For three centuries, these cat remains were hidden in the ceiling of a room at a historic hotel, which is undergoing a multi-million pound renovation.

It is believed the cat was placed in the ceiling of room 10 at the Duke's Head Hotel, in King's Lynn, to ward off evil spirits and witches.

The remains were discovered last week by contractors who are finishing the �2.7m revamp of the iconic building on the Tuesday Market Place.

Local historian Dr Paul Richards was delighted with the discovery and said it perfectly linked the refurbished hotel to its 'fascinating' past.

He added: 'People used to bury cats in the ceiling or walls to deter evil spirits entering their home and this was something which happened all over England in the 17th century.

'I've been told this is the first time the hotel has found anything like this and it really is an interesting find.'

Dr Richards said he understood why people may have been worried about evil spirits entering the hotel as it overlooks the square which was once used to carry out executions.

He added it is claimed the ghost of a servant boiled to death on the Tuesday Market Place in 1531 for poisoning her mistress still haunts the hotel.

Dr Richards also referenced the executions of Mary Taylor and Mary Smith, who were both burnt at the stake close to the hotel in 1616 and 1730 respectively with the latter having been accused of being a witch.

The hotel has been an iconic building in King's Lynn since it was built back in the 17th century for wealthy merchants to do business in the town. The hotel was the celebration venue for Robert Walpole after he became England's first prime minister in the 18th century and also has a windowless Masonic temple.

Gez Chetal, director of operations at Surya Hotels, which owns the hotel said: 'According to the men working in the room, the bones just fell out of the ceiling and onto the floor.

'Our reaction at first was one of amazement and wondering what they were and why they were put there and we then wondered what we should do with them.

'We called in some expert help and we've been told about why the cat would've been put in the ceiling and I am now wondering how many more remains we might find.'

The revamp of the hotel has seen the majority of bedrooms brought up to four star standard with the ballroom also overhauled. The 20 bedrooms overlooking the Tuesday Market Place, which are in the oldest part of the building, are yet to be finished.