It’s Halloween, which gives us a great opportunity to explore witches and witchcraft and how they were regarded during the late seventeenth century, a period when our beautiful museum building was in its heyday as a busy coaching inn.
Witch Marks, or Apotropaic Markings if you’re posh, were used back then as devices for warding off spells and evil spirits. They were often etched into stone, plaster or woodwork, close to windows, doors and fireplaces, where evil spirits might seek to enter a house.
We have two excellent examples of Witch Marks at our museum, which you can see in the images. The first is on the outside of the museum, carved into a stone to the left of the impressive front door. This is a type called Overlapping V, which is thought to represent the Virgin Mary. Our other mark is called a Daisy Wheel and can be found on one of our superb pieces of antique furniture called an Ambry, used at the time for storing food. The mark usually has six ‘petals’ but this one has only four complete ones. Is it the effect of ageing? Was it left unfinished? Cue spooky music.
We can’t leave the subject of witches without mentioning our very own witch, Kathryn, who is an Operations Assistant at the museum. If she’s on duty, she’s unlikely to cast any spells but she’ll be more than happy to take your admission fee, a very reasonable £5, and answer any questions on witchcraft you may have.
See our website for current opening times, up to and post the planned lockdown, and for full details of charges for children and families. Remember also that you can have free admission to the museum for a whole year if you gift aid your admission money. Looking forward to seeing you soon.
If you cannot come personally watch out for our online shop – coming soon – who knows something might catch your eye or be a suitable present.