The legend of Richmond’s phantom Drummer Boy~

It seems there is a particular charm that attaches itself to the world of hidden tunnels, especially to ones that are held to possess ecclesiastical associations. Somewhere deep in the English imagination there seems to lurk the suspicion that the monks of yore, dispossessed and done away with during the years of Henrician terror, held close a knowledge of secret subterranean networks that connected their abbeys to other centres of worldly power and, in some instances, to realms neither secular nor holy. Hidden treasures, madness, slumbering knights and kings: these…

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Rathlin West Lighthouse: a beloved upside-down beacon off the coast of Northern Ireland

A trip to picturesque Rathlin, the only developed island off the coast of Northern Ireland, offers several things including wildlife, a medieval history and more. Three lighthouses guide boats along Rathlin, and the seafaring excitement begins as soon as you leave the shores of Ballycastle. The island is home also of one of the largest seabird colonies in the UK. Every year over 250,000 seabirds such as guillemots (which only come on land to nest and can dive to a depth of 180 metres underwater), razorbills, kittiwakes, fulmars (a grey…

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A short story of English Witchcraft Acts

From 1541 to 1951, England had laws strictly prohibiting the practice of witchcraft. During the early years it was a crime punishable by death and the forfeiture of goods and chattels. Put into effect on June 1, 1653, the laws mandated the outlawing of any kind of witchcraft-related activities. However, the 1653 Witchcraft Laws were not the first to appear in the English judicial system, as in 1542, King Henry VIII passed a piece of legislation that made witchcraft a felony, punishable by death. Henry VIII’s Act was the first…

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Crackpot Hall: the dramatic remains of an abandoned farmhouse on the edge of a remote hillside in North Yorkshire, England~

On the slopes of Swaledale, near the village of Keld, North Yorkshire, England, stands the shell of a 300-year-old farmhouse. The building, curiously named Crackpot Hall, is an abandoned 18th-century farmhouse shrouded in its own myths and legends. Its name is said to be derived from the Old Norse words for ‘crow’ and ‘cave’ and, not by chance, many of the underground caverns in the area are also known as Pot, meaning a deep hole. An earlier 16th-century hunting lodge is thought to have stood on the site, when this…

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Swaledale Corpse Way: a winding medieval path used by mourners to carry their dead to the nearest church~

There was a time in England when commoners couldn’t afford to hire a horse or a cart to transport their dead, and so they were forced to carry the corpses themselves to the nearest church. This unpleasant situation led to the creation of paths like the Swaledale Corpse Way, now known simply as the Corpse Way or corpse road, a 16-mile medieval track linking the hamlet of Keld with Grinton, farther down the valley, a small village and civil parish in the Yorkshire Dales, in the Richmondshire district of North…

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The story of Dick Whittington and his faithful cat

Born in the 135Os, Dick Whittington was a poor boy even if, eventually, became a wealthy merchant and three-time Lord Mayor of London. According to legend, he made his fortune thanks to the extraordinary ratting abilities of his cat. The story of Dick Whittington and His Cat is the folk tale surrounding the real-life Richard Whittington (c. 1354–1423) and it is not just a fairy tale, but it is part of the folklore of London. Today, near the foot of Highgate Hill is the famous Whittington stone, which is supposed…

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The curious London’s time-traveling tomb

Swinging open the gate of Brompton Cemetery is a bit like swinging open a little bit of London history. Here rests famous suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst, and Beatrix Potter strolled its 39 acres, plucking names from tombstones to use in her work, including deceased Peter Rabbett and Mr. Nutkins. Moreover, here more than 35,000 monuments in all are present, rich and poor, known and unknown. In the middle of the grounds and shrouded by trees stands a fascinating mausoleum in Egyptian style made from granite, with a heavy bronze door secured…

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The princes in the Tower of London: one of the great mysteries of English history

In the White Tower, the old keep at the Tower of London, there is a small staircase tucked away near the entrance. Called the Two Princes Staircase, it’s where the skeletons of two young boys, one aged about 10 and the other 13 were found during renovations in 1674. It’s widely believed the skeletons are of the two princes who disappeared at the site in the late 15th century. And this is one of the great mysteries of English history. Though there has yet to be any scientific evidence to…

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Telling the Bees: the curious folklore of Rural England and not only

Many do not know that there was a time when almost every rural British family who kept bees followed a strange tradition: whenever there was a death in the family, someone had to go out to the hives and tell the bees of the terrible loss that had befallen the family. Failing to do so often resulted in further losses such as the bees leaving the hive, or not producing enough honey or even dying. The custom is best known in England, but has also been recorded in Ireland, Wales,…

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Knockers: Mine Spirits of Cornish Folklore

Many miners in the 19th century both in the United Kingdom and America but not only, believed in the existence of more or less helpful mine spirits. The supernatural creatures most commonly encountered underground are the Mine Goblins or Kobolds, in Germanic folklore, characters that sometimes stole miner’s unattended tools and food. This folklore began in Cornwall, England, where miners believed in spirits that lived and worked in mines. The most common of the subterranean British breeds are the Knockers of South-west England and the Coblynau of Wales. They were…

