Thursday, 17 February 2011
Cecil Williamson & The Museum of Witchcraft
"Summer's afternoon and we had had lunch, so I thought I would go into the kitchen garden to see if I could scrumb some of uncle's beautiful dessert gooseberries. But I never got to the gooseberry bushes because I heard an extraordinary uproar going on, just the other side of the high stone walls, on the Green in the centre of North Bovey, which is there to this day..." A conversation with Cecil Williamson.
The world famous Museum of Witchcraft is located in the beautiful North Cornwall harbour village of Boscastle and houses the worlds largest collection of Witchcraft related artefacts and regalia.
The museum's history is as fascinating as its collection. It was first founded on the Isle of Man By Cecil Williamson in 1951.
Cecil's lifelong interest in Witchcraft and magic began with his first encounter with old West country Witchcraft as a child in the Devon village of North Bovey when he was befriended by the local Witch after defending the elderly woman from a group of thugs who suspected her of bewitching cattle.
As an adult he investigated the Craft of African Witchdoctors whilst working on a tobacco plantation in Rhodesia. He continued his fascination in Britain in the 1930's mixing with leading experts of the day and even worked as an agent for MI6 collating the Occult interests of the Nazis.
In 1951 Cecil opened the first museum in the Witches Mill on the Isle of Man. Gerald Gardner who he had first met in 1946 was employed as "Resident Witch". Having very different ideas of Witchcraft and the direction in which the museum should go; their working relationship and friendship broke down and in 1954 Williamson sold the building and some of the collection to Gardner and moved his museum to Windsor, however Royal officials were not happy with the idea of a Witchcraft museum and suggested that perhaps it should be located somewhere else.
Cecil relocated again to the Cotswold village of Bourton-on-the-Water where local Christians subjected him to death threats, strung dead cats up in his garden trees and repeatedly fire-bombed his museum. And so the final relocation took Cecil and his museum to Boscastle in 1960 where it remains today.
At midnight on Samhain 1996, Williamson sold the museum to Graham King and Elizabeth Crow. He took some of his favourite artefacts with him, and moved to Witheridge, a small village near to Tiverton in Devon. He died in 1999.
The Museum of Witchcraft is located by The Harbour in Boscastle, Cornwall. Boscastle is on the North coast of Cornwall between Tintagel and Bude.
Portrait of Cecil Williamson by Robert Lenkiewicz.
Further information here and here. Video content here & here.