A CAMPAIGN has been launched to immortalise a 15th Century witch who predicted the Great Fire of London and the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

Retired shop-fitter Terry Maude is leading a £35,000 fundraising drive to create a bronze statue of Knaresborough soothsayer Mother Shipton which will be placed in the North Yorkshire town’s Market Place.

Historic records state Mother Shipton, or Ursula Southeil, was born in a cave overlooking the River Nidd in 1488, which has become the country’s oldest tourist attraction, and made numerous predictions in verse form which were first published 80 years after her death.

A contemporary of Nostradamus, Mother Shipton foresaw Henry III’S dissolution of the Catholic Church, the fall of Cardinal Wolsey, the death of Edward VI, and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth I.

Samuel Pepys’ diaries record that the Royal Family discussed a prophecy by the witch of the 1666 Great Fire of London while surveying the damage to it caused.

Mr Maude is hoping the statue by acclaimed sculptor Christopher Kelly will be ready for unveiling days before the Tour de France passes through the town and nearby Harrogate on the first and second stages of the race next July.

Mr Kelly will use historic drawings and descriptions of the witch as an elderly woman, in a sitting position, looking at a scroll featuring her prophesies.

Mr Maude said the plan had received support from North Yorkshire County and Knaresborough Town councils as well as from the town’s civic society and chamber of trade.

In 2009, Mr Maude completed a £30,000 fundraising drive to install a bronze statue of John ‘Blind Jack of Knaresborough’ Metcalf, the first professional road builder to emerge during the Industrial Revolution, in the town centre.

He said: “We had a lot of fun raising the funds for the Blind Jack statue and it would be great to give him a female companion.

“The eyes of the world will be on Knaresborough in 2014 with the Tour de France, so we thought it would be a good time to unveil the Mother Shipton statue.”

Mr Maude said he hopes to hold a Halloween supper at Mother Shipton’s Cave on October 31 to kick-start the fundraising drive.