Gwen ferch Ellis: a poem

As an autumn chill began to bite this year, I traveled to Denbigh with the BBC to film a visual interpretation of my poem about Gwen ferch Ellis, the first woman in Wales to be hanged on an indictment of practising witchcraft.

Following the discovery of a suspected curse at the home of a local nobleman which was attributed to Gwen, accusations of witchcraft and malice reigned swift as a flock of bats, and Gwen’s life came to an abrupt end at the gallows.

The real tragedy for Gwen ferch Ellis was born from the breaching of social boundaries. She was perceived as a threat to a high-class, influential man, and his influence was enough to reframe a widowed healer and soothsayer as a dangerous and malignant witch.

It’s a story we’ve heard before, and one which I’m sure we’ll hear again.


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