AT a rather eerie book launch, mayor Allah Ditta led a tour of the prison cells deep below Worcester’s Guildhall, where many of the city’s criminals awaited their fate.

The guided tour was part of a book launch by best selling local author Bob Blandford to mark the publication of his latest release “Worcestershire Bird”, which tells the inside tales of Worcester City and County Jails, their inmates and their lives and crimes.

Mr Blandford said: "This (The Guildhall) was originally the civil court, from the 1780s until the mid 1800s. The cells are where thousands of prisoners would have been brought. They would have come from places like Kidderminster, Stourport, Bromsgrove, and Worcester itself."

The room on the right side of the Guildhall was the courtroom where criminals appeared before a judge. Death sentences were handed out for crimes such as murder, rape and paedophilia, but also cattle theft, burglary and arson.

Between 1735 and 1799, 416 death sentences were passed in Worcestershire. There were 38 executions at the jail on Castle Street.

Mr Blandford said: "One particularly sad case was Thomas Slaughter, who was 17. He was clearly mentally subnormal and was executed for setting fire to a hay rug."

Worcester's Red Hill lived up to its name, with evidence of crowds of 1000s gathered to watch hangings. The remains of Katherine Farley are probably there today. She was hanged for the crime of having a bastard child.

Mr Blandford said: "2,500 prisoners were transported to Australia."

The walls of the cells were covered in bird lime to make them slippery, preventing prisoners from climbing them. The term 'bird' replaced 'time' in convict-speak.

Cllr Ditta whom Mr Blandford used to work for as a press officer in his previous stint as mayor, said: "It has been really good to have the history established and known.

"I welcome Bob's intervention in writing this.

"History is such a big part of Worcester. In 2001 we opened the cells for people to have the opportunity to learn about it. That's what this is all about."

Mr Blandford has written five books in six years and has a facebook page called Bob Backenforth's Secrets of Worcester.