Spooks, witches and monsters will be able to have a wickedly good time at Shire Hall for free this Halloween half term.

There will be a host of family fun happening at Dorchester’s Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum, and following the popularity of last year’s events, the team are again running their kids go free promotion. Up to two children dressed in Halloween costume will get into the museum for free with every full paying adult.

Youngsters and the young at heart will be able to take part in a host of spooky activities from October 26 to November 3. Throughout the half-term holidays, there will be slime-making workshops, a witch’s potion trail, and gruesome touchy-feely guessing games. Join the team for spooky storytelling in the underground cells throughout the week or come along to slime-making sessions on weekdays 11-3pm (*£2 supplement per child.) There will also be tasty autumnal treats in the café.

One of the spooky stories will be about Joan Guppy, a Dorset woman accused of witchcraft who banded her neighbours together to create a petition to prove she wasn’t a witch.

Joan, from South Perrot, was accused of witchcraft by her neighbour Margaret Abington in 1604. Margaret beat Joan with brambles which caused her to bleed. The idea was that this would break the ‘spell.’ Although Joan proved her innocence, it was a dangerous position to be in. Visitors can learn about the other superstitions around witchcraft in Dorset, including why animal hearts with thorns in have been found in recent renovations of Dorchester chimneys! The idea was that witches entered a house via the chimney, but if they got caught on the thorns, they would lose their power.

Witch trials were common in England until the last execution for witchcraft in 1716. The Witchcraft Act of 1735 put an end to the traditional form of witchcraft as a legal offense in Britain.

Events Manager at Shire Hall, Harriet Still, said: “Fortunately for Joan, her defence was successful, but it shows a story of a woman fighting gender, class and education to defend herself outside of the courts and to face off intolerance and harassment.

“It wasn’t uncommon for women to be accused of witchcraft and superstition was widespread at the time. Come and join us for more creepy tales and spooky fun this half term.”

To find out more about these and other events, visit www.shirehalldorset.org.uk.

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