Some of us have been to Snowshill Manor on more than one occasion and we all know of the secret room hidden in the roof. For those who are unaware of both the place and the secret room here is a brief note: Charles Wade purchased the manor just after World War 1 and as a trained architect with a family fortune, restored the manor from a dilapidated state and subsequently lived there. There is much to say about Charles Wade and even more to say about his interests but this goes beyond the scope of my article.
When Charles Wade decided to retire to his family estate in the Caribbean, he made the extraordinary decision to leave both the manor and his vast collection of antiques to the National Trust. The Trust began an inventory of the manor on Mr Wade’s departure and discovered a small hidden room in the roof in part of the main building.
In the secret room was a small collection of items of a witchcraft / occult nature. No mention of this place had been made to the Trust about the room by Mr Wade and the National Trust -ultra conservative then and now, were horrified at the discovery.
At this time Cecil Williamson (of Boscastle fame) was running a witchcraft museum in Bourton on the Water, a small town a few miles away from Snowshill. The Trust contacted him and requested that he take a look, he confirmed the occult nature of the secret room’s contents and to both his delight and surprise, was asked by the Trust to take away all the contents free of charge.
The museum in Bourton on the Water did not last long, the locals hated it and, Christianity still being strong in the 1950’s, saw the place as celebrating evil.
Cecil moved his collection to Cornwall and some of the items from the secret room are in the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, Cornwall to this day.
I have seen some of these items and do not find them to have a particularly ‘witchcraft’ theme. But, although self-described ‘showman’ Cecil certainly made more out of the discoveries than was justified, there was undoubtedly some kind of ritual activity going on in the room. I know this from private discussions with Snowshill Manor staff who are tacitly forbidden from speaking about the room. To this day, the public are not permitted to see the room. I have not seen the room except the tiny window which is the only obvious clue to its existence. Furthermore, the entrance can only be accessed by a ladder. Members of staff have privately told me that within the room the walls are decorated with hand painted ‘Kabbalistic’ symbols they believe were painted by Wade for ritual purposes. It should be noted that Wade was very familiar with astrology and interested in the way the rooms aligned with astrological aspects – on one or two doors in the house there are astrological sigils intricately made of metal by Wade.
But the title of this article is the ‘Snowshill Manor Chest’. There are lots and lots of chests in the Manor, however the chest referred to here is the chest that was in the secret room and taken away by Cecil Williamson in the 1950’s. He described as a chest containing ritual clothing /costume, but there is no evidence of any such clothing being in the box when Cecil obtained it.
The magnificent chest resided intact in the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle until 2004. Then in August of that year and immense flood hit the village and swept through the museum destroying many artefacts and sweeping some into the sea – one item was found washed up on the coast of South Wales! The chest was damaged to such an extent that now only the front survives. I would have liked to have seen the complete chest, but never have. I would also like to have seen the extent of the damage to the chest before the front was removed and the rest discarded! To my mind, this must have been by far the very best item from the hidden room. Here are some photographs: