Monday, July 1, 2013

Day 7 – In Which There are Witches, Ruins and Stepping Stones. Oh and a Dead Badger.

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Out of the kitchen window of our house here in Yorkshire, you can see Pendle Hill rising out of the moors. It was in the villages surrounding Pendle Hill in 1612 that 12 members of two local families were accused of witchcraft and tried at nearby Lancaster. Of the 11 who went to trial, 10 were found guilty and hanged – eight women and two men.

This interesting piece of English History clearly required more investigation and so we set off for the Pendle Heritage Centre in the Lancashire village of Barrowford. The main attraction of the Centre, besides the delightful, if chatty guide, is the Museum. It is kept in part of a old house, which was built on an older house, which was built on another even older house etc etc. When they tore down the most recent 1950s house, they discovered layer upon layer of evidence of the previous houses, dating back to the late 1400s. It was fascinating and even Zoe appreciated it.

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This Mason’s Mark was left by the mason who put this part of the house together back in the 1500s.

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Here you can see the point at which another floor was added in the 1600s

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They left some of the original 1950s wallpaper and further up the wall, they also left a radiator.

The rest of this part of the museum was devoted to building methods over the centuries which wasn’t really my cup of tea (or ‘brew’ as they say here) but I could see how some people would be fascinated.

What really grabbed our attention was the exhibit devoted to the trial of the Pendle Witches. Storyboards told the tale of how members of several local families (Demdike, Devize, Nutter and Chattox) were found guilty of crimes such as causing madness, making clay images, and using witchcraft to murder 16 people over a 20 year period.

It is said that Alizon Devize, granddaughter of the 80-yr old witch known as Old Demdike, was out one day begging for pins. When an old man would not give her any, she is said to have cursed him with the aid of her familiar, a black dog. Allegedly he fell down paralyzed, never to speak again. Alizon was blamed and the accusations and trials began. In reality, it it likely that the old man suffered a stroke,and that those accused of witchcraft were simply poor people trying to make a living as healers and herbalists, but it makes for a good story.

The King of the day was the paranoid James 1, a devout Protestant who, having just survived a plot on his life (the Gunpowder plot of Guy Fawkes fame), feared that all Roman Catholics were out to get him and could not be trusted. It was also during this time that he wrote the book Daemonologie and became highly suspicious and afraid of anything that looked like witchcraft. Local magistrates would have gained favour with the King for appearing to have searched out alleged witches, and this was doubtless the motivation for what happened in 1612 in Pendle.

After watching a short film on the subject and reading some of the works on the subject, I came to the conclusion that not much has changed in 400 years and that today’s witchhunts just have a different name, but the fear and irrational suspicion remains the same.

But this history is rich and fascinating.

The museum also had this spooky image of a ‘spell’ from the 1600s that was used to ward off evil spirits.

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I’ll try it later and let you know how it goes.

Apparently there is still someone who feels badly about what happened 400 years ago as there was an attempt a few years ago to pardon the witches.

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After leaving the museum, we drove through a series of charmingly beautiful hillside villages around Pendle Hill. They really were gorgeous. My favourite was Downham, which is still owned by the local Lord Clitheroe who wont allow any telephone poles or satellite dishes anywhere in the village.

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Fortunately he still allows sheep and we happened upon an entire herd, freshly shorn, being ushered down the street and back into their field. It was very entertaining to watch them all rush past, but even better were the two very capable sheep dogs bringing up the rear, and the farmer issuing commands with a series of whistles. I’ve never seen real Yorkshire sheep dogs in action before – it’s very impressive. It did make me feel a bit sorry for all those other dogs out there who no longer have a real purpose other than to wear a jacket and look cute.

On our way out of the village, we stopped to look at this statue of Alice Nutter, one of the 8 woman hanged for witchcraft. She lived here in this village, and this is meant to be how she looked on her way across the moors to trial. Spooky.

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I suggested we come back at Halloween and climb the hill with the loads of other adventure seekers but she wasn’t into it.

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Our next stop had nothing to do with witches which was a good thing as Zoe was starting to look a bit worried.

We had heard that Bolton Abbey, on the grounds of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire’s estate, was worth a visit so we paid our entry fee and walked down into the village. This notice was in the bathroom.

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Who cares? I can just see the meeting where the decision to post this notice took place:

Andy: I dunno. I just fink they should know is all.

John: Don't be a daft bugger, Andy. Noone cares.

Doreen: I care thanks very mooch, John.

John: Well what else are we going to tell them. Who the blokes are? Do you want their middle names too? Birthdays?

Andy: What if old Mrs. Beamish is in there doing her Sunday Best and in walks Bert with his bucket and mop? She’d be none too ‘appy John.

Doreen: Yes exactly, Andy.  Exactly.

John: well fine then but I think it’s a load of old.

Doreen: two ta one, John, two ta one.

Andy: Now just take a look at the sign I’ve made up for the gate at top of path…

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Does that mean if I’m being chased by cattle I should let my dog go? Or I should let my dog go if it is being chased by cattle? Since when does a cow ever chase a dog. Ever heard of sheep cows? Specially trained cows that chase away dogs so that they can herd the sheep themselves…

Anyway – the place was stunningly beautiful. Here,I’ll shut up and you can see for yourself.

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The priory was established over 890 years ago by Augustinian monks. There is an old church attached that has been offering Christian services for over 850 years. We went in to have a look and stayed for a while listening to a recording of monks chanting that was playing inside. It was magical.

After such an amazing day, there was only one thing left to do and that was stop at the Yorkshire Dairy Ice Cream Farm, where it seems that they have a problem with people coming for an ice cream and eating a sandwich while they are there.

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I mean God knows what might happen.

We were just there for the ice cream and after sampling many, we came home with a tub of raspberry shortbread which Jacob declared to be ‘amazing’. I haven’t checked to see if there is any left.

We finished the day with a pub dinner in the local village which was really good (the dinner, not the village, although the village is really good too) and then staggered home.

Oh and I almost forgot the dead badger. My mum spotted it while out for a walk, draped over the stone wall (the badger, not my mum).

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We speculated for some time as to why it might be dead and draped over a wall. Jacob thinks it was shot by an enraged farmer while it was trying to steal a lamb (the badger, not the farmer) and I think it was hit by a car and then put on the wall by the driver although I have no idea why, and Zoe declined to have an opinion on the matter.

I also wondered if perhaps Beatrix Potter was on to something and knew what badgers get up to more than the rest of us, and that this one was on its way to market to get dinner for its family. But if that were true, then it would be wearing a waistcoat and be carrying a basket. Maybe it was murdered by a Mr. Fox who also stole the waistcoat and basket.

I suspect I’ll never know.

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Who knew badgers where so big anyway?

That’s probably enough about badgers.

Thanks for reading



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