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. The twelve accused lived in the area around Pendle Hill in Lancashire, and were charged with the murders of ten people by the use of witchcraft. All but two were tried at Lancaster Assizes on 18–19 August 1612, along with the Samlesbury witches and others, in a series of trials that have become known as the Lancashire witch trials. One was tried at York Assizes on 27 July 1612, and another died in prison. 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.
The official publication of the proceedings by the clerk to the court, Thomas Potts, in his "The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster", and the number of witches hanged together – nine at Lancaster and one at York – make the trials unusual for England at that time. It has been estimated that all the English witch trials between the early 15th and early 18th centuries resulted in fewer than 500 executions; this series of trials accounts for more than two per cent of that total.
Six of the Pendle witches came from one of two families, each at the time headed by a woman in her eighties: Elizabeth Southerns (aka Demdike), her daughter Elizabeth Device, and her grandchildren James and Alizon Device; Anne Whittle (aka Chattox), and her daughter Anne Redferne. The others accused were Jane Bulcock and her son John Bulcock, Alice Nutter, Katherine Hewitt, Alice Gray, and Jennet Preston. The outbreaks of witchcraft in and around Pendle may demonstrate the extent to which people could make a living by posing as witches. Many of the allegations resulted from accusations that members of the Demdike and Chattox families made against each other, perhaps because they were in competition, both trying to make a living from healing, begging, and extortion.
Wheatley Lane has links with the Pendle Witches. In 1633, Edmund Robinson of Wheatley Lane reported that he had been taken by a witch to a barn at Hoarstones where he had seen 40 witches engaged in various devilish activities. He subsequently identified 19 witches and they were sent to trial in 1634, including Jenet Davies, a witness at the 1612 trial, and the daughter-in-law of Alice Nutter (one of the previous Pendle Witches). However, the judge deferred sentence and sent seven of them to London for further examination; only three survived the ordeal. After an enquiry all 19 were acquitted and Robinson later admitted that the story was a fabrication.
- Elizabeth Southerns (aka Demdike)
- Elizabeth Device (Elizabeth Southern's Daughter)
- James Device (son Elizabeth Device)
- Alizon Device (dau Elizabeth Device)
- Anne Whittle (aka Chattox)
- Anne Redferne (Anne Whittle's daughter)
- Jane Bulcock
- John Bulcock (Janes son)
- Alice Nutter
- Katherine Hewitt
- Alice Gray
- Jennet Preston
- Jennet Preston lived in Gisburn, which was then in Yorkshire, so she was sent to York Assizes for trial. Her judges were Sir James Altham and Sir Edward Bromley. Jennet was charged with the murder by witchcraft of a local landowner, Thomas Lister of Westby Hall, to which she pleaded not guilty. She had already appeared before Bromley in 1611, accused of murdering a child by witchcraft, but had been found not guilty. The most damning evidence given against her was that when she had been taken to see Lister's body, the corpse "bled fresh blood presently, in the presence of all that were there present" after she touched it. According to a statement made to Nowell by James Device on 27 April, Jennet had attended the Malkin Tower meeting to seek help with Lister's murder. She was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging; her execution took place on 29 July on the Knavesmire, the present site of York Racecourse.
- Nine of the accused – Alizon Device, Elizabeth Device, James Device, Anne Whittle, Anne Redferne, Alice Nutter, Katherine Hewitt, John Bulcock and Jane Bulcock – were found guilty during the two-day trial and hanged at Gallows Hill in Lancaster on 20 August 1612
Died awaiting trial
- Elizabeth Southerns died while awaiting trial.
- Alice Grey was found not guilty.
- John Law
- Abraham Law
- Margaret Crooke
- Jennet Device
- Thomas Potts (Clerk of the court)
- Roger Nowell of Read Hall
- Nicholas Bannister
- Sir Edward Bromley
- Sir James Altham