W. Wells Bladen (1847-1914)

The excellent hyperlocal website Little Bit of Stone has an article by local historian Philip Leason which places online the plot and words of Stone town’s traditional Christmas “guisers play”. Here’s a section of dialogue from the opening, in which a doctor is questioned about what he can cure…

“The itch, the pitch, the palsy and the gout. If a man’s got nineteen devils in his skull, I can cast twenty of them out. I have in my pocket crutches for lame ducks, spectacles for blind bumble bees, and plasters for broken-backed mice.”

The words were part of an article on folklore by W. Wells Bladen (1847-1914), for a 1900 issue of the The Annual Report and Transactions of the North Staffordshire Field Club (sadly not even the contents-list of said journal has been made available online — needed are a Heritage Lottery application for digitisation and a website).

His “Notes on the Folk-lore of North Staffordshire, Chiefly Collected at Stone” was reviewed (seemingly in the form of 35-page pamphlet reprint of 1901) by E. Sidney Hartland, in the journal Folk-lore, XIII, 1902. Hartland notes that the article included a rare recording of the local children’s culture…

“Counting-out Rhymes, his collection of Singing-games, and his diagrams of Hopscotch as played at Stone”

Which might be something that the modern local schools at Stone would be interested in. The original journal article appears to be…

W. Wells Bladen, “Notes on the Folk-Lore of North Staffordshire, chiefly collected at Stone”, The Annual Report and Transactions of the North Staffordshire Field Club, XXXV, 1900-1, pp. 167-174.

We can only hope that this 8-page article was not expanded for the 35-page pamphlet, since the pamphlet version now seems lost to history. Neither the British Library, Keele, or Staffordshire record any copy of it in their catalogues.

The same reviewer also notes of W. Wells Bladen’s…

“recording [of] the words of the Guisers’ Play as performed at Stone, [that it] differs materially from the version performed at Eccleshall, only six miles away, and recorded by Miss Burne (Folk-Lore journal, IV, 350). This again differs noticeably from that of Newport, nine miles distant.”

W. Wells Bladen also published pamphlets on the “Terraces and Earthworks at Stone” and “The Stone Terraces and Their Possible Origin”, with both presumably being about the Iron Age earthwork fort (Wulfherecester or Bury Bank) that sits above the town.

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