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THE WITCHES OF WARBOYS.
BOUT four miles from the monastic Witches of Warboys, arraigned, convicted
town of Ramsey, in Huntingdonshire, and executed at the last Assizes, at Huntat the northern edge of the fen district, stands ingdon, for the Bewitching of Five Daughthe pretty village of Warboys. With its an- ters of Robert Throckmorton, Esquire, and cient church, and its clay-built and reed- divers other persons with sundrie Divellish thatched houses, its general appearance, not- and Grievous Torments; and also for the withstanding the existence of a few modern Bewitching and Death of the Ladie Cromdwellings, is probably much the same as well. The like hath not been heard of in when Sir Henry Cromwell, the uncle of the this Age! London, 1593." Protector, used to pass through it on those After giving some particulars of the family stately progresses between his mansion of history of the Throckmortons, we are told, Hinchinbrook House and Ramsey Abbey, that “ About the oth November, 1589, which earned for him the title of the Golden Mistress Jane, one of the daughters of the Knight.
said Master Throckmorton, being neere the In 1589, there lived in Warboys a wealthy age of ten years, fell upon the sodaine (sudlandowner of ancient family, named Throck- den] into a strange kind of Sickness, the morton, who, with Sir Henry Cromwell, the manner whereof was as followeth : Somelord of the manor, owned nearly the whole times she would neese (sneeze] very lowde of the parish. About fifty years before, the and thicke for the space of halfe an houre, manor of Warboys, with possessions of the and presently, as one in a great Trance and rich Abbey of St. Mary, Ramsey, had been Swoune, lay quietly as long. Soone after granted to Sir Richard Williams, nephew of she would begin to toss about her Limbs Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, whose and Body, so as none was able to keep her name he took on inheriting such portions of down : Sometimes she would shake one the plunder of the monasteries as escaped Leg and no other Part of her, as if the Paulthe greedy clutch of Henry and his ministers, sie had been in it: Sometimes the other or when his uncle paid with his head for the one of her Armes : and soone after her homely face and too portly figure of the King's Head, as if she had been inflicted with the German bride. Sir Henry Cromwell, grand- running Paulsie.” son of Sir Richard Cromwell, or Williams, In this way she had continued to be afappears to have been on friendly and intimate fected for several months, without any witchterms with his neighbour Throckmorton, craft being suspected, when old Alice Samuel whose family at the date of our story con called to pay a visit of neighbourly inquiry, sisted of his wife, five daughters--of ages and was taken into the room where the sick from ten to eighteen-and about a dozen ser- child lay. The old woman wore a black vants. In the same parish there also lived knit worsted cap, and the child, observing John Samuel, an old man, who, with his it
, said to her grandmother, who was prewife and daughter, Alice and Agnes Samuel, sent, “Grandmother, looke where the old cultivated a small farm.
witch sitteth : did you ever see one more like Into the minds of this quiet rural com a witch than she is? Take off her black munity there entered, on November roth, thrumbed cap, for I cannot abide to looke 1589, a cruel delusion which resulted in the on her.” frenzied terror of two households, and the This foolish fancy of a child, rendered irrishameful death on the scaffold of an entire table by illness and long confinement, was family.
the first germ of the monstrous suspicion We cannot introduce the subject to our which was to cost three innocent lives. How. readers in better words than those of the ever, for the present it passed unnoticed ; pamphlet before us, which was published in and it was not till after Dr. Barrow of Cam1593, and is entitled " The moast Straange bridge, “a man well known to be excellent and Admirable Discovery of the Three skilful in Phisick,” had been consulted re
specting the child's disease that her parents if they had been let lie upon the ground remembered her words. This gentleman, find they would have leaped and sprung like a ing that the various inedicines prescribed quick [living] pickerel, newly taken out of by him had no effect, attempted to conceal the water." Then one of them-Janehis ignorance of the disease and its remedy, having been taken up-stairs and laid on a by suggesting “that he had had some ex- bed, began to scratch the counterpane, reperience of the malice of some witches, and peatedly crying, “Oh, that I had her! Oh, that he verily thought there was some kind that I had her! On this her uncle Pickerof sorcerie and witchcraft wrought towards ing fetched poor old Alice, “who came as this child.” For the age in which they lived willingly as a beare to the stake," to the child's the Throckmortons do not seem to have bedside, and desired her to put her hand to been superstitiously inclined, for even this Jane's, which, however, she steadfastly resuggestion of the doctor made very little im- fused to do, though he and others set her pression till, “ one month after, at the very the example, whose hands “the child would same day and house,” two more of their scarce touch, much less scratch.” daughters were seized with the same malady, The terrified old woman was not, howand complained in the same manner of Mo- ever, allowed to evade this crucial test of ther Samuel. Soon afterwards the youngest her guilt. • Without any malice to the wodaughter was seized, and then the oldest, man, but only to taste by this experiment, whose sufferings were much more severe whereto the child's words would tend, Master than those of her sisters. The disease then Pickering did take forcibly Mother Samuel's attacked the female servants, six of whom hand and did thrust it into the child's hand, were at different periods afflicted in the same who no sooner felt the same but presently way. All agreed in declaring that the pain- she scratched her with such vehemence that ful and violent symptoms were greatly in- her nayles brake into pieces with the force creased by the presence of old Alice, to and earnest desire she had for revenge.” Mr. whose malign influence they ascribed all Pickering then covered the old woman's their sufferings. Such a concurrence of tes- hand with his own, yet the child would not timony could not fail, in that age, to con- scratch his hand, “but felt eagerly for that vince the most sceptical, and the parents, which she missed, and mourned bitterly at and indeed the whole neighbourhood—be the disappointment.” All this time her eyes came seriously alarmed.
