Clitheroe Castle

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17th Century Pins were Used for Magical Purposes and had a Role in the Pendle Witch Trial


Clitheroe castle has a long-distance walking route called the Lancashire Witches Walk; the route was created to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the trials of the Pendle witches.

The trials of the Pendle witches in 1612 are among the most famous witch trials in English history, and some of the best recorded of the 17th century.

One of the accused, Demdike, had been regarded in the area as a witch for fifty years.Demdike's granddaughter, Alizon Device, encountered John Law while on the road. Jon Law was a pedlar from Halifax, and Alizon asked him for some pins. Seventeenth-century metal pins were handmade and relatively expensive, but they were frequently needed for magical purposes, such as in healing – particularly for treating warts – divination, and for love magic, which may have been why Alizon was so keen to get hold of them and why Law was so reluctant to sell them to her.

Perhaps Law refused to undo his pack for such a small transaction, or perhaps Alizon hadno money and was begging, but a few minutes after their encounter Alizon saw Law stumble and fall, perhaps because he suffered a stroke; he managed to regain his feet and reach a nearby inn.

Initially Law made no accusations against Alizon, but she appears to have been convinced of her own powers; when Abraham Law took her to visit his father a few days after the incident, she reportedly confessed, and asked for his forgiveness.

Alizon Device, her mother Elizabeth, and her brother James were summoned to appear before the Justice of the Peace, Roger Nowell on 30 March 1612. Alizon confessed under torture that she had sold her soul to the Devil, and that she had told him to lame John Law after he had called her a thief. Her brother, James, stated that his sister had also confessed to bewitching a local child. Elizabeth was more reticent, admitting only that her mother, Demdike, had a mark on her body, something that many, including Nowell, would have regarded as having been left by the Devil after he had sucked her blood.

When questioned about Anne Whittle (Chattox), the matriarch of the other family reputedly involved in witchcraft in and around Pendle, Alizon perhaps saw an opportunity for revenge. There may have been bad blood between the two families, possibly dating from 1601, when a member of Chattox's family broke into Malkin Tower, the home of the Devices, and stole goods worth about £1, equivalent to about £117 as of 2018. Alizon accused Chattox of murdering four men by witchcraft, and of killing her father, John Device, who had died in 1601. She claimed that her father had been so frightened of Old Chattox that he had agreed to give her 8 pounds of oatmeal each year in return for her promise not to hurt his family. The meal was handed over annually until the year before John's death; on his deathbed John claimed that his sickness had been caused by Chattox because they had not paid for protection.

Events escalated, and Demdike, Chattox, and Chattox's daughter Anne Redferne were all charged with maleficium – causing harm by witchcraft, along with seven others, the details of which you can read about in the Wikipedia entry for the Pendle Witches

Of the eleven who went to trial – nine women and two men – ten were found guilty and executed by hanging; one was found not guilty.

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Clitheroe Castle is a ruined early medieval castle in Clitheroe in Lancashire, England. It was the caput of the Honour of Clitheroe, a vast estate stretching along the western side of the Pennines.

Its earliest history is debated but it is thought to be of Norman origin, probably built in the twelfth century. Property of the de Lacy family, the honour later merged with the earldom and then Duchy of Lancaster. Given to George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle in 1660, the castle site remained in private ownership until 1920, when it was sold to the people of Clitheroe to create a war memorial. Today the buildings on the site are the home of Clitheroe Castle Museum.

The keep is the second smallest surviving stone-built keep in England. The castle was listed as a Scheduled Monument on 10 April 1915 (and later, under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 law). It was Grade I listed on 19 May 1950.

After the Norman conquest, the Anglo-Saxon hundred of Blackburnshire was part of a fief given to Roger de Poitou and the Domesday survey shows he had given it to Roger de Busli and Albert de Gresle. Clitheroe is not mentioned by name, and it is assumed that Blackburn had previously been the administrative centre. However some time during the reign of William Rufus, Poitou gave Blackburnshire and the Bowland area, north of the River Ribble (under Craven in the Domesday Book) to the Baron of Pontefract, Robert de Lacy. When de Poitou lost his English holdings in 1102, Henry I not only allowed de Lacy to keep these lands, but added to them with the vills of Chipping, Aighton and Dutton.[a] Clitheroe became the centre of this new honour.

The valley of the River Ribble has formed a significant transport route for a long time, a Roman road runs up it, passing just south of the castle site. The steep limestone outcrop which rises 39 metres (128ft) above the surrounding land is strategically located to effectively bar the pass and provide extensive views over the surrounding area.

A 14th-century document called Historia Laceiorum attributed construction of the castle to Robert de Lacy (died 1193), the grandson of the first Robert de Lacy. [b] Although it is generally accepted that he built the keep, it is thought that some form of fortification already existed.

Some form of wooden fortress may have existed on the site before the Norman conquest. A reference to the 'castellatu Rogerii pictaviensis' in the Domesday Book entry for nearby Barnoldswick, has been used to argue that it was first built before 1086 by Roger the Poitevin.[c] Others have countered that the passage more likely refers to Lancaster Castle however.

