Wobblepole's Guide To The Villages Of Warwickshire
As promised for this Folklore Thursday:
drinking contests, rhyming revenge and dodgy spelling abound in...
Wobblepole's Guide To The Villages And
Arboreal Sleeping (It Off) Spots Of Warwickshire.
Also: Lots of ghosts, a couple of murders and a gibbet.
So Bill's a bit of a lad and he likes a drink. He's in the Falcon Inn at Bidford with his mates for another of the famous Bidford drinking contests. First up is the Bidford Toppers vs the Stratford Sippers. It's a grudge match and they all mean business.
Alas, Bill's side come second and he has to excuse himself to sleep off his exertions under a crab(-apple)[*] tree.
When he awakes, despite a challenge to take part in another bout of competitive supping, he chooses to remain under his tree and pen the following lines:
Piping Pebworth, Dancing Marston,
Haunted Hillborough and Hungry Grafton;
With Dodging Exhall, Papist Wixford,
Beggarly Broom and Drunken Bidford.
[*] The tree became known as Shakespeare's Crab and appeared on the first OS map in 1831. Souvenir hunters all but destroyed the original and later replacements fared little better.
Pebworth and (Long) Marston were both famous for their Morris Men.
(Temple) Grafton was known to have poor soil.
Exhall could refer to twisting lanes but it's probably an insult.
Wixford's Throckmorton family were Catholic.
Broom was a hamlet of squatters on a heath.
And Hillborough[*] was seriously haunted...
[*] Hillborough is itself one of Warwickshire's "Lost Villages" subsumed by the expansion of surrounding conurbations.
There was a manor house and chapel but the latter was pulled down in the C16th and its bells, etc sold off by the cash-strapped lord of the manor John Hubauld.
Ghost #1: The Screaming Man
The ghost of a landlord of dubious character and lax personal security who attempted to enclose public land....
He was attacked at night in his own home and ran screaming into the nearby fields. The angry peasants caught up with him and stoned him to death then and there.
His screams continued to ring out across the fields each night.
Ghost #2: The Other Anne
Last week I mentioned Bill's possible ladyfriend / alternate wife aka The Other Anne aka Anne Whateley.
An entry in the church records at Grafton shows a marriage license issued to William Shakespeare and Anne Whateley on 27 November 1582.
Before you get too excited though, the next day a surety was put down for the wedding of "William Shagspere and Anne Hathwey" so clearly spelling was optional and some slight mistakes may have been made along the way.
But local folklore and actual local history are two different things and stories abound about Alt Anne:
Note: This portrait is said to be of Anne Whateley but is more likely to be Girolamo Casio and is by Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio but also attributed to Sofonisba Anguissola.
She lived at the old manor, the illegitimate daughter of Captain Anthony Jenkins (Ambassador, poet, adventurer and friend to monarchs).
There she met the charismatic bard-to-be and fell in love. He proposed and a wedding was in the planning.
Alas, Bill was being charismatic with Anne Hathaway too and she was three month pregnant so, despite it being Advent, a rushed wedding was arranged.
Alt Anne was unceremoniously dumped and never got over it. She became a nun with the Order Of St Clare and pined away for loss of her true love, writing religious poetry to fill the time.
She was buried in the old churchyard at Hillborough.
Whether Anne Whateley existed or not, her ghost spent much of the 1970s scaring architects and builders silly while they worked in the area.
A nearby field has a lady dressed in white wondering around with a white stag in tow. As you do.
A spectral carriage and pair races up and down Hillborough Lane. No word on who's in it, where they're going or why.
And then there's the charming Horace Palmer.
He, his sister and their old Ma conspired to murder his unfortunate wife. He cut her throat and they dumped the body in the Avon before Palmer absconded.
Best laid plans and all that...
A little later the Avon burst its banks and the body washed up near Grange Mill. Palmer was found and all three were arrested and carted off to Warwick gaol.
Ma died in her cell having shown no remorse but brother and sister were tried and found guilty.
The sister hanged for her part and Palmer was gibbeted in a field in Hillborough now known as Palmer's Piece.
His body was left in the gibbet until it rotted to nothing[*] but his ghost remained.
[*] Except the finger bone taken as a curative charm by a local woman.
So there you have it, all that #folklore from just a few lines of drunken ramblings/insults written while nursing a killer hangover and resting under a tree.
Talented lad was our Bill.
Next week in Folklore Thursday's Poetry Corner:
Inter-Village Rhyming Revenge 1500-1900.