Could this be Pendle Witches’ meeting place?

STEP BACK IN TIME: Simon Entwistle on the site of the newly-discovered cottage in Barley.
STEP BACK IN TIME: Simon Entwistle on the site of the newly-discovered cottage in Barley.

Water engineers have unearthed what could prove to be one of the most infamous sites in England’s spine-chilling history of witches and warlocks - and it’s right here in Pendle!

United Utilities’ workers were stunned to discover an eerie 17th Century witch’s-style cottage, with a mummified cat sealed into the walls, during a routine construction project in Barley, in the shadow of Pendle Hill, the UK’s premier witching hot-spot.

Speculation is already rife among local historians that the building near to Lower Black Moss Reservoir could be the lost Malkin Tower - the site of a notorious meeting of the Pendle witches on Good Friday, 1612.

Archaeologists brought in by the water firm to survey the area found a remarkably well preserved building from the 1600s, hidden beneath a grass mound.

The bewitching building contained a sealed room, with a mummified moggy bricked into the wall. It is believed the cat was buried alive to protect the cottage’s inhabitants from evil spirits.

Carl Sanders, United Utilities’ project manager said: “It’s not often you come across a fairytale cottage complete with witch’s cat. The building is in remarkable condition. You can walk through it and get a real sense that you’re peering into the past.

“Pendle Hill has a real aura about it, and it’s hard not to be affected by the place. Even before we discovered the building, there were lots of jokes from the lads about broomsticks and black cats. The find has really stunned us all.”

Simon Entwistle, a nationally-recognised expert on the Pendle witches said: “In terms of significance, it’s like discovering Tutankhamun’s tomb. We are just few months away from the 400th anniversary of the Pendle witch trials, and here we have an incredibly rare find, right in the heart of witching country. This could well be the famous Malkin Tower - which has been a source of speculation and rumour for centuries.

“Cats feature prominently in folklore about witches. Whoever consigned this cat to such a horrible fate was clearly seeking protection from evil spirits. It’s an absolutely spellbinding discovery.”

United Utilities, which keeps the taps flowing and toilets flushing for seven million people across the North West, routinely brings in time team experts before turning the topsoil in areas believed to have archaeological significance.

Frank Giecco, from NP Archaeology, led the team who unearthed the Pendle building. He said: “It’s like discovering your own little Pompeii. We rarely get the opportunity to work with something so well preserved. As soon as we started digging, we found the tops of doors, and knew we were onto something special.

“The building is a microcosm for the rise and fall of this area, from the time of the Pendle witches to the industrial age. There are layers of local history right before your eyes.”

The United Utilities’ engineering project has been put on hold while the archaeologists complete their investigation of the site.

Experts believe the cat was probably placed in the walls at the start of the 19th Century, and the room’s two doorways sealed up - creating a moggy mausoleum. The spooky building also contains a 19th Century kitchen range, still in its original position. Many artefacts from the building’s latter years, such as Victorian crockery, a tin bath and a bedstead, were discovered around the site.