Ritual Murder on Bredon Hill
Updated: Jan 14, 2021
Returning to Bredon Hill tonight for another tale, one of many soaked into it's landscape through the ages. While a night in the stocks on the burial mound is a frightening enough idea, it seems worse things can happen in the old quarry after dark.
Harry Dean was a solicitor's clerk who lived and worked in the town of Tewkesbury. Living relatively close to Bredon Hill it seems he became interested, fascinated, then near obsessed with this enigmatic place. Rumours have always floated around about strange goings on around the slopes, mostly involving sinister groups meeting for occult purposes, and Harry was reportedly convinced he could not only find these people in the act - but he was going to unmask them for a newspaper scoop. Suspicious deaths had allegedly occurred on the hill and our man thought this shadowy group were responsible.
For reasons known only to him Harry got up from his desk at 5.30 on May the 9th 1939, and instead of going home for dinner he took a bus from Tewkesbury to Woodmancote at the foot of Bredon Hill. From there, still dressed in full suit, tie, formal shoes and hat, he marched directly to the summit. He was witnessed there, taking great interest in the Bamburgh or Elephant Stone which some have claimed was once an altar for sacrifice used by our Brittonic forebears. When he failed to return home his wife became worried and, knowing his fascination with the place, urged his friends to search there for him. By now joined by local police officers the search party roamed around the hill in all directions through the dark night, torches flashing and calling out to each other until a cry went up near the old Anglo Saxon quarry. A police officer had found Harry Dean – dead.
His body lay curled around a large boulder, one of a set of four seemingly laid out in a cross formation. They may have been part of a neolithic monument, they had certainly lain there for as long as anybody living could remember. He had been strangled by his own tie. A hasty post mortem was carried out in the village hall at Woodmancote by a local doctor who concluded that he had been strangled accidentally. An inquest was carried out very soon after with the South Worcestershire coroner HJ Saunders ruling an accidental death and the jury accepting this without question. Harry Dean, the coroner stated, had stepped up onto the boulder to look around and had somehow stumbled, fallen all of two feet, folded his legs underneath himself and somehow choked himself with the tie!
The journalist Harold T Wilkins investigated the case in the 1950s and described the site of Harry's death...the landscape has changed somewhat with new tree plantations and some fencing off but I found the spot...it is indeed the remains of a neolithic monument of some kind but the most striking thing is the absolute impossibility of the coroner's version of events happening. Wilkins went on to claim that Harry was killed by a supernatural force - something had shoved him from behind then choked him. Wilkins was known for flights of fancy and was an enthusiast of the paranormal, the Fortean and the strange so the reader must judge for themselves. This quote from a local farmer at the inquest must be borne in mind though...
“Man and boy, I've lived in this vale for forty five years and I would not go wandering in that quarry at night, most especially in the month of May!” Harry Dean was killed on May the 9th. If a murderous supernatural being lurked on Bredon Hill then it has been quiet since. My own opinion is that Harry could have been the victim of a ritual murder, not so crazy an idea when you consider that just 25 miles away and only a few years later Charles Walton was “ritually” murdered in the infamous Lower Quinton witchcraft case. A year or two before that the famous “Bella in the Wych Elm”over in Hagley. He clearly did not strangle himself, that much is certain, and the noose death does have ritualistic associations. Were occult groups going about murderous work during the war? As always – you decide, and all comments are welcomed.
May Harry Dean rest in peace, the stain his death cast over Bredon Hill has been all but worn away now but the tale will always be a part of the lore of the hill.
The place of Harry Dean's death, known as the Bredons Norton Stones and what is left of a neolithic site
Darkness begins to fall looking out from the old quarry site
Another burial mound, this one further back into the wooded part of the quarry and would have been open in Harry's day