Grisly Warwickshire folktale inspires Halloween ballad - The Stratford Observer
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9th Aug, 2022

Grisly Warwickshire folktale inspires Halloween ballad

Catherine Thompson 28th Oct, 2020 Updated: 28th Oct, 2020

A GRISLY Warwickshire folktale has inspired a Halloween ballad from a local singer-songwriter.

Jack Blackman from Alcester is set to release his song ‘Ballad of Clopton House’ which tells the tale of three sisters living in the country mansion, whose lives met mysterious and premature ends in the 16th century.

The 26-year-old told the Observer: “I’ve always been interested in songs about stories and places. A lot of my favourite blues, country and rock n roll songs mention places, although mostly in America. Clarksdale, Memphis and Baton Rouge have a ring to them which Studley, Alcester and Stratford don’t!

“When I was told the story about Clopton House from a friend I thought that it would make a great lyric. I’ve written a few songs about local folklore and it’s important to convey the sense of strangeness and mystery that these stories have both in the music and the way you tell them.”

In his song, listeners are regaled with the stories of the mysterious fates that befell the three sisters. The first death was of Margaret Clopton who drowned herself in the well after learning her lover had eloped with another woman. The story is said to have inspired Shakepeare’s character Ophelia from Hamlet, some years later.

Legend has it the second sister – although it is not known which – was kidnapped and held to ransom. After the family refused to pay, it’s said she was tossed into the depths of the Avon. The third sister Charlotte died from the ‘sweating sickness’ – likely the plague – or so her family thought. She was buried in a vault attached to Holy Trinity Church where her body was found years later, propped against the door of the crypt, as though in a desperate bid to escape a long and lonely death.

The guitarist has also put together a video in which the camera sweeps through autumnal scenes of Welcombe Hills, which is nearby the house and the location of the notorious well. Aside from the images, the track was created and recorded remotely by a number of musicians including Jon Doran, Louis Scheuer, James Maguire, and David Vaughan.

Jack, who has been teaching music to keep himself afloat, added: “There’s a lot going on in the production – there’s six guitars on the track – all played by me – including two different slide guitars and lots of backing vocals. There’s also some exotic percussion – I wanted it to sound like skulls being hit with bones.

“Joe Collier who mixes a lot of my music made it all fit together, again done remotely.”

Jack Blackman is no stranger to including local legends in his lyrics. His song, inspired by the alleged witchcraft ritual murder of farm labourer Charles Walton on Meon Hill in 1945, was used in a BBC Radio 4 documentary. He has also created a track around the Rollright Stones – Warwickshire’s answer to Stonehenge.

The Ballad of Clopton House is available across all digital platforms from October 30.

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