Yesterday’s post on Jeanette Winterson’s novella ‘The Daylight Gate’, being all about the Pendle Witch Trials, reminded me that I had not posted about my own trip to the infamous Pendle Hill back in a sunny, yet icy, February. So I thought now was a rather apt time to share the little adventure I went on, though really I should have done it on the 400th anniversary of the event last month but this year seems to be whizzing by so fast, how is it September already? Anyway I digress (as usual), here is my trip to find the Pendle Witches…
I have to admit that I hadn’t heard of the Pendle Witches, the trial or even Pendle Hill, until I saw it on a special Most Haunted Live. I have always had a love for the supernatural, ghostly and magical (though oddly I never really, apart from a good ghost story, read anything in those genres) and so Most Haunted, a UK TV series where Yvette Fielding and her crew go to haunted locations to find ghosts, was right up my street. I loved hearing the history of the wonderful old buildings, hearing about the ghosts there and then watching as the crew, especially Yvette, went around in night vision screaming and occasionally crying. Brilliant. Seeing the show ‘Pendle Hell’ was something else, it took it to a new level, as the crew seemed to be picked off (appearing to be choked or fainting) one by one in the cellar of a Pendle Hill farm. I was hooked, I decided one day I would go there and have a nosey, at the time though I lived in London so it didn’t seem too likely. Moving to Manchester and getting a call from a friend one icy Sunday in February with the words ‘let’s go to Pendle Hill’ changed all that and so off we went. Initially it wasn’t quite what I was expecting…
I think because of what I seen on Most Haunted and then read about it since I was expecting a hill seeped in gloom and doom surrounded by eerie forests. Instead was a rather large hill in the middle of some beautiful English countryside. It didn’t seem witchy, yet. However when we got to the town of Newchurch, formerly known as Th’Kirk, for some reason that all changed. Especially when we went to the church and below the clock tower you see the ‘Eye of God’ something to protect the town from witchcraft. Superstitious much?
This was indeed the town in which many of the women tried for Witchcraft in 1612 lived including Alice Nutter and it is believed that in a hidden corner of a rather spooky churchyard her tombstone is to be found.
You can’t quite see it properly in the picture but her resting place is apparently there, though how an executed witch ended up buried in a church’s consecrated grounds no one is quite sure.
I of course wanted to know much more about the whole Pendle legend and fortunately Newchurch has ‘Witches Galore’.
This is the only shop in the village so aswell as a wonderful selection of books on the witches, which I came away buying a few of, though I must get more, you also find yourself able to buy milk and catfood, maybe for the witches cats still roaming the hills? Ha.
After a good wander about we headed to another village at the base of Pendle Hill as we wanted to see if we could find a building they have recently discovered nearby. Driving there you suddenly see Pendle Hill from another angle and to say it is imposing is quite an understatement, it seems to overshadow everything.
So why were we off elsewhere? Well the ruined farms I had seen on Most haunted have been done up and so are no longer ruins you could break into roam around in. However there has recently been another discovered after several hundred years. You see in the village of Barley, well just on the outskirts, whilst the local water company were digging near the reservoir they found the ruins of a house, in which were more remains of a mummified cat. This is reported to be one of the witch’s houses, well how could we not try and find it? Guess what, we did! (You can see a report on the BBC with the cat included here.)
I have to say walking through the countryside along some of the old beaten paths to get there the atmosphere really does grip you, especially when you see other old ruined or empty building from the time. It is quite spooky indeed, even in the daylight.
In ‘The Daylight Gate’ Jeanette Winterson writes… ‘Stand on the top of Pendle Hill and you see everything of the county of Lancashire. Some say you can see other things too. This is a haunted place. The living and the dead come together on the hill.’
If you have ever spent any time in Pendle then you will know just what she means. It just seems to have some kind of energy/aura/atmosphere about it which will haunt you long after you have left it.