Even more extraordinary details of the life of Doreen Valiente have been revealed in a biography by Philip Heselton. Known as the ‘mother of modern witchcraft’, Valiente resided in Brighton until her death in 1999. She was so influential that Brighton and Hove City Council erected a blue plaque at her former home. Heselton is the first to write a biography on Valiente, and it reveals some extremely interesting information about the mother of modern witchcraft.
Born in 1922, Valiente had her first experiences with magic when she was seven and riding a broomstick up and down her street (don’t think she played Quidditch though). She was sent to a convent school which she left aged fifteen and continued to experiment with magic. However, it was her time during the Second World War that is quite extraordinary. During his research, a friend told Philip Heselton that Doreen would disappear for long periods of time without anyone knowing where she was or what she was up to. After the war she spoke ‘at length and with great knowledge about the world’s first programmable computer, Colossus, which was used to crack German codes at Bletchley Park’ it has been reported in The Argus. It has since been revealed that she did in fact work at Bletchley as a senior assistant officer with the Foreign Office and whilst there are still many unanswered questions, it appears that she was a translator based in hut 18 which was tasked with intercepting messages from German agents in the UK.
Even more interestingly, Doreen also spent time in South Wales, reportedly to glean information from foreign merchant sailors to help with the battle in the Atlantic. It was in Wales that she met her first husband. However, her friends suspected that the marriage was set up as a cover for her covert activity she was involved in. Crazy right?! As if this wonderful woman wasn’t interesting enough, being the ‘mother of modern witchcraft’ but she also played a part in gathering intelligence in the Second World War. There are also reports that she was close friends with the Queen Mother. The biography is on sale now and you can buy it here. The exhibition on her life and work is still on display at Preston Manor.
feature image from here