Florence Newton

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Florence Newton (fl. 1661) was an alleged Irish witch, known as the "Witch of Youghal". The case against Newton is described as one of the most important examples of Irish witch trials. The trial displays many similarities with the witch trials in England.

Florence Newton was arrested and imprisoned 24 March 1661 accused of having enchanted Mary Longdon. She was put on trial 11 September 1661. In the Christmas of 1660, Newton had visited the house of John Pyne and asked to be given a piece of beef, and when she was denied, left mumbling curses. Afterward, she had met Longdon, an employee of Pyne, on the street and kissed her. Longdon had then become sick, and experienced fits, cramps and visions, and the house had been affected with poltergeists. People suspected sorcery as the cause. At this point, a coven of witches were suspected to exist in the area. Two of the supposed members, Goody Halfpenny and Goody Dod, were taken to her, but without effect. When Newton was brought to her, Longdon's fits grew worse, and she eventually pointed out Newton. Soon, Newton was accused of another case of sorcery; she was charged with having caused the death of David Jones. At the trial, the widow of Jones said that Newton had kissed the hand of Jones in prison, and afterward, he had become sick and died after having screamed the name of Newton on his death bed. Unfortunately, the court documents are missing, and the verdict are therefore not confirmed. It is estimated that she was judged guilty, which means she would have been executed.

Witch trials were not common in Ireland, and those cases mentioned are poorly documented. In 1606, the clergyman John Aston was accused of having used spells to discover missing people and hidden treasures, and was upon the king's orders sent to England; the result of the trial is not known. In 1685, the son of Christopher Crofts was taken ill at Cork, and his sickness blamed upon Gammer Welsh, whom his father had sent to prison, and in 1699, a woman is reported to have been arrested, sentenced to death, strangled and burned at Aston for having cast a spell on a nine-year-old girl.

See also