Petition to pardon Essex 'witch' 370 years after her execution

More than 300 women are believed to have been executed for witchcraft between 1644 and 1646

An Essex woman who was hanged for witchcraft could finally receive a public pardon - 370 years after her death.

Anne West, who lived in Lawford near Colchester, was executed in 1645 during the notorious Essex Witch Trials, after her own daughter branded her a witch.

She was accused of using 'sorcery' to kill a her neighbour's unborn baby.

Trials continued throughout the remainder of the 17th Century. The spree officially came to an end, nearly a century later with the passing of the 1735 Witchcraft Act.

Along with cohort John Stearne, Hopkins’ witch hunts took place across Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, and occasionally in Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, and Huntingdonshire.

Fantasy writer Sara Pascoe has launched an online petition to clear her name.

If successful, Anne West will be the first witch in Britain to receive an official pardon.

Pascoe first discovered the story of Anne’s gruesome demise while writing her debut novel, ‘Ratchet The Reluctant Witch’, which is partly set during the Essex trials of the English Civil War.

"Anne came to life for me when I was researching my new teenage novel. The story moved me in particular and I thought she was a wonderful symbol for Essex- as apparently 760 women were accused of witchcraft."

Sara Pascoe, Fantasy writer

So what is the story of Anne West, the 'wicked witch' of the East?

  • Anne West, also know as the 'old Beldam Weste' was a reputed witch that was tried for witchcraft in 1641 and 1642.

  • Although Anne was acquitted on both charges of witchcraft, she was at the centre of the Matthew Hopkins and John Stearne witch-hunts in 1645.

  • Anne's was held in Colchester castle and imprisoned from early March to July 1945.

  • Anne was no stranger to rough justice, having previously been imprisoned for nine months after being suspected of killing a neighbour’s pig.

  • After being accused of witchcraft a second time, Anne spent another three months in prison with her daughter, Rebecca, who was persuaded to testify against her mother in return for her freedom.

  • Anne was tried and found guilty On July 17, 1645, at Chelmsford Assizes. She was hanged at Manningtree two weeks later.

  • Anne's daughter Rebecca was shown mercy when her life was spared, because she confessed her sins to Hopkins. 14 other “witches” were hanged at the same time as Anne West.

So what is Sara doing to try and get Anne West this public pardon?

To find out more on granting Anne West a pardon, click here.