The Ballad of Johny Walford

Bridgwater, England, United Kingdom
Est. 4.5km / 3 hrs

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The Ballad of Johny Walford - Cya On The Road


In 1789 John Walford, born in the Parish of Over Stowey here, in the Quantock Hills of Somerset, was hanged at what was subsequently called Walford’s Gibbet on a high spur overlooking the scenes of his childhood and young adult life .. and the site of  his murder of Jane Shorney, his pregnant wife.

John was a local labourer whose main work was burning charcoal for his father’s occupation. This involved long nights spent in a rude charcoal burner’s hut high up in the hills tending to the charcoal-burning process, turning the wood freguently etc so it didn’t just burn away.

According to contemporary records and reports, it was here in his hut that he used to be visited by Jane Shorney. Jane had a child by him in 1785, then by his brother, William in 1786, then subsequently became pregnant by John again. This time, John was forced to marry her, though he was now courting Ann Rice, the daughter of the local miller.

Ten days into the enforced union Jane begged a shilling off him to walk to the nearby Castle of Comfort for a jar of cider. He went with her. On the way they had a violent argument. John knocked his new wife unconscious with a hedge-stake convenient to hand, then tried to drag her pregnant body to a nearby copper mineshaft, but she was too heavy. So he slit her throat, then ran away, back home.

On Thursday August 30th 1789 Ann Rice, now pregnant with another of his children, was dragged away from him at the site of the hanging. He ‘composed himself for a few seconds’, dropped the handkerchief he had been given, and jumped off the hanging cart.

His body was coated in tar and other substances, bound in an iron cage (‘a gibbet’) and hung on a 30ft high pole as food for the birds.

 Credits and Acknowledgements


With thanks to the Regional History Centre and the University of the West of England, and the Bristol Festival of Ideas.

Steve Poole - Professor of History and Heritage, Director, Regional History Centre, UWE

Ralph Hoyte - Concept, Script & Project Management, SATSYMPH

Michael Fairfax - Music & FX

Phill Phelps - Sound design, sound recording & app, SATSYMPH

Alan Coveney - voice

Ralph Hoyte - voice

The Roaring Trowmen - Sea shanty

Stefan Hoyte - Piano

Additional sound effects from

Footsteps, Concrete, A.wav by InspectorJ

Moray coast.wav by inchadney

Terreiro do Paço plaza docks' pontoons "symphony" by alfdroid

Dock,Wood,Creak,Water,Laping.wav by Filipe Chagas

Creaky dock - Underwater Hydrophone Recording by weaveofk

Ferry pontoon pier squeaking in light waves, rubber on metal by Pfannkuchn

by Satsymph
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