The Guildhall trail map audio transcript

The Guildhall trail map audio transcript


This place hates wickedness, loves peace, punishes crime, upholds the law, honours the righteous.



How things change. We change. There’s growth, there’s movement, there’s community, there’s life.

A tiny acorn that sprouted to grow into a great tree, housing many, many beasts, many birds,

the boughs, the bark, the roots, the leaves, protected and nurtured its wild community and then

with sweat and saw

down comes the tree to mill and carve, to make great beams, to bear beautiful art,

to bring housing to people and power. Look how it stands still, 700 years in this place.

Who made it? Who managed it? Who shaped this space and who did it come from?

Who will it be passed to? Today the answer is you.



Underneath the Guildhall you’ll find the covered space where markets are still held and have been for over 800 years.

You can still buy fruit and veg on market days and find local produce.

You may even find a performance happening here.

This is the Butter Market and if you look closely you’ll find the shackles where they used to tie prisoners who had been condemned by the courts.




There were certainly remains thought to have been found under Much Wendlock parish church, now called Holy Trinity, and this helped the town continue to flourish as a religious destination.

It grew in wealth and status under the extended Priory well into the Middle Ages, until it was finally closed in 1540 with Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries.

Pilgrims were such a big business for the town that a whole tourist industry of accommodation, food, trade, souvenirs and craftsmen sprung up around them.

Occupied first by Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age tribes, then the Romans, this desirable destination was in some ways ready-made for the Anglo-Saxons to move in, then the Normans, the Tudors and the Victorians to follow.

The houses around the town are like a historical timeline. Stone villas, a ruined abbey, timbered mansions, stone cottages, red, bricked manor houses, all converging around the Priory as a place of pilgrimage.

The underwater waters of Much Wenlock were here long before its White Church or Wenlockia, the Celtic word from which the town takes its name.

My real interest lies in the very early stages of the town.

The town was known for its transformation as a settlement around water and its possible origins as a centre for pagan water worship.

In the 7th century, Wenlock was known as Wimikas from the Gaul river named Vimina, in reference to the streams which meet here.

The town sits in a bowl. The surrounding hills and fields filter water down via streams into that bowl, to an underground reservoir of water,

which then emerges in the many springs and wells that rise around the town.


Water, rushing over the land. Water, running down from the hills. Water, moving under the ground. Water, sinking deep below the town.

Water, rising up from the well. Water, seeping onto the field. Water, filtering down off the edge.

Water, where the pilgrims used to tread.

Water, where the birds come to drink. Water, emerging from the soil.

Water, where the birds come to drink. Water, emerging from the soil.

Water, flowing out of the spring. Water, where I lay my offering.

Water, oozing from the deep. Water, where the old story goes.

Water, where the old story goes.

Water, in the womb I’ll tarp oh. Water, cradling the earth.

Water, water, water, water, water.

Water, water, water, water, water.



Now Much Wenlock today is a quintessentially English town full of lots of history, a charter and all that.

But in the day it was a quarry town and in quarry towns you get quarry men as they say in Shropshire.

Well there was certainly a quarry man in this story because he worked in the quarry by day doing his 16 ton and all that.

But every night he went round all the pubs and there were 17 in them days.

And he had a glass in each and a glass in each means half a pint in each.

So that’s a gallon and a half.

And that’s what he did from the time he was 17, 18 to the time he was nearly 40.

But on Sundays was the best day.

For Sundays he went round twice because it was God’s day.

That meant he wasn’t working. That meant he could go a drinking.

So once round in lunchtime, quit, sit down for half an hour and round again in the evening.

And he did that for the same length of time.

But on the first of those trips round one Sunday when he was coming up 40 years old, he went past the Methodist church.

He was going from the Stork to the British Flag.

And as he came round the corner the Methodists were all coming out and there was a new Methodist minister.

The new Methodist minister had brought his wife and his 17 year old daughter.

And they were standing there as he walked past and Cupid hit him.

Straight in the heart and his jaw dropped and he looked round and he just stood there.

He couldn’t say anything.

And washed and unshaved as he was.

He just stood there.

And off he wandered.

But he couldn’t get her out of his mind.

He wasn’t going to go to church but the next Sunday just timing it right as the Methodist came out.

And there he was in his Sunday best all shaved and all looking as cool as he could.

He walked up to the little girl.

The 17 year old.

Daughter and said perhaps I could escort you home.

And she looked in panic at her father and her father and her mother and the father said perhaps not this day son.

And he turned and he walked away his heart afront of him.

Well the third time he walked past exactly the same time but the Methodist minister he’d been asking around.

