Wookey Hole Witch

Meet the Witch

We are lucky enough to have the Witch of Wookey Hole visit us for special events, where she delights in retelling how she came to be a legend.

The Witch visits Wookey Hole during all the major school holidays.

Please always check ahead of your visit on our special events page as sometimes she has other witchy business to take care of.

Read on to learn about her legend.

The  legend of the Witch of Wookey Hole

Wookey Hole is famous for lots of things, but the legend of the Witch is one of the most popular stories.

It all started about a 1000 years ago when a woman living in the caves was thought to be a witch by the local villagers. These were very different times and women who were suspected of being witches were shunned by their neighbours, or even worse put on trial and executed.

According to the legend, anything that went wrong in the village was blamed on this lady who had made the caves her home, from crops failing, cattle dying or even people disappearing.

The story goes that the villagers demanded the local Abbott, based at Glastonbury Abbey, help them deal with the Witch. The Abbot sent a monk called Father Barnard to investigate. 

On reaching Wookey Hole, the monk made his way up to the caves with holy objects to protect him, including a chalice. He met the Witch at the entrance to the caves and a terrible argument followed because she didn’t want to leave her home. The Witch fled deeper into the cave to escape the meddlesome monk.

Now, the villagers had warned Father Barnard not to follow her in to the caves as they believed this was the gateway to hell, and if he went in, he would never return.

After chasing the Witch through the caves Father Bernard entered an area we now know as Chamber 1. In the chamber the Monk is said to have collected some of the water from the River Axe in his chalice and blessed it, turning it into Holy Water.

Father Bernard then sprinkled the Holy Water through the Chamber as he couldn’t see where the Witch was hiding. Some of this water fell on the Witch and she’s said to have let out a blood curdling scream, followed by an eerie silence.

Shining his candle in the direction of the scream, Father Bernard saw that the Witch had been turned to stone.

Father Barnard proudly returned to the Abbey. Whilst the Monk succeeded in ridding the villagers of their enemy, at Wookey Hole we like to think the Witch got the last word. She is celebrated in legend to this day whilst Father Barnard is largely forgotten.

The legendary stone witch is still found in Chamber 1 today and you can make out the shape of her head looking out across the river. Some of her more distinguishing features are her bonnet, forehead, nose, and chin.

The legend took on a sinister turn in 1912 when the ancient body of a woman was found in a shallow grave in 1912 by Herbert Balch, a local archaeologist and geologist who spent years exploring the Mendip Hills and who excavated the cave.

Next to her, he found the remains of two goats, a bowl, a dagger, a latch lifter and an alabaster ball, all of which can now be seen in Wells Museum in their Balch room.

Other great things to do at Wookey Hole Caves…