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Eggs Hunt: how one of the most popular Easter tradition was born

Every Easter, children in several part of our planet rush around their homes and gardens searching for chocolate eggs and, for many families, Easter just isn’t Easter without the traditional egg hunt. But why do we associate treasure hunts with Easter? And, above all, why do we hide eggs at Easter? We already know that, in many pre-Christian societies, eggs held associations with spring and new life. Early Christians adapted these beliefs, making the egg a symbol of the resurrection and the empty shell a metaphor for Jesus’ tomb. In…

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Don’t release the witch! The ruins of St Mary’s Church at East Somerton, England ~

The county of Norfolk, England, is home of the world’s greatest concentration of medieval churches, with over 650 scattered in the area. Drive to any place in the county, and you are guaranteed to find at least one such church. Try to imagine Norwich, its main city, that has enough for worshippers to visit a different one each week for a whole year! However, since some of these date from at least half a millennia ago, some have not survived as well as others. In the woods of East Somerton…

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2nd March: Holy Wells Day

Of Norse origin, Ceadda was a deity connected to sacred, healing and underground waters and therefore also to springs and wells. Historians have not yet come to the conclusion whether Ceadda was a god or a goddess, although many favor the latter hypothesis, given the main attributes connected to the chthonic sphere and healing waters. Later she passed into the Celtic pantheon and here her symbol became the Crann Bethadh, that is, the Tree of Life. The tree ideally connected the underground world with the celestial one and its roots…

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Black Shuck: The mythic hellhound Of Medieval England

Black Shuck, Old Shuck, Old Shock or simply Shuck is the name given to a ghostly black dog which is said to roam the coastline and countryside of East Anglia, a traditional region of eastern England. Stories about the creature form part of the folklore of Norfolk, Suffolk, the Cambridgeshire fens and Essex. His name, Shuck, may derive from the Old English word “scucca” meaning “demon”, or possibly from the local dialect word “shucky” meaning “shaggy” or “hairy”. In any case, Black Shuck is one of many ghostly black dogs…

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The strange story of the Farne Island devils

The island that Saint Aidan (born around 590 and died in 651), an Irish monk that restored Christianity to Northumberland, (and later St Cuthbert) chose for his retreat was the largest and closest to shore of the Farne Islands, a volcanic archipelago off the coast of Northumberland, England. It is known as Farne Island (Farena Ealande), which may mean literally “Island of the Pilgrims”, and sometimes as Inner Farne. In summer, artic terns nest in the island’s carpet of sea campion and over-protective parents divebomb the heads of visitors treading…

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The Broomway – Britain’s deadliest footpath that has claimed over 100 lives

It is rumored that the Broomway, a 600-year-old footpath connecting the coast of Essex to Foulness Island, in the UK, have claimed over 100 lives over the centuries, which has earned it the reputation of Britain’s deadliest path and the eerie nickname “The Doomway”. It begins as a rickety causeway at Wakering Stairs and, at high tide, abruptly disappears into the sea. When the tide is out, the path descends into an impossibly sticky tidal mud. Known locally as the Black Grounds, it is the sort you really don’t want…

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Stargazy Pie, an English pastry dish with fish heads sticking out of it

When it comes to unusual and unappetizing-looking holiday dishes, there are few treats out there that can compete with the Stargazy Pie, a pie with fish heads protruding through its crust appearing to be gazing skyward. England is home to a variety of pies, from classics like apple pie and pork pie, to less known treats like steak and ale pie, or pot pie. But none of these pastry treats can compete with the popular Stargazy Pie, when it comes to wow factor. No matter how elaborate your pie design…

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The curious background of Tombland Alley

Once known as the central marketplace of Norwich, England, the name of this historic alley, Tombland, is a bit misleading, as it has nothing to do with the burying of the dead. Actually, it is the combination of two Old English words meaning something like “open ground” or “empty space”, and indicate an area which was once the main market place before the Normans arrived in 1066. The most curious feature of Tombland Alley is the often-photographed Augustine Steward House, built in the early part of the 16th century for…

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The Lord of Misrule

In some areas of England, during the late medieval and early Tudor periods, especially through the reign of King Edward VI, a custom emerged in which the lord of a manor or other great house appointed an individual to be in charge of all of the Christmas holidays. This person was titled “the Lord of Misrule”, the tradition expanded from the homes of noble families, and the Yuletide events at a manor house or at Court ran anywhere from a few days to the entire month of December. This entire…

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The oldest candy store in the world is in England, and has been selling traditional sweets since 1827…

The oldest sweet shop in England, as its name not by chance suggests, is the oldest sweet shop in England. Of course, It’s a right claim, but also modest, as the Oldest Sweet Shop in England is, in fact, also the oldest candy store in the world, as recognized by Guinness World Records. The shop is located in the small but historic market town of Pateley Bridge in North Yorkshire, in a building that began life as an apothecary in the early 1600s. The sweet shop opened in 1827, and…

