As we approach Halloween a spooky discovery has been made in the Vale of Belvoir which harks back to an age when there was a fear of witchcraft across the Melton borough.
Simon Shouler was doing some restoration work at his 400-year-old home at Long Clawson on Saturday when he uncovered a hexafoil under layers of paint and varnish on the underside of a beam in the old kitchen.
The distinctive mark, at Clawson Manor House, in West End, was used in the past to ward off evil spirits and witches and it may have been put there by a former resident, Sir Henry Hastings, a magistrate who tried several witches in court in the early 17th century.
Mr Shouler said: “The hexafoil is eight inches across and is in the form of a circle with petals inside, which is often referred to as a daisy wheel. “Whether it was put there on Sir Henry’s orders to protect him from sorcery, or whether the carpenter incised it on his own initiative, doubting the wisdom of building a room with such a large and dangerous fireplace, who knows?”
The mark appears to have been positioned so that anyone entering the room would walk directly underneath on their way to the enormous cooking hearth.
“The kitchen was built around 1600 just before James I came to the throne,” said Mr Shouler, who is restoring a property he rescued from dereliction 20 years ago.
“Under King James, the interest in, and the fear of, witches came to a new height in England.
“Sir Henry Hastings, who was responsible for the building and lived at the house, was a magistrate, and he tried several witches around the county.
“In particular, some he tried at Belvoir Castle were accused of sorcery and causing the death of the Earl of Rutland’s children.”
In medieval times, kitchens were detached from houses because of the risk of fire. Mr Shouler believes his home contains possibly the oldest inside kitchen in the Melton borough.
It has a massive fireplace which is nearly 10 feet across, which was capable of cooking an entire ox centuries ago, and it may hold the key to another sinister reason for the presence of the hexafoil.
Mr Shouler added: “There is another thought that the mark is not so much as to protect the occupants on their way to the hearth, as to protect the sleeping household from all the ghoulies that might get down such a big chimney at night.”