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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 June, 2004, 14:29 GMT 15:29 UK
Row breaks out over cave bones
Wookey Hole
A woman's face in the stone forms a centrepiece at Wookey Hole
A row has broken out over the rightful home of a 1,000-year-old skeleton found at Wookey Hole caves in Somerset.

The bones of the "Wookey Witch" were found in the caves, near Wells, in 1912 and are on display at a nearby museum.

But former circus supremo Gerry Cottle, who bought the Wookey Hole tourist attration last year, has told Wells and Mendip Museum, he wants them back.

Museum trustee Martin Grass said: "There is more likelihood of the Elgin Marbles being returned to Greece."

He told the BBC the bones had been at the museum ever since they were excavated by its founder.

We feel that the spirit would be better off in any case if she was here
Gerry Cottle Jnr

"I see no likelihood of these bones going back to Wookey Hole."

According to legend, the bones belonged to a beautiful woman who lived 1,000 years ago.

She lost her looks and took refuge in the Wookey Hole caves from where she placed curses on the local villagers.

A likeness of a woman's face in the stone at Wookey Hole now forms a centrepiece of the tourism experience there and the Cottle family want the bones back.

Mr Cottle's son Gerry Cottle Jnr said: "It started off as a kind request and we thought there would have been no problem, but it's actually become a bit of a fight.

"We're not horrible people, we don't want to fall out, but we have to be firm.

Legendary curse

"We like to keep the peace but it's turned into a bit of a mudfight."

Mr Cottle Jnr, who is the marketing manager at the caves, said the family hoped to hold a meeting with representatives of Wells Museum on Monday.

He said that he did not believe removing the bones would result in a curse being placed on the Cottles.

"It was a curse on the people who lived in the village at the time," he said.

"We feel that the spirit would be better off in any case if she was here."

Circus owner buys Wookey Hole
07 Jun 04  |  Somerset
Cottle leaves big top behind
04 Oct 03  |  Southern Counties


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