Simon Armitage explores the history of the Pendle Witch Child
Simon Armitage, Professor of Poetry at the University, will be bringing the extraordinary story of the most disturbing witch trial in British history to BBC4 on Wednesday 17 August at 9pm.
In The Pendle Witch Child, Simon tells the story of Jennet Device, a nine-year-old girl from Pendle in Lancashire. In 1612, Jennet was the star witness in the trial of her own mother, her brother, her sister and many of her neighbours. Her chilling testimony sent them all to the gallows.
In the programme Simon explores Jennet’s story using vivid and innovative hand-drawn animation to tell a tale of fear, magic and demonic pacts. He discovers how Jennet's appearance in the witness box cast its shadow way beyond Lancashire, impressing lawyers, politicians, clerics and even King James I himself, and setting a dark precedent for child testimony in witch trials as far away as America.
With the help of historians Malcolm Gaskill, Diane Purkiss and Ronald Hutton, Simon attempts to understand how the illegitimate and illiterate youngest child of a family of beggars could become both pawn and player in a much bigger story of 17th century religion, power, law, science and the monarchy.