Halloween Blog Post – Myths about Witches

As you may already know Epping Forest District Museum has a selection of Touring Exhibitions available for hire – one of which covers the theme of Witch Hunts. For our Halloween Special Blog here is a little bit of information from that exhibition.

Many people imagine that witches were lonely old hags tending cauldrons and casting spells. This image recurs in many novels, plays and films, like the much-loved Wizard of Oz and the more recent Harry Potter stories. However, many of the ideas and characteristics associated with witches are actually myths. Here are some of the common ones:

Witches were all women
Women were associated with witchcraft because of links between femininity and weakness to temptation. Many deaths blamed on witchcraft occurred in female spheres within households and neighbourhoods. Despite this, 20% of witches were male. An infamous case involved John Lowes, the vicar of Brandeston in Suffolk. He confessed to sinking ships and other terrible crimes, and was hanged at Bury St Edmunds in August 1645.

Witches rode on broomsticks
Some believed that witches met at night in remote places, to which they travelled through the air on broomsticks. This is rarely mentioned in legal records relating to witchcraft. In 1712 an English judge is said to have laughed at the suggestion that a Hertfordshire witch had a magic broom, declaring that there was no law against flying!

Witches were all burned at the stake
The terrifying image of English witches being burned at the stake has featured in horror films like Witchfinder General (1968). Although witches were burned on the continent and in Scotland, other types of execution included beheading, drowning and burial alive. Some were merely imprisoned, banished or forced to repent. In England, the punishment for invoking demons and murder by witchcraft was hanging. A rare witch-burning took place at Ipswich in 1645, when Mary Lakeland was executed by these means for bewitching her husband to death – the crime of petty treason.

Millions died in the witch-hunts
Estimates of the number of people executed for witchcraft varies wildly, reaching as high as 9 million. Legal records show there were around 100,000 witch-trials in early modern Europe, and that death sentences were passed in about half of these. This may seem a lot for an impossible crime, but compared with the size of the population witchcraft prosecutions were quite rare.

Here are some objects from our collections relating to the Witch Hunt topic:
BELLARMINE
Bellarmine jugs have often been used as ‘witch bottles’ and the bearded or ‘wild’ man figure was even thought to scare off witches. When used as ‘witch bottles’, these jugs would contain hair, nail clippings and urine, all believed to help capture evil spirits. Witches spells were considered harmless if these bottles were burned at midnight.

bottle
Small glass bottles, like the type shown here, have been found in many 16th and 17th century houses. Many contained salt or nails- all considered effective safeguards against witches.
This and other glass bottles were found in 1966 during the excavation of 46/48 Sewardstone Street, Waltham Abbey.

1840StocksNWhip
This image shows the pillory which stood in Waltham Abbey’s churchyard. Sited next to the pillory was the Tudor stocks (or whipping post). The Elizabethan Act (1563) prescribes that for a first offence of any attempt to use witchcraft that did not result in the death of a victim, the punishment would be one year in prision and “once in every Quarter of the said yere shall in some Market Town, upon Market day or at suche tyme as any Fayer shall be kept there, stande openly upon the Pillorie by the space of Sixe Houres, and there shall openly confesse his or her Error and Offence”

This exhibition was put together by Epping Forest District Museum in conjunction with Malcolm Gaskill.
To find out more about our Touring Exhibitions email us at museum@eppingforestdc.gov.uk

Museum on the Move reopens

11201810_1288186537863313_6734758118269799242_nEpping Forest District Museum reopened it’s doors to the public on Saturday 19 March 2016 after a 2 year long Heritage Lottery funded redevelopment.

The bells of Waltham Abbey Church rang as reenactors from the 44th East Essex Regiment marched up Sun Street towards the museum.

Party atmosphere

A party atmosphere was enjoyed by all who came to celebrate the museum’s special day. They were treated to a jive dance demonstration and a morris dancing display by the Chingford Morris Men in Sun Street.

Over 750 people visited the museum, they enjoyed activities including decorating eggs in the new community space, and were given access to all the museum’s new galleries for the first time.

Welcome back

Museum staff were thrilled with the positive feedback they received. Comments include “Big improvement, proud to live in the Abbey” and “Welcome back! We’ve missed the museum and love the new look!

Museum on the Move

The museum team also celebrated the reopening of the museum by making a film showing what has been going on behind the scenes. The ‘Museum on the Move’ film also features as part of the museum’s first temporary exhibition all about transport through history.

 

Update on the Museum redevelopment project

Since our last update lots of changes have happened at the museum site. The majority of the building works are now complete and the project is on to the furnishing and decorating stage.

A key milestone in the last month or so is the installation of the lift. A big part of the museum project, the lift now makes the museum fully accessible throughout.

The new spaces are also taking shape with the education/community room, temporary exhibition gallery and core gallery ready for decoration and furnishing.

The project is progressing well and still on track for a Spring 2016 opening.

Sneak Peak: Objects going into the Museum’s new archaeology display

Catherine Hammond, the museum’s Education and Outreach Officer, has been busy at the stores selecting objects for the Archaeology display in the new museum which is due to reopen early 2016.

‘I’ve been trying to find objects from all different periods of history and from different locations around the District. My aim is to show how long people have lived and worked all over this area.

