The Pendle Witch trials of 1612 is England's most famous witch hunting case. In this case 12 villagers were arrested on the charge of witchcraft. They included Elizabeth Device, two of her children and her mother. The chief witness in the case was Elizabeth's daughter, 9 year old Jennet Device.
Elizabeth's mother Elizabeth Southerns, who was approaching 80 years of age, died in prison awaiting the finalisation of the trials. Elizabeth, her daughter Alizon and son James, were hanged with six others.
The Device family was a very poor family living in the Pendle Forest, a remote part of Lancashire. Alizon Device, aged about 17, was accused of bewitching the pedlar John Laws in March 1612. After an altercation with Alizon, John had fallen down and was unable to walk. His son Abraham Laws, reported the matter to the local Justice of the Peace, Roger Nowell. This accusation was the beginning of what turned out to be Lancashire's biggest witch hunt, as Nowell was determined to see the Device family "brought to justice".
Elizabeth, the mother of Elizbeth Device, was elderly and blind when she was arrested for witchcraft in 1612. She lived with her granddaughter Alizon in an isolated old ruin called Malkin Tower and made her living as a wise woman and from begging. She appears to have been well known in the district for her skills.
The conditions in Lancaster Castle prison were said to be very poor in the early 1600s and Elizabeth died before she could appear before the courts. She was imprisoned on 2 April 1612 and last mentioned living on about 24 May. She probably died some time soon after this.
Elizabeth Device was widowed in about 1601, her husband John Device and the family convinced that he had been bewitched by a neighbour, Anne Whittle. John and Elizabeth had two surviving children, James and Alizon; Elizabeth had two further children after John's death, Jennet and William. Elizabeth was probably born about 1570. Elizabeth and other members of the family supported themselves through casual work on nearby farms and manor houses.
Alizon was about 17 years old in 1612. She ived with her grandmother at Malkin Tower.
James was about 19 years old in 1612. He lived with his mother and younger siblings.