Sunday, 19 August 2012

Pendle and the Witches




A highlight of a very enjoyable week-end was my first ever visit to Pendle, home of the legendary witches. I live only an hour’s drive from Pendle Hill, so there’s really no excuse for the fact that I’ve never visited this fascinating – and very attractive – part of Lancashire before. 


All the more so since, back in 2005, I wrote a story for one of Mike Ashley’s anthologies of historical whodunits, the plot of which was influenced by the story of the Pendle witch trials. However, I set the events in familiar territory, my home county of Cheshire. The story was called “The Witching Hour” and it's one of my least well-known stories, though maybe one day it will enjoy a new life thanks to digital publication.


As it happens, now is an especially good time to go to Pendle. 2012 sees the 400th anniversary of the famous trials and I was startled to see the date “1612” picked out, very noticeably, on the hillside. Some locals, I gathered, are not thrilled about this, but it certainly made for a striking image.


Saturday also saw massive celebrations in the nearby village of Barley. The little place was full of life – and witches in full regalia. When we there, some of the women in pointed hats were boogying to the music from a band. A typically quirky English scene, and all the more pleasing because the weather was – for once – fantastic.

5 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - As always, lovely 'photos - thanks. One of these years I'll get to Pendle...

Martin Edwards said...

Margot, living where you do, you have a much better excuse than me for not getting there - but I hope you make it one day!

Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

The '1612' on the hillside is startling! I have friends who live nearby but have never actually been to Pendle, although I have seen the hill whilst driving past one time we visited - without the '1612'.

Robert Neill's 'Mist Over Pendle' was one of my favourite books as a teenager. I haven't re-read it for many years, although I keep thinking I will. This year seems an appropriate time to do so.

John said...

I imagine modern day Pendle must be a lot like modern day Salem, Massachusetts where we had our own version of those infamous witch trials. But probably less touristy witch junk on your side of the pond than over here. In the 70s when my family did our "Visit Historic Masschusetts!" vacation Salem was fun but kitschy. I have no idea what it's like now.

Frances Brody said...

Great photos, Martin. Like you, I was inspired by the story of the Pendle witches. I wrote my first radio play, The Sun and the Devil, after reading an account of the trial in the British Museum Reading Room.