It’s fitting that J K Rowling would gain inspiration from a City known as the site of the last Witchcraft executions in England. Probably more a coincidence actually, but let’s stick with fitting. Otherwise what else would students have to tell their parents as they drag them eagerly down Gandy Street: “Look dad this is Diagon Alley!” On the way pointing out the Freemasons Provincial Grand Lodge, and possibly a subtle mention of the Phoenix theatre ( you know just to heighten the mystery and give fuel to the imagination).
Then into the Firehouse to gawp at the wooden tables and dripping candlesticks: “Mum I promise you this is what she based the Leaky Cauldron on.” Oh, hang on a second, wasn’t it the Black Horse? Come on let’s pop in for a mid-afternoon snakebite to soak up the magical ambience…
In 1682 Temperance Lloyd, Susannah Edwards and Mary Trembles were accused of causing death and sickness through the black arts and subsequently hanged for witchcraft. After being tried for their crimes at Rougement Castle, the women were hanged in Heavitree. Lest we forget what real witches look like, these poor women (known as ‘the Bideford Three’) have been immortalised in a mural behind Exeter library.
However, their plight continues in the form of a petition calling on the government to pardon the women for their ‘crime’.
The keen-eyed will notice that the deadline for the petition has already expired. Although it does mention in passing an intriguing tale of how King James I believed his cousin had tried to assassinate him with witchcraft. Who knows, maybe Guy Fawkes was a wizard.
But the witches’ memory is alive and well, with an upcoming play about them at Exeter’s Barnfield Theatre. Stay tuned for a review.