William was born in a large house in Station Road, Rugeley on 6th August 1824, the sixth of seven children born to Sarah and Joseph Palmer.
When he was still a boy he was playing on the banks of to the canal, that ran past his home, when he accidentally fell in. A courageous school friend jumped in and rescued him from drowning.
At the age of ten he went as a day scholar to Rugeley Free Grammar School where he was taught by the Reverend Thomas Bonney M.A. The school was in the next building to Old Mrs. Palmer’s house. There is one account that says that in school Palmer was a bully and always had too much money. He would rob his sisters pockets and take from his mother’s purse. Other accounts say that he was – “the best of Mrs. Palmer’s Bunch”.
His father was a strict man but when he died William was twelve years old and from then on his mother just let him run wild.
He left school when he was seventeen. (See His Employment)
As a child William lived in the house that his father had built for them beside the canal and opposite St. Augustine’s Church. The house still stands beside the ruined Old Chancel the former parish church for Rugeley but a road has now been built beside the house on the land between the house and the canal.
Old Mrs. Palmer remained living in this house after the trial and the execution until her death in 1861.