Saturday, June 27, 2009

Another Selection of Historical Titbits

Number Six: The Pirate of St Chad’s

In St Chad’s churchyard, in Poulton of course, (just behind the apse if memory serves) can be found one of the Wyre’s most enduring – if not highly inaccurate – oddities, that being the grave of a pirate as shown in the photograph below.

Generations of school kids (myself included) have re-enacted over the centuries the ritual of standing on the grave itself, reciting the lord’s prayer backwards and then depositing the contents of our noses on the stone slab (actually the legend suggests that you’re only meant to spit, but as children we were very thorough) in the hopes that the ghost of the evil pirate would rise from its resting place and reek havoc in the town.
We can state from personal experience that the ritual doesn’t work.

And it’s hardly surprising really given that the grave actually belonged to Edward Sherdley (gentleman) who died in 1711 and probably never got any closer to the sea during his life than with a bucket and spade at Rossall. The confusion arose amongst Poulton’s youthful inhabitants, of course, because of the skull and cross-bones motif carved into the stone, resembling (as testified by certain old films featuring Douglas Fairbanks Jr) the Jolly Roger flown by desperados on the high seas.
The skull and crossbones themselves were probably a Masonic symbol, which just goes to show that whilst being a mason might pay nepotistic dividends in life, in death it just results in kids covering your grave in phlegm.

Number Seven: Woodplumpton Stocks

Outside St. Anne’s church in Woodplumpton -- an extremely ancient church in its own right, but more about that on another occasion -- next to the lychgate stand the old village stocks. The right hand stone-support is carved with the initials ‘AB’ and the date ‘73’. We can take it as read that, as old as the church might be, it’s not that old and the century to which that date belongs was left off for reasons of spatial economy. The nearby wicket-gate has similarly carved posts, suggesting that they were carved at around the same time.

Behind the stocks, as can be seen in the photograph, are a step of mounting steps. In case you’re wondering these were used to clamber on and off horses (as explained a few weeks ago in our posting about the mounting steps attached to the cottage on Raikes Road in Stanah) and not for the locals to take a flying leap onto the heads of the prisoners incarcerated below.

Poulton, Kirkham and Garstang also had their own stocks. In Garstang’s case they were designed, like Woodplumpton’s, so that two criminals could sit side by side, with the added advantage that they were portable. Originally they would have been clamped onto the market cobbles as and when required. Unfortunately, as far as historical preservation is concerned, when not in use they were kept in the town hall attic. In 1939, wouldn’t you know it, the town hall roof caught fire quite spectacularly.
What became of the stocks we honestly couldn’t say, but their chances of having survived are slim.

Number Eight: Grizedale Beck Reservoir

Grizedale Beck Reservoir was created between 1861 and 1863 when the beck itself was damned. In the process an entire unexcavated Neolithic settlement site was destroyed by the ensuing flood, only the tallest spire of the central obelisk of the now drowned Grizedale Henge still being visible at the height of summer, when strange incantations in Ogham are said to be heard on midsummer’s eve.

All right, that last bit isn’t true. The facts about when the reservoir was first damned are accurate enough, we think, the stuff about the settlement isn’t. We just wanted to see if we could get our reader bobbing in frustration that’s all. To the best of our knowledge there were no archaeological sites lost when the reservoir was created, although we did pick up the following information off some site or other on the Internet:

Grizedale is Norse for the valley of the wild pigs. The valley contains many birch and oak trees and gives an indication of what the whole valley might have been like in more ancient times."


John said...

So is there a Grizedale Henge, or not? I'd like to hear more about that, and need to know if I need scuba gear when I get up there to visit.

As for the Skull and Crossbones, wasn't that a motif found on gravestones throughout the ages, and not neccesraily Masonic. I mean, bones... death... there's a connection there, and I'm sure I've seen similar designs in graveyards all over the place.

Neat post, nonetheless, even though you just KNEW that you'd get a rise out of me with the mention of an underwater henge! Darn you for playing me like that!

JOHN :0)

Jayne said...

Shall we chat amongst ourselves until Sir returns?

I've seen them on very old headstones, too, John, nothing to do with the grave inhabitant having thrown a parrot on his shoulder or chopped off his leg...but nothing explained what the skull and crossbones were doing there, either.

Brian Hughes said...


No...there never was, to the best of my knowledge, a Grizedale Henge.

"As for the Skull and Crossbones, wasn't that a motif found on gravestones throughout the ages...?"

Yes...but only, as a rule, on the gravestones of Master Masons believe it or not. They're full of secret symbols and stuff are the masons and the best place to hide something like that is where it most obviously blends in.


I ain't gone yet, so promise me you'll play nice with the other commentators whilst I'm on

Jayne said...

Of course I'll behave, Sir, I'm only catty on my own blog lol.

JahTeh said...

"Grizedale is Norse for the valley of the wild pigs", good grief and I thought Chavs were a modern phenomenom.

Good luck with the Indian Mutiny. The Brits won in the end, just.