Category Archives: Folklore

The Prophesy of Merlin – John Reade (1870)

Sir Bedivere, in silence, watched the barge
That bore away King Arthur to the vale
Of Avalon, till it was seen no more.
Then, on the beach, alone amid the dead,
He lifted up his voice and sorely wept
” Alas ! ” he cried, ” gone are the pleasant days
At Camelot, and the sweet fellowship
Of noble knights and true, and beauteous dames
Who have no peers in all the living world,
Is quite dissolved for ever, and the King
Has gone and left none like him among men.
O happy, thrice and fourfold, ye who rest,
Both friends and foemen, in one peaceful bed,
While I am sick at soul and cannot die !
Oh ! that the battle might be fought again !
Then would I surely seek the way to death,
And bleed and sleep like you, and be at peace.
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Vortigern’s Fortress

The Battle of the Dragons

The Battle of the Dragons

At the beginning of the 5th century the Roman Empire started to collapse and the legions were called back from Britain. The vacuum of power was taken up by a king called Vortigern, but he was pressed on all sides by the Picts and the Scotti who saw the loss of the legions as an opportunity to advance over the borders that the Romans had steadfastly guarded.

In desperation Vortigern hired Saxon mercenaries to supplement his own armies, but before long the Saxons began to seize British land for their own and resisted all attempts to send them back to their own lands.

Vortigern called together his advisors and between them they devised a plan to retreat westward into the mountains of Snowdonia and there to build a mighty fortress at Dinas Emrys from which to consolidate his power.

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Little Sir Hugh

When the body of a nine year-old boy was found in a well in Lincoln in 1255, the Jewish owner of the well was (despite the lack of any evidence) held for the child’s murder.

Before his execution, he was tortured and coerced into implicating not only himself but also a number of prominent Jews, that had come to the city to attend a wedding, in a ritual murder that among other tortures involved the boy being crucified.

Six months earlier Henry III had sold his rights to tax the Jews to his brother Richard, Earl of Cornwall, this alleged crime gave him an excuse to seize the property of any found guilty of the crime.

92 Jews were arrested and taken to London, 18 were hanged for refusing to take part in the trial and the rest were found guilty and sentenced to death but later pardoned when Earl Richard interceded on their behalf.

Little Hugh’s body was buried in Lincoln Cathedral.

The story of the boy’s death stirred the anti-semitism that was already virulent in England at that time. Read more »

Thomas the Rhymer

Thomas, of Erceldoune, in Lauderdale, called the Rhymer, on account of his producing a poetical romance on the subject of Tristrem and Yseult, which is curious as the earliest specimen of English verse known to exist, flourished in the reign of Alexander III. of Scotland. Like other men of talent of the period, Thomas was suspected of magic. He was also said to have the gift of prophecy, which was accounted for in the following peculiar manner, referring entirely to the Elfin superstition.

Thomas meets the Queen of Elfland

Thomas meets the Queen of Elfland

As Thomas lay on Huntly Bank, he saw a beautiful lady riding by the Eildon Tree. Her skirts were of green silk like the leaves of spring and she wore a cloak of fine velvet. Thirty-nine silver bells hung from her horse’s mane, which were music to the wind as she paced along. Her saddle was of ivory, inlaid with fine jewels and gold thread. The fair huntress had her bow in hand, and her arrows at her belt. She led three greyhounds in a leash, and three raches, or hounds of scent, followed her closely.

Thomas pulled off his cap and dropped to his knee exclaiming “You must be Mary, Queen of Heaven! For thy peer on earth I never did see.”

“No Thomas,” she said, “That name does not belong to me, I am but the Queen of Elfland come to visit you. Should you dare to kiss my lips you will belong to me.”

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The Croglin Hall Vampire

The Fisher Family who had lived at Croglin Low Hall (once known as Croglin Grange) for many centuries. moved from the property into larger dwellings and put the property up to let. The following spring the grange was finally let to the Cranswells, 2 brothers and a sister, who soon integrated into the villiage,.

Croglin Low Hall

Croglin Low Hall

One summer evening as the sun set and the shadow of darkness began to take hold Miss Cranswell paused to look out of the window in the direction of the darkened churchyard at the bottom of their long lawn.

It seemed that in the shadows she could see two points of light moving above the gravestones coming closer to the wall that separated the churchyard from the Hall’s grounds.

