Macabre find behind bedroom wall
FOR hundreds of years the macabre artefacts had remained secret, concealed behind a bedroom wall.But building work at a Suffolk property has led to the discovery of a mummified cat, a witch's broom, a small skull and a pair of shoes – conjuring up theories of ancient superstition and witchcraft.
By John Howard
FOR hundreds of years the macabre artefacts had remained secret, concealed behind a bedroom wall.
But building work at a Suffolk property has led to the discovery of a mummified cat, a witch's broom, a small skull and a pair of shoes - conjuring up theories of ancient superstition and witchcraft.
Husband and wife Liza and Charles Mesquita bought the historic eight bedroom Rookyard Farm at Old Newton, near Stowmarket, just over two years ago.
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Builders have been working there but on Monday evening, as a first floor bedroom wall was stripped away, the skull - missing its jaw - a mummified cat, a witch's broom and the shoes were found.
Police have taken the skull away for pathology tests, which will decide if it is human.
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Journalist Mrs Mesquita and her husband Charles, who works in the City, are fascinated by the finds, and have their own theories.
Mrs Mesquita, 37, said: "This is fascinating, although we are hoping the skull it is not a human remain, and it is all a bit spooky. The police are keen to see who lived here.
"The house still feels happy and friendly and we will get the whole house blessed. The cat was mummified, you can see where the skin was. The skull may have been older than the house and seen as a powerful talisman.
"I've being doing some research on the internet. The shoes would have warded off the evil eye, shoes were a valuable piece of clothing and the evil eye would have thought that was where the person was.''
The home, which has two moats, inglenook fireplaces and beams, is listed in the Doomsday Book and was originally two buildings with alterations made through the years.
Around the 16th and 17th Centuries, when fear of witchcraft was at its height, cats were sometimes sealed into a building, dead or alive. Cats were regarded as witches' companion spirits and it was believed that a witch, sensing its presence, would stay away.
Mr Mesquita, 39, said: "This is very exciting, although a bit of a surprise when I found it. I have a week off work and am helping the builders as their navvy. We are keen to put it back where it was found and leave it in peace.
"We have a pile of rubble we are not allowed to move at the moment, but the skull is so old, I can't think the police will take it any further.''
There are thought to have only ever been six families living at Rookyard Farm and Roger Stearn's family lived there from the late 1800s.
Mr Stearn, who continues to live in the village, said: "Our family were there from the turn of the 19th Century, just three generations. My father was born there, my grandfather went there in the 1800s, I forget the exact date. The house was built in two wings.
"There are very, very old beams, a king post in the middle and the rafters were all smoked. Originally there would have been one room right to the roof and people would have built a fire in the middle of the floor, it's that old.
"After that a chimney was put in the middle of one wing. By James I and Charles I time it was a good time, a prosperous time for Britain and they moved the animals, moved out and built a completely new house at right angles, two feet away.
"Farming became so profitable that the two houses were joined. It was standard design for the houses of the time, hundreds were built. In my time it was an eight bedroom house, we had it in two halves, and my family moved out two years ago.''
A spokesman for Suffolk Constabulary said: "Police were called just after 10am yesterday to a property believed to date back many hundreds of years where renovation work is being carried out.
"While pulling down a wall skeletal remains were recovered, including a skull which we are not sure if it is human, but the owners think may be a baby's, a cat and a pair of shoes.
"As a precaution the skeleton remains have been removed and a pathologist will ascertain whether they are human.''
Mr and Mrs Mesquita now plan to place the items back within the wall, but leave them on display.