It is thought that there was a castle at Clitheroe in 1102, as Robert de Lacy granted lands formerly the property of Orme le Engleis, within the baillie and below, to Ralph le Rous. A charter from 1122 also mentions the castle's chapel. In the summer of 1138, a Scottish force under William fitz Duncan harried the area, defeating an English force at the Battle of Clitheroe. Although the castle is not mentioned in the known accounts of the battle, it may have been the reason for the battle's location.

New construction work was carried out in the late 12th century by Robert de Lacy (died 1193). This Robert died without an heir, and his lands passed to his cousin, and to on her grandson Roger, the constable of Chester. He changed his surname to de Lacy and his descendants would also be the Earls of Lincoln (from 1232).

The castle was garrisoned due to the rebellion of Richard I's brother John in the 1190s.[d] During the early 14th century repairs were carried out to buildings within the castle and a new gate was built. When Henry de Lacy, 3rd Earl of Lincoln died in London in 1311, ownership of his properties passed to Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster who had been married to his daughter and heiress Alice. When Sir Adam Banastre led a rebellion against the earl in 1315, Clitheroe was amongst the castles raided for weapons. Lancaster's property escheated following his attainder and death in 1322, his brother Henry was later be granted his lands, which subsequently became part of the Duchy of Lancaster.

In the 15th century, additional repairs were undertaken and a new chamber was built in 1425. During the Wars of the Roses, Edward IV ordered £200 be spent on repairs to the castle, but afterwards it seems to have fallen into disrepair. Duchy records for the honour, show that the castle had a constable and a porter in the 1480s. A survey in 1602 described the castle as very ruinous, warning that buildings were very likely to fall down, with another in 1608, stating that parts of the decayed buildings had actually collapsed.

In 1644, during the Civil War, Prince Rupert left a garrison at the castle on his way to relieve the parliamentarian siege of York. They repaired the main gateway and stocked the castle with provisions, only to abandon it following the royalist loss at the Battle of Marston Moor. When the Lancashire militia was ordered to disband in 1649, they refused, occupying the castle for a brief period in a dispute over unpaid wages. The same year Clitheroe was among a number of castles that parliament decided should be 'slighted' to prevent further use, although it is uncertain what demolition work actually resulted.

In 1660 the castle and its honour were given as a reward to the first Duke of Albemarle by Charles II for helping him to regain the crown. From the late 17th century, the castle became the residence of the steward of the honour. Occupants of the castle include John Barcroft of Colne (who died there in 1782).

Ownership of the castle subsequently passed down through the family to the Dukes of Buccleuch. A plan of the castle, dated 1723 is thought to have been created when a new house was built for the steward. However it seems that around this time much of the remaining curtain wall was demolished, with garden terraces created. The castle continued to operate as the administrative centre for Blackburnshire until 1822 when the town hall in Church Street was built.

In 1848, with the ruined keep in danger of collapse it was decided to undertake a series of repairs. At least £221 was spent on the work which included re-building the staircase tower, considerable work to the eastern corner, refacing areas of the interior and exterior with Chatburn limestone, and the installation of a series of buttresses on the southwest and southeast walls.

Before he died in 1878 Dixon Robinson resided at the castle for over 40 years as Steward of the Honour of Clitheroe.

The castle site was purchased by public subscription by the then borough council from Lord Montagu of Beaulieu for £9,500 in November 1920, to create a memorial to the 260 soldiers from the town who died in the First World War.

In the late 1980s the southeast elevation of the keep underwent substantial preservation work. As part of a large redevelopment of the museum, 2008 saw further restoration work to the keep and the first archaeological survey of the site was completed, including test digs.

The Historic England scheduled monument record classifies Clitheroe as an enclosure castle, the principal defence being the wall surrounding the site. It was essentially a motte-and-bailey layout, with a natural outcrop utilised as the motte. The keep is the second smallest surviving stone-built keep in England. It's thought that, as the keep was so small, other essential buildings, such as the great hall may have been located on the site where the education suite now stands. A 1602 survey mentions Mr Auditor's chamber, the hall and buttery, and there would likely also have been stables and lodgings for any stationed soldiers. The southwest corner of the site next to the Steward's house was formerly the kitchen gardens. The medieval castle keep and some of the curtain wal...

Wikipedia Article
  • English: Clitheroe Castle The limestone knoll on which the castle stands has been cleared of trees over the last few yea
  • The keep at Clitheroe Castle, August 2007
  • The Duke of Albemarle was given the castle by Charles II in 1660.
  • The keep and part of the surviving curtain wall
  • The stables and courthouse, later additions viewed from the wall
  • Created for "An history of the original Parish of Whalley, and honor of Clitheroe" 4th ed. from a sketch made c.1650[12]
  • Only one of these openings is thought to have been a doorway
  • Northwest interior of the keep, showing the first-floor openings (the door limits access to the stairway)
  • Clitheroe Castle Museum
  • The Pinnacle in the former rose garden
  • Clitheroe Boer War memorial plaque, 1907
  • The war memorial with Pendle Hill on the horizon


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