Newcastle witch trials: the biggest mass execution of witches in English History

The Newcastle witch trials are not very well known about outside the north east of England. I didn’t even know there had been witch trials in Newcastle until I started researching my historical novel, Widdershins in 2011.

Sixteen people – fifteen women and one man – were sentenced to death in August 1650 and they were hanged together on Newcastle’s Town Moor, alongside nine mosstroopers. (These were notorious for sheep and cattle rustling along the border between Scotland and England.)

It’s odd that not much is known about the Newcastle witch trials when it’s the biggest mass execution of witches on a single day in England.

The 1612 Pendle witch trials are very well known, and ten people were executed on Gallows Hill in Lancashire. At the 1645 Chelmsford witch trials, 19 people were executed in all; however, these did not take place at the same time. That said, Chelmsford and Essex more widely suffered terribly under witch trials, not least because it was the main stamping ground of the Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins.

Here is the list of the Newcastle witch trial victims, who are buried in the graveyard of St Andrew’s church in Newcastle city centre.

Elizabeth Anderson
Elizabeth Brown
Margaret Brown
Matthew Bulmer
Jane Copeland
Katherine Coulter
Elizabeth Dobson
Elianor Henderson
Alice Hume
Jane Hunter
Margaret Maddison
Jane Martin
Margaret Muffet
Mary Pots
Elianor Rogerson
Ann Watson

People are sometimes surprised to learn that witches were buried in churchyards – often they were buried next to the north wall, which is considered unholy.

If you’d like to know more about the Newcastle witch trials, come and see me at Newcastle City Library on 26th November at 2pm – details and tickets from: http://bit.ly/BonThs and if you can’t make it, you can listen to me talking to Lisa Shaw on BBC Radio Newcastle http://bit.ly/hsBBCrn (I’m 21 mins in after Kiki Dee & 38 mins in after Erasure).

Best wishes, Helen

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