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Traditions of Lancashire By John Roby

Traditions of Lancashire

John Roby

Available in PDF, epub, and Kindle ebook. This book has 685 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1872.


Traditions of Lancashire is John Roby's influential, two-volume study on English folklore. Popular at the time, his work is now seen to be viewed with caution, given his propensity to rewrite folk stories into something he deemed more refined. Nethertheless, his study does contain important data for folklorists. Volume One chapters include: Sir Tarquin; The Goblin Builders; Mab's Cross; The Prior Of Burscough; The Eagle And Child; The Black Knight Of Ashton; Fair Ellen Of Radcliffe; The Abbot Of Whalley; Sir Edward Stanley; George Marsh, The Martyr; Dr Dee, The Astrologer; The Seer; The Earl Of Tyrone; Hoghton Tower; The Lancashire Witches; Siege Of Lathom; Raven Castle; The Phantom Voice; The Bar-Gaist; The Haunted Manor-House; Clitheroe Castle; and, The Grey Man Of The Wood. Volume Two chapters include: The Fairies' Chapel; The Luck Of Muncaster; The Peel Of Fouldrey; A Legend Of Bewsey; The Blessing; The Dule Upo' Dun; Windleshaw Abbey; Clegg Hall; The Mermaid Of Martin Meer; George Fox; The Demon Of The Well; The Sands; The Ring And The Cliff; The Dead Man's Hand; The Lost Farm; The Maid's Stratagem; The Skull House; Rivington Pike; Mother Red-Cap; The Death-Painter; and, The Crystal Goblet.

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Excerpt from Traditions of Lancashire

As it is our intention to arrange these traditions in chronological order, we begin with the earliest upon record, the overthrow of the giant Tarquin, near Manchester, by Sir Lancelot of the Lake, who was supposed to bear rule over the western part of Lancashire.

An old ballad commemorates the achievement; and many other relics of this tradition still exist, one of which, a rude carving on a ceiling in the College at Manchester, represents the giant Tarquin at his morning's repast; it being fabled that he devoured a child daily at this meal. The legs of the infant are seen sprawling out of his mouth in a most unseemly fashion. Some have supposed that Tarquin was but a symbol or personification of the Roman army, and his castle the Roman station in this neighbourhood.

The following extract is from Dr Hibbert's pamphlet on the subject:—

"Upon the site of Castlefield, near Manchester, was originally erected a British fortress by the Sistuntii, the earliest possessors of Lancashire, comprising an area of twelve acres. It would possess on the south, south-east, and south-west, every advantage, from the winding of the River Medlock, and on its west, from the lofty banks which overlooked an impenetrable morass. By the artificial aid, therefore, of a ditch and a rampart on its east and north sides, this place was rendered a fortress of no inconsiderable importance. This fell afterwards into the hands of the Brigantes, the ancient inhabitants of Durham, York, and Westmoreland. Upon the invasion of the Romans, Cereales, their general, attacked the proper Brigantes of Yorkshire and Durham, and freed the Sistuntii of Lancashire from their dominion, but reserved the former to incur the Roman yoke. In A.D. 79, this British hold was changed into a Roman castrum, garrisoned by the first Frisian cohort, who erected from the old materials a new fort on the Roman construction, part of the vallum remaining to this day. New roads were made, and the British were invited to form themselves into the little communities of cities, to check the spirit of independence kept alive in the uncivilised abodes of deserted forests. The Romans possessed the fortress for nearly 300 years, when they were summoned away to form part of the army intended to repel the myriads of barbarians that threatened to overrun Europe.

"By contributing to their refinement, and protecting them from the inroads of the Picts and Scots, the Romans were regarded in a friendly light by the ancient inhabitants, and their departure was much regretted. It became necessary, however, that the Britons should elect a chief from their own nation. Their military positions were strengthened; and as the Roman model of a fortress did not suit their military taste, instead of one encircled with walls only seven or eight feet high, and furnishing merely pavilions for soldiers within, they preferred erecting, on the sites of stations, large buildings of stone, whose chambers should contain more convenient barracks for the garrison. An infinite number of these castles existed within a century after the departure of the Romans, of which our Castle at Manchester was one, carried to a great height, erected in a good taste, secured at the entrances with gates, and flanked at the sides with towers.

"The Britons, however, unable of themselves to cope with their foes, imprudently invited the Saxons, who, after subduing the Caledonians, laid waste the country of the Britons with fire and sword. The Castle of Manchester surrendered A.D. 488."

We have endeavoured to preserve the character and manner of the ancient chroniclers, and even their fanciful etymologies, in the following record, of which the quaint but not inelegant style, in some measure, almost unavoidably adapts itself to the subject.

Sir Lancelot of the Lake, as it is related by the older chronicles, was the son of Ban, King of Benoit, in Brittany. Flying from his castle, then straitly besieged, the fugitive king saw it in flames, and soon after expired with grief. His queen, Helen, fruitlessly attempting to save his life, abandoned for a while her infant son Lancelot. Returning, she discovered him in the arms of the nymph Vivian, the mistress of Merlin, who on her approach sprung with the child into a deep lake and disappeared. This lake is held by some to be the lake Linius, a wide insular water near the sea-coast, in the regions of Linius or "The Lake;" now called Martin Mere or Mar-tain-moir, "a water like the sea."

The nymph educated the infant at her court, fabulously said to have been held in the subterraneous caverns of this lake, and from hence he was styled Lancelot du Lac.

At the age of eighteen the fairy conveyed him to the camp of King Arthur, who was then waging a fierce and exterminating warfare with the Saxons. Here the young warrior was invested with the badge of knighthood. His person, accomplishments, and unparalleled bravery, having won the heart of many a fair dame in this splendid abode of chivalry and romance, his name and renown filled the land, where he was throughout acknowledged as chief of "The Knights of the Round Table."

The name of Lancelot is derived from history, and is an appellation truly British, signifying royalty, Lanc being the Celtic term for a spear, and lod or lot implying a people. Hence the name of Lancelot's shire, or Lancashire. From the foregoing it is supposed that he resided in the region of Linius, and that he was the monarch of these parts, being ruler over the whole, or the greater part, of what is now called Lancashire.

Arthur, king of the Silures, being selected by Ambrosius for the command of the army, he defeated the Saxons in twelve pitched battles. Four of these were obtained, as related by Nennius, on the river called Duglas, or Douglas, a little stream which runneth, as we are further told, in the region of Linius. On reference, it will be found that this river passes through a great portion of the western side of Lancashire, and pretty accurately fixes the position here described.

Three of these great victories were gotten near Wigan, and the other is currently reported to have been achieved near Black rod, close to a Roman station, then probably fortified, and remaining as a place of some strength, and in possession of the Saxon invaders. Here, according to rude legends, "the River Duglas ran with blood to Wigan three days."

End of excerpt.

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