LIN-49FC12: LIN1011: Witch Bottle and contents

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Unique ID: LIN-49FC12

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Published Find published

Post-medieval glass witch-bottle and contents. The glass bottle has a wide flat base with a twisted and fluted narrow neck, which is broken around the rim. The size and form of the base and neck indicates that the vessel was originally an inkwell or a small ornamental candle-holder, the former being more likely. The vessel has a seam running up the side, indicating that it was made in a mould. This would also indicate a date of c. 1820 onwards.

Inside the vessel was found a small number of corroded iron and copper-alloy objects, and a single strip of leather. The leather is a strap, and has four holes along its length. It is possible that this strip of leather originally bound the iron and bronze objects together inside the glass vessel. Although very corroded, the iron objects appear to consist of straight and bent pins, generally c.16-25mm in length. There are also two copper-alloy objects, which look like simple dress hooks. These two objects are contained within the iron mass. They have a single complete loop with a hooked tail, c. 18mm in length.

Although called witch-bottles, these bottles were in fact used as antidotes to witchcraft, and were most popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. The most common form of vessel used in the the second half of the 17th century was the bellarmine jug or bottle, especially the type with a bearded mask on the shoulder. In the 18th century, however, these were replaced by a wider variety of bottles, such as small glass phials and glass wine bottles. These containers were often filled with varying quantities of bent nails, cloth, human hair, fingernail clippings and urine. Once the bottles were prepared they were normally buried under buildings, usually under the threshold or the hearth; other examples have been found under boundary walls and placed in roof spaces. This witch-bottle was found underneath a floor surface of an extant house. It was believed that the contents of the bottle were an effective counter-measure to witchcraft, protecting the victim by throwing back the evil spell onto the witch who cast it.

Witch-bottles were most popular in the 17th and early 18th centuries, and the majority of finds date to these periods. This bottle is very interesting, however, due to its very late date (after c. 1820), and the fact that the findspot was underneath a still extant building, which lay only c. 130m east of the village Methodist chapel. This find is more likely to represent the survival of an 'amuletic' tradition or practice, as still can be seen in some parts today, rather than indicating the survival of the witch-bottle in its original form and function as an antidote to evil spells.


This item was studied in further detail by Alan Massey in 2012, who provides evidence to suggest this was not used as a witch bottle. First, he suggests that the since the break along the rim shares the same patina and deposit as the rest of the body, the item went into the ground in an already broken state. Massey suggests that without a complete rim it would be difficult to seal the vessel. Massey also suggests that the items inserted into the vessel are more reminiscent of broken or scrap 'bits'.

Find of note status

This has been noted as an interesting find by the recorder.

Class: Witch

Subsequent actions

Current location of find: Museum of Lincolnshire Life
Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder


Broad period: POST MEDIEVAL
Subperiod from: Late
Period from: POST MEDIEVAL
Date from: Circa AD 1820
Date to: Circa AD 1880

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Wednesday 1st January 2003

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Identified by: Dr Adam Daubney

Materials and construction

Primary material: Glass
Secondary material: Iron

Spatial metadata

Region: East Midlands (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Lincolnshire (County)
District: North Kesteven (District)
Parish or ward: Navenby (Civil Parish)

Spatial coordinates

4 Figure: SK9857
Four figure Latitude: 53.101209
Four figure longitude: -0.537746
1:25K map: SK9857
1:10K map: SK95NE
WOEID: 29716
Grid reference source: From a paper map
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 100 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Building work
Current location: Museum of Lincolnshire Life
General landuse: Other
Specific landuse: In use as a building

References cited

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: LIN
Created: Monday 8th December 2003
Updated: Friday 28th November 2014

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