were closed, and her face turned from Mr. In the following February, Gilbert Picker- Pickering and the old woman, and pressed ing, Esq., a brother of Mrs. Throckmorton, against the bosom of a servant who held her visited his Warboys relatives. The particu- down on the bed. “How then," our author lars of the mysterious illness were soon com- triumphantly asks, “could she possibly dismunicated to him, as well as the charges tinguish the hands presented to her except made by his nieces and the servants against by the directions of the evil spirit which Mother Samuel. Mr. Throckmorton, who possessed her ?” A dull prosaic person was evidently a just and kind-hearted man, might reply that even a child of ten could was reluctant, even then, to believe a charge tell by touch alone the shrivelled fingers of so foul against his poor old neighbour. But an old woman from the smooth, plump palm he yielded at last, and consented that his of her elder sister, or the masculine hand of brother-in-law should go to her house and her uncle. persuade or compel her to visit the sick-room, But this was far from being the only proof so that his guest, in whose opinion he placed given by the evil spirit of its presence and much confidence, might be able to judge of agency. As might be expected it was esthe truth of the circumstances.
pecially rampant at prayer-time, or when The old woman at first refused to go, but grace was said or the Bible read. It was gave in to a threat of compulsion, and, ac- evidently a spirit of a bold and daring nacompanied by her daughter Agnes and one ture, and, unlike most of its congeners, who Cicely Rawder, a suspected confederate, en disappeared at the invocation of a holy name tered the hall. No sooner had she done so or the making of a sacred sign, it scorned to than three of the sisters, who had been af- Ay even from a long sixteenth century serfected but had quite recovered, “fell down mon. It was not afraid of being catechised, on the ground, strangely tormented, so that and answered readily, by signs, all the questions put to it. When Jane was asked, a locke of her hair and gave it privily to Mis“ Love you the Word of God? she became tress Throckmorton, willing her to burn them. so excited that two women could hardly hold Whereupon the witch, perceiving herself so her ; but at, Love you witchcraft? she seemed ill-used, said to the ladie, “Madam, why do pleased. Love you the Bible? again it you use me thus? I never did you any harm shook her. Love you papistrie ? it was as yet.' The same night Ladie Cromwell was quiet. Love you prayer ? it raged. Love strangely tormented in her sleep by a cat, you the masse ? it was still. So that what which cat Mother Samuel had sent unto her, soever good thing you named it misliked ; which cat offered to plucke off all the skin but at whatsoever concerned the Pope it and fresh from her arms and bodie.” Conseemed pleased and pacified.”
