Lancaster Castle was built in 1093 by Roger de Poitou. Roger was a cousin of the Norman King of England, William I. Although designed to help Roger protect his new land, like Azkaban in the world of Harry Potter, the castle served as a prison for hundreds of years. Until 1835 it was the only place in Lancashire where someone suspected of a serious crime could be brought before a judge! Just as Azkaban’s prisoners were locked up for practicing the ‘dark arts’, a number of Lancaster Castle’s inmates were also held on charges of witchcraft.
Probably the most famous group of people sentenced to death at the castle for using magic to harm others became known as ‘The Pendle Witches’. They were sentenced to death in August 1612 for a whole range of terrible deeds, mainly on the evidence of a nine year old girl. With her evidence Jennet Device helped to send her mother, her brother, her sister & six of her neighbours to their deaths.
King James I was on the throne in 1612. James was a great believer in the power of witchcraft & magic. He even thought he had been a victim of witchcraft himself. His book ‘Daemonologie’, published in 1597, looked at demons, witchcraft & black magic and even mentions werewolves & vampires! In Scotland, where James was also king, people found guilty of witchcraft were often burnt at the stake. Here in Lancaster, and in the rest of England, they would usually have been hanged. Some people accused of witchcraft were more lucky than others. A group of people from Samlesbury were tried in the castle at the same time as ‘The Pendle Witches’ and found not guilty!
Isabella Rigby seems to be the last person in Lancashire to be sentenced to death as a witch. She was hung in Lancaster in 1666. Although the prison closed in 2011, the castle’s two courtrooms are still in use today!
Azkaban Prison : Azkaban is a prison for the most dangerous witches and wizards, a terrifying fortress on an island in the middle of the North Sea, it was supposedly impossible to escape and for 300 years it was.
“They don’t need walls and water to keep the prisoners in, not when they’re trapped inside their own heads, incapable of a single cheerful thought. Most go mad within weeks”
Lupin is referring to the effects the dementor prison guards have on the inmates.
Two prisoners have in fact escaped the grasp of the dementors. A young man, Barty Crouch Jr, was successfully smuggled out when his mother swapped places with him in 1982 and in 1993 Sirius Black manages to escape their clutches in The Prisoner of Azkaban he is able to make his escape by changing into his Animagus form of a dog.