Henry Goodcole (baptised 1586 – 24 August 1641) was an author of pamphlets on criminal biographies based on his access to prisoners held in Newgate Prison, where he was the chaplain from 1620 until 1636. Of his seven pamphlets, each addressing a particular crime and its fitting punishment, the most significant is that of Elizabeth Sawyer, The Wonderfull Discoverie of E[lizabeth]. Sawyer, a Witch, Late of Edmonton (1621), his third publication. Although Elizabeth had been convicted of witchcraft, and subsequently executed at Tyburn on 19 April 1621, Goodcole focused on her cursing, swearing and blasphemy, “which brought the devil to her” and ultimately led to her execution.
Goodcole was born in Clerkenwell, where he appears to have remained throughout his life. He was a twin, one of eleven children born to James Goodcole (d. 1597) and his second wife, Joan Duncombe. Of Henry Goodcole’s personal life, all that is known is that he married Anne Tryme in 1606, and together they had one daughter Joan, and two sons, Andrew and Humphry. In February 1613 he was appointed to the post of lecturer of Ludgate gaol, at an annual stipend of £6 8s, and in 1620 to the position of “ordinary and visitor”[a]An ordinary is a civil or ecclesiastical officer with the authority to execute laws, rather than that authority being delegated to him or her. In the case of a member of the clergy, that authority would include being allowed to hear confession. of Newgate.
There is no evidence that Goodcole ever attended university, but it seems that he must have been ordained, as in March 1636 he was appointed as vicar of St James’s, Clerkenwell – where he had been baptised 50 years earlier – and where he remained for the rest of his life. He died at Clerkenwell on 24 August 1641.
|a||An ordinary is a civil or ecclesiastical officer with the authority to execute laws, rather than that authority being delegated to him or her. In the case of a member of the clergy, that authority would include being allowed to hear confession.|