Mother Shipton’s Cave in Knaresborough was once home to a famous diviner, and the strange ability of the Petrifying Well was believed to be witchcraft at work
Image: Charlotte Gale, 2014)
An ancient cave claims centuries of history steeped in supernatural legends – and magic was once believed to be responsible for the astonishing natural phenomenon that unfolds in its waters.
Set in a historic forest along the River Nidd, Mother Shipton’s Cave in the market and spa town of Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, is part of a 12-acre site that has attracted visitors from around the world for almost four hundred years.
According to legend, the cave is the birthplace of the famous prophetess Mother Shipton. It is said that the diviner, otherwise known as Ursula Southeil, was born inside the cave in 1488 during a severe thunderstorm.
Mother Shipton was famous for her supposed ability to see into the future, predicting events like the Great Fire of London and the defeat of the Spanish Armada, which earned her a reputation as a witch.
Charlotte Gale, 2014)
Apparently born with bulging eyes, a crooked nose, and a hunchback, cackling instead of crying, some ancient sources claim Shipton was a devil’s child.
She is believed to have been raised inside the cave by her young mother for the first two years of her life, then spent most of her days in the forest surrounding her where she gathered for flowers and herbs for making potions.
While it is not clear how true the legends are, historians believe that a woman named Shipton definitely lived in Knaresborough over 500 years ago and clearly left a big impression.
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Mother Shipton’s legacy continues centuries later in the town where she grew up.
In Knaresborough, a 15th-century pub, the Mother Shipton Inn, still bears its name in honor of the diviner, and the town unveiled a statue of its most famous historic inhabitant in 2017.
Visitors from all over the world flock to see the Prophetess’ birthplace – but the legend of Mother Shipton isn’t the weird cave’s only attraction.
It also houses the Petrifying Well, renowned for its ability to “transform objects into stone”. The well was opened to paying visitors in 1630, when water was believed to have miraculous healing abilities, making it England’s oldest tourist attraction.
Charlotte Gale, 2014)
Visitors can place objects in the cascading waters of the well and watch them magically “petrify”, turning something like a teddy bear into “stone” in three to five months.
Once thought of as witchcraft at work, it can be explained by a strange natural phenomenon that occurs when the water has an unusually high mineral content, giving anything that falls in it a layer of hard stone over the course of the water. time.
Visitors to the well can see objects hanging like stalactites above the well that have been left to petrify, and the on-site museum has even more – from ‘stone’ phones and bikes to a shoe left by Queen Mary in 1923.
“Stone” teddy bears are even available in the gift shop.