With a deep feeling of unease, Miss Cranswell shut the window tight bolted the door and laid down in her bed to try and get some sleep.

Suddenly she was jolted awake by a low rustling from outside the window. She twisted in bed and sat bolt upright, outside the window burning like coals in the night were two points of light, which she now recognised as the demon eyes of some humanoid creature.

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The Devil and the School Master

Bury Grammar School is an independent grammar school that has existed since c.1570 the following tale is thought to have originated from the early days of the school. It seems that teachers were made of stern stuff in those days.


Old Mr. Hodgeson the master of the grammar school at bury was sat at his midday meal when his wooden trencher started to spin alarmingly.

Convinced something was wrong he returned with all haste to the schoolhouse to find the schoolboys in a panic and the air fouled with brimstone.

In a foolhardy show of bravado one of the boys had recited the Lords Prayer backwards and in doing so had summoned the Old Nick himself to the school.

Being a learned chap, Hodgeson knew that the only way to banish the devil would be to give him a task which he could not perform, yet if the devil could complete three tasks the price would be his soul.

First Hodgeson demanded that the devil count the blades of grass on the Castle Croft, within a moment the devil returns with the answer.

Getting more desperate he asks the devil to count the grains of sand on the school brow. Again the devil completes the task easily.

With only one chance remaining, the old schoolmaster thinks for a while and without panic, having worked for years with little devils in front of him, he asks the devil to count the letters in the Bible in the nearby Parish Church.

Knowing he is beaten, since he cannot enter the church, the devil lets out a roar and descends through the schoolroom floor back to hell, leaving a great crack in the hearthstone where he passed through.

Beth Gelert; or, the Grave of the Greyhound

To the south of the villiage of Beddgelert in The Snowdonia National Park is a small stone monument marks the resting place of Gelert the faithful hound of the medieval Welsh Prince Llewelyn the Great.



The spearmen heard the bugle sound,
And cheerly smiled the morn;
And many a brach, and many a hound,
Obeyed Llewelyn’s horn.

And still he blew a louder blast,
And gave a lustier cheer:
‘Come, Gelert come, wer’t never last
Llewelyn’s horn to hear.

‘Oh where does faithful Gelert roam,
The flower of all his race;
So true, so brave, a lamb at home,
A lion in the chase?’

‘Twas only at Llewelyn’s board
The faithful Gelert fed;
He watched, he served, he cheered his lord,
And sentinelled his bed. Read more »

The Birth of Taliesin

Caridwen's Cauldron

Caridwen’s Cauldron

In times past there lived in Penllyn a man of gentle lineage, named Tegid Voel, and  his wife, Caridwen.  And there was born to him of his wife a son  the most ill-favoured man in the world, Avagddu.  Now Caridwen  thought that he was not likely to be admitted among men of noble birth, by reason of his ugliness, unless he had some exalted merits or knowledge.

So she resolved to boil a cauldron of Inspiration and Science for her son, that his reception might be honourable because of his knowledge of the mysteries of the future state of the world.

Then she began to boil the cauldron, which from the beginning of its boiling might not cease to boil for a year and a day, until three blessed drops were obtained of the grace of inspiration.

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The Fairies Chapel

Within a narrow gorge known as “The Thrutch” within Healey Dell nature reserve and now overshadowed by the viaduct hides a pool and waterfall, before the flood of 1838 which destroyed it, it also contained a cavern in the rock which had a pulpit, reading desk and seats, formed by the action of the water. This is still known as the Fairies Chapel.

In local folklore the Chapel was formed when the King of the Fairies, aiding Robert of Huntingdon to overcome a curse, turned a local coven of witches to stone.

“There” the King said, “practice your unholy rites. There you have a chapel for your evil worship. And long may it be ere any mortal be so foolish as to seek you out in your wicked den.”

In overcoming the witches, Robert was forced to sacrifice his uncle’s ring which was the only proof of his claim to the title of Huntingdon and thus took his first step towards his destiny as the outlaw Robin Hood.

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Fair Ellen of Radcliffe

There was a lord of worthy fame,
And a hunting he would ride,
Attended by a noble traine
Of gentrye by his side.

And while he did in chase remaine,
To see both sport and playe,
His ladye went,
as she did feigne,
Unto the church to praye.

This lord he had a daughter deare,
Whose beauty shone so bright,
She was beloved both far and neare
Of many a lord and knight.

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