Category Archives: Timeline

Edward ‘Squire’ Higgins, Knutsford’s Gentleman Highwayman

Cann Office - Home of Higgins the HighwaymanWhen Edward Higgins arrived in Knutsford in 1756 he took possession of a large house known as the Cann Office. To the local populace he appeared to be a man of high standing. He took to renovating the house and stables and bringing several fine horses, taking on two local youths as apprentices to his groom.

Attending the local hunts, with his skill on horseback and affable manner he was soon welcomed by the local gentry as one of their own. His regular excursions outside the area were assumed to be the actions of a conscientious land owner collecting the rents which funded his extravagant lifestyle.

The following year he married Katherine Birtles, a spinster from a respectable local family and they became closely entwined within local society often dining at their neighbour’s houses and hosting lavish events themselves.

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Ragnar Lodbrog and Crake Castle.

Ragnar Lodbrok or Lothbrok (Old NorseRagnarr Loðbrók, “Ragnar Hairy Breeches“) was a legendary Norse ruler and hero from the Viking Age described in Old Norse poetry and several sagas. In this tradition, Ragnar was the scourge of France and England and the father of many renowned sons, including Ivar the BonelessBjörn IronsideHalfdan RagnarssonSigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, and Ubba. While these supposed sons appear to be historical figures, it  is uncertain whether Ragnar himself existed. Many of the tales about him appear to originate with the deeds of several historical Viking heroes and rulers.

 

 

The Snake Pit

19th century artist’s impression of the execution of Ragnar Lodbrok

So far back as the days of the Saxon and the Dane, there stood, on the well-known prominent hill beyond Easingwold, the Castle of Crake — or Crec, as it was then called. Though situated in the Saxon kingdom of Deira, it belonged, at the time of our story, to Ella, King of Bernicia, the more northern division of Northumbria. It had previously been given to St. Cuthbert, the well-known northern saint, as a resting place on his long journey from Lindisfarne to the south; but Ella, who had little respect either for religion or for right, had seized upon it, and converted it into a fortress in his neighbour’s domains, and its underground dungeons into a prison for those whom he wished to hide from the world.

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Tim Bobbin’ Grave

Self Portrait

Self portrait of John Collier (Tim Bobbin)

I stoode beside Tim Bobbin’ grave
‘At looks o’er Ratchda’ teawn;
An’ th’ owd lad ‘woke within his yerth,
An’ sed, “Wheer arto’ beawn?”

“Awm gooin’ into th’ Packer-street,
As far as th’ Gowden Bell;
To taste o’ Daniel’s Kesmus ale.”
TIM.—”I cud like o saup mysel’.”

“An’ by this hont o’ my reet arm,
If fro’ that hole theaw’ll reawk,
Theaw’st have o saup o’th’ best breawn ale
‘At ever lips did seawk.”

The greawnd it sturr’d beneath my feet,
An’ then I yerd o groan;
He shook the dust fro’ off his skull,
An’ rowlt away the stone.

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Rochdale Town Hall Fire

 

Rochdale Town Hall before the fire

Rochdale Town Hall prior to the fire of 1883

Rochdale Town Hall, is a fine example of gothic revival architecture and home to some of the best modern stained glass in the world. The grandeur of this building was such that according to local legend, Hitler had plans to take the building stone by stone back to Germany if he won the war. This is also supposedly the reason why Rochdale, despite it’s industry, escaped pretty much unscathed during the German bombings.

A competition was held to produce a design for the building which was won by William Henry Crossland. Work started in 1866 on the site of an abandoned 17th Century mansion and was completed five years later at a cost of £160,000 (eight times the original budget, and a remarkable sum for a town the size of Rochdale.) the work was so costly that to this day some of the internal decoration remains unfinished.

But what visitors to the town may not know is that the building you see today is different from the original.

The original clock tower was 134 feet high and had a 106 foot wooden spire richly gilded and surmounted by figures of Saint George and the Dragon.

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Burns Night

Robert Burns

Robert Burns

Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796) was a Scottish poet and lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated worldwide.

As well as making original compositions, Burns also collected folk songs from across Scotland, often revising or adapting them.

In 2009, STV ran a television series and public vote on who was “The Greatest Scot”. On St Andrew’s Day, STV announced that Robert Burns had been voted the greatest Scot of all time, narrowly beating William Wallace.

On 25th January, to celebrate his birth Scots (and others) around the world celebrate his life and works with a Burns Supper.

The main dish is haggis, served with neeps (turnip or swede) and tatties (potatoes) and perhaps the odd shot of whisky.

The arrival of the dish is announced by one of Burns’ most famous poems.

Address to a Haggis Read more »

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 »

The Man They Couldn’t Hang – Babbacombe Lee

Babbicombe TragedyOn the morning of 15th November 1884, 68 year-old Emma Ann Whitehead Keyse was found dead at her home, “The Glen,” at Babbacombe Bay near Torquay by her servants who had been roused by the smell of smoke in the property.

According to the post mortem her skull was fractured in two places and her throat had been cut so severely that all the main arteries were severed and even the parietal bone was notched.

An attempt had also been made to burn the body and several rooms of the house. A strong odour of paraffin oil still evident on her clothes several hours later.

With no sign of forced entry into the house, John Lee, half-brother to the cook, Elizabeth Harris, and the only man known to be in the house at the time of the murder was soon arrested.

At his trial, the jury reached a unanimous guilty verdict.

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The Construction of Stonehenge

Situated on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, Stonehenge is probably the most iconic monument in the whole of Europe. The construction of this megalithic structure is thought to have been begun with the bank and ditch around 3000BC and there is evidence of several phases of construction over the next 1500 years.

The significance of the site may be much older as mesolithic postholes dated to circa 8000BC were found in the area now used for the visitor car park.

The origins of Stonehenge proper dates from around the time when early neolithic people started deforesting Salisbury Plain to make way for their farms. There is also a proliferation of long-barrow tombs in the area from this time.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

The first stage of construction of the monument we see today was a bank and ditch 360ft (110m) in diameter. Recent excavation at Durrington Walls, thought to be a campsite for the builders suggests that around 4,000 people from all over the country gathered at the site at the mid-summer and mid-winter festivals.

Also dating from this time are the series of 56 pits (known as Aubrey holes) that form a circle within the outer edge of the enclosed area. Excavation of these holes revealed cremated remains and the chalk underlying these graves was crushed suggesting heavy stone grave markers.

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Stott Hall Farm – A Modern Myth

In the 1970′s, the M62 (built to connect Hull and Liverpool) forged it’s way across the rugged Pennine hills making it the highest motorway in England. Just over the border into Yorkshire lies Stott Hall Farm, instantly recognisable to anyone who has traveled this route and quite a few who haven’t.

The farmhouse (built in 1737) now stands isolated by the two carriageways of this busy motorway, which pass to either side. Modern mythology would have us believe that this was all down to the stubbornness of Ken Wild, the man who lived in the farm at the time.

Whilst hundreds of homes were demolished to make way for this major artery across the country, Stott Hall Farm remained standing. Despite offers of ludicrously large sums of money by bowler-hatted civil servants who reluctantly came up from Whitehall to this desolate location, the farmer refused to budge and the Government was forced instead to change the plans at great expense.

The truth is, that it was the land itself that forced the mile long rent, the waterlogged moorland and steep incline on the hill making it impossible (at the time at least) to construct the two carriageways side by side without the land slipping and destroying the construction.

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