Boscastle's Museum of Witchcraft celebrates a long and colourful history

By Ralph Gifford | 11 May 2011
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a photograph of a museum interior
Inside the Museum of Witchcraft Boscastle © John Hooper / Hoopix / Museum of Witchcraft UK
An interesting day can be expected on May 14 when a famous museum in Boscastle opens its doors for a day of talks and a new book launch.

To celebrate the anniversary of its 60th year, the Museum of Witchcraft has gathered together the memories of 50 people who have a connection with the museum and published them in a book called The Museum of Witchcraft - A Magical History.

Together with the book launch there will be talks throughout the day under the moniker The Guardians of Cornish Magic.

The story of the Museum is a colourful one. An abortive attempt to open in Stratford-Upon-Avon resulted in angry locals running the museum out of town. It then relocated to the Isle of Man where it first opened in Castletown in 1951.

Here the museum’s founder, the occultist, film producer and former special agent Cecil Williamson, was joined by Gerald Gardner, known to many as the the father of modern Wicca. The pair soon fell out and documents in the museum’s archives record how Gardner once tried to stab Williamson with a ritual knife.

a photograph of a mandrake root with a person's face craved into it
The Mandrake is popular with visitors due to its reference in the Harry Potter books and films© John Hooper / Hoopix / Museum of Witchcraft UK
After a short stay in Windsor, which ended when Williamson was persuaded to leave by two men in grey suits acting on behalf of the Royal family, the museum spent ten years moving around different locations throughout the country. 

In Bourton-on-the Water the sudden death of some local residents was soon followed by accusations that Williamson was cursing anyone that opposed his museum.

After attacks in the local press and the local vicar weighing in with a sermon about the “evil that had come into the village” the museum was fire bombed and dead cats were hung from trees in the grounds.

In 1961 it moved to Boscastle on the North Cornish coast where it has been ever since.

The current Director of the museum, Graham King, said the book had been published on behalf of the friends of the museum and that the memories in it were wonderful.

“It is quite unusual for a small museum to survive for 60 years, let alone prosper. 
It’s fantastic that we have reached this milestone and I’m sure there are another 60 years in the museum to come.”

The limited edition book is priced at £30. Anyone wanting anymore information about the museum can telephone 01840 250111.

  • Culture24 is working with Museums Cornwall to promote Cornish museums and their collections. Find out more at 

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