awaiting the August Assizes. They were taken there through the Trough of Bowland, which must have been an extremely arduous journey for the two octogenarians. The Trough may well be one of the most outstandingly beautiful areas in this country, but it’s tough going, even in a modern car.

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