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Nanny Morgan and the Shropshire Witch

Witchcraft is in the bones of Shropshire folk, if we are to believe Folklorist Charlotte Burne. She wrote that magic was so intertwined in the lives of people here, that when a new vicar took parish near Clee Hill, he was shocked to discover how prominent of a role it played in everyday life. Indeed, he was advised in strong terms not to preach its ills, lest he awake the wrath of the locals and I think this story perfectly encapsulates how entrenched belief in witchcraft was to the Shropshire area. Littered across our folklore and history are examples of the preventative measures taken to avoid witches, and also tantalising glimpses of the women they were trying to avoid. I want to discuss these in more detail, ( though we often find that such women are reduced to a few lines of folklore.) With a specific focus on a woman known as Anne ‘Nanny’ Morgan- who was to become the Wicked Witch of Much Wenlock. As we shall soon see, there is far more to her story that folklore suggests, and
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The Devil in Shropshire

The storm that hit Shrewsbury in January 1553 was biblical. The rain lashed down and thunder ripped through the sky- even the night seemed darker and more oppressive. Fear whipped its way through the town- and on this night, if we are to believe the Chapbook of St Alkmund’s church- The Devil came to Shropshire. This wasn’t the first time his cloven feet trod on Shropshire soil. Indeed, if we turn to the folklore of the area, we can see that he has quite the proclivity for the region. This is not to suggest that Satanic folklore is exclusive to the region, as it can be found all over the country. Rather a more accurate statement is that Shropshire is home to a large variety of folklore which concerns the devil, so much so that it feels like the county is his domain.   After all, in times gone by the once popular maxim ‘ The devil was flying over Ellesmere, and he said…Sweet little Ellesmere you are all my own’ could be true of most of the county. Satan is referred to in familiar terms

Madeley- A Paranormal History

  For those of you not familiar with Shropshire, you could be forgiven for not knowing where Madeley is on the map.   Like many of the villages of East Shropshire, it was combined into the Telford and Wrekin borough after the development of the ‘new town’ Telford in the 1960’s. However, Madeley itself has a rich, interesting, and often prosperous history, which far predates the Domesday book. Indeed, the seeds of Madeley’s prosperity were laid around 200 million years ago — in the Carboniferous Period, which saw cycles of land emerging from tropical swamps covered in rich vegetation- and the laying down of coal seams- as well as clay, ironstone, and strata of limestone. 200 million years later, ( give or take a few hundred years ) this placed Madeley at the epicentre of the growth of industry in Shropshire, due to its wealth of coal, iron, clay, and ironstone.   Though we cannot rule out earlier habitation, there is evidence of settlement in Madeley from around the 8 th century, when

Understanding Owd Parr- Shropshire's 'Old, Very Old Man'

I love it when folklore and history entwine, creating a composite story which isn’t quite either, a tale which dwells in the margins between what we know to be true and what we wish could be. Such stories are powerful and seem to take on a life of their own. There are a number of tales in Shropshire that could fit this description, the larger-than-life characters whose real behaviour seems too bizarre for reality – such as ‘Mad Jack’ Mytton, or individuals whose lives have been blurred and obscured by folklore like Nanny Morgan. Somewhere in the middle of it all, is the story of ‘Owd Parr’. The Story of Owd Parr is a strange one, that’s for sure. I want to explore it in more detail, and discuss Owd Parr’s purported longevity, his colourful life and what we can discern about the man from the stories he left behind. It’s worth mentioning that lifespans which exceed 110 years are incredibly rare, with around 1 in 1,000 people living to 100 years old. With this being considered Owd Par

‘When will you be married nurse?- When Mr. Right comes’ – The folklore of Shropshire Weddings.

  As some of you may know, my partner recently asked me to marry him (it’s a wonderful feeling, isn’t it?). Now I must confess that though excited at the prospect, I find the whole idea of the modern wedding industry tawdry - slightly frightening, and well - just not ‘me’. So, I thought rather than turning to copious magazines and trawling round wedding fayres to no avail, I would take a different approach. After all, I consider myself to be a sturdy Shropshire lass, so I decided to turn to the folklore to help me plan my wedding, and honestly there is some really lovely stuff amongst these folk beliefs. I have used several sources, including my favourite ‘A sheaf of gleanings’’ to produce the following piece. So, with that in mind I want to share with you my guide to having a perfectly Shropshire wedding. For many women, the first thing on their mind is the dress. I suppose I was no different- as a self-confessed spooky girl, I am strongly against the idea of a white wedding. I’v

‘A Coalbrookdale Suicide’- Some Thoughts

Whilst researching another project, I stumbled upon the following story, and since then- I’ve found it hard to get out of my head.  The headline reads basic, in that matter-of-fact Victorian tone- ‘The Coalbrookdale Suicide- December 1842’ . Certainly, it didn’t convey the full tragedy of the event, which I met upon reading. The suicide of William Maybury – described as a ‘ youth of eighteen’ at the time of death is a heart-breaking piece of Coalbrookdale’s history, and it left me wanting to know more. I wanted to try and uncover the events that could lead to such a young man’s death, in fact I was preoccupied with a whole manner of questions, that despite further research are yet to be answered (which motivates me to continue my search). Though I have found the events reported as far away as Sydney New South Wales, I’ve found it hard to find anything about the life of William Maybury and the men who were with him on the night of his death. Nevertheless, this inspired me to share thi

Loss and the River- some stories of Jackfield

  Let’s go back to Jackfield now, Though it seems like we were here only yesterday. I hope the place feels familiar, and as you walk through the Tuckies, and past the Boat Inn- I want you to consider all those who were here before. What would their lives have been like? What were the defining factors of their world? There is so much to uncover- and that feels exciting. These riverbanks are full of stories ( and even a few ghosts) so let’s cross over the Jackfield and Coalport memorial bridge and pause for a while. Can you feel them? This bridge has been a means of crossing the River Severn since 1922. It commemorates the 26 Servicemen of Coalport and Jackfield who lost their lives in the First World War- and what a wound such a loss would have left in a place so small. The absence of those twenty-six men at the dinner tables, workplaces and daily life of the community would have left Jackfield bereft. Loss is really what the following article is all about, that and the river- which ha