Fear and superstition

Daisy wheel burn mark at Little Moreton Hall

Discover the Tudor ritual protection marks scattered throughout Little Moreton Hall.

Fear and superstition

In Tudor times there was a genuine belief in witches and the power of evil. The Tudors especially feared the night and the dark. From the time of Henry VIII and up to the Civil War and Commonwealth years, there was a period of religious turmoil. People felt they could no longer turn to the Church as a remedy for their worries, in the same way as they had done before. It was also a time when the North West region was affected by the Plague. Burn marks were likely one of the many things that people did to deal with their fears - they were a form of protection.  

What have we found?

In 2014 two archaeologists found by experimentation that burn marks were not accidental but deliberate taper burns. Research volunteers at Little Moreton Hall have since discovered over 250 of these burn marks as well as two other types of marks; circle designs and criss-cross webs of lines. These marks have been found near windows, fireplaces, and blocked doorways. They have also been found in places where the building has been altered and where there is a hollow space behind walls. The reason they would have added the marks here was because of their belief that witches, evil spirits and disease could enter the hall via chimneys, windows, and doorways; any points of 'weakness' in the building could be seen as entry points for evil.

The taper burns have all been made at a convenient working height, and are all pointing up like a flame, so it's very likely that they were made in situ by the people of the house. The small designs of scored concentric circles and daisy wheels are in similar places to the taper burns and again at a handy height for making them. These were probably made by the householders and for the same protective purpose as the burns. The exception to this is a 12 petal daisy wheel high up on a ceiling timber of the Great Parlour. We think this was made by a carpenter, possibly when the room was altered in 1559.

What can you discover?

The burn marks can be spotted on a visit around Little Moreton Hall and our friendly staff are on hand to tell you more about them. Why don’t you see how many you can find on your next visit? You might also spot a couple of sets of concentric circles former residents at Little Moreton Hall scored into the wood to trap evil spirits.The carpenters who built the Hall also added their own form of witch traps which our guides to point out to you...providing you keep them a secret from the witches.