(Witch skull, Woolley and Wallis Auction House, Salisbury)
It's not often that the usual run of skulls up for auction varies from the Victorian medical specimens. But this one caught my eye, and I dearly hope it has found its way to some folk museum in the country.
The catalogue text reads:
"Provenance: The skull was discovered in 1951 by workmen excavating foundations on Brook Road, Kinson, Bournemouth. It was found at a depth of about two feet with tree roots growing through it. It is believed to be of a woman between thirty-five and forty-five years old. The skull is possibly three hundred years old and the woman was subject to a deliberate and gruesome death. There is a small hole to the rear of the hole where the iron stake was found and it seems that a first attempt was abortive due to the resistance of the inter-parietal suture. Why would a female be subject to such an attack? Perhaps she was a witch and was tortured or perhaps she was an informer on the pirates who used Kinson Church tower to store their contraband."
Certainly a somewhat imaginative range of explanations for the iron spike. But it was undoubtedly found in that condition in 1951 (see account on Page 21 of Old Kinson). "Witches" have been found buried face down, or with stones holding the mouth open, and even an iron stake through the heart: The reasons why may be lost to time, but even recent cases can baffle us, for example the case of "Bella" whose body was found in the 1940s inside a tree; a witch (well wych) elm in fact!
(If anyone has any knowledge of this or other crimes, please contact Crimestoppers).