GEOFF CRAMBIE: Roughlee Hall and the Pendle Witch trials

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This week, our column has a truly imposing pen and ink drawing of our local historic Roughlee Hall. This super sketch was captured on site during the summer of 1967 by the late Austin Hatfield, the notable local artist in all mediums including pencil, pen, pastels, oils and water colours.

Austin, the long-serving headmaster of Sacred Heart School, was a true gent and was a neighbour of ours for many years. Over those years, Austin let me have some wonderful paintings in oils of Wycoller and Lake Burwain and an excellent portfolio of pen and ink drawings covering the whole of our stunning local countryside. The cheery Austin passed away, age 95, in the year 1997 - we miss him still.

The Tudor-built Roughlee Hall, seen here in Austin’s illustration, is happily still with us today and has connections with the enigmatic Alice Nutter who, in 1612, was put on trial at Lancaster alongside 18 other local folk, charged with witchcraft. Of these, ten were hanged at the Lancaster Castle on Friday, August 21st, 1612, including Alice Nutter, Katherine Hewitt, Elizabeth Device, Anne Whittle and Anne Redfearn.

There is no doubt that all the accused were victims of sadly misdirected and unenlightened times.

Well, over 40 years ago, I had a dear friend who lived at Roughlee Hall, none other than the jovial Jimmy Crewdson. At the time, I was the yard salesman at John Riddiough and Son at Barrowford Road, Colne, and Jimmy would come into the timber yard at least a couple of times a week for off-cuts of knot-free wood which I would save for him.

With these Jimmy would make the most marvellous bird-boxes and they became a fixture in dozens of local gardens.

After a couple of years now, a firm friend, Jimmy, came into the yard one day saying: “Geoff, here’s a special present for you, but you must look after it well!”

It was, to my great amazement, a genuine ancient “witch bottle” found in Roughlee Hall’s outbuildings in the early 1920s.

Strange and weird shape-changing objects can be seen in the bizarre bottle and the eerie powers evoked by the grotesque bottle have been used over the years to put a hex on certain supercilious and posturing Royal Mail managers!