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A Tribute to Bill Gwilliam MBE

A Tribute to Bill Gwilliam, MBE

Folklore Articles

The Tardebigge Witch Case

The Tardebigge Witch Case

Mrs Cartwright of Stourbridge bewitched led to Court hearing


Witchcraft in Worcestershire

Witchcraft in Worcestershire

In olden times every women - or for that matter, man- who led a solitary life was suspected by neighbours of practising the 'black art'. This was particularly the case if the recluse had knowledge of plants.

Trial by Water

Trial by Water

It was usual for a witch to undergo 'trial by water', for it was believed that,as a form of baptism, the water would reject a disciple of the devil. The thumps were tied crosswise to the opposite

The Salt Lane Witches

The Salt Lane Witches

The Power of a witch to bring wagons to a halt was told by Edward Corbett in one of his local fairy tales. Two old women, who lived in Salt Lane (Castle St),

Rebecca Swan, the Kidderminster Witch

Rebecca Swan, the Kidderminster Witch

In the 1850s, few people living within ten miles of Kidderminster doubted that Becky Swan was a witch. She won her reputation when, being found guilty of obtaining money by false pretences from a servant girl, she prophesied that the magistrate

Edward C. Corbett and the Telling of Folk Tales

Edward C. Corbett and the Telling of Folk Tales

Folklore is the study of beliefs and practises once firmly held. Few now believe in charms, in giants and fairies, but less than a century ago people in lonely places believed in them.

The Witch's Sister

The Witch's Sister

Becky had a sister, Eliza Swan, noted for her charms, who kept a diary, and lived in Kidderminster, working as a hand weaver. She was often in great poverty and was sent to prison for debt.

The Shrawley Witch

The Shrawley Witch

A notable witch case from Shrawley, on the west bank of the Severn, when Margaret Hill was the subject of many accusations. A child who refused her some oatmeal subsequently fell sick, and when she had been unable to obtain tobacco 'on trust',

Kidderminster Witches 1660

Kidderminster Witches 1660

Again at Worcester, shortly before the Ursula Corbett case, a woman and her daughter, and a man, all from Kidderminster, were put through the barbarous trial by water. They were flung into the Severn where 'they would not sink but soared aloft'. Townsend

The Bewdley Witch

The Bewdley Witch

A witch at Bewdley named Susan Wowen gained great notoriety for it was said, she was so wicked that she grew horns on the back of her head three inches long. These were shed every three years, and it is recorded that a Mr.Soley of Sandbourne had one tipped

Michael Grundy writes:

No-one has done more in a lifetime than H.W ("Bill") Gwilliam to chronicle the history of the City of Worcester and County of Worcestershire. Importantly too, his prolific writings on the Faithful City's past have always been in a most readable, fascinating and absorbing form, full of colour and with a liberal sprinkling of humour.

After retiring from a distinguished career in teaching, Bill researched and compiled volume after typewritten volume on the history of the city and county of Worcester, covering a myriad of subjects such as folklore, pubs, crimes, newspapers, transport. rivers and, above all, "People and Places."

Eighteen years ago, when I began producing weekly features on local history for the Worcester Evening News, I received invaluable help from Bill, and I am sure many other local history researchers down the decades will have had cause to be equally grateful for his ready assistance.

Bill has always shown abounding enthusiasm for the extremely eventful and chequered past of Worcester and the county and has been a veritable font of knowledge on his painstakingly researched subject.

Little wonder that the Queen bestowed the MBE on him for services to the public. I know that the Buckingham Palace Investiture where he received the medal from Her Majesty was probably the most memorable day of his life.

Happily, Bill's vast writings are not being allowed to languish in numerous file folders on shelves around a bedroom at his Worcester home.

Two books of his work have already been published - "Old Worcester: People and Places" and "Worcestershire's Hidden Past" and are available in bookshops, having been produced by Halfshire Books.

I understand too that the Worcestershire Record Office has copied several of his volumes for the county archives, and I heartily applaud Pam Hinks for now so patiently making Bill's researches available to an even wider audience via the Internet.

Mike Grundy, Worcestershire Evening News