Thursday, March 3, 2011

Puritan's witch trial notebook from Tatton Park online

The book records how women confessed to witchcraft or named family members as witches after torture

A 17th Century notebook describing how women were tried, tortured, convicted and hanged for witchcraft has been published online.

Puritan writer Nehemiah Wallington describes how Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins found "a coven of witches" and 19 women were hanged.
Every page of the book, kept at Tatton Park, Cheshire, was photographed by experts from University of Manchester.
The team said they were "delighted" at being able to preserve the document.


At the Chelmsford trial in July 1645, Wallington wrote: "July the XX111 there were at Least XXXV111 wiches imprisoned in the Town of Ipswich...
Divers of them voluntarily and without any forcing or compulsion freely declare that they have made a covenant with the Devill, to forsake God and Christ ant to take him to be their Master and Like wise do acknowledge that divers Cattell; and som Christians have been killed by their meanes...
By this wee may see the grand delusions and impostures of Satan by which we works upon men & women in these
Latter times of the world What sins so hanious what crimes so grevious will not they run in to from whom God is gone."(sic).
The Tatton notebook also describes battles and skirmishes of the English Civil War period and the disturbing violence of the 1640s, in which dozens of East Anglian women were killed.
By 1654 Wallington had catalogued 50 notebooks, of which only seven are known to have survived.
Four are in the British Library, one in the Guildhall Library, one in the Folger Library in Washington DC and one at Tatton Park.
The book notes that in 1645 "Witchfinder General" Matthew Hopkins, notorious for his brutality against women, had been appointed to check villager Elizabeth Clarke for "devil's marks" - like warts or moles.
Under torture, she named other women, including her daughter Rebecca.
When Rebecca was herself tortured, she implicated her own mother as a witch.
A total of 19 women were eventually hanged, though Rebecca was saved thanks to her confession.
Tatton Park mansion and collections manager Caroline Schofield said: "The Wallington manuscripts are hugely important primary sources for scholars of the period."

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