It took more than 400 years, but the infamous Lancashire Witches have finally got justice.
The city of Lancaster, where 12 were convicted and 10 of them hanged in 1612, corrected one of history’s most celebrated miscarriages of justice with a re-trial in a busy shopping centre. Panels of jurors invited to sit in judgement on the case through the day returned a not guilty verdict.
The “witches” of Pendle, including rival matriarchs Demdike and Chattox, were fitted up. A bit late, maybe. But at least the poor souls who were rounded up around Pendle Hill and subjected to a show trial at Lancaster Castle can finally rest in peace.
The recreation of the trial was part of a full day of events by the Lancaster University’s pioneering Campus in the City project looking at a story which has captured the imagination of generations.
It remains one of the most sensational execution cases in British history and shoppers in the St Nicholas Arcade were given an opportunity to be jurors and right one of British justice’s most notorious wrongs.
Dr Liz Oakley-Brown, senior lecturer in Shakespeare and Renaissance writing, said: “The fascination with this episode of Lancashire’s history shows no signs of waning.
“In the eyes of most Lancastrians the Lancashire Witches have long been pardoned and rehabilitated. Halloween is no longer a night when we fear unquiet souls, but a carnival of fancy dress and ‘trick or treat’. The Pendle Witch trail is a tourist attraction, followed by many visitors on buses, and a few exorcists!”
The university has set up a campus in an empty unit in the shopping arcade in an attempt to strengthen its connections with the community.