Witchcraft and Magic at the John Clare Theatre

Francis Young

This afternoon I spoke at Peterborough’s John Clare Theatre on the subject of ‘Witchcraft and Magic in the Fens’, an event organised by Peterborough Archives. My talk focussed particularly on evidence of witchcraft and magic from Peterborough and the surrounding countryside. I am always delighted on such occasions to hear stories from the audience, and on this occasion I was not disappointed. One audience member reported that, as a small child, her mother (who was born in 1891) suffered from warts and the family was unable to afford a doctor. The girl was accordingly sent to a Peterborough ‘witch’ who lived in a brownstone cottage at the junction of Cobden Street and Walpole Street. The ‘witch’ presented the girl with a snail; the audience member was unable to remember the rest of the story, but it is likely that the snail was meant to be rubbed on the warts…

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Science lesson at the Rat’s academy…

“The Professor emitted a series of squeaks and six paws shot into the air, each little rat trying to reach the highest. Professor Rodoric tapped a small grey eared rat on the shoulder. He clapped his little paws together and rolled up a sleeve, whiskers trembling with excitement.

The grey eared rat plunged his paw into the liquid then removed it from the mixture shaking droplets back into the bowl. His paw had vanished.”