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Mystery of the Pendle Witches Cottage

On December 2011, water engineers of the United Utilities were amazed as they unearth an old cottage from the 17th century in Pendle, Lancashire during a construction project, because they found a cat’s skeleton and bones on one of the room’s wall. Few days later archaeologists were asked to investigated the cottage which is located in the village of Barley near the Lower Black Moss reservoir. The local historian already speculated that the cottage could be the lost Malkin Tower, where the infamous Pendle Witches held a meeting on April 1612. In the early 16th century, when the Protestant Reformation began to restructure nearly all of Europe politically as well as religiously, witches were largely overlooked by the rulers of church and state who now struggled with the larger issues of the great division within Christianity. Then, after a time of relatively little persecution, the period of the great witchcraft craze or hysteria that many practicing witches and students of witchcraft today refer to as the “Burning Times,” occurred from about 1550 to 1650.

During the 17th century entire districts in several parts of Lancashire seemed disturbed by the presence of witches. If men and beasts were act strangely and suddenly ill, most likely they were under the witches charmed. The local justice court in one of the Lancashire’s district named Roger Nowell and Nicholas Bannister, having learned that Malkin Tower, the residence of Old Demdike and her daughter, was the witches meeting place, they want to arrest Old Demdike and her followers, and then to commit them to Lancaster Castle. On April 2nd 1612, Old Demdike, Chattox and her daughter Anne Redferne, were summoned to confess their witchcraft practices.

When Old Demdike had been sent to Lancaster, a grand meeting, was held by 17 witches and 3 wizards on April 6th 1612 the Good Friday at Malkin Tower, they were planning to kill Mr. M'Covell, the governor of the castle, and blow up the building, to enable the witches to escape from the castle easily. Friends and others sympathetic to the family attended, and when word of the meeting reached Roger Nowell, he decided to investigate. They were brought to trial on April 27th 1612 before they executed their plan and questioned them the real purpose of the meeting. Before the assizes, Old Demdike, worn out by age and died in prison.

The Pendle witch trials in 1612 are one of the famous witch trials case in the 17th century. There were twelve accused person related with witchcraft practice lived in Pendle Hill, Lancashire, and they all charged with the murder of ten people. The following names were known as the Witches of Pendle Forests:
• Alice Nutter
• Alison Device daughter of Elizabeth Device
• Anne Redferne daughter of Chattox
• Anne Whittle a.k.a. Chattox
• Elizabeth Device daughter of Demdike
• Elizabeth Southerns, a.k.a Demdike
• Isabel Robey
• James Device son of Elizabeth Device
• Jane Bulcock
• John Bulcock son of Jane Bulcock
• Katherine Hewitt a.k.a. Mould-heels
• Margaret Pearson

Ten of the accused were tried on August 18th to August 19th, 1612 along with the witches of Samlesbury. Their names were:
• Alice Gray
• Elizabeth Astley
• Ellen Bierley Daughter of Jennet Bierley
• Isabel Sidegraves
• Jane Southworth
• Jennet Bierley
• John Ramsden
• Lawrence Haye

And others that became known as the Lancashire witch trials in the Lancaster Assizes. One of the Pendle Witches was tried on July 27th, 1612 in York Assizes, while another one (Demdike) was died in prison. From eleven people in the trial of 9 women and 2 men were convicted guilty and hanged, the other one was found innocent and released by the court.

The ruins of the cottage that have been unearthed by the United Utilities workers

When the engineers were found the building on December 2011, it was contained a sealed room with a mummified cat hidden inside the brick wall. They also found a 19th century kitchen range in its original position. Many artifacts were discovered, such as crockery, a tin bath and a bedstead from Victorian era. Historians speculated the cat was probably placed in the walls at the beginning of the 19th century, and the room's with two doorways sealed up creating some kind of mausoleum. They still figure out what is the real purpose of the buried cat. Indeed, cat is always associated with witchcraft especially the black cat. However local people believed that if a cat was buried alive there it will protect the cottage's residents from evil spirits. Until the archaeologists fully investigate the site, the Pendle Witches Cottage is still a mystery.

The Gale Encyclopedia of the Unusual and Unexplained Vol.2 by Brad Steiger and Sherry Hansen Steiger;;;

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  1. The cat, if I remember correctly from something I read once, is supposed to serve as a demonic manifestation.


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