What are they?
Ritual or ‘witch-marks’ carved by superstitious 17th-century carpenters to protect the occupants of the building from evil.
What’s their story?
In the roof spaces at Kew, we sometimes find strange markings, carved into the original oak timbers.
When Kew Palace was built in 1631, people were particularly superstitious, and believed that evil influences or witches could enter the house disguised as cats or frogs and cast spells on people while they slept.
To ward this off, the original carpenters who made the roof carved special secret signs near windows, doors, fireplaces and other vulnerable places, to protect themselves from evil.
Other ways of protecting a house included hiding old shoes, mummified cats and kittens under the floorboards, or ‘urine bottles’ filled with hair and nail-clippings in special, secret cavities.