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‘Swimming’ or ‘Ducking’ suspected witches was never a legal process, but grew out of tradition. Other methods of trying suspected witches were by trial at court. There seems little doubt that the former was the most employed method, and continued unlawfully long after Witch Trials were abolished in 1736. As late as 1857, after the formation of police forces, a farmer asked a magistrate to direct police to duck an old woman suspected of practising witchcraft on him. Later still, in 1947, a pensioner in Norfolk, summonsed for assaulting an old woman, explained that he had done so because she had practised witchcraft on him.
The last official trial of a witch in England also took place in Hertfordshire. Jane Welham, of Walkern, near Stevenage, was tried at Hertford Assizes in 1713. A 16-year old girl, who had dislocated her knee, was able to suddenly run off down the road and jump over a gate. Some people thought that Jane Welham was somehow involved, so she was arrested and put on trial. One of her accusers, a ‘gentleman’, Arthur Chauncy, pushed a sharp pin full-length into Jane Welham’s arm, and when she did not bleed declared the case proved. This, along with other ‘evidence’, was enough for the judge to condemn her to death; but in private and after the conclusion of the case, he succeeded in obtaining a pardon.