A-Z of the Accused: Agnes Hurst

Name: Agnes Hurst

Location: Westhoughton, Lancashire

Date: 1665

Accusations: Jane Gregory testified that her husband Thomas had been taken ill after an encounter with Agnes Hurst, a woman reputed to have been a witch for the last twenty years. He had helped in transporting the old woman in a chair with a group of others, and she had taken him by the hand. This seemingly innocent gesture was, in hindsight, taken as malevolent in nature, as the following day Thomas Gregory was certain he thought he saw someone on the chimney of his house, only to find no one there when he reached home. This was the prelude to his symptoms, as upon entering the house he was taken ill, feeling as if he were being ‘pricked’ with an awl. Convinced that Agnes and her daughter Margaret had bewitched him, Thomas went to their house to accuse the women; he and Agnes exchanged heated words, during which Agnes said she hoped to see the end of him. Several other members of the Gregory family supported Jane and Thomas’ story.

Outcome: Although nothing came of the matter at the time, Agnes and Margaret were indicted three years later for the murder by witchcraft of Thomas Gregory, who according to the burial register for Westhoughton died in 1667. The pair were cleared of the crime however, with Agnes living on until 1670 and her daughter until 1684. 

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