AN East Lancashire author is about to publish her first novel based at Padiham’s Gawthorpe Hall in the run up to infamous 1612 trial of the Pendle Witches.

Already Rawtenstall-born writer Stacey Halls has been compared by magazine Cosmopolitan to one of her literary heroes Hilary Mantel whose historical epic Wolf Hall was recently dramatised on BBC TV.

The daughter of market traders Eileen and Stuart Bartlett, the 29-year-old attended Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School and developed a voracious appetite for books.

Her regular visits to Rawtenstall library saw her develop a taste for historical fiction which has now flowered into The Familiars being published on February 7 by Zaffre.

After an unsuccessful first contemporary novel, a visit to Gawthorpe Hall with her mother in 2016 inspired journalist Mrs Halls to link the Elizabethan stately home with the witchcraft-laden legends of Pendle Hill which can be viewed from its windows.

Research in the British Library led to her to the story of Fleetwood Shuttleworth, the teenage mistress of the hall in 1612, and young Alice Gray – one of ten women tried at Lancaster Assizes for 10 murders.

With Alice accused of killing a child, Mrs Halls decided she would be a midwife in her story and the 17-year-old Lady Shuttleworth a noblewoman in desperate need of avoiding a fourth miscarriage to provide her husband Richard with an heir.

As allegations of witchcraft sweep the North West, the two young women are drawn together as one fights to save her unborn son and the other battles to escape the hangman.

Mrs Halls said: “I wanted to write a novel set in Lancashire and Gawthorpe and the tales of the Pendle witches I was brought up with inspired me.

“As a teenager my friends and I would dabble in Wicca, mild ‘White’ magic in the woods near school while my Uncle Jim made witch dolls. I had already started my novel featuring a French mastiff dog when I saw one of the same rare breed on the lawns of Gawthorpe which seemed like a sign.

“I don’t think I am in the same bracket as Hilary Mantel but it is very flattering to be even compared to her.”