At Chelmsford, Essex in 1566, the first notable witch trial in England occurred. The charges against three defendants, Elizabeth Francis, Agnes Waterhouse and her daughter Joan were typical of most English trials as the highly imaginative stories of young children were accepted as evidence.
Agnes Waterhouse was hanged on July 29, 1566 (possibly the first woman hanged for witchcraft in England). Elizabeth Frances was imprisoned for a year, and then in 1579, she was charged with witchcraft again and hanged and Joan Waterhouse was found not guilty.
Another notable trial in Chelmsford occurred in 1589, which involved one man and nine women four were hanged and three were found not guilty.
Three of the witches were executed within two hours of sentencing: Joan Coney, Joan Upney and Joan Prentice.
A mass trial at Chelmsford took place in 1645, in which thirty-two women were accused and nineteen were hanged.
In 1699, Old Widow Coman was believed to be a witch. Rev. J. Boys wanted to saver her soul and badgered her in front of other villagers into confessing that she made a covenant with the devil, she could not accurately recite the Lord's Prayer and that she stuck pins in a waxen image.
A mob took her to a pond to "swim" her ( if she floated, she was a witch, if no, she was innocent) and she "swam like a cork".
As a result of being thrown in the pond, she took ill and died.
Jane Holt, Joan Williford and Joan Cardien were executed at Faversham, Kent on September 29, 1645. As with most trials, the women confessed to the usual wicked deeds of forsaking God, entering into a pact with the devil, etc...etc... Of course they were forced to confess publicly
The Flower sisters were executed for witchcraft at Lincoln in March, 1618.
They were accused of hexing the family of the Earl of Rutland, whereby the Earl's son died.
Fourteen-year old Anne Gunther fell ill and had fits and was in a constant hysterical state.
Her illness was believed to have been caused by three women:
Agnes Pepwell, Elizabeth Gregory and Mary Pepwell, all of whom allegedly tormented the girl.
The women were arraigned at court in 1605 and they were found not guilty.
King James personally examined the young girl and sent her to be cared for by Rev. Samuel Harsnett.
In the following months, Anne claimed that her father encouraged her to counterfeit more extreme fits and hysteria and both Anne and her father were charged with conspiracy. The outcome of the charges is not known.
A notorious mass witch trial in England, which involved twenty alleged, witches.
The evidence of confessing witches was readily accepted and in all, ten of the accused were hanged, one died in jail, two were sentenced to jail for a year and the rest were acquitted.
Young Alison Device, who was only eleven-years old, was amongst those that were hanged along with her mother and brother
An incident in the Civil War in England in 1643 documents a very unusual execution of a witch by shooting.
Some men of the Cromwellian army saw a woman walking on the water (probably using stilts).
Seizing the woman, the soldiers decided that she was a witch and they "resolved themselves to make a shot at her".
At this point, legend takes over and it is said that the woman, while laughing at the soldiers, caught their bullets in her hands and chewed them.
Finally, one soldier slashed her forehead and "discharged a pistol underneath her ear, at which she straight sunk down and died."
The trials of the North Berwick witches in 1590 - 1592 mushroomed out of some unexpected, miraculous cures administered by servant women.
Over seventy people were indicted, including the Earl of Bothwell, of high treason.
King James interrogated several of the accused, of which a few were burned.
In England, the last official execution of a witch occurred in 1682, and the last conviction for witchcraft took place in 1712.
However, in 1751 at Tring,) Hertfordshire, an old couple were lynched by a mob who accused them of being witches.
Ruth Osborne and her husband were both very old and poor. They were always blamed for any trouble in the village, such as the death of cows or causing fits.
On April 22, 1750 a mob went after the couple, stripped them naked, bound them and dragged them two miles to a stream. They were thrown into the stream where both were beaten and prodded with sticks and they died.
A hero in the mob by the name of Colley was found guilty and hanged in chains on August 24, 1751.
In 1582, several individuals were accused of witchcraft, in which the testimony of children ranging in age from six to nine was eagerly received.
Two women were hanged, Elizabeth Bennet, for killing a man and his wife and Ursula Kempe was indicted for three deaths and consequently hanged.
In July, 1680, a little child of John Godfrey died, and the old cry of witchcraft was raised again. An inquest was held, with twelve solid men of Hampton for jurors, and a verdict rendered:
"We find grounds of suspicion that the said child was murdered by witchcraft."
Godfrey's wife and daughter, Sarah , deposed that Rachel Fuller came in with her face daubed with molasses, and sat down by Goody Godfrey, who had a sick child in her lap, and took his hand; when the mother, in fear, drew the hand away and wrapped it in her apron.
Then Rachel Fuller "turned her about and smote the back of her hands together sundry times and spat in the fire.
" Then she strewed herbs on the hearth and sat down again and said: "Woman, the child will be well;" and then went out, beat herself thrice with her arms, as men do in winter, to heat their hands, picked something off the ground, and went home.
The next day, the children told their mother that Goody Fuller had said if they did lay sweet bays under the threshold, it would keep a witch from coming in. So they laid bays under the threshold of the back door all the way, and half way of the breadth of the fore door; and soon after, Rachel Fuller came to the fore door, though she had always formerly come in at the back door, which is next her house; and she crowded in on that side where the bays lay not, and rubbed her back against the post so that she rubbed off her hat, and sat down and made ugly faces and nestled about and would have looked on the child, but not being allowed to do so, went out as she had come in, after having looked under the door where the bays lay; and she had not been in the house since.
John Godrey, Nathaniel Smith and Hezron Leavitt made depositions, equally damaging. Elizabeth Denham (wife of Alexander), deposed that Rachel Fuller told her "Witches did so go abroad at night, they did lay their husbands and children asleep;" and she said there were eight women and two men in the town, who were witches and wizards.
The men's names were not given, but the women Goody Fuller reckoned as witches were:
Eunice Cole, Benjamin Evans' wife and two (?) daughters, Grace (Swaine) Boulter, Mary (Boulter) Prescott, Isabella (Austin) Towle, "and one that is now dead. " Goody Towle, was, in fact, arraigned about the same time , on a different charge, and both she and Rachel Fuller were committed to prison till the sitting of the Hampton Court, September 7.
Then, "The Court having heard the case of Rachel Fuller and Isabel Towle being apprehended and committed upon superstition of witchcraft doe ordr yt they still continue in prison till bond be given for their good behaviour of £100 a piece during the Courts pleasure."
John Fuller became bondsman for his wife; and Isaac Marston and John Redman, for Goody Towle. They were discharged at the Dover Court the next year.
Amy Denny & Rose Cullender of Lowestoft were tried and executed as witches at Bury St Edmunds-March 1662NB: A big thank you to a relative of Isabella Towle - Cheryl A. Towle Stoyle Badcock for the following :- " The Rachel Fuller/Isabella Towle witch trials occured in Hampton, New Hampshire USA not in England. Isabella Towle was a natural-born "american" at the time even though her parents were British."