W is for Witchcraft

When the Witchfinders Matthew Hopkins and John Stearne crossed into Suffolk the Civil War had been raging for 3 years. This was a period of immense turmoil; a time when many people would turn to their pillar of local authority – the vicar. However, as Hopkins and Stearne found in Brandeston, parishioners saw their vicar, John Lowes, as someone who had “most inviously plaged and molested his neighbours.” Lowes had been the subject of several court cases, repeated petitions to the Archbishop of Canterbury pleading for him to be removed and of a pamphlet entitled “a Magazine of Scandall” by the time he was arrested for the second time as a Witch in 1645. (BRO Education room file 1774)

After being arrested by Hopkins, Lowes was taken to Framlingham Castle to be swum in the moat. He floated in the stagnant waters, proving to the Witchfinders and spectators his guilt. From here he was taken to the assizes at Bury St Edmunds, where he was tried, found guilty and hanged as part of the largest witch trial held in England where 18 people were executed in one day.

Within HD1150/5 there is a copy of the pamphlet regarding this trial.

The Brandeston Parish records (FC105/D1/1) include a copy of an essay concerning John Lowes and Witchcraft by Francis Hutchinson, himself the minister of St James Parish in Bury St Edmunds at the time of writing. Alongside this there are also writings by John Revett regarding how John Lowes “suffered wrongly.”