Maureen Stopforth, who has worked at Witches Galore in Newchurch-in-Pendle for 26 years, laughs when asked if the broomstick by the door (£8.50, flight-tested, full MOT*) is hers. She takes it, she says, for a spin every morning before opening the shop.
It's a joke today (I think) but in the superstitious world of 400 years ago it's one that could well have trapped her in the witch-hunt that swept Britain and had 19 Pendle Hill locals hauled off to the Lancaster Castle dungeons to face charges of witchcraft. Eventually, eight women and two men were found guilty and, on August 20, 1612, went to wretched deaths on the gallows. Among them were three generations of one family.
The story of the witches of Pendle Hill - England's version of the Salem witch trials in the US - has, according to Jack Keighley, the Clitheroe-born author of the excellent booklet Walks in Lancashire Witch Country, "left an indelible mark on the countryside around Pendle".
The main mark has been an enduring fascination with the witches and a tourist industry that achieves its apotheosis in Stopforth's shop in the shadow of the hill. It's packed with books about the hill and the witches and is the place to go for souvenirs such as witch dolls, figurines, maps, T-shirts and bumper stickers saying "Pendle witches do it on a broomstick". Full Story