The Theosophy Cardiff

Guide to



Lancashire, England.

Nearest Towns

Burnley, Colne, Nelson, Clitheroe, Padiham.





Pendle Hill is located in the north-east of Lancashire, England, near the towns of Burnley, Nelson, Colne, Clitheroe and Padiham. Its summit is 557 metres (1,827 ft) above mean sea level. It gives its name to the Borough of Pendle. It is an isolated hill, separated from the Pennines to the east and the Forest of Bowland to the northwest. It lies to the southwest of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It is a detached part of the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).





The sloping plateau summit of Pendle Hill is formed from the Pendle Grit, a coarse Carboniferous age sandstone assigned to the Millstone Grit Group. It overlies a thick sequence of Carboniferous Limestone beds.


Much of the lower slopes are mantled by thick deposits of glacial till or boulder clay dating from the last Ice Age. The historic decomposition of sphagnum moss on the hill has led to it being covered in peat.


The steep slopes of its eastern and southern flanks have given rise to a series of landslips.





The phrase Pendle Hill is unusual in that it combines the word for hill from three different languages. In the thirteenth century the hill was mentioned as Pennul or Penhul; apparently from Cumbric pen and Old English hyll, both meaning "hill". The modern English hill was appended later, after the original meaning of Pendle had become opaque.


Pendle Hill is famous for its links to three events which took place in the 17th century: the Pendle witch trials (1612), Richard Towneley's barometer experiment (1661), and George Fox’s vision (1652), which led to the foundation of the Quaker movement. A Bronze Age burial site has been also discovered at the summit of the hill.


The most popular route for ascending the hill begins in the village of Barley, which lies to the east. This route also provides the steepest ascent. Other nearby villages include Downham, Newchurch-in-Pendle and Sabden.


A local saying suggests the area around Pendle Hill experiences frequent rainfall: "If you can see Pendle then it's about to rain, if you can't then it's already started." When it's not raining, and there's a usable northwesterly wind, Pendle is a popular hill-launch for paragliders and hang gliders.


George Fox’s Vision and the

Foundation of the Quakers


In 1652, George Fox claimed to have had a vision while on top of Pendle, during the early years of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). Today, the name Pendle remains strongly linked with the Quakers, giving its name to one of their centres for religious and spiritual study and contemplation in the United States.


As we travelled, we came near a very great hill, called Pendle Hill, and I was moved of the Lord to go up to the top of it; which I did with difficulty, it was so very steep and high. When I was come to the top, I saw the sea bordering upon Lancashire. From the top of this hill the Lord let me see in what places he had a great people to be gathered.

—George Fox: An Autobiography, Chapter 6



Pendle witches


The story of the Pendle witches is the best known example of alleged witchcraft in English history. The hill continues to be associated with witchcraft and large numbers of visitors climb it every Hallowe'en, though in recent years people have been warned away by the authorities.



The Trial of the Pendle Witches


The arrest and trial of the so-called Pendle Witches is probably the most well-known of the witch trials that took place in the British Isles in the 16th and 17th Centuries. This has come about for several reasons, not least the fact that unlike many witch trials, the case of the Pendle Witches was documented very thoroughly (if not very open-mindedly!) at the time by Thomas Potts, and the transcript published as a book (The Wonderful Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster).  Also, the sheer number of people involved, the surprising confessions, and the conspiracy theories that abounded have maintained interest in the trial up to this day.


Despite received wisdom and lurid B-movies, England wasn't a country that devoted a lot of resources to persecuting accused witches through the courts, compared with most of the rest of the continent.  Apart from a brief flurry in the Tudor period and the short-lived antics of Matthew Hopkins, England was reasonably safe for those who were either thought to practice magical arts, or who allowed people to think they did. 


All over mainland Europe, widespread torture and execution of accused witches was underway at this period, while in England many cases never even made it to the courts, apparently since a lot of magistrates simply didn't believe in witchcraft or black magic.  Most claims that did make it to court were for offences that related to an actual event such as harming animals or crops using spells, rather than the more outrageous claims of night-flying or demons that proliferated on the continent.


However, even for these low-level accusations, any given trial was not a foregone conclusion. Torture was not generally used to extract confessions, and it was not unusual for cases to be dismissed from court due to fabricated evidence or pre-existing animosity with accusers - at the same trials where the Pendle Witches were convicted, other so-called witches were acquitted.


In 1612, James I had been on the throne for nine years, and had already survived one major attempt on his life by Catholic conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.  The paranoia about Catholic plots was high, and the persecution of non-conformists was a daily fact of life - in the Pendle area at that time there was much concern about the fact that the Catholic faith was still being practised widely in private ceremonies throughout the county.  It is also worth noting that James was a strong believer in witchcraft and wrote a book on the subject. While the instances of witchcraft trials were not especially high during his reign, there was certainly the opportunity for young magistrates to try and make their name by taking accusations of witchcraft seriously and prosecuting them publicly.


