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Mysterious 'spiritual deposition' to 'ward off evil' found in Suffolk fireplace

PUBLISHED: 11:30 10 April 2019 | UPDATED: 11:31 10 April 2019

John Nunn, (centre), with Alex McWhirter (right), and Dan Clarke from Moyse's Hall Museum in Bury St Edmunds Picture: LONG MELFORD HERITAGE CENTRE

John Nunn, (centre), with Alex McWhirter (right), and Dan Clarke from Moyse's Hall Museum in Bury St Edmunds Picture: LONG MELFORD HERITAGE CENTRE

Archant

A number of items unearthed in the fireplace of a historic Suffolk house could have been placed there to ward off evil spirits, according to experts.

The fireplace at Codling's Forge in Long Melford Picture: JOHN NUNNThe fireplace at Codling's Forge in Long Melford Picture: JOHN NUNN

The rare find, at Codling’s Forge in Long Melford, was uncovered during renovations and included a hat, fragments of a psalm book, a leather purse, ancient keys and a straw dolly.

It is believed the personal items could have been deliberately placed there in what is known as a ‘spiritual deposition’ to fend off evil and protect the family.

The building, which dates back to the 15th century, was occupied for many generations by the Codling family and has recently come under new ownership.

Peter Nichols, of Oakley Preservation, who has been employed to do some of the renovations, was removing wattle and lathe walling when he discovered layer upon layer of objects concealed beside a Tudor Inglenook fireplace.

An old photograph of Codling's Forge in Long Melford Picture: JOHN NUNNAn old photograph of Codling's Forge in Long Melford Picture: JOHN NUNN

He then contacted parish and district councillor John Nunn, who is also founder and coordinator of the Long Melford Heritage Centre.

Mr Nunn got in touch with Moyse’s Hall Museum in Bury St Edmunds and its heritage officer Alex McWhirter visited the village house to examine the findings.

Mr Nunn said: “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.

“Such depositions have been found in Suffolk over the years but this is the first one from Long Melford that I am aware of.”

A bone knife and wooden hairpin was found Picture: JOHN NUNNA bone knife and wooden hairpin was found Picture: JOHN NUNN

The report on the findings from Moyse’s Hall read: “It has been suggested that the location of a fireplace may well have been due to it serving as a potential access point for evil.

“The items found concur with other examples in that they are often worn-out and therefore perhaps at the end of their use to their owner.

“They are also personal at one time retaining characteristics of the owner. The range of artefacts may denote a family depositing to protect itself as a unit. 
“It would appear from looking at other examples this could well be a spiritual midden deposition as opposed to an accidentally created time capsule.”

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.

A leather shoe dated 1650, which was found Picture: JOHN NUNNA leather shoe dated 1650, which was found Picture: JOHN NUNN

“My thanks also go to Peter Nichols of Oakley Preservation whose actions made this all possible and to members of the Codling family in Long Melford and Sudbury.”

Long Melford Heritage Centre is situated at the back of the village hall (opposite the Bull Hotel) and is open April until November, 10am to 4pm on Saturdays, midday to 4pm on Sundays, and 2pm – 4pm on Wednesdays.

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