The Woodman and Witchcraft


From the 1960s onwards there have been witchcraft rituals held in Queen’s Wood, Highgate, at the site of the plague pits known as Churchyard Bottom, or, nowadays, as the Witches’ Circle. Those involved normally meet up at The Woodman public house at the junction of Archway Road and Muswell Hill Road. The earliest of these groups was known as The Regency, who were derived from the Clan of Tubal Cain, founded by Robert Cochrane (Roy Bowers), who said that he rejected ‘Gardnerian’ practices in witchcraft, though in fact he had himself been initiated into a coven derived from Gerald Gardner.

In a photograph of The Woodman taken at the time of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, it was displaying the sign: “Ashwell Brewery E. K. & H. Fordham”. Now, Edward King Fordham was the father of Rupert Oswald Fordham, who in 1935 married Dorothy Clutterbuck, who is alleged to have initiated Gerald Gardner into witchcraft in 1939. What goes around comes around.

The Woodman, Highgate, in 1897
The Woodman, Highgate, in 1897

4 thoughts on “The Woodman and Witchcraft”

  1. By the way, Stuart, have you read THE REGENCY – a snapshot of British Paganism in the 1970s (based on a talk given by Kenneth Rees at Treadwell’s Bookshop, London, March 2nd 2004)?

    I just noticed that coincidentally within the article Ken makes reference to Mike Howard publishing a Regency mission statement in his Spectrum magazine of 1974.

    I can’t upload the article here because I do not have permission from Ken, and on account of the rumpus it generated way back when! It is a very interesting read though.

  2. There actually doesn’t appear to be any evidence that Cochrane was initiated into Gardnerian craft, only hearsay, quite unsubstantiated. While, as they say, an absence of proof is not a proof of absence, unless somebody can bring some real evidence to the table, I really can’t see much point in reiterating that story.
    I do wonder if Queen’s Woods has changed much since the early 70s, as it is now it seems terribly over-managed for magical work, a bit too tame, and there are other places one can find that are a bit more elemental.

    • Thanks for your comment, Stuart, and for taking the time to read Gareth’s post. I will leave it to him to get back to you next Friday when he visits again, regarding his reasons for believing that Cochrane went through a Gardnerian initiation. Regarding Queens Wood today, it IS managed as conserved woodland, but certainly not to the extreme that Highgate Wood is. Areas such as the clearing Gareth refers to (which was used by Cochrane’s group) and the immediate area around it are much sparser of trees and hedgerow than feels natural I suppose, but other parts are very overgrown, and still have a dark, undulating energy.

  3. Thanks for this guest blog entry, Gareth. There is indeed a lot of synchronicity associated with Highgate. I would add in comment to your blog entry that Mike Howard, in “Gerald Gardner: The Man, the Myth & the Magick”, which was published in “The Cauldron” magazine in 1997, claims:

    “Gardner himself claimed to know of two other covens in the New Forest (one of these may have been Sybil Leek’s Horsa group), and others in Highgate, North London and Leeds.”

    How true that statement is I do not know; with no detriment intended to Mike Howard, unpicking the history of Gardner’s involvement with various covens is, as you know better than most, nigh on impossible. Furthermore, it is unclear from the above quote whether a single coven in Highgate is being referred to, or a coven or covens in Highgate and other parts of North London. If the latter is the case then this could feasibly incorporate some knowledge on the part of Gardner of a coven or covens based in Barnet, for example, where we know that a hereditary/ traditional pre-Gardnerian coven was still flourishing in the 1960s.


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