What's in a name?
9th May 2017
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‘The Witch and Sow’ – a potted history

In the middle of the village of Guilsborough, stands ‘The Witch & Sow’, in a previous life it was called ‘The Ward Arms’. This local 16th Century pub has connections with local and national history.

If you want a fuller history please just click here.


The village of Guilsborough’s has links with several historical events and people – The Battle of Naseby, William Wordsworth, the sinking of R.M.S. Lusitania, Shackleton’s 1914 Trans-Antarctic Expedition, James 1’s witch hunts, not to mention a very gruesome murder in 1764, ghost hunting in the 30s, Royal Visitors, and even a Nazi Spy!

Let's look at some of them:

This is perhaps where the name started!

The Witches

King James 1, was convinced that the root of evil in the countryside was caused by Witchcraft. He sent out his Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins, to hunt out the witches.

A pamphlet of 1612, entitled, ‘The Witches of Guisborough’, recounts the trial of Agnes Browne and Joan Vaughan of Guilsborough, who were accused of causing the Lady of the Manor, Mistress Belcher and her brother-in-law, Master Avery, to suffer great pains and fits. Even blood-letting by scratching the ‘witches’ done by the sufferers, did not stop the afflictions. The court found the women guilty and they were hanged at Northampton in July, 1612.

The Sows

The pamphlet also states that, a fortnight before the trial, the two women, along with another, Katherine Gardiner “did ride one night to Ravenstrop, all upon a sowes back, to visit Mother Rhoades, an old witch who lived there. Before they came to her house, the old witch died and, at her last, cried out that she would meet them in another place within a month after.”


Battle of Naseby – 14 June 1645

The Battle of Naseby was a decisive ‘fight’ in the English Civil War, leading to the trial and execution of King Charles 1.




Guilsborough is at the heart of Pytchley Hunt country, and many aristocrats, including Royalty, took houses in the village, referred to as ‘Hunting Boxes’ for the Hunting Season. This was particularly so in the 1920s &30s.

The Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth) took The Old House for the season in 1923/4, and HRH kept his horse in the stable at The Ward Arms.

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, revisited The Old House and The Ward Arms in 1987, where she saw a photograph of her husband outside the stable with his horse.

World War 2

Guilsborough’s Home Guard paraded on the top floor of The Ward Arms barn. One of their members went on to join the ‘Cockleshell Heroes’.

During the war, Hollowell Reservoir was used by the RAF for low flying exercises. One of these pilots could easily have been the flying ace, Douglas Bader, who was known to have visited the wartime dances held in the Grammar School, built in 1668, opposite The Ward Arms.

Credit: Pam Towsend

Now the pub is a great local asset offering quality food, a good range of beers and a warm friendly welcome.

Give them a try as it is well worth the short drive from Kettering.

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