Wednesday, June 03, 2009

More Historical Titbits

Number Four: The Fylde Folk Festival

It’s hard to believe that the annual Fylde Folk Festival (held in various venues around Fleetwood) is actually into its 36th year. But it is, so there you go. As well as traditional Lancashire Clog Dancing (don’t laugh…I happen to enjoy watching them go at it with sparks flying and petticoats flouncing, and they’re a reet gradely bunch of lads and lasses who know how to sup their ale an’ awl) the festival plays host to a number of international stars of the folk scene, magicians, craft fairs and even traditional mummers.

The crew from Cookley in Worcestershire I found particularly interesting. Me and Michelle got chatting with them a couple of years back and discovered that Tony Blair had, at one point, tried to ban them from performing, on the grounds of racism. Eventually the Cookley Mummers managed to convince our over-the-top politically correct government that the tradition of ‘blacking up’ went back to mediaeval times, when begging (or performing for monies) was outlawed. The local farmers (during those thrifty winter months) would don coats made from rags and black their faces with burnt cork so that nobody would recognise them, then perform their dances to the unamused locals who would gladly pay them to clear off.

To say that some of the dances were risqué would be an understatement, especially when phallic staffs were whacked together with an eye-watering thud.

Morris dancers also appear on the menu at the Fylde Folk Festival, of course, this ancient rite of spring passage with its giddy fool and its hobbyhorse and its head slapping antics and bell jingling nonsense, probably stems from Pagan fertility festivals and is traditionally accompanied by maypoles, sword dances and lots and lots of beer.
Without the beer it just looks stupid.
With the beer it still looks stupid, but in a traditional, British, its-almost-summer-so-who-cares sort of way.

Number Five: Stalmine Hall and Village

Stalmine Hall (shown above) only dates back to the 19th century although the manor of Stalmine is, as you’d expect, considerably older.

The village itself was first recorded in the Domesday Book, at which time it was owned (or rather ‘previously owned’, because by that point he was dead, having been hacked to pieces by his brother Harold, before Harold himself bought it at the Battle of Hastings) by Tostig Godwinson. (That’s a very long sentence, but I’m too tired after writing it to edit it down into more manageable bits.)

In 1165 the manor belonged to the appropriately named Robert de Stalmine.

The chapel (above) gets its first mention circa 1200 and the cemetery was consecrated in 1230.

Geoffrey de Ballista of Hakenishou (otherwise known as Geoffrey the Crossbowman because he owned a couple of very large crossbows of which, I’m sure, he was terribly proud) and William de Stalmyne agreed that neither they nor their descendants would ever sell the:

…chapel of Stalmyne on any occasion or pretext whatsoever.

In 1860 the chapel was rebuilt, changing its dedication from St. Oswald to St. James in the process.

So much for that.

Next to the porch stands the sundial dating from 1690, although it’s rooted into a much earlier keeill cross base.

William Thornber had this to say about matters:

The roof, or rather the ceiling, of the old church of Stalmine was very beautiful and antique, formed of wood, decorated and painted with a representation of the sun, moon, stars and all the signs of the Zodiac, and other curious figures and hieroglyphs, but unfortunately no care was taken to preserve it when the present church was rebuilt.

That figures.


Andrew said...

The chapel looks like it has pebble dashed. Noice!

Brian Hughes said...


It does have a certain El Cheapo Wyre Borough Council maintained look about it, I must admit.

History Hunter said...

When I was in Fleetwood Library the other day there was a guy doing some research into St James church. Apparently there had been an exorcism of a boggart in the past and it was removed to the house next door and buried under the front door step. Just happened to be his house and he'd had 'goings on' so to say. He was sat at home about midnight reading about it and at the end it said under no circumstances read this book after dark!

He looked a bit twitchy to me.

JahTeh said...

'Geoffrey de Ballista of Hakenishou', now that's a moniker to be writ in gelt.

Very 'Dan Brown' that chapel ceiling and what a shame it wasn't preserved.

Wv coshe, what Geoffrey would have done to a common Hughes.

Brian Hughes said...


The house next door? That'd either be Stalmine Hall or the Seven Stars...or is this a completely different St. James's we're taling about?


Geoffrey de Ballista of Hakenishou roughly translated means '...that bloke called Geoff from Hackinsall with the two bloody big ballistas', which, before you make any family unfriendly remark, were his cannon-sized crossbows.

Jayne said...

Now a "boggart in the chapel' has much more of a ring to it than 'a bustle in your hedgerow'.
That lass with the stick pointing downwards looks like she means business - were many sticking plasters needed afterwards?

WV =annesms The deadly Morris dancer txting of her feats :P

Brian Hughes said...


I think she was the Sergeant Major.

History Hunter said...

Hi Brian

Not sure which house it was as I was only earwigging his conversation (I know shocking for a woman). He said he could see into the churchyard, was foreign and had a pointy beard. I'm sure that helps a lot!

Brian Hughes said...


Now I desperately want to know which house it was and where the exorcism story is written down, which means I'll have to get Michelle to do some research. As you've probably gathered I like boggart stories, and I've never heard of this one before.

History Hunter said...

Hi Brian

The book he was referring to was book of the year last year at Fleetwood Library from what I heard. The lady who helped him was the lady in charge behind the desk upstairs (the more mature lady). I think he got the first info from a history leaflet in St James church itself.

Brian Hughes said...

The book of the year last year? That's got to be one that me and Michelle have written then.

Working on the slim possibility that it isn't, of course, I'll send her along to find out which one it was.

Nick said...

look what I just found - Stalmine "church at the top of the road once had a boggart called the Stalmine Hall Knocker, a poltergeist. It used to plague the church, pushing over tombstones, rattling the church doors, scaring the parishioners... And so they brought in the priest, who eventually said the right prose and bound the boggart.”

Brian Hughes said...

Ah yes...we wrote about that one in our 'Return to Windmill Land' book...still available in huge quantities from the following address: