On the trail of a namesake and fellow author

The Alfred Williams Heritage Society is searching for more information about another writer called - or rather almost called - Alfred Williams.

The works of Alfred Rowberry Williams came to light when a long-time devotee of our Alfred Williams showed us a book from her collection by the author, called Legends of the Severn Valley.

Written in 1925, it is one of several books by the other Alfred and is intriguing because its subject matter and even its style are closely related to our Alfred's books of prose. The two writers were also contemporaries. Alfred Rowberry Williams recounts a number of legends originating from his home district with the same readable fluent style that is so familiar to readers of our Alfred.

You could be excused for thinking that he inserted Rowberry in his name to distinguish himself from our Alfred, but Rowberry was, in fact, a name that was commonly used in his family. His father called himself Charles Rowberry Williams and we now know that this was because Charles was the illegitimate son of Charles Rowberry and an unknown Miss Williams. We are also pretty sure that the two Alfreds are unrelated.

Very little is known about Alfred Rowberry Williams these days, even though he wrote at least eight books: Dreams from the Past, Barny and Sally, The Cornfield, Tales for Teachers, Short Measures, The Minutes and Small Proportions, as well as Legends of the Severn Valley.

We do know that he was born in the last quarter of 1888 in the registration district of Upton upon Severn, and by the time of the 1911 census he was describing hiimself as 'Primary school teacher, county council' and living in Malvern. There is a long history of Rowberrys coming from the Severn Valley, and we suspect Alfred Rowberry Williams had roots in the area going back many generations.

Most of what is known about Alfred Rowberry Williams is because of the researches of Polly Rubery, who may or may not be related to the author because Rubery is a common variant of Rowberry. Polly maintains the Rowberry One-Name Study for family historians, and we are indebted to her for providing us with the information above.

However, if anybody reading this can tell us more - and especially if they can make a link between the two Alfreds - we would be grateful. We would like to think that our Alfred, who was born 11 years earlier, might have had some influence on his near-namesake, and maybe even inspired him to be an author.

Legends of the Severn Valley deals with a number of local stories from folklore of the kind often told in our Alfred's books, although the format is slightly different as they are presented simply as a set of stories, rather than connected with travels through the area. However, it is likely that the other Alfred made similar journeys into the area to research the stories, just as our Alfred did.

Link to the Rowberry One-Name Study website