The Last Witches of England

In 1682 three women, Temperance Lloyd, Mary Trembles and Susannah Edwards, from the town of Bideford were tried and hanged as witches. They were convicted on flimsy evidence, including an incident where a magpie, supposedly a symbol of the devil, had spooked the wife of a local merchant. Indeed, the authorities at the time cynically allowed the trial to go ahead to avoid invoking the ire of the local population. The three women would be the last people to be executed for witchcraft in England and their deaths are an illustration of the swirling religious, political, class and social tensions of the seventeenth century. John Callow joins Dan for this episode of the podcast to tell the tale of the Bideford Witches and their fate. They discuss why accusations of witchcraft were so prevalent in this period, why women were the primary targets and what changed legally and socially in the following years that meant that these were the last women executed for witchcraft.

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