Behind The Scenes
Actresses in the BBC Radio Devon play
Witches of Bideford cast a spell
In 1682, three women from Bideford were hanged - their crime was witchcraft. They were the last women in England to be executed for this crime. More than 300 years later, their story is told in a radio play produced by BBC Radio Devon.
The Witches of Bideford follows the story of three women - Temperance Lloyd, Susanna Edwards and Mary Trembles.
All lived in Bideford although little is known about them beyond their arrests, trial and execution. The women were tried at the assizes of Exeter Castle.
According to the official record of the trial, all three pleaded not guilty. They were hanged at Heavitree just outside the city.
Heidi Stephenson's new play, The Witches of Bideford, enables these women to tell their version of events in 1682.
A plaque to the women. Photo: Zealonline
The story was originally researched by local historian Frank Gent in 1982. His book, The Trial of the Bideford Witches was published to commemorate the 300th anniversary of their deaths in Exeter in the summer of 1682.
At that time, Bideford was an important part of a growing transatlantic trade route with Newfoundland and Virginia.
The port on the North Devon coast was cosmopolitan and thriving as a result of trade with the American colonies. Despite deaths from the plague and smallpox epidemics, by 1680 the crowded town had a population of 2,600.
Religion and folklore played key parts in the beliefs of those living in the 17th Century. At this time, there was also a reviving interest in and fear of witchcraft.
Witchcraft trials were a source of great popular interest at the time - resulting in the publication of pamphlets, booklets and songs. These, along with records of the trial itself, are vital primary source material on the history of the event.
Simon Mathews as Judge Raymond
Dartington writer Heidi Stephenson has now adapted her play for BBC Radio Devon.
As with previous community dramas produced by BBC Radio Devon, this production features local actors who were auditioned for the roles by Heidi Stephenson and Radio Devon producers Sarah Solftley and Jo Loosemore.
Temperance Lloyd is played by Stephanie Easton, Susanna Edwards by Jo Fallaize, Mary Trembles by Alison Fairlove and the characters of Judge Raymond, Mr Hann, the curate and the Sheriff are all played by Simon Mathews.
The play was recorded on location throughout North Devon. Settings included St Mary's Church, Bideford, the site of the original church where the three women were questioned, Bideford Town Hall and the Torrington 1646 civil war heritage centre.
The Witches of Bideford was first broadcast on BBC Radio Devon in August 2006.
If you missed it, you can hear it now using the Listen Again link on this page.
last updated: 08/04/2008 at 13:49