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article imageJournal detailing witch trials will open to wider audience

By Lynn Curwin     Oct 29, 2010 in World
Knutsford - The journal containing details of how 33 women were determined to be witches in mid-17th century England is being digitised so that it can be read by more people.
Matthew Hopkins, a lawyer, was appointed by Parliament to find witches during the English Civil War. Many people were hanged for witchcraft between 1645 and 1647, after they confessed while being tortured.
Puritan writer Nehemiah Wallington wrote in his journal about how one young woman admitted she had sex with the devil, and how she saved herself from execution by implicating her mother and others.
The Telegraph reported that a team from The University of Manchester's John Rylands Library is using cutting edge camera technology to photograph and ''digitise'' the diary, which is kept at Tatton Hall in Knutsford, Cheshire.
Hopkins exploited the idea that witches were causing things to go wrong. Those accused of witchcraft were examined for devil’s marks, such as warts or moles, and were often tortured.
In 1645, while under torture, Elizabeth Clarke named several other women as witches. Two of those were Anne West and her daughter Rebecca.
After they were captured, Rebecca confessed and saved herself by implicating her mother and others.
West told of meeting with chief witches and how, after they prayed, imps appeared in several shapes. She said the chief witches commanded spirits to kill animals and people.
Twenty-eight women, who were provided with no legal representation, were tried and all but Rebecca were found guilty.
Fifteen were hanged in Chelmsford, four were hanged on the village green in Manningtree and nine were reprieved.
Wallington wrote of how the devil appeared to Rebecca, in the shape of a handsome young man and she admitted to having sex with him.
''When she looked upon the ground she saw herself encompassed in flames of fire and as soon as she was separated from her mother the tortures and the flames began to cease whereupon she then confessed all she knew,” The Telegraph reported the journal as saying.
''As soon as her confession was fully ended she found her contience so satisfied and disburdened of all tortures she thought herself the happiest creature in the world.''
Caroline Schofield, mansion and collections manager at Tatton Park, said Wallington kept diaries in an effort to record his own sins and God’s mercies, and at one point suffered a breakdown and tried to take his own life.
"The Wallington manuscripts are of huge importance to scholars of the period,” The Telegraph quoted her as saying
"We hope to use the digitised images in a new interpretive exhibition in the mansion's library.''
The story of the witch finding done by Hopkins, who died of tuberculosis in 1647, was the subject of a controversial Vincent Price film called The Witchfinder General in 1968. It was heavily cut by sensors and there were claims that it exploited sadistic violence.
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