WITCH markings ensured Bolton’s old halls were protected from evil spirits on Halloween night.

Daisy wheels and VV, symbolising Virgin Virgins as well as taper burns, can be found carved in Smithills Hall and Hall i’th’ Wood to keep away evil and bad omens. Now the public is being asked to help document these strange carvings known as witches’ marks found in mediaeval churches, hours and barns.

They are ritual protection symbols dating from a time when belief in witchcraft and the supernatural was widespread.

But their presence has never been fully recorded, and yesterday on All Hallows Eve, the government heritage agency Historic England called on the public to share information and pictures of any they know about to create a record of England’s witches’ marks.

The symbols, also known as apotropaic marks, were carved on to stone or woodwork near entrances such as doorways, windows and fireplaces to protect inhabitants and visitors from witches and evil spirits as well as danger.

Markings ranged from a “daisy wheel”, the most common type of mark which looks like a flower drawn with a compass, in a single endless line that was supposed to confuse and entrap evil spirits, to “Solomon’s knots” and pentangles.

Ian Trumble, Bolton Museums’ Collections Access Officer, and Chairman of Bolton Archaeology and Egyptology Society, said: “These markings are thought to have been etched in between the 1500s and 1700s.

“There were carved and placed mainly near entrances and exists as protection.”

He added: “During the reformation, society entered a period of confusion and did not know what to believe in and what not to.

“But superstition was something they could understand and as there were no real scientific understanding, a draught from a window or a creak was often thought to be an evil spirit.”

Now members of the Bolton Archaeology and Egyptology Society are being trained up to spot these intriguing markings to find out more about them, the regional differences, beliefs ad about the buildings. The survey locally is being run by North West Historic Graffiti Survey.

Mr Trumble said: “Hopefully the project will open people’s minds to look for theses markings.”

Volunteers in Bolton will be carrying out detailed examinations of the rooms to discover these markings and new etches.

For more information https://twitter.com/NWHistGraffiti/