Above: Cecil Williamson photographed during his research of witchcraft practices.
The Museum of Witchcraft was the creation of Cecil Williamson, whose interest in witchcraft and magic began in childhood. Cecil initially founded a Museum of Witchcraft in Stratford-upon-Avon but after local opposition, moved to the Isle of Man and in 1951 opened The Folklore Centre of Superstition and Witchcraft. Gerald Gardner, the founder of modern Wicca, was featured as the ‘resident witch.’ As time went on, the two men’s interests became increasingly divergent and Cecil returned to the mainland to set up a succession of witchcraft museums.
Eventually, Cecil settled in the Cornish village of Boscastle and opened the Museum of Witchcraft in 1960.
Above: the Museum Boscastle Harbour in 1962.
Cecil explained the Museum’s location in this way: ‘Three miles away from this spot you can find this pre-historic maze stone carved into a living rock face, proof that from ancient times man and his magic making with the world of spirit were active in this area. The centuries have passed and times have changed and yet all around us in this quiet corner of England there is a strange feeling that we are not alone and that the shades of persons passed on and over into the world of spirit are very close. That is why this Museum of Witchcraft is located here. One is standing on the edge of the beyond.’
Above: the Rocky Valley rock carvings.
With his skills as a filmmaker, Cecil created a variety of interesting and theatrical displays and exhibited a growing collection of magical objects, many associated with the ‘wayside magic’ of the common folk. The black and white photos below show the galleries in the Museum at this time.
In 1996, Cecil sold the museum to Graham King, who took ownership of the Museum of Witchcraft at midnight on Halloween. Graham oversaw the burial of Joan Wytte whose skeleton had been on display in the Museum for many years (photographed below).
Graham ensured that it continued to develop into a successful independent museum and the Museum of Witchcraft’s reputation grew internationally, establishing links to researchers and visitors from around the world. During this period, the collection was expanded to include more items of ritual and comparative magic and there was also a major redisplay of the objects. The Museum of Witchcraft became one of the most visited museums in Cornwall.
On the 16th August 2004, Graham was the first to raise the alarm as a devastating flood swept through Boscastle. His quick-thinking helped the safety of residents and visitors and also the protection of most of the museum’s objects. In the aftermath of the flood, the museum team conducted a dedicated clean-up operation and the museum reopened with new exhibition spaces and saw more visitors than ever before.
On 31st October 2013, Graham King gifted the museum and its contents to Simon Costin, Director of the Museum of British Folklore. In 2015, the museum was re-named ‘The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic’, to better reflect the museum’s collections and interests.
Above: Simon Costin (left) with Graham King (right).
With exciting new displays, temporary exhibitions and events and a collection that has grown to over 3000 objects and over 7000 books; the history of the Museum of Witchcraft continues to inspire and intrigue people from all over the world.
Come and visit the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic and discover the history of magical practice in Britain from ancient times to the present day.