Historic amulets used to ‘ward off evil’ are found near Skegness

The Victorian chess pieces found in a barn in Burgh Le Marsh.
The Victorian chess pieces found in a barn in Burgh Le Marsh.

Two early nineteenth century chess pieces, used as ‘protective amulets’, have been discovered in a barn in Burgh le Marsh.

The Queen and Bishop figures, dating from around 1850, were found hidden in a wooden beam in an old barn in the village.

Archaeologist Dr Adam Daubney, from Lincolnshire County Council, said: “This is such an interesting discovery. We know that in the 1800s, people used to place artefacts at boundaries and thresholds of properties to help ward off evil spirits. These tended to be things like shoes, miniature bibles or mummified cats. We haven’t seen chess pieces before.

“The pieces were found in the beam which was over the main access point of the barn, so I think these have been purposely selected and placed to help keep the occupiers and their livestock safe. It seems likely that the praying Bishop and Queen - the latter which might have served the role of Mary – were carefully selected from the chess set as pieces that might have particular spiritual power to ward off evil.”

The chess pieces are made out of plaster of Paris or crushed stone, and were probably dipped in resin.

Adam continues: “These were found by the property owners when they were undertaking renovations of their barn. I’d ask members of the public or builders, if they are starting a renovation project, if they find anything unusual to please get in touch.”

For more information on reporting finds in Lincolnshire, visit www.lincolnshire.gov.uk