Colchester Museums launch crowdfunding campaign with Art Happens

PUBLISHED: 4 May 2022

We need your help to support Wicked Spirits? Witchcraft + Magic at Colchester Castle

Colchester Museums has launched its first ever crowdfunding campaign by teaming up with Art Happens, a platform run by Art Fund, and are hoping to raise £15,000 to bring its new summer exhibition Wicked Spirits? Witchcraft + Magic at Colchester Castle to life.

The exhibition will be on display at Colchester Castle, Europe’s largest Norman Keep and one of East Anglia’s most visited heritage attractions, from 16th July – 6 January 2023.

Concentrating on one of its most tragic periods in history, Wicked Spirits? Witchcraft + Magic at Colchester Castle will tell the story of those imprisoned within the Castle walls and those executed on suspicion of witchcraft and magic.

In the 1500 and 1600s, a fear campaign began to spread throughout Europe. Hundreds of people were imprisoned in Colchester Castle, as were thousands more across the country. Essex became infamous for its persecution of suspected witches. The first person in England to be executed for witchcraft, Agnes Waterhouse, lived in Hatfield Peverel, just 15 miles from Colchester Castle.

With laws changing frequently, the time and place you were born had an enormous impact on how you could be treated if someone accused you of using magic or witchcraft. Denunciations were often so vague that anyone could find themselves accused, locked up or even killed without just cause.

For many years Colchester Castle has told the stories of those who hunted suspected witches – such as the notorious Witch Finder General, Matthew Hopkins – but now Colchester Museums has been given the opportunity to collaborate with the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic (MWM) to bring the stories of those that suffered out into the open.

But… we really need your help. As this was not a planned project and Colchester Museums are keen to work with the MWM, they now need to raise additional funds to help support the exhibition.

Following the successful re-opening of the Castle in the summer of 2021, which received a huge boost from a new exhibition, it is hoped Wicked Spirits? Witchcraft + Magic at Colchester Castle will again entice visitors and help the museum to continue its recovery from the pandemic.

The decision to work with the MWM is also timely, given the backdrop of interest around the country about the best way to remember all those accused of witchcraft, and the time now seems right to join in this national conversation and tell Colchester and Essex’s own story.

Supporters of Colchester Museums will be able to donate as little as £5 and receive exclusive rewards as thanks, including limited-edition exhibition posters and postcards, a private tour of Colchester Castle, afternoon tea with famous jam maker Wilkin & Son of Tiptree, and even a one-of-a-kind piece of artwork – a “felted familiar” – to thank them for their generosity.

Councillor Darius Laws, Portfolio Holder for Economy, Business and Heritage for Colchester Borough Council, said: “This is a milestone moment for Colchester Museums. Witchcraft and magic are emotive subjects that fascinate and intrigue not just local people but resonate around the country and the whole world. Working with the Boscastle Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, Colchester Castle will host yet another groundbreaking summer exhibition.

“If you can donate any amount, no matter how small, you can help play your part in preserving Colchester’s rich heritage for future generations and ensure its stories continue to live on.”

Simon Costin, Museum of Witchcraft & Magic, added: “The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic is hugely excited to be collaborating with Colchester Castle to unlock the stories of witchcraft and magic during the witch hunts of the 16th and 17th centuries. We will be loaning a selection of rare and magical objects from our collection, which not only highlight folk-magic practices, but also show the ways in which innocent people could be persecuted for their beliefs.”

Find out more and donate here Wicked spirits? Witchcraft + magic. - Art Fund

Further information is also available at

Page last reviewed: 4 May 2022


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