Details of a 1645 English Witch Trial Are Put Online
by Jamie Frevele | 4:01 pm, March 6th, 2011
A notebook kept by an English Puritan named Nehemiah Wallington containing details about a 1645 witch trial has been digitized and put online. The trial for 30 women being accused of having “made a covenant with the Devil” took place in Chelmsford, and 14 of them were eventually hanged. It doesn’t appear that Wallington was directly involved in the trials, but he filled several notebooks, writing about religion and the trials during the English Civil War. Which, I’m sure, must have been the fault of all these women and their crazy ideas.
The digitization took place over the course of two weeks under the guidance of The University of Manchester’s John Rylands Center for Heritage Imaging and Collection Care and is considered to be a big find in their research on the English Civil War.
“It’s a personal account and it tells us a lot about the time — they were troubled times,” [Carol Burrows] said.
“It’s in English and it’s very easy to read so it’s going to be of interest to the general public as well as scholars,” she added.
The trial deals specifically with a woman named Rebecca West, who apparently “confessed to sleeping with the devil when she was tortured.” Wallington wrote:
“… [S]he found her selfe in such extremity of torture and amazement that she would not enure (endure) it againe for the world.”
It does not say if she turned anyone into a newt or if she merely spoke out of turn that day, but since she confessed, her life was spared.
At the time of this writing, the site containing the digitized journals said that the pictures were not working, but more details (and eventually the photos) are available here.