Historic 'spiritual deposition' to ward off witchcraft discovered at Codling's Forge in Long Melford
What began as renovations of an ancient building in Long Melford led to an archaeological discovery, the likes of which the village may have never seen before.
A suspected ‘spiritual midden’ – a collection of 17th and 18th century relics thought to be intended to ward off witchcraft – was found concealed beside a Tudor-era fireplace by Peter Nichols, from Oakley Preservation, while he was carrying out work at Codling’s Forge.
He alerted Long Melford Heritage Centre founder John Nunn to the unusual findings, which included a Capotain hat, fragments of a Psalm book, a leather purse, old keys, a straw doll and a carved bone knife.
Mr Nunn then invited Alex McWhirter, a heritage officer at Moyse’s Hall Museum, to visit the forge, known as the historic home of the Codling family for several generations.
“Due to the quantity of items and the time span which they covered, it was thought there was a possibility that they were deliberately deposited there, in what is known as spiritual deposition, which means they were to ward off evil and protect the family,” said Mr Nunn.
“Such depositions have been found in Suffolk over the years, but this is the first one from Long Melford that I am aware of.”
The museum’s report into the findings suggested there was a possible link to Long Melford’s association with the history of witch-hunting in the 17th century, stating the religious element in the Psalms supported the idea that they were a form of spiritual protection.
It also speculated that the discovery’s proximity to a fireplace may have been due to a superstition that this was a potential access point into the home for evil.
Although it is unknown what each item was intended to achieve or why they were chosen, the report added that the deposition was likely created by Roger and Lettice Codling.
Mr Nunn added: “A find like this is quite rare, and I am delighted to say that the owners have donated the finds to Long Melford Heritage Centre, and will form part of this year’s displays.
“My thanks also go to Peter Nichols, whose actions made this all possible, and to members of the Codling family in Long Melford and Sudbury.”
The heritage centre is open on Saturdays from 10am until 4pm, Sundays between noon and 4pm and Wednesdays from 2pm to 4pm.