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The Witches of Belvoir Castle ~ A Lincolnshire Tale

The Witches of Belvoir Castle ~ A Fascinating Historical Account
A fascinating tale which takes us back to Belvoir Castle, near Grantham in Lincolnshire, and the early 1600s
You’ve no doubt heard of Witch Hunts . . . well here’s one

If you’ve no real interest in history you’ve surely seen films like The Witchfinder General and are aware of the Witch Hunts and supposed burning of 1,000s of women as witches.
Here in Lincolnshire we’re going back to the very early 1600s and the fate of 3 women.
The image on the left is from a pamphlet printed in 1619 which told the story of Joan Flower and her 2 daughters.
The usual charge of Witchcraft was tragically levelled at local healers whose potions and herbal mixtures were for good not bad., this case however looks a bit different.

The Earl of Rutland employed Joan Flower and her 2 daughters Margaret and Philippa in 1617. It seems things didn’t go smoothly and the Countess of Rutland soon took issue with them.
One daughter was accused of theft of household items and the other of lurid behaviour with her lover.
The mother was sent home from the castle and it is said that in revenge she put a curse on Henry the oldest son and heir apparent.

Not long after their dismissal Henry died and the other children fell ill.
This lead to all 3 being arrested and taken to Lincoln Gaol !

In Lincoln Prison the mother protested her innocence and the bizarre story takes another improbable twist, she declared that if she was a witch and ate bread and butter she would choke on it.
This test was agreed to, the bread and butter was brought in and Joan took a bite . . .
She then choked to death !

As she was now taken to be guilty her daughters were given little choice other than confession.
As part of their ‘confession’ they also named 3 other women, shown in the 1619 image above. They too confessed but I’m not sure of their fate.

The fate of the Witches of Belvoir Castle was sealed though, the mother already having died in Lincoln Prison the 2 daughters were subsequently hanged there !

The whole thing looks sure to be a put up job. The women all had ‘familiars’ which were things witches we sure to have, familiars being pets such as cats and dogs etc :roll:
I wonder whether the mother died whilst being ‘interviewed’ perhaps ?!

Whether you believe in witches or curses is personal choice, one thing is sure though, the Earl and Countess of Rutland firmly believed their son died at the hands of witches - so much so they had in inscribed on their family monument in Bottesford church !

Thoughts, opinions and more information on this is very much welcomed


  1. veronica said,

    February 12, 2013 @ 8:22 am

    King James 1/ V1 of Scotland was fanatical in his fear of witchcraft and this is shown here in the dates of these events. His fears also provoked the scenes in MacBeth, where Shakespeare pampered the King’s fears.

    I have no doubt that some sad women actually believed that they were indeed witches. To wish someone ill fortune one week which befalls a week later doesn’t turn the wisher into a witch.

    The problem as I see it is that these ‘confessions’ were given under torture and sleep deprivation and arrests made with no evidence what so ever. Happily, they would never get to court these days.

    The Belvoir castle events were even before the Witchfinder general days too. Sad times, Rod.

  2. Rod said,

    February 12, 2013 @ 7:02 pm

    there must have been some terrible suffering, absolutely dreadful

  3. v said,

    February 12, 2013 @ 7:27 pm

    I took two non fiction books to Italy with me ( Yes Ok ! I am a dull dame, Rod, Sorry, that’s just me! ) 18 months ago; one about the Salem witch trials and one about Matthew Hopkins , self styled witchfinder general in the East counties of England.

    I was appalled to read the accounts of what happened to both men and women at this time. The American govt had issued a posthumous pardon to these poor souls. Maybe it s’ time our government did too. It’s never too late. Torture and unfair trials!

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