During the 17th Century the accusation of witchcraft was a real threat and on 8 September 1653 the people of Benenden eagerly awaited a verdict from the Kent Quarter Sessions.
Following an alleged quarrel between Mrs Elizabeth Hodge and her neighbour, Elizabeth Wood, ‘a singlewoman’, Mr Hodge had accused Elizabeth Wood of witchcraft on the basis that their six-year-old son had begun to be ‘taken in the night time with strange fits of crying’ that could not be gratified.
When giving his evidence before three Justices of the Peace (William Boys, Robert Gibbon and Richard Kilburne) Mr Hodge stated that Elizabeth Wood had threatened to take her revenge on his wife and for past two months their son had suffered, calling out to him saying ‘Here comes a black thing and teares me and pulls mee by the backe’. On another occasion he is alleged to have said that ‘Bess’ would kill him and Mr Hodge believed he was referring to Elizabeth Wood.
Testimonies from all three adult parties are recorded within the Kent Quarter Sessions papers* and following an examination of Elizabeth Wood the entry reads…
‘She doth deny that she did…or practice any witchcraft upon Edward Hodge (son of Edward Hodge of Benenden aforesaid labourer) or by any other… or thing whatsoever, not hath she any skill or knowledge at all in any kind of witchcraft whatsoever and she doth deny that she did fall out with the wife of the said Edward Hodge his father.’
She was later acquitted.
These Kent Quarter Sessions papers can be found at the Kent History and Library Centre in Maidstone under the reference of: Q/SB/4/52
Additional information was sourced from B.R.Dyer’s book ‘Kent Witchcraft’ published by James Pike Limited.