Yesterday evening I spoke to Fulbourn Village History Society’s first meeting of the year on ‘Witchcraft in Cambridgeshire’. My talk covered the nature of malefic witchcraft in English folk belief and the history of witchcraft in Cambridgeshire from Hereward the Wake to the seventeenth-century witch trials. I also covered folk belief in witchcraft up to the Second World War.
I was extremely impressed by Fulbourn Village History Society, which meets in the Fulbourn Village Centre, a state-of-the-art community facility. My talk was attended by over 50 members of the Society, which has published a number of books on the village and has its own archive and archivist. The Society also regularly engages with the local community. It seems to me a good model for other local history societies to follow: not just a group of interested individuals, but a genuine resource for the entire community.
I always hope that when I speak on witchcraft to local historical societies, someone will disabuse me of my conviction that belief in witchcraft in Cambridgeshire is essentially dead, by providing some evidence that people still believe. In that sense I am following in the footsteps of Enid Porter, who collected her material on witchcraft 50 years ago through talking to WI meetings in church halls around the county. That did not happen last night, but one member of the audience did note that she was referred to a wizard by her GP in the 1960s when her daughter was sick – but that was in Devon rather than East Anglia!
The text of my talk can be read here.