A CHANCE discovery may have unearthed the ancient site where the Pendle Witches held their infamous coven.

Just ahead of the 400th anniversary of the Pendle Witch trials, archaeologists believe the find could be Lancashire’s equivalent of the unearthing of Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Engineers undertaking maintenance work on Lower Black Moss reservoir, near Barley, on behalf of United Utilities, came across a mysterious mound and began to probe further.

Underneath the earthworks were the remains of a 17th-century cottage, which could be Malkin Tower, the dwelling where Elizabeth Device held a witches’ gathering on Good Friday in 1612.

And hidden within the walls, possibly to ward off evil spirits, were the remains of mummified cat.

Heritage expert Simon Entwistle, who conducts tours of Pendle Hill and the surrounding area, is convinced the find is linked to the witch trials.

He said: “It is one of those places which historians can’t quite agree upon.

“But it is certainly within the right area.

“This is a place which wanted to be discovered I feel, especially with the 400th anniversary of the Pendle Witch Trials.

“This is the epicentre of the story, and if it is is not Malkin Tower, then there is a strong possibility it is linked to one of those involved.”

Archaeologists have confirmed that the property dates back to the 1600s.

And discussions are set to take place over how the site may be preserved.

Carl Sanders, a United Utilities project manager, said: “It’s not often you come across a fairytale cottage complete with witch’s cat.

“The building is in remarkable condition.

“You can walk through it and get a real sense that you’re peering into the past.”

Mr Entwistle said: “In terms of significance, it’s like discovering Tutankhamun’s tomb.”

Frank Giecco, from Cumbria-based NP Archaeology, led excavations on site at the cottage.

He said: “It’s like discovering your own little Pompei. We rarely get the opportunity to work with something that is so well preserved.

As soon as we started digging, we found the tops of doors, and knew we were onto something special.

“The building is a microcosm for the rise and fall of this area, from the time of the Pendle witches to the industrial age.”

The dig also unearthed a 19th century kitchen range, Victorian crockery, a tin bath and a bedstead.