As you go through box after box, taking photos, checking lists and making sure everything is recorded properly, it can be easy to forget what an incredible amount of history has passed through your hands. Its only now looking back through all my photos of potential objects I realise I took a journey through 5000 years worth of history in about 7 hours! One of the most exciting objects I found was this Neolithic bowl from Waltham Abbey. It is around 5000 years old and hasn’t been on display since it was sent away for conservation work.

Neolithic Bowl

Neolithic Bowl

Sometimes an object gives a direct link with the past when it shows what we have in common with people who lived here over 1500 years ago. These Roman tweezers used by a Roman lady to tidy her brows have hardly changed from ones we might use today.

Tweezers

Tweezers

As a horse lover, I can’t resist including something horse related, but I didn’t expect to find this ornament, made from a horse’s tooth! It dates from Saxon times and was found near Nazeingbury.

Horse Tooth

Horse Tooth

Sadly, some objects have no information with them so we have no way of knowing how old they might be or where they were found. This Axe Head is one such mystery object, but such a good one I’m tempted to include it.

Axe Head

Axe Head

My favourite find of the day had to be this Giant Mug, found in York Hill, Loughton. I happened to look in an unusual shaped box and was delighted to uncover this. After a day spent sorting over 150 objects from over 5000 years worth of history, I wished I had a mug as big as this for a cup of tea.’

Giant Mug

Giant Mug

Sporting Heritage in the Epping Forest District

Today is #sportingheritage day and we are encouraging people to share their memories and photos of sports with us via Facebook and Twitter. The best one will win a goodie bag!

The district has many connections with sport from the cycling history to the more recent Tour de France and much more.

Below is a gallery of images from the Museum’s collection showing sports in the district – why not share your memories with us?

 

 

Artwork of the month – John Varley

John Varley

John Varley

John Varley was a British artist born in London in 1778. He was an English landscape painter mainly working in watercolour.

Varley was working at a time of transition and his work shows the transition from tinted drawing to the more fluid and bolder watercolour painting that took hold in the 19th century.

In 1798 he exhibited a highly regarded sketch of  Peterborough Cathedral at the Royal Academy  and became a regular exhibitor at the RA. In 1805 the Old Watercolour Society (OWS) was founded and as a founding member of the OWS Varley exhibited over 700 drawings there.

As well as being an artist, Valey was a teacher with pupils including Copley Fielding, David Cox, John Linnell and William Turner (artist) of Oxford.

He died in London in 1842.

Varley’s work is represented in many major museum collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum.

John Varley
This image, part of Epping Forest District Museum’s collection, is one of a number of studies of the church made by the artist, showing the path along the south side of the church.

Waltham Abbey Town Hall

Below is a gallery of images of Waltham Abbey Town Hall.

During the First World War it became a make shift hospital which you can also see in the images below.

Find more images of Waltham Abbey on our local history site efdhistory.org.uk. Find out more about the Waltham Abbey Town Hall Hospital here too: http://www.essexregiment.co.uk/vadhwaltham.html

Queen Elizabeth II and the Epping Forest District

On 9 September 2015 Queen Elizabeth II claims the title as Britain’s longest reigning monarch, having reigned since the age of 25.

She acceded the throne in 1952 following the death of her father and has reigned during a time of great change in technology and the transformation this has had on the world.

Queen Victoria previously held the title of longest reigning monarch.

The Epping Forest District has a number of connections with Queen Elizabeth II, including a visit she made as a Princess prior to acceding the throne.

She made a visit to Grange Farm in Chigwell in 1951 and was the first person to sign the visitor book there. The Museum is lucky to have this in the collection and below you will see her signature.

The Museum also has a collection of images showing street parties and events for Queen Elizabeth II coronation.

Here is a small gallery of images:

 

Waltham Abbey’s old schools

Below is a small gallery of images of schools and Sunday schools from our archives.

Find more images of Waltham Abbey at efdhistory.org.uk

 

Waltham Abbey Stonework

As part of the redevelopment project the museum has decided to undertake an assessment of some of the collections. One area of the collection that is being assessed is the stonework from the Augustinian Abbey Church.

The Abbey Church has a long history dating back to the seventh century when a wooden church existed on the current site. At this time Christianity was coming back to England. The church has within its collection a small book clasp which features eagles and a fish in the Salin II style. Both these animals have links to Christianity therefore it is likely this clasp dates to the earliest times in the church’s history.

Book Clasp

This church was then enlarged on the same site in the ninth century and later the Holy Cross was installed at the church.

The next stage in the church’s history comes during the time of Harold. After he was cured of a skin disease by the Holy Cross and as a response to Edward the Confessor building Westminster, a new church was founded on the site in 1060 by Harold.

Following Harold’s death at the Battle of Hastings Henry I builds a church which is similar in structure to today’s church.

The Augustinian Abbey Church was then built by Henry II in 1177 as part of his penance for the murder of Thomas Becket. The museum’s stonework collection comes from this part of the church’s history. Below are some computer generated images of what the Augustinian Abbey Church would have looked like.

The Augustinian Church was later demolished in the reformation during the reign of Henry VIII (1536) and the stonework was used in various parts of the town.

After several excavations the museum now holds a number of pieces of stone from the Augustinian Abbey in the collection which are being assessed as part of the Museum’s redevelopment project. Here are some images of the stone work within the collection.