With the ascension of James VI of Scotland to the English throne as King James I, came a new wave of persecution against those who practised witchcraft. Although many in Britain believed in witches, they were more often or not indifferent to them, believing them to be neither good or bad. However, James was a great believer in witchcraft, believing all those who practised it were evil, and he vowed to destroy the practice. With the zealousness of the king, came the this new chance for magistrates to make their name by exposing witchcraft in their area. One such case was in the Pendle area.
The trial came about as a result of an incident concerning Alizon Device. She refused to buy some pins off a beggar and is alleged to have cursed him, after which he collapsed almost immediately as a result of a stroke. However, the peddlers son accused Alizon of being a witch and setting a curse on him.
The investigations into the allegations were led by the local magistrate Roger Nowell, and the accusations and counter accusations ended up involving three local families, the Demdikes, the Devices and the Chattox family.
Alizon's family had been involved in a long standing feud with another in the area, the Chattox's. The two families had quarrelled when Alizon's grandmother's home had been broken into, and some goods were stolen. The following Sunday, Alizon saw Bessie Chattox wearing one of the items which had been stolen. It was decided that the Chattox family would pay a yearly tribute to the Devices to make up for the act. The tribute soon stopped being paid, and when John Device died, the Demdikes were reduced to a life of poverty, with John blaming the Chattox family for the situation. It is possible that...