Category Archives: History
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.
LONGDENDALE has always been noted for the number of its inhabitants devoted to the study of magic arts. Once upon a time, or to give it in the words of an unpublished rhyme (which are quite as indefinite)—
“Long years ago, so runs the tale,
A doctor dwelt in Longdendale;”
and then the rhyme goes on to describe the hero of the legend—
“Well versed in mystic lore was he—
A conjuror of high degree;
He read the stars that deck the sky,
And told their rede of mystery.”
Coming down to ordinary prose, it will suffice to say that the doctor referred to was a most devoted student of magic, or, as he preferred to put it—“a keen searcher after knowledge”—a local Dr. Faustus in fact. Having tried every ordinary means of increasing his power over his fellow mortals, he finally decided to seek aid of the powers of darkness, and one day he entered into a compact with no less a personage than His Imperial Majesty, Satan, otherwise known as the Devil. The essentials of this agreement may thus be described.
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.
For hundreds of years the Peace Egg or Pace Egg play was a common part of the Easter festivities in Lancashire with bands of disguised mummers going from house to house presenting their play.
Gradually what was once an adult tradition became one enacted by children often gaining more in donations than their parents could earn in the wool and cotton industries.
Below is an contemporary observation of one of these performances by the Lancashire dialect writer John Trafford Clegg (Th’ Owd Weighver)
As well as more local journeys she made two epic tours in 1697 and 1698 travelling as far as northern England and Scotland.
Travelling for it’s own sake was unusual in her day, there being few roads, even more unusual for a woman to travel (only accompanied by two servants).
Her accounts of her travels seem to have been written around 1702, after she had retired from travelling, and were never published within her lifetime.
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In the history of our national evolution Yorkshire occupies a most important position, and the sanguinary record of Yorkshire Battles possesses something more than material for the poet and the artist. Valour, loyalty, patriotism, honour and self-sacrifice are virtues not uncommon to the warrior, and the blood of true and brave men has liberally bedewed our fields.
It was on Yorkshire soil that the tides of foreign invasion were rolled back in blood at Stamford Bridge and Northallerton; the misfortunes attendant upon the reign of weak and incapable princes are illustrated by the fields of Boroughbridge, Byland Abbey, and Myton-upon-Swale, and, in the first days of our greatest national struggle, the true men of Yorkshire freely shed their blood at Tadcaster, Bradford, Leeds, Wakefield, Adwalton Moor and Hull, keeping open the pathway by which Fairfax passed from Selby to Marston Moor.
Let pedants prate of wars of kites and crows; we take national life as a unity, and dare to face its evolution through all the throes of birth, owning ourselves debtors to the old times before us, without being either so unwise or ungenerous as to contemn the bonds of association, and affect a false and impossible isolation.
To the educated and intelligent our Yorkshire Battles present interesting and important studies of those subtle and natural processes by which nations achieve liberty, prosperity, and greatness.
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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.
The glorious beauty of an early autumn morning, the sweet scent of the wide-stretching moorland, the invigorating breeze from the east sweeping over the hills, the occasional calls of the birds or the flutter of their wings, all combined (as they still combine) to make life seem more than usually joyous on a certain day in the year 1247, when a company of men might have been seen assembled on that part of Blackstone Edge which we now call “Robin Hood’s Bed.”
Stalwart fine fellows were they, clothed in well-fitting tunics of the fashion of the day, and of a colour so like that of grass that one could readily understand how easily the owners might lie in ambush in some parts of the country—in forest lands, for instance—were they so disposed.
There were at least a hundred men, and every man was armed, most of them with that splendid English weapon, the long-bow, which in later days gained Crecy and Poictiers and Agincourt, and the use of which Bishop Latimer (in 1549) described as “a godly art, a wholesome kind of exercise, and much commended in physic.” Many of them, however, carried quarter-staves—tough poles of wood some seven feet long, shod at each end with iron, and which, when grasped in the hands of athletic men and twirled with practised skill, became terrible weapons, one blow from which usually terminated a combat.
These archers and others—all clad in the costume of Lincoln green already described—made a striking picture as they stood in a semi-circle listening intently to the words of the man who stood upon one of those great stones which still mark “Robin Hood’s Bed.”
In 1649 Gerrard Winstanley and 14 others published a pamphlet in which they called themselves the “True Levellers” although once they began to put those beliefs into practice they soon became known by supporters and opponents as “Diggers”.
The Diggers’ beliefs envisioned an ecological interrelationship between humans and nature, acknowledging the inherent connections between people and their surroundings.
Winstanley declared that “true freedom lies where a man receives his nourishment and preservation, and that is in the use of the earth”.
In April 1649 several Diggers had begun to plant vegetables in common land on St George’s Hill, Weybridge, Surrey at a time when food prices reached an all-time high. They had invited “all to come in and help them, and promise them meat, drink, and clothes.”