Wed, 23 Feb 2022 19:30 - 20:30

The Last Witches of England (In person and online)

On the morning of Thursday 29 June 1682, a magpie came rasping and tapping at the window of a prosperous Devon merchant. Within a matter of hours, he and his household convinced themselves that the bird was an emissary of the devil sent by witches to destroy the fabric of their lives. As the result of these allegations, three women of Bideford came to be forever defined as witches. They were condemned to the gallows, the last group of women to be executed in England for the crime. Yet, the hatred of their neighbours endured and belief in witchcraft across England lingered on for more than a century after their deaths.

With time, the memory of these three women has transformed from canker to regret and finally to celebration. Their example was cited during the final Parliamentary debates in 1951 that saw the last of the witchcraft acts repealed, and their names were chanted, as both inspiration and incantation, by the women beyond the wire at Greenham Common.

John Callow, who explores this remarkable history in his new book The Last Witches of England speaks to Rachel Holmes about an enduring tale of sorcery, superstition, misogyny and marginalisation.

‘John Callow’s meticulous and gripping history of the Bideford Witches is unputdownable.’ – Baroness Shami Chakrabarti

John Callow is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Suffolk who has written widely on early modern witchcraft, politics and popular culture. He is the author of The Making of King James II (2000) and Embracing the Darkness (2005, I.B. Tauris). He has appeared on the BBC Radio 4 documentary It Must be Witchcraft, and the series on the Salem Witches on the Discovery Channel.

Rachel Holmes is the author of the biographies Sylvia Pankhurst: Natural Born Rebel, Eleanor Marx: A Life, The Secret Life of Dr James Barry and The Hottentot Venus: The Life and Death of Sarah Baartman. She is also the co-editor of the anthologies Fifty Shades of Feminism and I Call Myself A Feminist.

John Callow’s The Last Witches of England and Rachel Holmes’ Sylvia Pankhurst can be ordered from our partner bookshop Hatchards

N.B. This event will take place in person at The London Library with limited capacity and in alignment with up-to-date government COVID recommendations. Please see our Event Access and COVID Guidelines before you arrive. Doors (and the bar) open at 7.00pm for a 7.30pm start. The event will be livestreamed through YouTube from 7.30pm and will be available to watch live or at any time after the event, using the same link. 

Please also note that the Library's Central Lift is currently out of order (while we await the delivery of a replacement part). For the least steps (six) to the Reading Room on Floor 1, guests can use the lift in TS Eliot House (via the Art Room, to the right). Unfortunately, there is no step-free access to the Library’s accessible toilets during this time. Should you have any questions or need further assistance, please get in touch: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / (020) 7766 4765. We apologise for the inconvenience caused.London Library events are subject to Terms and Conditions.

If you purchase an online ticket then you will be sent a viewing link 24 hours before the event begins. If you do not receive a link, please check your junk mail or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..