In the Pendle area at that time were two families - the Demdikes and the Chattoxes - each of which were ruled by old matriarchs who both had reputations locally for being witches.  It seems that they did nothing to contradict these reputations and in fact used them to gain work as healers or to extort money with threats.  The two families were also at each others throats over an old debt, and considered each other rivals.


Events Leading Up To The Trial


In March 1612, Alizon Device, the grand-daughter of Elizabeth Southerns (better known locally as Old Demdike), cursed a pedlar who refused to give her some pins.  The pedlar collapsed by the side of the road and Alizon was convinced that she was the cause, immediately confessing to him and asking for forgiveness, which he gave.


His son later heard about this and brought the event to the attention of the local authorities, claiming that when the pedlar refused Alizon's begging, a large dog appeared, and then the pedlar fell to the ground and became paralyzed.


She was brought before the local magistrate, Roger Nowell, who does seem to have genuinely believed in magic and witchcraft.  Amazingly, she immediately confessed to the crime, although Nowell used no means of torture, "tests" or overt persuasion.  As well as fully confessing to the crime, Alizon implicated her grandmother and Anne Whittle (known as Chattox) by recounting tales of how they had caused harm to neighbours and livestock in the area.


In early April 1612, Old Demdike, Chattox and Chattox's daughter Anne Redfearn were also interrogated about their alleged witchcraft.  Demdike immediately confessed practising withcraft, and claimed that the devil had sucked her blood and driven her mad.  All four of the accused were sent to Lancaster Gaol to await trial.


Shortly afterwards, it was reported to the authorities that there had been a gathering at Malkin Tower, the home of Old Demdike, on Good Friday.  This was believed by the courts to have taken the form of a witches sabbat.  Bones and clay images were found at Malkin Tower and submitted as evidence of witchcraft.


On questioning, the youngest member of the Device family, Jennet, then aged 9, confirmed the story of the witches sabbat and claimed that during the meeting, plans were made to attack Lancaster gaol, murder the gaoler, and free the accused prisoners.  James Device, Elizabeth Device, Alice Nutter, James Bulcock, Jane Bulcock, Margaret Pearson, Katherine Hewitt and Isobel Robey were all  identified by Jennet as being present at the meeting and were also sent to Lancaster to await trial.  James Device later confessed to all the charges.


Trial and Punishment


An old woman of ill health, Old Demdike died in gaol during the summer while awaiting trial.  The trial itself did not take place until August 1612, but when it did,  Jennet Device, despite her age, was the star witness.  Anne Whittle (Chattox), Alizon Device, Elizabeth Device, James Device, Alice Nutter, Katherine Hewitt, John Bulcock, Jane Bulcock, and Isobel Robey were all tried and found guilty of the preliminary charges.  Anne Redfearn was found guilty on a further charge.  They were all sentenced to be hanged.  Margaret Pearson was found guilty of a minor offence and escaped the death sentence - instead being sentenced to punishment in the stocks.


On August 20th, the ten were hanged at Lancaster gaol.  There is no record of what happened to their bodies.


In an ironic twist, after condemning her entire family as witches at the 1612 trial, Jennet Device was herself to be arrested several years later on charges of witchcraft, and despite the charges being dismissed due to new laws which stated that witchcraft was merely superstition, she is believed by most historians to have died in gaol.


No one will ever know what prompted the confessions that the Devices gave freely - in the absence of torture, it can only be assumed that there was hope that by condemning others they might gain their own freedom - or perhaps Roger Nowell was a skillful manipulator.  Whatever the case, the Pendle Witches and their trial have retained their notoriety and their mystery through the centuries and still generate a lot of interest today, among both historians and pagans.



Merlin’s Vision


There is a story that in his early years Merlin, the Magician of Arthurian Legend, travelled the British Isles visiting sacred sites. He clearly understood earth energies and this Grand Tour was probably part of his training as a Magician.


He was exploring the area around the River Belisama (Ribble, East Lancashire/Yorkshire Dales). He climbed Pendle Hill near Burnley, Lancashire and saw a vision of the The Dragons of Albion, previously awoken from this place by the leader of the Setantii tribe, Setanta Bic or Cuchulain.


The prophecy of the coming invasions of the British Isles was revealed to him and that he must unite the Celtic Kingdoms of Britain under one leader. He is shown that the dynastic line of this leader must not only be of Avalon, but also of the Pendragon Lineage.


The Triangulation Point on the summit of Pendle Hill


Most Haunted


The area is now popular with ghost hunters after Living channel's top show Most Haunted visited the hill for a live investigation on Halloween 2004. The show's presenter, Yvette Fielding, said it was the scariest episode they had made to date and the episode is still widely considered as the scariest episode of the entire series.


On 30 October, the programme visited Clitheroe Castle, Church Brow and Trinity Youth Centre. On Halloween it visited Lower Well Head Farm, Bull Hole Farm and Tynedale Farm and the investigation finished on 1 November at Waddow Hall.


















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