Your Honour: Don't Forget to Write It Down - for the Future; Mr Bill Gwilliam Was Awarded the MBE for His Services to Local History in Worcestershire
Robson, Thomas, The Birmingham Post (England)
This summer Mr Bill Gwilliam was awarded the MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list for his services to local history in Worcestershire.
It was a just reward for a huge effort in preserving historical landmarks and folktales, an interest that began before WW2 when Mr Gwilliam took up archaeology as a hobby.
"I was a teacher and had undertaken teaching difficult children," Mr Gwilliam says. "I also ran a youth club, and I needed something to take me out of it, so I took up archaeology."
In the beginning he worked on Roman sites, but eventually he became involved with industrial archaeology.
"I was on the first group for industrial archaeology which was started in Birmingham. I asked to join the movement to get people interested in industrial archaeology," he explains.
"People think everything in archaeology has to be dug up, but it's all around you in the Black Country."
He also saw it as important to preserve historic buildings in the county that would otherwise be destroyed by progress.
"I had no money and no authority to carry out operations. All I could do was to make people aware that these things existed and needed to be saved," he says.
An early success story was saving the church at Witley Court. In 1938 it was destined for destruction, with plans to rebuild it in a London suburb.
"I organised an exhibition about it and sent it around every town in Worcestershire and gave lectures about it." In the end the church was saved.
Another example of his efforts for preservation was for the Great Malvern railway station, on which demolition work had already begun when Mr Gwilliam sprung into action.
"Once again I started giving lectures, and there came such an outcry from the public that they abandoned the idea."
He has also taken a great interest in folklore. Before the war he played cricket - on the same team as the great Roly Jenkins.
Mr Gwilliam made it a rule that every time he played in a new village he would cycle around the area and talk to villagers and listen to their local tales and ghost stories.
Later on, his research on the cholera epidemics brought about another ghost story. …