We joined the coach which took us to Boundary Mill in Colne, Lancashire
a huge store on two floors where they sell branded goods up to 70% cheaper and a haven for shoppers. We had an hour to look round before making our way across the huge car park to Banny's Restaurant for our included lunch of fish, chips, bread and butter and a pot of tea, which was delicious.
After lunch the coach picked us and a guide up to take us on the Pendle Witch Tour. The Lancashire Witch Trials, when 20 people, of whom sixteen were women, took took place at Lancaster assizes in the autumn of 1612. No fewer than ten of these unfortunate people were found guilty at Lancaster, and hung altogether, witches were not burned in England. Eight others were acquitted; why, it is not easy to see, for the evidence appears to have been equally strong, or rather equally weak and absurd, against all.
Six of the Pendle witches came from one of two families, each headed by a female in her eighties at the time of the trials: Elizabeth Southerns (aka Demdike) , her daughter Elizabeth Device, and her grandchildren James and Alizon Device; Anne Whittle (aka Chattox), and her daughter Anne Redferne. The others accused were Jane Bulcock and her son John Bulcock, Alice Nutter, Katherine Hewitt, Alice Gray, and Jennet Preston. The outbreaks of witchcraft in and around Pendle may demonstrate the extent to which people could make a living by posing as witches. Many of the allegations resulted from accusations that members of the Demdike and Chattox families made against each other, perhaps because they were in competition, both trying to make a living from healing, begging, and extortion.
Pendle Hill dominates the skyline, a foreboding place even on a bright day,
Village of Pendleton
but the surrounding countryside is quite beautiful.
The last person to be tried under the Witchcraft Act of 1735 was Medium Helen Duncan in 1944. She had come to the attention of the authorities after the spirit of a sailor reportedly appeared at one of her seances announcing that he had just gone down on a vessel called the Barham. HMS 'Barham' was not officially declared lost until several months later, its sinking having been kept secret to mislead the enemy and protect morale. One of her seances was interrupted by a police raid during which she and three memebers of her audience were arrested. Duncan was remanded in custody by Portsmouth magistrates. She was originally charged under section 4 of the Vagrancy Act (1824), under which most charges related to fortune-telling, astrology and spiritualism were prosecuted by magistrates in the 20th centruy. This was considered a relatively petty charge and usually resulted in a fine if proved. She was eventually tried by jury at the Old Bailey for contravening section 4 of the Witchcraft Act of 1835, which carried the heavier potential penalty of a prison sentence.
Duncan was found guilty as charged under the Witchcraft Act and sentenced to nine months in Holloway Prison, London. She was the last person in Britain to be jailed under the act, which was repealed in 1951 and replaced with the Fraudulent Mediums Act, following a campaign by spiritualist and member of Parliament Thomas Brooks.
It has often been suggested that the reason for Duncan's imprisonmenet was the authorities' fear that details of the imminent D-Day landings might be revealed, and given the revelation about the Barham it is clear to see why the Duncan might be considered a potential risk. Nonetheless, then Prime Minister Winston Churchill wrote to the home secretary branding the charge 'obselete tomfoolery'.
Helen Duncan was released from prison on 22nd September 1944 and seems to have avoided further trouble until November 1956 when the police raided a private seance in Nottingham where they grabbed the presiding medium, Duncan, strip searched her and took endless flashlight photographs. They shouted at her that they were looking for beards, masks and shrouds. But they found nothing. In their ignorance the police had committed the worst possible sin of physical phenomena; that a medium in trance must NEVER, ever be touched. As the Spirit World's teachers have patiently explained so many times when this happens the ectoplasm returns to the medium's body far too quickly and can cause immense -
sometimes even fatal - damage.
And so it was in this case. A doctor was summoned and discovered two second degree burns across Helen's stomach. She was so ill that she was immediately taken back to her Scottish home and later rushed to hospital. Helen Duncan died five weeks later on 6th December 1956. There is an ongoing campaign to secure a pardon for Helen.
During the tour we also stopped at Sawley Abbey long enough to take a few photos.
At the end of a fascinating tour we returned to Boundary Mill where we had two hours to shop to our heart's content. MWM went to the cafe for a cup of coffee and read his Kindle until I joined him after 90 minutes, during which I bought two pairs of Clarks shoes at half price. We had a lovely cup of coffee and a fresh cream scone, which was included in the price of the excursion, before boarding the coach for the journey home.
We really enjoyed the day - me for the shopping and both of us for the tour, the lunch and the afternoon tea treat.