sidering how the lady had been engaged We are not surprised at the intimate con- during the day the real wonder would have nection between the Pope and Satan in the been for her to have passed a dreamless minds of these honest people, when we re- night. But events graver than troubled member the date. Little more than a year dreams were to follow the meeting, memorhad elapsed since the Armada, equipped by able both for Lady Cromwell and Mother the most powerful monarch on earth, and Samuel. “Not long after the Ladie fell very blessed by the Pope, had sailed from Spain strangely sicke, and so continued until her to re-enact if possible on our English shores dying day which befell in the space of a year those truly satanic deeds, which sixteen years and quarter after her being at Warboyse. before had dyed French soil with the blood The manner of her fits being much like to the of thousands of her noblest sons. No won- children's, and that saying of Mother Samuel, der that in small matters as well as great ones 'Madam I never hurt you as yet' would never our ancestors of that generation were apt to out of her: mind.” suspect a close friendship between Pope and The fits of the girls still increasing in vioBelial, and to think that where one was pre- lence and frequency, the Throckmorton famsent he would surely speak a kind word for ily began to urge the old woman to confess his absent friend. In French and Spanish herself guilty. This she steadfastly refused witchcraft trials of the sixteenth and seven- to do, though the girls said the spirits told teenth centuries, we find the compliment re- them that by this means alone could they be turned. The Devil is always represented as restored to perfect health, and although their the chief ally and supporter of heresy, and parents promised forgiveness and threatened the victories of Drake, Hawkins, and prosecution if she remaineci obstinate. “Also Raleigh over the soldiers of the true faith, Master Donington, Doctor of Divinity, and are invariably ascribed by contemporary parson of the parish of Warboyse, did moast Spanish historians to his direct assistance. lovinglie and painfullie entreat her to have
When the extraordinary occurrences in the mercie upon her soule and bodie, now in Throckmorton household had been for some danger of moast grievous punishment in this months the talk of the neighbourhood, Sir life and after death.” All was in vain. The Henry Cromwell and his family returned poor old creature's only answer was, “ That from London, and in due course Lady Crom- she would do for the children all the good well visited her Warboys friends. “She had she could, but for confession of this matter not been long in the room when, as they were she would not, for it was a thing she never wont to do when any came to see them, they all knew of nor consented thereto." fell into their fits and were so grievously tor- The inevitable catastrophe of this misermented that it pitied that good ladie's heart able medley of superstition, ignorance, and to see them, whereupon she caused Mother imposture was now at hand. The girls were Samuel to be sent for ; taking her aside, she tired of playing a part which, while it graticharged her deeply with this witchcraft, using fied to the fullest extent their love of de. also some hard speeches to her, but she ception and notoriety, must have been a stoutly denied them all, saying 'that Master constant physical and mental strain of the Throckmorton and his wife did her much most wearisome character ; while the poor wrong so to blame her without cause.' Ladie old victim of their wickedness, barassed by Cromwell, unable to prevail with her by solicitations, alternately soothed by promises good speeches, sodainly pulled off her ker- and alarmed by threats, at length gave chief and taking a pair of sheeres clipped off | way, and fell on her knees, entreating Mr. Throckmorton to forgive her, and confessing worse than her mother, being subjected to that she was the cause of his daughters' suf- severe scratchings from each of her supposed ferings. Scarcely had she uttered the words victims. This was considered an indubitable · when three of them," who were then in their proof of supernatural agency, but for which fit, and had so continued for the space of we might find a more commonplace explan. three weeks, wiped their eyes and instantly ation. These scratchings were always forestood upon their legges, being as well as told by those who inflicted them. The eldest ever they were in their lives."
girl also predicted that the fits would cease The next day, being Sunday, the old wo- whenever Agnes Samuel should say, “I man repeated this confession publicly in charge thee divel, as I love thee, I am a Warboys church. Here the matter might witch and guiltie of this matter, that thou have ended, for Mr. Throckmorton appears suffer this child to be well at present.” to have been a humane man, and by no This, we are told, was repeatedly tried be. means desirous of imbruing his hands in the fore a variety of witnesses, and was always blood of his old neighbour-aggrieved though attended with instant success, though the he must have been by the thought of his words had no effect when spoken by any daughters' sufferings for the last three years- other person.
. had she not given fresh cause of offence and Agnes appears to have been induced to released him from his promise by retracting confess with much less difficulty than her her confession next morning. He immedi mother. Probably the experience she had ately went to her and threatened her with had of the scratching powers of six vigorous arrest if she did not renew her confession. young vixens assisted greatly in overcoming Threats and entreaties were alike unavailing, any obstinacy. By employing the same arand he at last, with much reluctance, gave guments, they persuaded her to confess, not the two Samuels, mother and daughter, in only that she was a worser witch than her charge to the constable, to be taken before mother," but that since her mother's confesthe Bishop of Lincoln, in whose diocese. sion she had bewitched Mrs. Pickering of Warboys was then situated, and who was Ellington, a married sister of Mr. Throckthen residing a few miles from Huntingdon. morton.
