Sunday, 11 August 2013


People had to be caught before they could be punished and a popular way of catching poachers and the like, was by way of an extremely cruel device  ‘the man trap.’  One of these fiendish devices is preserved on the wall outside the Black Swan Inn in the market place at Leyburn in North Yorkshire.



The church in the Cheshire hamlet of Warburton is probably the oldest timber framed church in existence today and is unique in that no systematic restoration has ever taken place, leaving this very unusual historic edifice we see today.  In the neglected churchyard the many gravestones are weatherworn and covered in moss and foliage.    Beneath one of them William Noblett has lain for more than 160 years.   His demise,  at the age of 81 years, brought peace to this tiny hamlet because Willie was an incurable whistler and from an early age had been known as Whistling Willie.   But why should the people of Warburton be so relieved when Willie gave his last whistle?  Well, at that time the area was noted for its poachers with many of the locals taking great pride in their brigandage.  However, Willie and his whistle upset the apple cart because the local landowner, upon hearing Willie and his whistle, engaged Willie to act as a sort of gamekeeper.   His job was to patrol the squire’s grounds at night and when he found a villager up to no good, to give a loud extra special whistle to bring the squire’s servants running and the poacher to justice.    The epitaph on Willie’s gravestone once read :   
‘Though herein he lies dead
Whistling Willie’s fame has spread
For his double tone, piercing drone
Which chilled the marrow to the bone
And will be made by him no more
T’will surely continue by the law.’
What does it mean?   One of the Squire’s most frequent visitors was Sir Robert Peel, founder of the modern police service.  It was on one of his visits to Warburton, when he heard Willie, that Sir Robert got the idea of the policeman’s whistle, that double tone and piercing drone, mentioned in Willie’s epitaph.
Whistling Willie lies in a corner of the churchyard

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