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Fairy Rock, the place where according to local legends fairies used to dance in the moonlight and invite handsome young men into their grottoes ~

The ancient engine house of Saltom Pit is the first large-scale mine ever sunk below sea level. It sits at the base of Fairy Rock on the coast of Whitehaven, England, and Fairy Rock itself is slowly slipping toward the structure. Probably because the soft layer of coal and shale beneath the heavy sandstone becomes slippery when rainwater seeps into its cracks, causing the sandstone to break and tumble downward. Or, it may be an act of revenge by fairies…. There was a time when Fairy Rock was famed throughout…

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The fish dish that killed a King…

England’s King Henry I died aged 66 on this day, December 1, 1135 after eating what was described at the time as “a surfeit of lampreys”. Of course, his death must have been unpleasant, but nothing like as terrific as the process that his body went through. Lampreys are an eel-like fish whose mouth has a circular suction pad. They don’t have a jaw, but the adults have teeth and they seem they are horror movies creatures. Henry enjoyed them as a meal, even though his physicians warned against eating…

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The Hardy Tree: the churchyard ash tree surrounded by hundreds of gravestones placed there by author Thomas Hardy

Inside an ancient churchyard in London an ash tree is encircled with hundreds of overlapping gravestones, placed there by classic novelist Thomas Hardy. The cemetery, alongside London’s St. Pancras Old Church, is considered by many to be one of England’s oldest places of Christian worship, and it is the site of a number of fascinating stories. For istance, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and the future Mary Shelley planned their elopement there while visiting Mary’s mother’s grave. Restored in the first few years of the 21st century, the graveyard served…

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The stunning statue on the tomb of the legendary Maid Marian

Little Dunmow Church, St Mary, is one of the oldest buildings in Essex, England. The building was originally the chapel of the lady of an Augustinian convent of the 12th century, and inside there is an alabaster tomb depicting one of the most famous women in British history, Maid Marian. Legendary companion of Robin Hood, the literary character was actually inspired by the life and legends surrounding the daughter of a 13th-century Essex baron, Matilda Fitzwalter. Born in the late 12th century, Matilda was the daughter of Robert, Baron Fitzwalter,…

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Fairy Steps, the legendary stone steps that were once used to haul coffins up the rockface ~

From Beetham village, England, a path climbs to Beetham fell and leads to the so-called Fairy Steps. The second of two flights of stone steps, where the narrow passage squeezes between two sheer rock faces via a flight of natural stone stairs is so named because of a legend. Apparently, if you descend this narrow stone stairway without touching the rocks on either side, the local fairies will grant you a wish. Other legends talk about the fairies using the steps to escape a witches’ cauldron, and it is said…

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Stamford bull run: a custom demised after 700 years of cruelty

If you are lucky enough to own a castle you want to enjoy the fine views on your lands from your windows. And that, according to legend, is just what William Plantagenet de Warenne, 5th Earl of Surrey (1166-1240), was doing one day at the turn of the 12th century. As story goes, looking over the meadow stretched before him outside the town of Stamford he saw two bulls fighting over a cow. Local butchers then came with their dogs to part the animals, enraging them further and causing one…

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Nine Ladies stone circle and their King Stone

This bronze age stone circle is situated in a woodland clearing high on Stanton Moor, Derbyshire England. The curious arrangement consists of nine upright stones purposefully set in an about 9-meters diameter circle and an additional lone stone sits about 30 meters away. As with most stone circles, nobody really knows why it was built and, of course, generations of fertile imaginations have come up with their own mythological explanations. According to a popular local legend, nine young maidens danced at the Sabbath to the tunes played by a lone…

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Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Day: what is the story behind this British observance?

Guy Fawkes Day, also called Bonfire Night, is a British observance, celebrated on this day, November 5, commemorating the failure of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. But what is its real origin? Seething after years of persecution over their religion, a group of 13 English Catholics decided to take action. Yes. But with an extreme action. Under the leadership of an outspoken critic of the Crown, Robert Catesby, they planned to set off a massive explosion during the Opening of Parliament ceremony, killing King James I and as many members…

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12 Ways Halloween is celebrated around the globe

In America, people associate Halloween with pumpkins, costumes, candy, and spooky stories or ghosts but, around the world, it could be a little different. The holiday might look slightly different this year since we are still in the midst of a global pandemic, but we can reminisce on years past. If most places in the U.S. celebrate Halloween in much the same way, one city that stands apart is New Orleans. This town loves both to party and voodoo, so one can find things here they couldn’t anywhere else, from…

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John Wimble: a lifetime at sea…

At the age of 12 John boarded a ship for the first time. And that’s when the sea became his home. John Wimble was born in 1797 in Maidstone, Kent, England. His first voyage at sea was probably at age 12 or 13 and, by 1823, aged 26, he had gained sufficient skill and experience to meet the criteria laid down by the Honourable East India Company for captains of ships contracted to carry goods to and from India. At the time, he was in charge of an “extra” ship…

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