Forlorn traces of England’s most notorious pogrom against witches appear to have been unearthed by water engineers engaged in humdrum improvements to a Pennine reservoir.
A buried cottage with a sealed room and a mummified cat bricked up in a wall has been discovered in the heart of the “witching country” of Pendle in Lancashire.
The gruesome tomb had been hidden for at least a century under a grassy mound at Lower Black Moss, whose catchments provide water for homes and businesses across north-west England.
The site is close to the supposed location of Malkin Tower, a ruin whose name echoes the spectral witches’ cat Graymalkin in Macbeth. Three wizards and 17 witches were alleged to have plotted there to blow up Lancaster castle in 1612, to free an 85-year-old woman and her daughter accused of selling themselves to the devil.
History has never decided whether there was a genuine occult conspiracy or if terrified village herbalists were set upon for religious reasons or because of feuds.
The latest find could provide evidence for the kinder explanation, if forensic archaeology directed at cooking traces and domestic rubbish yields more information.
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