Lincolnshire Legends and Folklore

THERE are two huge stone at the entrance to Anwic Church, known as the Drake Stones. Despite the name they do not commemorate Sir Francis Drake; legend says farmer who was ploughing it a nearby field lost his horse in a bog. As they were sucked down, a drake fie% out of the hole; next day he found a huge drake-shaped stone on the spot.

In 1882, attempts were made to move the stone. Chains lashed to it snapped and a drake, said to be the guardian spirit, flew out from underneath the stone was hauled to its present position but broke into two pieces about six feet long and three feet wide.

People say they often see drakes sheltering under the stones, and believe it was a Druid’s memorial.

Ever-open door

The saying that people from Bardney never shut doors originated from the legend of how monks at St Ethelred’s great Bardney Abbey refused to accept the bones of St Oswald out of envy of the Northumbrian saint. The bones were left outside the Abbey all night; a pillar of light shot up to the skies and this was considered to be a sign from heaven. Next day the monks accepted the bones, and the people of Bardney swore never again to close their doors.

The famous Boston Stump, the parish church of St Botolph overlooking the River Witham and the flat Fenland district, is not immune from legends. The breezes that blow round the exposed tower are said to be the result of a struggle between St Botolph and the Devil.

Savage bloodshed

The saint is said to have so belaboured Satan that he huffed and puffed, raising a mind that has not yet died down. It is also said that a grey lady haunts the heights of the building.

There are stories of ethereal black dogs roaming the entire countryside.

Brigg, now famous for its fair, also boasts a wayside gallows erected by King James I in the 17th century to remind warring families that any more savage bloodshed would be treated as murder.

At Burgh–le–Marsh every evening from October to March a curfew is rung on the tenor bell in the church. The bell is said to have guided Captain Frohock to safety when his ship, the Mary Rose, was driven towards the Lincolnshire coast by a violent storm.

Villagers, hoping to retrieve fortune from the wreck, decided not to help, but the aged sexton barricaded himself in the church tower and rang the tenor bell as a warning, and the ship was saved.

When the people broke into the belfry they found the sexton dead from his efforts. Captain Frohock settled in the village and married the sexton’s daughter.

Fonaby Stone

fonaby-stone
The Fonaby Stone

Caistor has a legend about St Paulinus who was riding on a track nearby when he met a man sowing corn.

He asked for some grain to feed his ass, but the man said he had none. The saint asked what was in the sack lying on the ground and the farmer lied: “That’s not a sack, that’s a stone.” “Then stone it shall be,” Paulinus stated, and Fonaby Stone stands there today on Fonaby Top. Dire misfortune is supposed to attend any attempt to move or damage it.

Three sets of horse shoes in the turf where Ermine Street crosses the A17, near Cranwell RAF College, commemorate the wild leaps of a blind horse called Bayard as it struggled to unseat Old Meg, a wicked local witch, as she fought with the horse’s owner. Her long talons sunk deep into Bayard’s flanks as she clung till both she and the horse were stabbed and died together.

Falling coins

Epworth, home of the Wesley family, was the scene of a terrifying and inexplicable haunting. Mournful groans and eerie howls surrounded the house and incessant and unaccountable hangings came from the attics.

One night the Revd Samuel Wesley, father of the famous John, heard the sound of coins being dropped onto the floor, footsteps on the stairs and bottles smashing.

Few ever saw the ghost, but one daughter said it looked like someone in a long white gown, while Mrs Wesley thought it more like a headless badger.

stained-glass-window
St Guthlac stained glass window

At Fishtoft, near Boston, a window in the church shows St Guthlac, to whom the church is dedicated, holding a whip reputedly given to him by St Bartholomew. As long as heheld the whip, legend claims, Fishtoft would be free of vermin.

Grainthorpe, once a busy village, now a mere hamlet, became a refuge for robbers who waylaid travellers until people from neighbouring villages raided the robber–infested village, threw the robbers down a well and left Grainthorpe in ruins.

Molly Grime

At Glentham there is a stone effigy of the 14th century Lady Tournay which used to be washed every Good Friday by seven spinsters. The habit of washing holy images was known as ‘Malgraen’ which was corrupted to Molly Grime, and still people call a child with a dirty face a ‘Molly Grime’ or ‘mullygrub’.

