A PERMANENT memorial remembering the victims of witch trials has been unveiled.

Film director John Worland first got a glimpse of how witchcraft suspects were treated when he worked on a film at Signals Media Arts Centre.

He decided he needed to do something about it.

Mr Worland won the approval of Colchester Council to place a plaque near the gates of Castle Park, remembering the first 33 victims of witch hunting who were held at the castle in the 1600s.

Although the acts of notorious witch hunters, Matthew Hopkins and John Stearne, took place hundreds of years ago, Mr Worland believed it is never too late to raise awareness.

He has just unveiled the plaque in the park.

He said: “Most of the witch trial victims were brought to trial by rumour, gossip, superstition, ignorance and malice.

“Unfortunately, I believe we are living at a time when that is now happening again.

“From the gaol calendars, over 200 people were held in Colchester Castle on witchcraft charges in the 16th and 17th centuries.”

Ursula Kemp was born in St Osyth in the 1500s, and was called upon by her neighbours to heal sicknesses.

She was later blamed for intentionally causing illness and death, eventually being tried for witchcraft in Chelmsford in February 1582.

Mr Worland added: “What’s been so wonderful about this project is that it has had such wide support.

“This is reflected in the enthusiastic backing from councillors together with groups reflecting many different beliefs. That really is at the heart of what I hoped to achieve.”

The idea for a permanent memorial came more than 12 years ago when the Essex Witch Trials Memorial Society was formed.

Members attended the service to help unveil the stone, which reads: “In memory of the victims of the Essex Witch Hunts who were imprisoned in Colchester Castle. This plaque is placed as a memorial to them all and in the hope of an end to persecution and intolerance.”