Our client Historic England have certainly been excited this week. The recent discovery of the largest collection of Witches Marks in Britain has got them and press from all over the globe talking. Up to a thousand marks were found inside a cave in Creswell Crags, East Midlands. These marks were used to ward off evil from the 16th century onwards right up until the early 1900s. With a collection on this scale, it’s no wonder they’ve received lots of attention. So armed with a good story, Historic England asked us to update their Witches Mark film which celebrates these treasures.
Originally created as part of a publicity campaign and public “hunt” for unrecorded Witches Marks, the new film now features the most recent discovery.
Witches Marks Discovery
A group of cavers found the marks by chance in Creswell Crags. Scribed into the soft limestone walls, over dark holes and large crevices, they are made up of series of lines such as ‘boxes’ to capture evil or the initials V drawn repeatedly which refers to the Virgin Mary. Other such marks are found throughout the UK, normally on houses and door frames, but this discovery is particularly exciting. The sheer quantity and location are unprecedented and have led some to speculate about what the caves were used for. Paul Baker, the Director of Creswell Heritage Trust commented, “They are everywhere,” “How scared were they?” in reference to the people who made the marks. At the time, belief in Witchcraft was widespread.
Of course this not only makes a great story but is an insight into an important period in our past. Historic England manages a number of sites that have these apotropaic marks, the Greek word for averting evil. In 2016 their campaign called for the public to help identify and record these symbols. We created a film that showed the wide range of marks, such as the amazing Daisy Wheel designs. These can be found in places such as Bradford on Avon Tithe Barn. The result was an amazing 600 responses about different marks and locations from all over the country.