At Great Ponton is a violin—shaped weather vane, provided by a grateful fiddler in the 17th century. Villagers, delighted by his music, paid his fare to America where he amassed a great fortune and gave thanks by paying for the vane.

Legend has it that the town of Grimsby was founded by a Dane called Grim who had been told to drown the true heir to the Danish throne, a boy named Havelok, but instead they escaped together to England.

Havelok took his bride to Grimsby and, after various vicissitudes, ruled England and Denmark for 60 years. The town seal shows figures from the Havelok legend.

Demonic warning

The Hood Game at Haxey has a pagan flavour, but is re—enacted each year since the wife of Sir John de Mowbray, an ancestor of the Duke of Norfolk, lost her red hood when the wind took it as she rode over Haxey Hill and a group of boggans gave chase and finally retrieved it for her. She gave each man an acre of land in return for a promise to re—enact the event each year.

The Chequers Inn, opposite All Saints Church at Holbeach, was the venue for local men who played cards through the night by candlelight.

When one of them died, they decided to play a last game in the church with the body as the rather gruesome dummy. A demon appeared to them and warned them to leave, but they ignored the warning and were snatched away. Their ghosts, it is said, have been seen since re—playing that terrible last game.

Body in well

Lincoln itself has legends. One is that the foot–tall ‘imp’, high on a pillar in the Angel Choir of the Cathedral, created havoc in the great building until an angel turned him into stone.

Another is the story of little St Hugh, which Chaucer developed as one of his Canterbury Tales.

In 1225, Hugh, an eight–year–old Lincoln boy, disappeared for a few days and his mutilated body was found in a well.

A Jew named Copin was charged with the crime. The corpse was buried in a pit but was found to have been miraculously disinterred next morning and was thrown down a well. Bones, alleged to have been Hugh’s, were discovered in the Cathedral in 1791 and a shrine was erected over them.

Lady in green

Louth was the home of the gallant Sir John Bolle, of Thorpe Hall, who helped to sack Cadiz in 1596. Amongst the captives was a lovely Spanish senorita who fell in love with him, but Sir John loved his own wife at home.

The heart–broken Spanish girl decided to go into a convent, but she gave Sir John a picture of herself in a green dress, and ever since a green lady is said to have haunted the vicinity of Thorpe Hall.

Gunby Hall, some miles west of Skegness, was built in 1780 by Sir William Massingberd, whose daughter, Margaret, tried to elope with one of the postilion riders. Her father shot him dead and the ghost of Margaret and her lover have been seen on the Ghost Path which runs near the hall.

After King John lost the Crown Jewels in the Wash in 1216, he dined at Swineshead Abbey where over—indulgence in peaches and new ale is alleged to have killed him.

Gleaming object

Years afterwards he was said to have been poisoned by a monk who gave his own life to save all England; the king, according to legend, had told the monk he intended to put up the price of bread to increase his revenue. The monk, a true patriot, poisoned the ale and drank first from the cup to allay any suspicions the king might have.

Hundreds of people, walking along the promenade at Cleethorpes in 1956, saw a silent gleaming object in the sky which they said resembled a large glass ball. This UFO was also observed through telescopes and by radar from the not very distant RAF station at Manby, where it was estimated to be about 80 feet in diameter. It was visible for about an hour and then vanished when some jet planes went up to investigate.

UFOs, which were originally known as flying saucers, have been sighted in other parts of England and many more distant places. Reports have described space crafts of various shapes, sizes and

colours. Scientists think many of these sightings are due to imagination or errors of judgement of observers, possibly due to stars, meteors, satellites, balloons or optical illusions caused by reflections on colours and other phenomena of the upper atmosphere.

Far—off galaxies

But some appearances, such as the one at Cleethorpes, certainly puzzle the scientists and interest many people, who imagine them to be visitants, observing our planet from outer space, possibly higher intelligences from far off galaxies in the immensities of space where highly intelligent life may exist.

Others think these peculiar phenomena are not really space ships at all, but are occult signs of miraculous or ghostly quality, of significance only to those who have psychic proclivities.

These things may go down in history or in the annals of the superstitious as further and more modern additions to the folk lore and legends of Lincolnshire.

January 1992

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