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King's Lynn Festival Review - Suzannah Lipscomb: Witchcraft, St George's Guildhall

A packed-out St George's Guildhall in Lynn was treated to an afternoon of discovery on Saturday when historian Dr Suzannah Lipscomb gave an insight into the world of witchcraft as part of King's Lynn Festival.

Lipscomb, who presented a Channel 5 documentary on the topic and is to release a book on the subject later this year, took the audience on a whirlwind trip through the global history of witchcraft and dispelled some myths while she was at it.

Suzannah Lipscomb. (3211302)
Suzannah Lipscomb. (3211302)

One such legend is one known to most of us, of the 'witch' Margaret Read whose heart supposedly burst from her chest and hit the wall of a house opposite as she was burned at the stake in Lynn's Tuesday Market Place.

However, Lipscomb was doubtful of this tale, as she said most witches in East Anglia were not burned, but hanged.

And this was just one of the fascinating clarifications that Lipscomb made.

We also learnt that, while in most of Europe more than 70 per cent of those accused of being witches were female, there was also a significant number of men accused too.

Lipscomb not only expanded on the audience's prior knowledge of the subject, but she also put it into context, explaining that the socio-economic conditions of the 16th century – when the notion of witchcraft was at its peak – meant that people were constantly looking for someone to blame.

The historian brought her talk to a close by highlighting the more recent cases of witchcraft, and said: "Perhaps it matters now more than ever".

The talk was informative, interactive, emotive and extremely interesting, and showcased just why Lipscomb is as popular a historian as she is.

Rebekah Chilvers

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