17th-century walls were well dressed

September 6, 2002

Seventeenth-century builders were not keen on washing their dirty linen in public - they hid it in the walls of houses instead. Now the Textile Conservation Centre at the University of Southampton is researching instances of deliberately concealed garments.

It is believed the garments were hidden as a protection against malevolent forces such as witchcraft. Also hidden were "witch-bottles", dried cats and other household items, often near doors, windows or chimneys.

Charlotte Dew, project development officer said: "The practice seems to have been prevalent in Britain and the upper Rhine region for centuries and still continues today." The secrets are revealed on a new website.

Details: www.concealedgarments.org

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