The Pendle Witch Trials in 1612 are among the most famous witch trials in English history, as well as some of the best documented of the 17th century. The twelve accused were charged with the murders of ten people using witchcraft in the area surrounding Pendle Hill in Lancashire. But did you know that Alice Nutter was executed because a 9-year-old accused her of being a witch?
Alice Nutter was an Englishwoman who was executed after a 9-year-old accused her of witchcraft.
The Life of Alice Nutter
Unlike many accused of witchcraft, Alice came from a wealthy family with property in Pendle. She was accused of attending a witchcraft meeting on Good Friday in 1612, later causing Henry Milton’s death. A nine-year-old girl was her main accuser. Nutter maintained her innocence while others pleaded guilty.
On August 18, Nutter’s trial began at Lancaster Castle, where the accused were denied access to lawyers and the right to call witnesses. On August 20, 1612, she was hanged at Gallows Hill in Lancaster. Anne Whittle Old Chattox, Ann Redfearn, Elizabeth Device Squinting Lizzie, Alison Device, James Device, Katherine Hewitt, Jane Bulcock, John Bulcock, and Isobel Robey were also hanged. (Source: The People Pill)
The Trial for the Pendle Witches
The Pendle Witch trials took place on August 18th and 19th, 1612. The accused were not permitted to hire a lawyer or call witnesses to plead their case.
There was little evidence against anyone who was arrested. But that didn’t stop the alleged witches from accusing each other of a variety of witchcraft crimes, including murders that had occurred years before, such as the murder of Alison’s father, John Device, cursing innocent villagers, making clay models like voodoo dolls, and even having devil marks on their bodies.
Jennet Device, Elizabeth Device’s youngest child, provided the most compelling evidence against the accused witches. Jennet testified against her own family and sentenced them and their friends to death. (Source: The People Pill)
Alice Nutter’s Legacy
One of the members of the anarchist music group Chumbawamba changed her name to Alice Nutter by deed poll in 1982 because she felt “an affinity” to the historical figure. One of her writing projects since the band’s breakup is a play based on the same Pendle Witch Trials.
In the 1990 Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman novel Good Omens and its TV adaptation, there is also a character named Agnes Nutter, who was burned as a witch.
Local celebrity Bobby Elliott unveiled a statue of Nutter in Roughlee in 2012. The statue was commissioned as a result of a local councilor’s campaign. To create the steel and brass statue, local artist David Palmer researched local history and fashion from Nutter’s era.
The same year, Jeanette Winterson published The Daylight Gate, a novella about Alice Nutter. The book is about the events, but Winterson quickly points out that her character is not the historical Alice Nutter. In William Harrison Ainsworth’s Victorian Gothic novel The Lancashire Witches, Alice Nutter is one of the main characters.
In 2001, Joseph Delaney included a character named Alice Deane in his book series, The Wardstone Chronicles. The young girl was from Roughlee, a Deane village near Pendle Hill.
(Source: The People Pill)
Image from CatholicHerald