They were examined by the Bishop and Last of all the spirits began to accuse two justices, but poor old Alice, being now John Samuel, the father. Precisely the same thoroughly alarmed, told a strange story charges were made against him ; but, in his about a spirit called Langland, who had no case, no amount of scratching, threats, or dwelling, but was then “beyond sea,” con cajolery could wring a confession from him. fessing that he appeared to her in the form On April 5th, 1593, John, Alice, and of a dun chicken. After this she was com Agnes Samuel were arraigned before Mr. mitted for trial at Huntingdon Assizes. Justice Fennel “ for bewitching of the Ladie
The two women remained in prison, with Cromwell to her death, and for bewitching out being admitted to bail, till January 9th, of Mistress Joảne Throckmorton and others. when Mr. Throckmorton, entertaining doubts Against them appeared as witnesses, Dr. as to the guilt of the daughter, applied to the Donington, parson of Warboys, Thomas quarter sessions for permission “to baile out Nut, M.A., Vicar of Ellington, the father, the maide, and to have her home to his house, uncle, and aunt of the Throckmorton girls, to see if such evidences of wicked dealings several female servants, and one or two neighwith evil spirits would appear against her as bours. Truly a cloud of witnesses by whom, had before appeared against her mother.” says our author, “the before related proofs,
After some demur his request was granted, presumptions, circumstances, and reasons, and Agnes Samuel accompanied him home. with many others too long to write, were at A few days later the girls “ fell all of them large delivered, until both the judge, justices, afresh into their fits, and then the spirits did and jury said openly that the cause was most begin as plainly to accuse the daughter as apparent, and that their consciences were ever they did the mother, and did tell the well satisfied that the sayd witches were children that the old woman had sent over guiltie and deserved death." her spirits to her daughter, and that so she As to John Samuel, ocular proof of his had bewitched them all over agayne.” guilt was exhibited in court, · For Joane
In one respect poor Agnes was treated Throckmorton, happening at the time of his trial to be seized with a fit, she was brought old maxim, “Non olet nummus,” gave them into court and set before the Judge, who was to the corporation of Huntingdon, on contold that there was a charm, which if old dition that they should pay forty shillings Samuel would but speake, the sayd Joane yearly to a Doctor or Bachelor in Divinity, would presently be well.” The prisoner was of Queen's College, Cambridge, to preach a therefore ordered by the judge to repeat the sermon against witchcraft, in the All Saints' charm, but this he positively refused to do, Church, Huntingdon, on the Annunciation till threatened that if he persisted in his ob of the blessed Virgin, and to teach the peostinacy, the court would hold him guiltie of ple how to discover and frustrate the machithe crimes whereof he was accused.” In nations of witches and dealers with evil other words, after being permitted by law to spirits ” plead "not guilty," he was compelled by the This sermon continued to be preached judge to confess his guilt.
till within the last fifty years ; but for more Seeing it useless to contend against this than a century before its discontinuance, as determination to convict him, the poor old the belief in witchcraft died out among the man at last complied, and repeated the for- educated classes, it became an address mula, “ As I am a witch, &c., which words against superstition and credulity. were no sooner spoken by Samuel than the Such are the particulars of three of the said Joane, as was her wont, wiped her eyes most cruel murders ever perpetrated under and came out of her fit. The judge imme- legal forms in any country. We cannot rediately observed, you see, all, she is now well, call another instance in our own history of but not with the musicke of David's harpe. a whole family being put to death for this
We must not forget that the spirit had imaginary crime. previously told Jane Throckmorton that she What cannot but strike a nineteenth censhould have this fit in court, and that she tury observer is, the de ate manner in should not come out of it until old father which all the rules of evidence were conSamuel had pronounced these words. stantly violated by all concerned in these
At the place of execution Alice Samuel trials. In all ordinary cases, these rules confessed her guilt, and that her husband were probably as well understood and prachad assisted her in the invocation of the ticed then as now. Had the crime of which spirits. Agnes warmly asserted her own in the Samuels were accused been larceny or nocence, which her mother stoutly main- burglary, they would, no doubt, have found tained, though seemingly quite indifferent to as just and careful judges under Elizabeth her own and her husband's fate. John Samuel ' as under Victoria. But as soon as this imagresolutely denied all complicity in the crimes inary offence is imputed to them, the silliest laid to his charge, and showed much indig- tests, the most absurd presumptions, and nation against his persecutors, saying that the most malicious and self-contradictory his wife
was an olde simple woman, and statements are accepted as evidence; and to that one might make her by fayre or foule crown all, a judge on the bench compels a words confess what they would.” Posterity man being tried for his life to repeat a conwill agree with this stout-hearted victim of fession of his guilt. What a hold must this the ignorance and credulity of bishops and absurd belief have had on all classes when judges
men of judicial habits of thought, and accusAs lord of the manor of Warboys, the tomed all their lives to weigh evidence and goods and chattels of the Samuels were for- balance probabilities, could not see that a feited to Sir Henry Cromwell. They crime, demanding from its investigators such amounted in value to £40., a considerable a constant suspension and perversion of the sum at that time for persons of their rank. usual tests, and evidences of guilt, could from But Sir Henry, dreading possibly the exist- the very nature of things have no existence. ence of some diabolical infection in the property of such felons, and forgetful of the good
A. SPENCER JONES.