In 2009, as a leaving present from work, I was given a copy of ‘Southwold: An Earthly Paradise’ by Geoffrey Munn. Tucked amongst the art and culture of the town were brief details of a woman who was tried three times for witchcraft – Ann Camell.
I have always been fascinated by stories of witchcraft and it seemed like a good omen that Southwold had a witch of its own.
Ann sat in the back of my mind until 2019 when I idly tapped her name into a genealogy search engine. I hadn’t expected to find anything and was thrilled when record after record popped up.
I gradually built up a picture of a woman who was not the poor, elderly hag so often portrayed, but one who had lived and loved, who had given birth to seven children and who was probably only in her early 60’s when she was put on trial.
As my research progressed, more cases emerged of women who had been accused of often the most outlandish of ‘crimes’, and I began to realise that these women had never had a voice. They were tried by male judges in front of a male jury.
Apart from being asked to plead guilty or not guilty, the women were not able to speak. Prosecution witnesses were heard but the accused women were not allowed to testify under oath, or call any witnesses in their defence. Indeed, in the case of the Aldeburgh witches, only two of the seven accused were actually named in the original records.
So I resolved to try, in my novels, to show how such accusations may have come about, how they came to be believed, and, most of all, how it would feel to be a woman accused of such things in those days.
I wanted them to be remembered. I hope I have done them justice.
Below is the original indictment of Ann Camell held at the National Archives in Kew.
And in the future…
I am currently writing a fourth book based on the famous trial of William Corder for the brutal murder of Maria Martin at Polstead, Suffolk.
‘The Red Barn’ is due to be published in 2024.
Behind the Covers
The books would not be the same without the amazing artwork by Sandy Horsley.
Sandy is a Suffolk-based printmaker and illustrator, with a BA in graphics/illustration and an MA in children’s book illustration.
In her illustration work, she combines traditional printmaking and drawing with digital processes, developing the textured and unpredictable marks created when printmaking.
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