He knew he was the town drunk and he knew that if he could convert him to sobriety, famous, it was worth having a shot at so he’d had a word with his daughter and the third time he stopped and said maybe I could walk you home today all dressed up as he was she said yes and they walked straight across the road about four yards, this is my gate she said and she ran up the path.

Well well things were over now as far as he was concerned and the next time it happened again but this time they walked a bit further and the time after that they walked a bit further and the time after that they went up along the Wenlock Edge to the talking tree overlooking Harley and they came down and it was the first time he’d missed his beer on a sunday lunchtime for many a year.

But that day he got down on one knee and he said these words

Would you do me the honor of being my wife?

Well she looked at him in complete horror.

You? she said

You? why would I marry you? You’re old and you’re smelly and you’ve got no education. You’re just terrible. I would not marry you if you were the last person on earth.

She slammed the gate, ran down the path and she got behind the door and gave it the biggest slam you’ve ever seen in your

life. The whole cottage just about rattled.

Well on one knee with a ring he put it back in his waistcoat pocket. Tears in his eyes, he walked off but that day he didn’t go around twice that day.

He went around three times that day. He drank a glass and a small little whiskey to go with it and he finished up four o’clock in the morning sitting on the wall between the prison down in Wenlock and the church and there they found him because that night somebody had climbed through the downstairs window of a bedroom and taken a knife and put it through her heart so hard it had stuck into the bedboards.



Wenlock Edge was once a reef in a subtropical sea. A pushed up underwater shelf of ocean, hence all the fossils in my garden.

It stretches as a limestone escarpment for nearly 20 miles, rising just below Much Wenlock to run like a wild woodland motorway all the way to Craven Arms.

I love this place and I walk in those woods every day. It’s what anchors me to the little town most of all.

It’s a place of long human settlement and throws up reminders of times past, hidden in the shape of the landscape and the soil beneath.

There’s a long history held on Wenlock Edge and the stone itself tells the longest story of all.

Laid down under a tropical sea some 400 million years ago, its stone has been quarried for millennia, from early Roman times at least. Used by them in the construction of the nearby Old Watling Street Road and for their county capital of Viraconium at Roxeter and also in the nearby Roman villas under Edge Woods.

Later in the Middle Ages it was used by the monks for building Wenlock Priory and the lower part of our Guildhall and many of the old houses around Much Wenlock and also the new ones.

The edge forms a border between the flat plains of fields below and higher levels above.

It’s hidden in trees, it’s a place between places. A landscape and history so rich it lends itself to all kinds of legends of bandits and highwaymen.

Its riddled paths feel like a game of snakes and ladders that disappear off into overgrown drovers’ paths.

You can easily slip down them and end in a totally different world. There are old sunken medieval trackways or hollow ways, as I call them, which I love to wander down.

Some impossibly overgrown and hidden, others eroded into steeply sided deep chasms.

I often come here alone, without the excuse of walking the dog even, and deliberately go down off these lost, trodden trails where I won’t see anyone.

There’s a shift when walking on your own, not engaged in noisy conversation, just paying close attention to the sounds, sights and smells around you.

If you listen carefully, they all sound different, like learning to identify birdsong.

The changing quality of the crunch of your feet stepping on dry leaves, cracked twigs, thick mud, stony paths, long prickly grass, sticky cleavers, carpets of pine needles or last year’s beech nuts.

Then comes the heavy silence as you travel down, further into the stillness and the shade.

I dip through the slopes, the wooded paths, and sometimes cut between impossibly steep mountain bike trails to the bottom track.

Past Ash, Beech, Birch, Holly, Oak, Rowan, Larch and Yew.

This is where I go off path, following fresh deer and badger tracks, through the dry scrunch of last year’s leaf fall into dappled shade and delicious fresh green.

It’s cold, but I’m not afraid of the cold.

Soft new beech leaves, slipping away now to wind through the old hollow way.

It’s so high in some places that I’m plunged into damp darkness, despite the sunshine.

I try the old Hooper’s Law hedge dating system, simplified to 100 years for every species of tree counted along a 30 metre stretch.

Ash, Beech, Birch, Hazel, Hawthorn, Holly.

Hornbeam, Ivy, Larch, Lime, Oak, Pine, Rowan, Sycamore and Yew.

That’s a potential of at least 1,500 years old.

And actually I suspect it could be older.

As we know people made tracks through these woods to the Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements nearby and the later Roman villas on the lower slopes below.

It’s easy to imagine those feet over a thousand years but it’s not easy to imagine those feet over a thousand years, wearing a young man’s dress, being tracked down in this hollow.

