A FILM director has set up a fundraising page to pay for a permanent memorial to the victims of the Essex Witch Trials.

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 in the 1600s who were held at the castle.

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

He needs £850 to fund the project and has already raised £225.

He said: “I’m really pleased the council is behind me on this project. It’s got cross party support which is really good news.

“The park manager Ian Baalham has been particularly helpful and a great location for the memorial has been agreed in Castle Park opposite the entrance to the castle itself.

“My design for the memorial has been agreed. It is to be a granite stone but I’m not revealing the wording or design until the official unveiling.

“I am compiling a complete list of all those who were held in Colchester Castle on a witchcraft charge in the 16th and 17th centuries. There are well over 200 individuals.

“While most people have heard of the Hopkins Witchfinder General trial of 1645 and the earlier 1582 trial of Ursula Kemp, there were many others that went unreported.

“I am not on a mission to get justice for the women and men. I simply want the tragedy to be remembered.”

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

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

If groups would like a talk on the Essex Witch Trials, Mr Worland is happy to do so for a donation to the cause.

He said: “The evidence against them was based on hysteria, ignorance and superstition.

“ The majority of those accused were held in Colchester Castle before their trial and many died there because of the appalling conditions.

“Other towns have already put up memorials to their witch trial victims - notably, Edinburgh, Exeter and Pendle.

“Although Colchester Castle has the dubious distinction of having held more alleged witches than any other place in the UK, there is no permanent memorial.”

Visit justgiving.com/crowdfunding/essexwitchtrialvictimsmemorial.