Lead Review

  • Book: Secret Britain Unearthing our Mysterious Past
  • Location: United Kingdom
  • Author: Mary-Ann Ochota

Review Author: Tina Hartas



This is a fabulous tour around the British Isles in the expert hands of Mary-Ann Ochota. If you love a quick dig into archaeology (pun intended) and history, then this will appeal, looking at aspects of our culture that are downright curious, baffling, interesting and oftentimes wondrous. It is a guidebook to Britain’s quirky and fascinating heritage and you could quite easily set off and visit each site in the flesh.

Of course, in these Covid times, visiting is not really a possibility, so she stresses that many of the sites have websites where you can experience digital resources, like cutting edge 3-D models, aerial films and up-close-and-personal views of some of the most staggering things from Britain’s past. It makes for perfect #armchairtravel!

In the contents she has listed 230+ sites and there is a map so you can see their exact location.

I was drawn to see what was in my vicinity and was delighted to find mention of the Genii Cucullati found at Housesteads. These are cloaked figures that come in threes. It is not known whether they are friend or foe, but the cloaks they wear were quite the thing, a prized export – perhaps something to consider resurrecting come 1st January 2021?

She takes her readers to more familiar and popular sites like the Cerne Abbas Giant in Dorset, Lullingstone Roman Villa and the Uffington White Horse. I have to admit my favourite discovery is on P92 which describes the Guildhall Witch Bottle, discovered in London.  It is a 17th Century stoneware bottle, pre-dating the Great Fire of London (1666). It is a tool to protect you from witches and spells and a ghastly fate. Such a bottle would invariably contain bent sharp metal items, like pins and… human urine, some have been found contain all manner of things like nail clippings, hair and belly button fluff. The Guildhall bottle, unusually, had been set alight. It is thought these bottles were sold off-the-shelf to help with witchy induced ailments, like nightmares, great fatigue, depression etc… I wonder, did you just pop them on a shelf in your home and hope that the powers would seep out and offer a cure for your ailments?

A fascinating and wonderful journey, with beautiful photographs, to take you on an unusual tour of Britain.

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