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In July 1616 nine witches of Husbands Bosworth were executed on the same day at Leicester gaol for being implicated in the bewitching of the grandson of Erasmus Smith, Lord of the Manor of Bosworth.

 

A letter* dated 18th of July 1616 from alderman Robert Heyrick to his brother Sir William Heyrick relates this extraordinary event: "...wytches, 9 of them shall be executed at the gallows this for-noone, for bewitching a younge gentellman of the age of 12 or 13 years old, beinge the soon of one Mr Smythe, of Husbands Bosworth...I will signifye unto you of ye chyld's strandg fits... Sir Henry Hastings hath doone what he colld to holld him ..., but he and another as strong as he could not hold him; yf he might have his arm at liberty, he coolld strike himselfe suche bloes on his brest...that you might here the sound of yt the length of a long chamber."

Brought in, as they no doubt were, by the family of the boy to effect a cure for the fits that he was suffering, the letter describes in detail how the witches practised their exorcism of the spirits tormenting the soul of the unfortunate child. For their failure to perform the necessary cure they were summarily hauled off to Leicester to be tried and subsequently hanged.

This monumental purge of witchery in Husbands Bosworth however, wasn't the end to the matter, for in October of the same year another letter from Robert Heyrick describes the fate of a further 6 witches transported to Leicester for inquisition over the matter: " I am desyrous to signifye unto you of the Witches...as I am informed, examyned before Mr. Mair and the Justisis, and Docktor Lambe."

A Royal Pardon issued by King James for five of the six came through in the nick of time and in a later letter Heyrick declares: "...the under-sherive, by a warrant directed to the highe-sherive, hathe set the 5 witches at liberty; the sixt is ded in the gayle."

Whether the unfortunate child survived or succumbed to his malaise is not noted. However Erasmus Smith himself died later that same year, maybe as a consequence of his malevolence towards the uncommonly high proportion of witches in Bosworth!

Modern consultation on the malady suffered by the child would seem to indicate epilepsy as the cause of the fits and convulsions rather than his being bewitched by the women of Bosworth.

*A full transcript of the letters is published in "History and Antiquities of Leicestershire" Vol. II, pt.II, p.471 by John Nichols.