Tuesday 27 October 2015

Witches in Devon, England and other haunting things

As we near Halloween we are reminded (bombarded might be a better term) of ghouls and assorted other haunting spectres. For we whose families come from Devon, England, what better way to mark the date than looking at the history of witches who may have lived there.

There is a notorious case of a witch trial in the town of Bideford, Devon. Three women were convicted in 1682: Temperance Lloyd, Mary Trembles and Susannah Edwards. They were hanged in Exeter in 1685, apparently the last of those convicted of witchcraft in England to have been executed.

There is a plaque at at Rougemont Castle, in Exeter, Devon commemorating the deaths of the three women with a plea to end such persecution. In recent years many groups, including a Devon MP, have sought to have the Bideford women pardoned. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/british-witches-demand-justice-for-the-bideford-three-executed-300-years-ago-9702695.html

There is a website that list the people tried for witchcraft of which 22 were from Devon, England. (http://www.witchtrials.co.uk/county.html) I have not looked for them in other records so cannot confirm whether they were all convicted or hanged, outside of the three above:
1652    Joan Baker
1654    Diana Crosse
1658    Joan Furnace
1658    Thomas Harvey          
1670    Elizabeth Eburye
1670    Aliena Walter
1671    Johanna Elford
1671    Margaret Heddon
1672    Phelippa Bruen
1676    Susannah Daye
1682    Susanna Edwards
1682    Temperance Lloyd
1682    Mary Trembles
1684    Alicia Molland
1685    Agnes Ryder
1685    Jane Vallet
1687    Abigail Handford
1693    Dorothy Case
1693    Katherine Williams
1694    Clara Roach
1696    Elizabeth Horner        
1701    Susanna Hanover

Witchcraft is an interesting study and there have been many publications on the subject, for Europe and North America. You only have to do a Google search for “witches in Devon, England” to get thousands of references. A booklet about the Bideford trial by Frank Gent can be found at http://gent.org.uk/bidefordwitches/tbw.pdf There is a Museum of Witchcraft in Boscasle, Cornwall that apparently has a great collection of related artefacts. http://www.museumofwitchcraft.com/

Devon has its share of haunted places as well, ten of the (apparently) most important of which are described here: http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/10-haunted-places-Devon/story-23344331-detail/story.html I am sure there are many more!

One that is not listed is a pub in Underwood, Plympton called the Union Inn (http://www.unioninnplympton.com/). This pub has been in existence since the early 1600s.
Photo from Union Inn Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Union-Inn-160924193926387/
According to the pub-owner, there is a well-dressed lady from long ago that has visited the established on more than a few occasions, usually late at night. She did not appear the day we were there in 2004 so we could not confirm the story.
Wayne enjoying a brew at the Union Inn in 2004

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is the Editor of Relatively Speaking, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Genealogical Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated