The Old King’s Head Bottle Discovery

We have found an old blog written by Brian Hoggard in August 2016 about the discover of bottles hanging in the loft space.  Find out about his discovery and why they were there.

Note:  unfortunately after the restoration works the bottles are now longer in situ.


Heritage Lincolnshire have made a strange discovery in the roof of the Old King’s Head.  Tipped off by a previous resident, staff and consultants surveying the roof structure came across 3 broken bottles hanging from a beam.  Covered in dust and cobwebs the hanging bottles make a spooky sight and thoughts turn to why they were put there and why they were broken.  Could they be some form of ritual magic?

In August Heritage Lincolnshire invited Brian Hoggard to visit the Old King’s Head.  Brian is an expert on Apotropaic (Greek for turns away evil) symbols and came to talk to staff about what symbols or items could be present and where we would be likely to find them.

During his visit Brian explained that in the past people used to protect their buildings (and themselves) from evil spirits and witches using marks and protecting items.  Containers known as ‘witch bottles’ were thought to trap evil spells sent by witches and symbols were scratched into timbers around fireplaces, windows and doors to ward off bad spirits.  Shoes and sometimes cats were put into voids and chimneys as protections.  Due to the age of Old King’s Head, it is likely that we may find these on further investigation.

A full survey will be carried out to look at all the marks that look like they have been deliberately made around the building.  A brief look by Brian found some lines and initials carved into the beam above the fireplace and he advised the best way of looking for symbols that can often be quite faint.

Since Brian’s visit we have learnt that the bottles were probably part of a game that coachmen used to play when the building was an inn.  Passing the time when staying overnight, bottles were hung from beams and stones thrown at them.  Points were given when a bottle was smashed and the person with the most points won.

Although it is likely that the bottles are not part of any ritual magic, it is possible that we will find other items and marks as we explore the building further so watch this space!