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The Lancashire WitchesHistories and Stories$
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Robert Poole

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780719062032

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719062032.001.0001

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The Reformation in the parish of Whalley

The Reformation in the parish of Whalley

(p.88) 6 The Reformation in the parish of Whalley
The Lancashire Witches

Michael Mullett

Manchester University Press

This chapter focuses on the enormous and impoverished parish of Whalley, of which Pendle formed a part, addressing the role played by religion in the trials. Historians have recently looked more to religion and ideas for explanations of witch trials. It is suggested that witchcraft trials were concentrated in areas where there were clashes between strong Roman Catholicism and vigorous reforming Protestantism, and singled out Lancashire as an example. The county was certainly notable at this period for both of these religious tendencies. The spiritual vacuum left by the destructive dissolution of Whalley Abbey in the reign of Henry VIII, the continuing attachment of the population to the older forms of religious belief, and the rise of a determined, reforming Puritanism in the generation or so preceding the trials of 1612 are stressed. The Reformation proceeded slowly and unreformed religious ideas remained entrenched. But when the godly crusade against sin did finally get underway, it was magistrates such as Roger Nowell and his colleagues among the Protestant gentry of the area who were in the forefront of the campaign to eradicate what they saw as the related phenomena of Catholicism, superstition and witchcraft.

Keywords:   Reformation, parish of Whalley, reforming Puritanism, Roman Catholicism, reforming Protestantism, Protestant gentry

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