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LONDON (Reuters) - A mummified cat entombed in the walls of a recently unearthed 17th century English cottage has historians speculating whether the building might once have played a part in Britain's most notorious witch trials.
Nearly 400 years after the "Pendle witches" were hanged on the moors outside nearby Lancaster for witchcraft, workers on an engineering project in the shadow of Pendle Hill, in Lancashire, northern England uncovered the old cottage with the cat bricked up inside its walls.
Some historians have speculated as to whether the cottage could have been the fabled meeting point of the Pendle witches.
"This could well be the famous Malkin Tower -- which has been a source of speculation and rumor for centuries," Pendle witches expert Simon Entwistle told Reuters.
He said the find, right in the heart of witch country was incredibly rare, and was made just a few months before the 400th anniversary of the infamous Pendle trials.
According to historians, 12 local women were charged with causing death by witchcraft and after a string of trials, 10 of them were hanged on the nearby moors on August 20, 1612.
"It's not often you come across a fairytale cottage complete with witch's cat. The building is in remarkable condition. You can walk through it and get a real sense that you're peering into the past," said Carl Sanders, project manager at United Utilities, which unearthed the cottage.
"Pendle Hill has a real aura about it, and it's hard not to be affected by the place. Even before we discovered the building, there were lots of jokes from the lads about broomsticks and black cats."
Editing by Stefano Ambrogi and Paul Casciato