The sides stretch up around me to 20 feet high and I pass underneath an ancient Yew and Ash, wrapped in a hundred year embrace.


Light’s coming, day’s changing, light’s coming, day’s changing, up on the edge, up on the edge, up on the edge, the light is growing.

Feet slipping, body sliding, up on the edge, up on the edge, up on the edge, the earth is shifting.


I can feel the life emerging, darkness is arrayed.

Moonshines and shadows fall, stretching out the day.

I can feel my body responding, darkness is arrayed.

Lights coming, days changing, wheels turning, earth is waking.

Up on the edge, up on the edge, up on the edge.


Up on the edge, up on the edge.

The wind is turning.

Birds bursting, birds singing.

Sun warming, soil soaring.

Up on the edge, up on the edge, up on the edge.

The birds are singing.

Sun shines and light grows, stretching out the days.

I can feel my body respond to some darkness’s grace.

Light’s coming, day’s changing, light’s coming, day’s changing. Up on the edge, up on the edge, up on the edge, the light is growing. The light is growing. The light is growing.

The light is growing.



A woman, eyes waxing,
weary, long-haired and distant,
makes her way down the silent High Street,
past closed book shops and empty restaurants.
She remembers the chatter of customers queuing outside Paddy’s butchers,
and beery laughter spilling through the narrow doors of the George.
Behind them, quieter, she hears carols ghosting the Town Square.
Fainter still, the footsteps of Doctor Brookes
hurrying to meet with town leaders,
to tell them of his plans to save them
from the drunkenness for which the town is renowned.
Clouds of cheering rise from the Linden Field,
punctuated by the crack of starting pistols,
signalling the start of Olympian dreams.
Just outside, up on the edge of things,
each summer at Stoke’s Barn,
stories tumble from exotic tellers
and alien brogues roll down towards the town.
There to meet on the tongues of poets
whose rhymes and rhythms envelope and entice,
summoning forth waters from the Silurian limestone
on which and of which this town is built.
A man, eyes shining,
welly-booted, tousle-haired, and ruddy,
paddles his black coracle
down the flooded High Street,
past closed banks and sandbags,
past the chemist’s that was an ironmonger’s,
past the gent’s outfitters that was a candle shop.
That was, that is, that will be.
Carried on rising waters past a flickerbook of merchants and landlords,
past Schittebrok and Holy Wells,
like a pilgrim, he floats towards Holy Trinity Church,
where the bones of St Milburga still ensure a healthy crop for Shropshire farmers.
Past Priory ruins, the current leads him,
to Down’s Mill, where the slow grind of days
mills the kernels of history into a fresh flour.
A child, smiling lightly,
bare-foot, scar-shinned, and happy,
runs down the busy High Street.
In his hand he holds a fossil, ammonite, found on Wenlock Edge,
a memory that the ground beneath him
stands on the bottom of an ancient ocean.
The buildings around him are built of a permeable stone,
A stone that flows and adapts and endures.
He looks around him,
senses the burgage plots behind the shop fronts,
counts the rings on the oak of the timbers,
feels the comfort of deep strata.
He races on,
past Bull Ring and Bastard’s Hall,
Across the school, cricket ground, and bowling green,
Up Windmill Hill,
where a sail begins to turn,
and gathers the winds of change.
An old woman
walks along a wooded path towards a sacred spring,
carrying offerings from her tribe.
As she walks,
past oak, ash and rowan,
Strange visions rise from the land and permeate her ancient mind.
A hoof stamps down and breaks a golden rock.
Water flows from the fissure and restores life to a dying girl.
Barley grows from seed to harvest in the passing of a single moon.
Great buildings, taller than a man’s reach,
grow from the golden stone beneath her feet.
Smaller buildings spring up around them
made from the same stone.
People, more than she has ever seen,
flow like a great river through these buildings.
They are drawn, like pilgrims, to this place
that sits in a bowl upon high ground
like the navel in the belly of a woman
swollen with life-bearing water,
about to give birth.


The church you see today is said to be built on the foundation of the nun’s church of St Milburga’s Abbey. Milburga was said to be blessed with beauty, elegance and intelligence and became the second abbess in the year 687. There are many stories about her and her miracles.

She could talk to the birds. She could make a field of barley grow in a single day. She called water forth from the earth to heal a wound when she fell from her horse and she caused the river Corve to flood to escape the unwelcome advances of a prince.

But one miracle happened right here in Wenlock. One day as Milburga was praying in the chapel, a mother approached her with a child in her arms. The boy had been ill and died and the mother pleaded with Milburga to bring him back to life.

