23 December 2011

Diary of Nehemiah Wallington online

An extract from the diary of Nehemiah Wallington, showing his account of the
confession of Rebecca West as a witch at Chelmsford, Essex

A University of Manchester project has made a diary written by Nehemiah Wallington available online for the first time.

Wallington was a Puritan wood turner born in 1598 in Eastcheap, in the City of London. He wrote a prolific number of journals and other books, though only seven survive, one of which contains a shocking account of Matthew Hopkins' East Anglia witch-hunts ...

The Manchester team photographed every page of the diary, which is held at Tatton Park in Cheshire.

In 1645 Wallington wrote of how a supposed coven of witches was found by Witchfinder General Hopkins in Manningtree, Essex - Hopkins' home village. Amongst the many women tortured, one, Rebecca West, implicated her own mother. 19 women in all were eventually hanged, though Rebecca was saved thanks to her confession.

At the trial in Chelmsford in July 1645, Wallington wrote:

'July the XX111 there were at Least XXXV111 wiches imprisoned in the Town of Ipswich…divers of them voluntarily and without any forcing or compulsion freely declare that they have made a covenant with the Devill, to forsake God and Christ ant to take him to be their Master and Like wise do acknowledge that divers Cattell; and som Christians have been killed by their meanes … 
By this wee may see the grand delusions and impostures of Satan by which we works upon men & women in these Latter times of the world What sins so hanious what crimes so grevious will not they run in to from whom God is gone.'

Wallington later documented the execution of the king before dying in 1658. As contemporary sources his anecdotal writings are of particular interest as an example of an artisan's personal reflections on the political and religious turmoil of the period.

The full text of Wallington's diary
Centre for Heritage Imaging and Collection Care

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