We often get asked why our company logo is a picture of a witch. For those who don’t know, read on.
Head north out of Manchester on the M66 and whether you go cross country or stay on the main road you’ll be treated to a view of one of East Lancashire’s most iconic landmarks: Pendle Hill.
At 557m above sea level it’s just 13m short of being classified by Ordinance Survey as a mountain. With its imposing and distinctive shape, Pendle Hill stands out in the landscape. From its windswept summit on a clear day, visitors can see all the way to Blackpool Tower in the west and Langdale Pikes in the Lake District to the north.
Pendle Hill is a dramatic feature of the landscape. But it’s also an important part of our local history and culture, steeped in myths and legends.
Stories of witches echo through the hills and valleys of Lancashire like thunder.
Catch the bus from Manchester to Burnley and you’ll find yourself travelling on the Transdev “Witch Way”. Visit the towns and villages of Pendle and you’ll see signs, names of shops and cafes, all celebrating the history of the Pendle Witches. It’s a part of our local culture as distinctive as the shape of Pendle Hill itself.
“We used to live in the Pendle village of Sabden” says Pendle Hill Properties Founder Andrew Turner.
“It’s right on Pendle Hill with amazing views all over the area. From there we could see Clitheroe, Nelson, Burnley, Harwood, and all those places became our catchment area, hence the name Pendle Hill Properties.”
But why the witch? Here’s where the story gets interesting.
Two Rival Families
The medical profession in the 1600s was rather a hit and miss affair, with treatments costing as much as a year’s wages and just as likely to cause harm than good. Most ordinary people gave professional doctors a wide berth, opting for traditional folk medicine instead, as practiced by “cunning folk”.
In the Pendle area there were two rival families of cunning folk, the Device (pronounced Devis with the stress on the first syllable) and the Chattox families. They were well known for their knowledge of herbal remedies and traditional treatments. These two families would supplement their income by offering medical advice, remedies, potions and good luck charms. Back then there was little distinction between medicine and magic. A successful cure must have seemed like supernatural intervention.
These two rival families were in competition and accusations of witchcraft were almost inevitable. It might have been a way of settling an old score that got out of hand. Some researchers have even suggested it was in their favour to portray themselves as having uncommon knowledge and power. It encouraged their neighbours to seek their advice and medical services.
Or perhaps these old matriarchal families did possess secret knowledge now lost to humanity? After all, most of the Pendle witches actually confessed to witchcraft. One of them, Alizon Device, confessed before the authorities were even involved.
The Trials and their legacy
Witch trials were common during the 16th and 17th centuries. The records for that period show hundreds, if not thousands of examples, but the case of the Pendle Witches was unique.
Firstly, the sheer number found guilty was unprecedented, 9 people including all but one member of the Device family. Secondly, it was very well recorded by a court scribe named Thomas Potts who went on to write a bestselling account of the proceedings called The Wonderful Discovery of Witches in the County of Lancaster (available to read online here).
It was a landmark case, the first to admit evidence from children. This set an important precedent and paved the way for the infamous Salem Witch trials of 1692, where 30 were found guilty and 19 executed.
The case of the Pendle Witches, who were tried at Lancaster Castle, has captured the imagination of visitors to the area ever since. It poses a great many questions, puzzles, and moral conundrums.
Were these women (and men) actually guilty of murder by witchcraft? Were the accused given a fair trial? Were the judges and jury impartial themselves?
These questions will probably remain unanswered forever. In some ways the questions are more important than the answers.
For us here at Pendle Hill Properties, it makes our job endlessly fascinating. The Pendle witch trials of 1612 have become part of our regional identity. It’s impossible to visit the Pendle area without thinking of the poor Device and Chattox families. It’s one of the things that makes our corner of the world unique, and that’s why we pay a nod to the story in our company logo. It has changed over the years, from the original black silhouette to a much friendlier green one, thanks to Murray Dawson. It’s very apt for the green environment in the hills of the Ribble Valley and Pendle.
Anyone interested in finding out the details would do well to start with Potts’ account. But there are many great books on the subject, ranging from meticulous scholarly investigations (like Robert Poole’s The Lancashire Witches), through to Robert Neill’s 1951 international best seller The Mist Over Pendle (reissued in 2011).
If you’re thinking about buying or selling a property in the Pendle area contact us via our website or call 01282 772048 to talk directly to a member of staff.