1566 – Chelmsford Witch Trials
Essex was the heartland of the earliest witch trials, and it was the county that pursued witch prosecutions most vigorously over the next century. The first major trial in England was heard at the Chelmsford assizes in July 1566. Elizabeth Frauncis, Agnes Waterhouse and her daughter Joan Waterhouse, all of Hatfield Peverel, stood accused.
Elizabeth Frauncis confessed that she had been taught witchcraft at the age of 12 by her grandmother. She had given her blood to the Devil in the likeness of a white-spotted cat, which she kept in a basket and fed. Agnes Waterhouse confessed she had a cat called Satan through which she worked her maleficium (simple harmful magic), rewarding it with chickens and drops of her blood.
Frauncis was imprisoned, Agnes Waterhouse was hanged for committing murder by witchcraft, and Joan was found not guilty.