Elizabeth Frances

(Indicted 1566^1571 & 1579

executed 1579)

Agnes Frances

(Indited 1572, sentenced to be hanged but (lieu m prison)

Figure 4 Four generations of witches lving in Hatfield Peverel in the 1560s and 1570s. Pictures are from the 1566 trial pamphlet.

Rosen linked Agnes Waterhouse and Elizabeth Frances as sisters via the 1566 and 1579 trial pamphlets. Agnes Frances has not been previously linked to Elizabeth Frances but she had the same surnname and was operating as witch at the same time in the same area -were they related by birth or marriage?

Phillips, J; The Examination and confession of certaine wytches at Chensforde

If Mother Eve was grandmother to both Elizabeth Frances and Agnes Waterhouse (as has been suggested by Rosen because of the wording of the 1579 pamphlet62), Mother Eve perhaps started practising her "craft" in the second half of the fifteenth century (given that Agnes' date of birth would have been c1502): a time when, although the existence of witchcraft was acknowledged and people consulted cunning men and women63, there was no witchcraft act on the Statute books. "In 1549, one suspected sorcerer reckoned "there be within England above five hundred conjurers as he thinketh". This was probably a substantial under estimate."64 Moreover, this family would have lived through great upheaval that affected all parts of England because of the Reformation. Christopher Marsh comments that many rituals of the Catholic Church (such as charms, sorcery, enchantments) were banned in 1559 and this ruling was a "broader campaign to destroy the credibility of traditional religion by exposing its alleged superstition65". Rosen remarks "Bitterness, resentment and pain that can no longer be discharged through familiar religious channels will almost inevitably be turned upon others; and in their delusions, such women were aided by the learned and by the religious terms in which they continued to think."66 Agnes Waterhouse leaves us a tantalising clue about contemporary attitudes towards religion and those who practised outside the State dictated religion "she was demanded what praier she saide, she aunswered the Lordes prayer, the Aue Maria, and the belefe, & then they demaunded whether in laten or in englyshe, and shee sayde in laten, and they demaunded why she saide it not in engly[...]e but in laten67"

So, Agnes Waterhouse at least, practised some of the "old ways" and perhaps had not converted to Protestantism and therefore operated outside the beliefs and

Rosen, B; Witchcraft in England; p94

Marsh, C; (1998) Popular Religion in Sixteenth Century England; p147 Ibid

Rosen, B; Witchcraft in England; p148 Ibid; p43

Phillips, J; The Examination and confession of certaine wytches at Chensforde

"norms" of her society. Rosen comments that between 1534 and the time of this trial "there had been eight major religious changes requiring oaths from teachers, ministers and public officials with four total reversals of religious practice enforced by law and death sentence68". This constant change of religious policy must have had a long lasting effect on many of the inhabitants of the villages, including the community of Hatfield Peverel. Moreover, of the 238 Protestant martyrs burnt during Mary's reign of 1553 to 1558, 39 had been burnt in Essex and many of the 78 martyrs burnt in London had come from Essex69 showing the very diverse nature of the inhabitants of sixteenth century Essex. Agnes Waterhouse's ability to say her prayers in Latin would have been compulsory during Mary's reign and yet a few years later this factor was used against her as an indication that she was practising witchcraft and thus, as a witch, was unable to say her prayers correctly in English. Whilst it has long been established by modern day historians such as Keith Thomas that "in England witchcraft was prosecuted primarily as an anti-social crime, rather than as a heresy70" Agnes Waterhouse's case shows that religion must have played a small but significant part in her neighbours' belief that she was a witch although she was executed as a murderer rather than a heretic.

In conclusion, it can be seen that the subject of witchcraft within England has raised many different questions and theories: from the "refused charity" hypothesis with "social tensions thrown up by the transition from personal to institutional charity71" as argued by MacFarlane/Thomas to the extreme feminist argument of a "complex attack by male-dominated authority on dependent or independent women72. This essay and supporting database has used evidence from the Assize trials and the pamphlets to study the surmise that witchcraft was a form of female power. Through looking at the pamphlets (whilst appreciating their bias and the

Rosen, B; Witchcraft in England; p35

Ridley, J; Bloody Mary's Martyrs; p216

Thomas, K; Religion and the Decline of Magic; p527

possibility that they were not eye-witness accounts), it can be seen that many of the accused witches were living outside the "norms" of their society. For example, the Cunny sisters had illegitimate children73; Ursula Kemp had also been known as "Ursula Gray" and had been openly living with a widower and had at least one illegitimate child74; Agnes Waterhouse said her prayers in Latin so was perhaps a Catholic75. These women and others accused did not live "conventional" sixteenth century lives: perhaps their witchcraft can be perceived as a form of power against "conventional" people within their society. Or perhaps the conventional people had used their "powers" and accused non-conforming people of witchcraft and thus created a "two-way process" of power between "victim" and "witch". Moreover, as the figures taken from the indictments found by Ewen shows, all ages of women from all marital categories were involved; accused male witches sometimes worked with females rather then on their own, and, whilst witchcraft was not perceived as heredity, (female) witches taught other (possibly related) people their "craft". Taking these issues into account it would appear that witchcraft can be seen to be a form of female power supporting Sharpe's theory that "witchcraft accusations were made by women against other woman" and that they "form one of the contexts within which female power was asserted and negotiated".76

The English witchcraft trails of the sixteenth and seventeenth century are a very complex topic to study. It is hoped that this essay and accompanying database has given realistic consideration to the continuing debate.

Anon; (1589) The apprehension and confession of three notorious witches

W. W; (1582) A true and iust recorde, of the information, examination and confession of all the witches Phillips, J; (1566) The Examination and confession of certaine wytches at Chensforde Marsh, C; Popular Religion in Sixteenth Century England; p150

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