Looking out from Greenhead Manor (Stage 1) towards Hapton & Gawthorpe Hall. This land #was enclosed for private use in early 1600s

We want to show people the various places which relate with the famous witch trial - 400 years ago next August 2102. There are many layers and versions of this trial tale; we shall highlight some as we go round. There is debate in Pendle Forest and the surrounding area as to whether we should be promoting/celebrating the witch trial and whether there is anything to learn from the goings on then.

One idea has been to paint 1612 in 500 ft high white numerals on Pendle hill. However objections were raised by some Barley residents, the Bishop of Burnley and a local LibDem Councillor. Mid Pennine Arts considered that the installation - which would be washed away in 6 months, 'would have been a defining image'.

The intended artist, Philip Handford, was disappointed with the Bishop's comments saying: "We're not celebrating the trials, but marking the anniversary, hoping it raises wider questions about intolerance and injustice". More See Header ! Pendle with lettering - but it was only there a few days. See Latest, as it clearly went ahead. 2pts for the lettering !!


The Pendle Witch Trial has fascinated generations of people wondering how such a thing could happen. Many aspects of the trial reflect bigger issues going on in the country at the time. The king - King James 1, produced both the famous bible but also a book on 'Demonology'. (see Links). He was a Protestant who had only recently escaped the Catholic suppression. There are many interpretations of what went on and why. You can make your own decisions as you go round.

Deadly Deeds

Guy Fawkes' plotted to blow up parliament. So it wasn't surprising that the King was paranoid about being bumped off. He was particularly fearful of witches whom he blamed for a bad return journey from Denmark. So you can see why Shakespeare had those three witches in Macbeth - a play written for James 1 (See 'Witches, Shakepeare's Macbeth & James). Connections to this 'gunpowder plot' were quoted during the Pendle 'Witch' Trial.


This Trial Trail takes you round the roads, which is a long way round. 400 years ago there were no little fields with stone walls enclosing bits of land. People could walk in straight lines, so the distances are not as much as they seem now. Pendle Forest had been left alone from enclosures, many of which were going on in the vicinity.

Sir John Townley of Burnley, head of a famous Catholic family, enclosed nearby lands and had their inhabitants evicted. The areas affected included Hapton (the top photo looks towards Hapton, west of Pendle Forest Map); other nearby areas being enclosed were Horelaw nr Burrnley, Hollinghey Clough, Hurstwood east of Burnley, Barnside and Rowley.

Pendle Forest thus became a place where dispossessed / landless people could go and live. But not very well, often relying on begging for small items. One of the disposed people became one of those on trial. He took out his revenge against the Townleys at Carre Hall, where he dug up the turf on their lawn in some sort of protest. He - James Device, was later accused of being a witch. A friend neighbour and relative of Sir John Townley was the JP Roger Nowell, at Read Hall (Stage 5) - the man bought in the prosecute the Pendle 'Witches' It was he who sent them for trial in Lancaster. More


While it was called Pendle Forest it wasn't very woody, like we understand the word 'forest' now. Forest then meant 'a tract of land generally belonging to the sovereign and set apart for game'. Here in Pendle, the land didn't belong to the sovereign, but was still 'common', as it was pretty poor.

Keep an eye out as you go round and ask yourself how the farming may have changed over the years. There were relatively rich (but not landed gentry) 'yeoman' farmers like the Nutters and peasants, who would have grown their own vegetables; these would have included, onions, parsnips, carrots (purple coloured then), garlic and potatoes (recently introduced to UK). Each small farm would have a few sheep (for milk, wool & mutton), a few chickens and cows. Cows seem important round these parts.

There is one famous version of the events 400 years ago, written by a man called Potts who had a special seat at the hanging table. Throughout there are many contradictions and controversies. Even the spelling of the names of the characters varies. Many colourful anecdotes have been added over the years to flavour the cauldron of issues and ideas. Here we stir up things some more.

And lots of game, although the deer previously roaming on the commons had been enclosed by then.

They would cook all the lot in the same cauldron; metal/clay pots inside to cook some meat, vegetables wrapped in cloth, and something on a spit over the pot...

Bubble while you find out what went on over 400 years ago.


As you go round the trail, discuss and decide

a. Which of the following contributed most to what happened here in Pendle Forest 400 years ago - was it the battle between: 1. good v evil 2. men v women 3. landed gentry v peasants 4 protestants v Catholics 5 royalists v parliamentarians 6 king v witches?

Contribute your response in our Witch Trial Trail Survey

b. Why did many of the people who were executed confess to witchcraft? Did they need to keep up appearances or did they think they were going to get off?

c. Are there any parallels with, or lessons for, today?

Start with Stage 1