Don’t pardon them
I have myself done a lot of research on English witches and do not believe that the government should pardon the 215 recorded executions.
We should not pardon them because the lasting legacy that they left behind should be honoured and respected.
The tourism that these women and men have created would be lost to the communities and further generations.
As a born and bred Bidefordian, Temperance, Mary and Susannah have meaning in the community and the site of their cottages is still remembered today.
The claim that the cottages in Old Town belonged to the last witches executed in England is far more impressive than the cottage that belonged to women that were killed by the government for being innocent.
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Whether they were guilty or innocent is not for us to say, we were not there at the time, nor can we speculate on the conduct of town officials.
The world was a very different place at the time of the witch persecutions.
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If there are any direct descendants of those accused then they should make the decision.
To have convictions overturned would be the ultimate betrayal to those that did practice the craft and died for their faith.
If this decision was made then all claims to saint hood, for example, would have to be disputed too, the list could go on and on.
I have created a petition myself to stop the government from pardoning witches.
If you think that these people should be remembered then sign the petition not to pardon them at www.epetitions.direct.gov.uk
Type ‘witch’ into the search and it will come up as I do not have the ID code at the time of writing (takes up to seven days).
After the Bideford Witches, there was a young lady named Alice Molland, who was tried and sentenced to death, for witchcraft in 1685, three years after the three women from Bideford.
There seems to be no written record of what happened to Alice after she was sentenced; did she swing at Heavitree, die in gaol or even escape?
There is a plaque at the site of the old Exeter assizes which bears the names of Temperance, Susannah and Mary, as well as Alice, which would suggest she was indeed executed. In the extract called ‘The context of witchcraft: The case of Jane Wenham, Phyllis J Guskin writes that the last witch in England to be executed is in 1684, although she does not name them.
There’s also the little matter of “Old Woman Coneman” at Coggeshall in 1699; Elinor Shaw and Mary Philipps, in Northamtonshire, on March 17, 1705 and Mary and Elizabeth Hicks on July 28, 1716 in Huntingdon, to name just a few, who were all executed for witchcraft prior to the amendment of 1735.
We will never know whether any of these women were witches of powerful covens, solitary practitioners, simple herbalists or simply unpopular yet totally innocent.
I would recommend that you read the book by Montague Summers titled Geography of Witchcraft. If you’re interested in the subject then the tale of Mary Bateman is a fantastic account of magic, deceit and murder.
Mary, The Yorkshire Witch, was hung at New Drop near The Castle of York, on Monday, March 20, 1809.
She was referred to as ‘the Witch’ by the witnesses and at the trial the prosecution states ‘witchcraft’ as a source of her crimes.