20 Apr 2021
June 11, 2012 - Filed under: Antique Chests — Harriet

Gawthorpe Hall, in the Ribble Valley, has more than just antique chests and textiles on display; until the 8th July, there’s a fascinating exhibition exploring the Pendle Witch trials, which includes the gruesome remains of a mummified cat among its exhibits.

The magnificent Elizabethan hall of Gawthorpe was the family seat of the Shuttleworth family until they sold it and moved to Leck Hall, also in Lancashire. Today, the antique cabinets, Victorian dining chairs and other treasures of Gawthorpe are managed by the National Trust, under ownership of Lancashire County Council. A county museum less than ten miles from Pendle Hill, Gawthorpe Hall is the ideal location for the exhibition, “A Wonderfull Discoverie”, one of several events being held to mark the 400th anniversary of the Lancashire Witch Trials, which took place in August 1612 and led to eleven innocent Pendle residents, nine of them women, being tried and executed for murder by witchcraft.

The exhibition, which moves to Lancaster in mid-July, is named after the book of the trial, “The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster,” an original of which is on display. The unfortunate feline, on loan from another museum, reflects the superstitious belief that dead cats were powerful talismans to protect the home. Some were even buried alive, as with one desolate animal found in the ruins of a nearby 17th century cottage; some believe this to be the long-lost Malkin Tower of the Pendle Witches.

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