What do, said Milburga, you must bury him and accept the bereavement the Lord has given you.

But the mother said she would not leave until her child was brought back to life.

Milburga began to pray. The words flowed from her tongue up to heaven itself and a ring of fire surrounded Milburga, the mother and the boy. The flames burned bright and fierce but when they flickered away and disappeared neither saint nor mother nor son had been harmed the mother said.

The mother held her son close and smiled as he opened his eyes.

Milburga’s bones were discovered here at the beginning of the 12th century.

Two boys were playing in the church ruins when they fell into a hole that had appeared in the ground. The smell of summer flowers filled the air and the grave of Saint Milburga had been found.

A new abbey had been built and pilgrims came from far and wide to pray and seek healing.

Centuries later, in the time of Henry VIII, Milburga’s bones were removed from the abbey during the dissolution of the monasteries and were burned on a fire in the market square in front of where the Guildhall now stands. Milburga’s bones may be gone but her stories live on and now



In between the prison and the church there’s a low wall and now a bench.

And he was laid over with his feet stuck up in the air.

And they looked at his boots and there was mud on his boots.

And they took his boots off and they went to the outside of the window and there there were footprints in the flower bed.

And they put the boots in the footprints and they matched.

They knew they had their man and into prison he went.

Well the whole town was aghast and there he stayed in the little prison.

People walked past banging the door and all sorts and he just sat there.

And he came to the trial, the trial in the Guildhall.

There the judge was there and the jury and the words across the top of the beams.

And there the trial was held and the judge asked for the evidence.

And they brought the boots and said he put the boots in the footprints.

And they matched.

Well the judge said where’s the plaster cast?

What you’re supposed to do is do a plaster cast of the footprint and a plaster cast of the boot.

And you’re supposed to show me the two.

You can’t just say you put them in the footprint.

What was there before you destroyed.

That’s no evidence.

I can’t convict or hang a man for this.

And the sheriff turned around and he said but we know he did it.

And the judge looked at him and went.

I don’t care what you think you’ve got to have evidence.

Evidence is the word.

And he instructed the jury to leave for there was no evidence and they could not convict him.

And he turned around and last he looked in the pulpit and said he got anything to say.

And the man only said this.

If I did this evil deed, may the devil get me.

And he turned and he walked down the steps of the Guildhall and up into the town and went.

And he turned and sat in a pub and had a drink as he would.

Well, in all this little story you’re hearing to the one person that was the most heartbroken of all was the mother of the minister.

Her only daughter.

Well, something tripped in her mind and she couldn’t think any more.

And she was consumed with everything that happened.

And she went up to Granny Morgan and she brought some curses.

And she walked down every time he sat in the pub for a glass of beer she cursed him.

I curse you by the river and curse you by what’s in it. I curse you by the monasteries, the priory and the buildwas.

I curse you by the trees. I curse you by the stars. I curse you by the rainbows. I curse you by everything that I hold sacred. You murdered my daughter and you got away with it. I curse you.

I curse you. I curse you.

 Well, you couldn’t say I would put a pint down if someone’s fooling around doing that. And no one was talking to him anyway. And he lived alone. He didn’t have anything to lose. So he decided to emigrate. So he went to Bridgenorth and ended up in Kidderminster.

There he stopped and he got a job in a carpet factory. And that would be the end of this little story apart from one thing. About three weeks later, off the great looms that weave the carpets for the great and the good across our land, there was a crash and a bang and a bit flew off and it hit him right in the temple. Right in the temple on the left side and it killed him

straight but with great pain. He was in a great pain. He was stone dead. The people were there, wrote afterwards,

it seemed that the soul of his body had left before his body,

what was left of his human remains, hit the ground. So he’s gone as well.

But the only thing that’s strange about it is this. The bit that flew off the loom was called the flying devil.




I shall go unto a hare, with eyes alight and open head. And I shall go unto a tree, if only they could see what I see.

A better place the world would be. And I run and I run and I run and I run.

If only they could see what I see, a better place the world would be.

She comes to me with her amber eyes, and I slip into them and to my surprise.

She clothes me with her coat of fur, and she offers me a world to share.

She offers me a world to share.

And I run, and I run, and I run, and I run.

And I run, and I run, and I run, and I run.

I run, and I run, and I run, and I run.

She clothes me with her coat of fur, and offers me a world to share.

I run, and I run, and I run, and I run.

I run, and I run, and I run, and I run.

The moon above stars all around.

My heart and hers are one the same.

Till I return to the world of men again.

Till I return to the world of men.

I want this.

Do I return to the world of…





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