Tragic priest to be commemorated

A PRIEST who fell victim to "blind and bloody superstition" is to be commemorated at the village church he once served.John Lowes was an elderly vicar of about 80 serving in the rural parish of Brandeston, near Framlingham, when he was tortured and hanged on trumped-up charges of witchcraft.

A PRIEST who fell victim to "blind and bloody superstition" is to be commemorated at the village church he once served.

John Lowes was an elderly vicar of about 80 serving in the rural parish of Brandeston, near Framlingham, when he was tortured and hanged on trumped-up charges of witchcraft.

A tiny image of the priest, seen by some as a martyr, is portrayed on Brandeston's village sign, hanging from a gallows in front of the church he served for nearly 50 years until his execution.

Now a plaque has been made to commemorate his story, and is due to be dedicated by the Archdeacon of Suffolk, Geoffrey Arrand, at a service at 3pm on Sunday, June 6.


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His persecutor was the infamous Matthew Hopkins, self-appointed Witchfinder General and son of a puritan minister from Wenham in Suffolk, who dragged confessions of witchcraft from hundreds of men, women and children, thus condemning them to death.

He kept the old man awake for several nights until he was delirious, and rallied local parishioners to witness against him.

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The vicar was said to have confessed to making a covenant with the devil, and bewitching a ship at Harwich, which sank in a storm, drowning those on board.

According to his confession, he committed "most heinous, wicked and accursed acts" with the help of six imps, which frequented him daily.

The witchfinder and his henchmen said they had found a teat on the crown of his head, and two under his tongue, further confirming his guilt.

He was plunged into the moat at Framlingham Castle, but failed to drown - which would have "proved" his innocence.

Instead, he was taken to Bury St Edmunds where he was tried, convicted and condemned along with other "witches", most of whom were women.

As he was brought to the gallows on August 27, 1645, he protested his innocence and read his own funeral service to ensure he had a Christian burial.

Exactly why an elderly man of John Lowes' standing was singled out for persecution by Hopkins is a mystery.

However, a historical account said a neighbouring Justice of the Peace and a Doctor of Divinity believed the truth was, although entirely innocent, he was "a contentious man and made his parishioners very uneasy, and they were glad to take the opportunity of those wicked times and get him hanged, rather than not get rid of him".

The plaque in his memory quotes from a steward of Brandeston, Robert Hawes, who wrote in 1712: "May no such blind and bloody superstition and madness ever get head again within this land."

The Reverend John Lowes' memorial plaque was donated by former villager Lorna Lincoln, who commissioned her stonemason grandson, Philip, to carry out the work.

Robert Warner, of Brandeston, who has written a historical guide to the church, said getting permission to put up a plaque in the Grade I Listed church was not easy.

"It's taken a long time because we had to go through all the procedures of getting a faculty," he said. "It's an enormously complex business."

The Archdeacon of Suffolk will be telling the story of John Lowes at the service.

A copy of the document recording the accusations against the 18 accused of witchcraft, and a History and Guide to All Saints' Church at Brandeston by Robert Warner, will be on sale after the service. Proceeds will go towards church funds.

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