The Exeter Witch Trials

Rougement Extra Photoshopped

Rougement Castle

It's said that witches lived in Exeter starting in 1066 and called it their home for more than 700 years. However, when James I rose to power in 1603, he gained the title of “Witchfinder General” for his famous crusade against witchcraft. He was responsible for hanging the last witches in England.

Temperance Lloyd, Susannah Edwards, and Mary Trembles (often referred to as the Bideford Three or the Bideford Witches) were arrested on the count of witchcraft. They were transported to the Exeter prison tower and awaited trial at Rougement Castle. Just a few years later, Alice Mollard would suffer the same fate. However, the infamy of the Bideford Three meant that they were remembered as the final witches hanged for witchcraft.

Lloyd was accused of working with the devil to make another woman ill. Edwards and Trembles, fellow beggars and housemates, were arrested alongside her. The women were put up for a public trial. Legend has it that the judges did not want to sentence the women, but the crowd insisted they be hanged. When I traveled to the trial grounds (in Rougement Gardens, behind the RAMM), the place felt haunted. There seemed to be a particular weight to the massive red brick tower that loomed over the otherwise cheerful gardens. A plaque on the tower informed me that though this was the location of their trial, the three were hung in Heavitree, named for the fact that hanged bodies made a tree heavy.

Heavitree is about an hour from Rougement Gardens. Surrounded by modern shops and rushing traffic, I found it hard to imagine these women taking the same walk to the gallows back in the 1680's. Though the gallows are long gone, many believe that Gallows Corner is the site of the site of the execution grounds. There is no plaque to let people know that this might have been where the witches were hanged, only an empty bus stop in a quiet residential area.

Temperance Lloyd, Susannah Edwards, and Mary Trembles were hanged on August 18, 1682. Alice Molland was hanged in 1685. They were a small fraction of the thousands of women who were persecuted, locked up, and killed on the grounds of witchcraft.

The plaque on Rougement Castle explains that the city erected it “in the hope of an end to persecution and intolerance.” The Bideford Three were unmarried, impoverished outsiders to a society that persecuted them for their difference. Though many today look back on the witch trials as acts of intolerance toward vulnerable members of a community, the plaque at the RAMM is defaced by the word “Satanism” and images of a pentagram, indicating that intolerance and insensitivity still persists.


A Vase Depicting the Bideford Executions, Made by Harry Jupiter in 1971 



The Plaque by Rougemont Castle



The government has taken strides to end this intolerance. Back in 2013, Ben Bradshaw (Exeter’s MP at the time) signed a petition to pardon the executed witches. People are still petitioning the pardoning, and it has not yet been passed. However, a little more than a year ago, more than 300 modern day witches gathered in Exeter for this pardoning.

Though the witch trials happened more than 300 years ago, their presence remains around street corners, in place names, and even in the public’s memory. You just have to look a bit closer to find the history of the trials all around the city. 


Text © Emily Daluga, Photos © Megan Otto



Exeter Red Coat Society Members. “Special Halloween Tour.” Exeter Red Coat Society. Exeter Cathedral, Exeter, UK. 29 Oct. 2015. Guided Tour.

“Witches hanged in Exeter should be pardoned, says city’s MP.” Express and Echo. 13 June 2013. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.


Rougement Gardens, Exeter