Folklore, Legends and Other Supernatural Tales.

Written by Rosanne Palmer and originally published in Clent Clarion 28. – November 2016.

Foggy Path (© Maybricks Photography)

I have often been struck by the fact that there are very few legends and supernatural stories associated with Clent. I have an avid interest in folklore,  legends and other supernatural tales and many is the time I have opened a book on Worcestershire or England to see what, if anything, it has to say about the village of Clent. Many’s the time I have found another repetition of the story of St. Kenelm, or more disappointingly, no mention at all. Surely a village with a history as extensive as Clent can do better?

An initial survey finds relatively little. The martyrdom of St. Kenelm is well-known and the only Clent legend I have seen widely reproduced. Harry ca Nab(or Harry Cannab), the Devil’s huntsman, was reputed to stalk the Clent Hills from his Halesowen base, suggesting , at least to me, a nice local twist to a tradition of the Wild Hunt or Gabriel Hounds that stretches across Northern Europe, generating numerous regional variants. In the case of Harry ca Nab, a couple of potential explanations suggest themselves. Perhaps there was a local squire who broke the Sabbath to enjoy the hunt and was condemned to hunt forever following his death as punishment, as apparently happened to any number of local gentry across England in particular. Alternatively, the story might have developed to explain a place name, with Halesowen interpreted as  ‘Hell’s Own’. Myths and folklore often develop to explain significant or unusual local features or landmarks.

Another tradition that occurs in many parts of England is of prehistoric stones that walk at midnight on one or more nights of the year to drink from a local source, a tale I once heard related about our own Four Stones. However with the consensus being that the Four Stones were erected during the mid-eighteenth century as part of extensive landscaping ordered by George, first Lord Lyttelton, of Hagley Hall, this is likely to have been a tale imported to the area from elsewhere.

In addition to attaching local landmarks, legends and folklore often also attach to notable characters. A glance through Westwood  and Simpson’s majestic folklore collection, The Lore of the Land  rapidly reveals the number of tales , ghostly or otherwise, that have grown up around historic figures or aristocratic families. Is the apparent absence of folklore of Clent due to the absence of an aristocratic family in the village? After all, I’m aware of at least three ghost stories connected to nearby Hagley Hall.

Or does it derive from the lack of a darker side to Clent’s history? Many tales grow around gruesome instances of murder, suicide, witchcraft and the like. The story of ‘Bella in the Wych Elm’, which has spawned a range of theories seeking to solve its mystery, is exactly the kind of event to which strange happenings in the area would undoubtedly have been attributed in the past. Perhaps our predecessors  in this beautiful village had no cause to be motivated by the social, moral or religious concerns that often lie behind much local folklore. Or perhaps our local legends which would have been passed down the generations via oral story-telling, have simply and sadly been lost…… But if you know any different, please let us know.


Clent ClarionThe Occasional Chronicle of CLENT HISTORY SOCIETY.

Printed copies are available from the society and offer some valuable insights into our local history. The Clarions were produced and edited by Carole Hodgson, who died earlier this year; a great loss to the village and to the society.



Comments are closed.