01st March 2015


Wytchwood have began practicing their new self penned dance called 'Bella' which is all about a local unsolved Mystery from Hagley Woods, Worcestershire.


In 1943 some young boys out poaching came across what turned out to be a female skeleton inside an old Wych Elm tree near Wychbury Hill, Stourbridge.
The body was sent for forensic examination by Prof. James Webster. He quickly established that the skeleton was female and had been dead for at least 18 months, placing time of death around October 1941. He found taffeta in her mouth, suggesting that she had died from asphyxiation. From the measurement of the trunk he also deduced that she must have been placed there "still warm" after the killing, as she could not have fit once rigor mortis had taken hold

Despite a large investigation the murder remains unsolved and the identity of the woman is still a mystery. However,In 1944 the first graffito message related to the mystery appeared on a wall in Upper Dean Street, Birmingham, reading "Who put Bella down the Wych Elm - Hagley Wood" suggesting that someone may at least have known the woman's name.

The graffito was last sprayed onto the side of a 200 year-old obelisk on 18 August 1999, in white paint.

Some have attributed the murder to Witchcraft rituals but the present theory is that 'Bella' might have been a German Spy who was parachuted into the area and then disposed of - but no one knows for certain. You can read more about the mystery here:

Who put Bella in the Wych elm?

Is this the face of 'Bella' ?


The dance for Bella has been co-written by the whole side and the music has been written by our talented head musician Ian Chamberlain.
The dance is a Border dance for 7 people - 6 dancers form a wide circle representing the tree with 'Bella' in the middle trying to get out. The figures of the dance will represent her attempts to 'break free' of the tree with the branches eventually closing in to seal her fate at the end.

We are hoping to practice hard over the next couple of months and should have the dance ready for it's first appearance in May. We're all very excited!

The mystery of Bella is covered in the book Worcestershire Folk Tales by David Phelps or there are plenty of article on the internet to be found via Google.