Bonfire of Flowers

Event Date: 
17 Jul 2019

A staged reading of a new play by Emma Whipday, inspired by the true story of the ‘Belvoir witches’, at 5.30pm on Wednesday 17 July, at the Anatomy Museum, King’s College London.


Two sons - both died in infancy by wicked practice and sorcery

Monument to Henry and Francis Manners, St Mary the Virgin’s Church, Bottesford


Witches three, that to that castle came…

“Damnable Practises of Three Lincolneshire Witches”(1620)


In 1619, Joan Flower and her illegitimate daughters Margaret and Philip were condemned for bewitching the sons of the Earl and Countess of Rutland. Employed at Belvoir Castle to assist preparations for the visit of King James, they were accused of abusing the hospitality of their master and mistress, and committing magical murder.


Their crimes were reported in a news pamphlet and a broadside ballad, which construct how the Flowers women engaged in transgressive behaviour:Margaret walked at ‘unruly’ hours and ‘purloined’ small goods; Philip was accused of using magic to seduce a farmer’s son; and Joan was known for cursing and unbridled speech. Directed by Asia Osborne, and starring Robbie Capaldi, Beth Eyre, Maryam Grace, and Hilary Tones, this new play weaves together early modern witchcraft accounts to reimagine the voices of the poor, illiterate, and ostracised Flower women, and the social pressures that shaped their stories and led to their deaths. Bonfire of Flowers explores how the anxieties that condemned three unruly women still resonate today, exploring the audibility of women’s voices; the condemnation of female sexuality; and the demonisation of the choices of the poor and dispossessed.