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When hide and seek ends in tragedy: The cellar story still haunting former pub

By Toby Neal | Bridgnorth | Features | Published: | Last Updated:

For brother and sister Charlotte and William, an innocent game in a Bridgnorth pub was to have tragic consequences which have haunted the building ever since.

The Magpie, near right, with the Lion Inn beyond leading up to Bishop Percy's House in Cartway.

The two children of a past landlord of the Magpie in Cartway were playing hide and seek in the cellar. Somehow they got locked in.

"No-one knew they were there and the river subsequently flooded, burst its banks and drowned them both," said Bridgnorth local historian Clive Gwilt, who has written a booklet about the history of Magpie.

"Sounds of the children crying and banging on the door have been heard on several occasions.

"Their distraught parents had statues made and were displayed in the garden for many years.

"The mother supposedly still haunts the building and walks around in black, sobbing and walking through walls to disappear."

A postcard from the collection of the late John Dixon showing the Magpie House Cafe. Handwritten on the back is "Ted by car. Sun Jun/16/74. Stormy afternoon tea."

Clive's booklets on the Magpie – now The Bassa Villa – and also the Bell Inn in High Street, are the latest in a series in which he delves into the back stories of Bridgnorth's pubs.

There is more to come.

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"I have found a publisher for my inns and alehouses book, which is 340 pages and contains over 250 pubs in Bridgnorth," he said.

"This should be out for Christmas."

The Magpie is, or was, a stone's throw from Bishop Percy's House and he writes that it appears to have been first licensed in 1780.

"There was a secret hatchway in this establishment for Sunday drinking and late drinking after closing time."

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The Bell, far left, perhaps in Victorian times. Notice the bell – what else? – hanging outside

During alterations to the stables years ago a cavalier's shoe was found in good condition, and it hung in the Magpie Restaurant for many years, he says.

As the Magpie licensed restaurant, as it became, it specialised in homemade food. It was put up for sale in 1994 and sold the following year.

"Today it has been renamed The Bassa Villa," Clive writes.

"It is named after the Low Town part of Bridgnorth. Bassa Villa translates from Latin to mean 'the basin of the town.' It is supposedly haunted and recently glasses were falling off the shelf in the bar for no apparent reason.

"One of the previous landlords mentioned his dog did not like going down the cellar. One day he found his dog dead in the cellar for no apparent reason.

"In 2016 an 18-foot well was discovered."

A photo from 1969 showing Mr Ernest Pee, of Ludlow Road, Bridgnorth, with an old coaching poster from the days coaches ran from the Bell Inn. The poster was entrusted to him by Mrs A. Oliver, of Danesford, Bridgnorth. It advertises a new link coach run on the express line to London, down Watling Street in 1836. Mrs Oliver's husband was a licensee at the Bell Inn, where the coaches used to stop.

The Bell Inn, he says, was first licensed in 1750. In 1836 it was a coach house, with the Shropshire Hero coach leaving there daily at 8am to connect in Wolverhampton with the Wonder coach from Holyhead to London.

He lists some of the landlords up to 1911, and goes on to say: "The building later became Hunter's Stores, Jack Lloyd's, Bromley's fruit and vegetable shop run by Derek and Jean Onions in 1961, and Bromley's florists later.

"In 2015 it was converted to a fish restaurant being run by Chris and Anna Walsh."

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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