Author Archives: Iain Monks

The Rainhill Trials

In 1824 the Liverpool and Manchester Railway Company was set up by merchants in the area in order to facilitate transport between the two major cities. The idea was heavily influenced by William James a land surveyor and property investor who had the vision of a national railway network after seeing the development of independent colliery lines and the advancement of locomotive technology.

Up until this point railways were generally run using a mixture of cables powered by stationary steam engines and horse haulage, occasionally using steam locomotives for short sections. George Stephenson, engineer for the project advocated using locomotives for the entire line to overcome the issue with cable haulage that one technical issue could paralise the entire system.

In 1829 as the construction of the line neared completion the directors of the company were still unsure how to power the railway, and so it was decided to hold a competition with a prize of £500, to find a locomotive that could prove the viability of the idea. Read more »

The Lincoln Imp

Turned to stone by an angel, the imp still resides within the cathedral
Turned to stone by an angel, the imp still resides within the cathedral

The imp hiding within the stonework

In medieval times it is claimed that the Devil sent a plague of imps to the northern part of the country to cause mischief.

Those imps came first to St. Mary’s church in Chesterfield and amused themselves by twisting the spire.

The imps spread out around the area causing diverse mishaps and irritations.

It was not long before two of them arrived at Lincoln Cathedral, at that time the tallest building in the world.

The imps set about wreaking havock, smashing stained glass windows, knocking the bishop to the floor, blowing out all the candles and upsetting the tables and chairs.

Summoned by the infernal noise, an angel appeared from a bible that had been left open and chastised the imps. One hid in the detritus caused by their vandalism, but the other enboldened imp started throwing stones at its adversary from it’s perch high up in the Angel Choir.

Finally weary of the onslaught, “Wicked Imp, be turned to stone!” proclaimed the angel.

The wizened creature can be seen in his final position to this day.

Of the imp who hid, it is said he escaped and continued to cause mischief around the country until he was finally cornered by the angel in St James’ Church, Grimsby.

The angel soundly thrashed the imp before turning him to stone which is why he can be found clutching his bottom.

The Eleanor Crosses

Eleanor Cross in Hardingstone
Charing Cross

Replica cross outside Charing Cross Station

When you see road signs telling you the distance to London the distance given is to a point at the South of Trafalgar Square where a statue to Charles I currently stands. A plaque on the floor tells you that this was the location of the original Charing Cross (a replica of which now stands outside Charing Cross Station.

 

To find out how the original hamlet of Charing came to get such a monument and the addition to it’s name, we have to go back to the end of the 13th Century.

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Mead and the Honeymoon

In ancient times honey was revered for its healing properties. It was the only natural sweetener readily available and has the distinction of being the only foodstuff that doesn’t go off.

This was also a time when water wasn’t necessarily safe to drink due water borne diseases and parasites, so the sterilising properties of alcohol made weak beers and wines the drink of choice.

Although often referred to as “honey wine” true mead is brewed from honey, water and yeast without other ingredients such as grapes or other fruits. (The earliest recorded recipe for mead dates to 60AD)

The combination of the safe to drink alcohol and the healing properties of the honey lead to mead being revered (especially since it was often brewed by druids, and later, monks)

As part of the wedding ceremony, the bride’s father was expected to provide the newly wed couple with enough mead to last the couple for the first month of their marriage, hence the term Honeymoon, and this was said to encourage fertility and vitality (rather than brewer’s droop) and ensure that the marriage would “bear fruit” and a child would be born within a year.

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Congratulations to Lee and Jennifer (9th September 2016)

Kanu y Med (Song of Mead)

I WILL adore the Ruler, chief of every place,
Him, that supports the heaven: Lord of everything.
Him, that made the water for every one good,
Him, that made every gift, and prospers it.
May Maelgwn of Mona be affected with mead, and affect us,
From the foaming mead-horns, with the choicest pure liquor,
Which the bees collect, and do not enjoy.
Mead distilled sparkling, its praise is everywhere.
The multitude of creatures which the earth nourishes,
God made for man to enrich him.
Some fierce, some mute, he enjoys them.
Some wild, some tame, the Lord makes them.
Their coverings become clothing.
For food, for drink, till doom they will continue.
I will implore the Ruler, sovereign of the country of peace,
To liberate Elphin from banishment.
The man who gave me wine and ale and mead.
And the great princely steeds, beautiful their appearance,
May he yet give me bounty to the end.
By the will of God, he will give in honour,
Five five-hundred festivals in the way of peace.
Elphinian knight of mead, late be thy time of rest.

From the Book of Taliesin XIX

Tree Lore – Blackthorn

The Blackthorn, which is widespread and abundant in woods and hedgerows throughout the British Isles, has the most sinister reputation within Celtic folklore, in ancient Ireland it was known as Straif, thought to be the origin of the word strife.

Although associated with trouble and bad luck, it is also associated with the overcoming of these negative aspects and the transformation that this struggle can bring.

 

Cailleach the Celtic goddess of winter is depicted as a blue veiled old woman with a raven on one shoulder and a blackthorn staff which she uses to summon storms. She emerges at Samain and takes over the year from the summer goddess Brigid.

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The Giant of Sessay

The Darrel family owned Sessay (a small Yorkshire village around 4 miles from Thirsk) from the end of the 12th century to the days of Henry VII. It was during reign of that king, that the three sons of George Darrel died without fathering heirs, the manor therefore passed to his daughter — a strong-minded young woman, named Joan.

Taking advantage of the lack of a lord to defend the manor an evil giant took up residence in the woods around the village. He was a huge brute in human form — legs like elephants’ legs, arms of a corresponding size, a face most fierce to look upon, with only one eye, placed in the midst of his forehead; and a mouth large as a lion’s, garnished with teeth as long as the prongs of a pitchfork.

His only clothing was rudely fashioned from cow hides; while over his shoulder he carried a stout young tree, torn up by the roots, as a club.

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The Giant’s Cairn, the Last Battle and the Lady of the Lake

In just a few weeks I’ll be scaling Snowdon’s lofty heights with a group of friends. It’s been suggested that as the leader of this expedition I should be able to point out landmarks and the history of the place.

1. (Walk) Entering the Horseshoe

2. (Legend) The Giant’s Cairn

3. (Walk) Ascent of Y Lliwedd

4. (Legend) The Last Battle

5. (Walk) The Watkin Path and summit

6. (Walk) Descending the Pyg Track

7. (Legend) The Lady of the Lake

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