romancing the gibbet - poster picture

The Ballad of Johny Walford
by Nathan Hughes with Framedogs

Demo - extracts from performance script filmed on location above Nether Stowey


The Lay of the Two Deadly Brothers

Geo-located poemscript of the Goodere,
Mahoney and White fratricide of 1741


The fog it came down
upon the Avon
The fog rolled in from the sea
What uncouth shape did the
fog merely drape
What gibbering witch
or banshee?

Fog, fog everywhere
And dead silence on the water
The oars do creak
in blackness bleak
Towards them glides
Satan’s daughter

At first a speck was she
in hazy sky
No bigger than a fist
She whistled thrice ‘tis mine,
‘tis mine 'tis mine!
Not of this earth is she, I wis’

This thing not of this sphere
drew ever near
A thing unhallowed ‘tis sure
A hag from hell, rolling in
with the swell
The Captain had open’d
Hades’ door!

Her lips with blood were red, her looks were free
Her locks were yellow as gold
Her skin leprous white, pale glimmered she in the night
Her flesh it made the air cold

She fixed them all with pitiless eye
She breathed upon the crew
The touch of her breath was a call to death
As over the yawl she blew

‘I’ll have THAT one, thank’ee!
And THOSE two there’, cried she
Her bony finger tips touched three men’s lips
Spake: ‘the rest – for now – go free.’

Oh! The rest of us – for now – go free; no plea
Averts cruel Nature’s doom
Those touched on the lip had she already in her grip
Headed for an uneasy tomb ...


Ralph Hoyte, Bristol-based poet/writer is currently working with Prof Steve Poole, social historian UWE (The University of the West of England), Michael Fairfax (musician) and Phill Phelps (coder and audio-engineer) on a HEIF-funded project called 'Romancing the Gibbet'.

We are building a historical 'located app' which places content related to four notorious crime-scene executions in the Georgian West Country (18th/19th century) at the actual places associated with the crimes. The four sites/executions chosen are:

  • Johny Walford at Nether Stowey (1789)
  • Carpenter and Ruddock at Arn Hill, Warminster (1831)
  • Goodere and Mahoney at the Swatch, King Road, Bristol 1741 (Fratricide)
  • William Keeley at Chipping Camden, Glos 1772 (Murder)

    • The poetic/historical content (it's a sort of poetic 're-imagining' of the events) is accessed thru' downloading an audio-app and then actually going to the places associated with the murder (it's more like a poetic audio-play which you hear on location on your smartphone than what you might normally call 'an app'). You can't hear it other than on your smartphone and in the designated locations.


      The app content consists of a script written by Ralph Hoyte, then recorded by professional voice actors. This content is a mix of poetry, historically authentic material relating to each specific execution, and medical detail. In 3 cases the poetic form references ballad forms of the time (broadsheet murder ballads were a popular, if somewhat gruesome genre of the times), and, in one case (Warminster), Miltonian themes.

      It is intended that the ballads/poem standalone as separate but linked works (perhaps in era-true facsimile editions). The app also incorporates music/ambient, in the case of Chipping Campden and Bristol, specific to the crime-scenes (Morris music in the case of Chipping Campden kindly provided by the Chipping Campden Morris Dancers; I am currently talking to The Harry Browns in Bristol for permission to use some of their sea shanties)

Pilot of 'Romancing the Gibbet in 2014

romancing the gibbet - flyer - revese

vox pox from the Over Stowey performance

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