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Episode 14: Cumberland

Where is Cumberland?

In our fourteenth episode, we referred to loads of interesting Cumberland-based things - and promised links and photos, so here they are:

Benedict of Nursia

Often known as Saint Benedict, Benedict of Nursia founded twelve communities for monks but his main achievement was his Rule of Saint Benedict, a set of rules for monks which became one of the most influential religious texts in Western Christendom.

His Prayer of St Benedict is also a pretty good one, as these things go, as Martin mentioned:

O Lord, I place myself in your hands and dedicate myself to You.

I pledge myself to do your will in all things:

To love the Lord God with all my heart, all my soul, all my strength.

Not to kill. Not to steal. Not to covet. Not to bear false witness.

To honour all persons. Not to do to another what I would not wish done to myself.

To chastise the body. Not to seek after pleasures. To love fasting.

To relieve the poor. To clothe the naked. To visit the sick. To bury the dead.

To help in trouble. To console the sorrowing.

To hold myself aloof from worldly ways.

To prefer nothing to the love of Christ.

Not to give way to anger. Not to foster a desire for revenge.

Not to entertain deceit in the heart. Not to make a false peace.

Not to forsake charity. Not to swear, lest I swear falsely.

To speak the truth with heart and tongue.

Not to return evil for evil. To do no injury: yea, even to bear patiently any injury done to me.

To love my enemies. Not to curse those who curse me, but rather to bless them.

To bear persecution for justice’ sake.

Not to be proud. Not to be given to intoxicating drink.

Not to be an over-eater. Not to be lazy. Not to be slothful. Not to be a murmurer.

Not to be a detractor. To put my trust in God. To refer the good I see in myself to God.

To refer any evil in myself to myself. To fear the Day of Judgment. To be in dread of hell.

To desire eternal life with spiritual longing.

To keep death before my eyes daily.

To keep constant watch over my actions.

To remember that God sees me everywhere.

To call upon Christ for defence against evil thoughts that arises in my heart.

To guard my tongue against wicked speech. To avoid much speaking. To avoid idle talk.

To read only what is good to read. To look at only what is good to see.

To pray often. To ask forgiveness daily for my sins, and to seek ways to amend my life.

To obey my superiors in all things rightful.

Not to desire to be thought holy, but to seek holiness.

To fulfil the commandments of God by good works.

To love chastity. To hate no one. Not to be jealous or envious of anyone.

Not to love strife. Not to love pride. To honour the aged. To pray for my enemies.

To make peace after a quarrel, before the setting of the sun.

Never to despair of your mercy, O God of Mercy. Amen.

The Kingmoor Ring

The Kingmoor Ring is a 10th–12th century Viking finger ring, bearing a magical runic inscription to ward off fever and leprosy. Found in June 1817 at Greymoor Hill, Kingmoor, Carlisle, the ring now resides in the British Museum.

J.R.R. Tolkien, author of Lord of The Rings was a philologist and university professor of Anglo-Saxon history at Oxford.

His undoubted involvement with this archaeological discovery and knowledge of runic rings and amulets played a large part in his epic creation, The Lord of the Rings, which has become one of the most popular and influential works in 20th Century literature.

Carlisle Castle

For 500 years, until the English and Scottish crowns were united in 1603, Carlisle Castle was the principal fortress of England’s north-western border with Scotland.

A mighty stronghold in the frequent conflict between the two countries, and the base of the lord wardens attempting to control an unruly frontier, it has endured more sieges than any other castle in England.

Unlike most medieval castles, it has been continuously occupied since its foundation by William II in 1092.

From the 18th century to the 1960s it was the headquarters of the Border Regiment, one of the oldest in the British army.

The Giant's Grave

These stones are said to have been placed over the burial site of Owain Caesarius, legendary and heroic king of Cumbria during the early 10th century, who was said to have been a giant of a man.

Some historians have argued that Owain or Ewan was, actually, Owain ap Urien the son of king Urien of Rheged in the 6th century AD, who was probably of Welsh/Irish descent.

Rheged was a part of the old north country, known to the bards as Hen Ogledd, which covered a large part of northern England and southern Scotland.

The Pennines

The Pennines, also known as the Pennine Chain or Pennine Hills, are a range of mountains and hills in England.

They separate North West England from Yorkshire and North East England. The Pennines also straddle several city-region economies; Leeds, Greater Manchester, Sheffield, Lancashire, Hull and the North East.

Often described as the “backbone of England”, the Pennine Hills form a continuous mountain range stretching northwards from the Peak District in the northern Midlands, through the South Pennines, Yorkshire Dales and North Pennines up to the Tyne Gap, which separates the range from the Cheviot Hills. Their total length is about 250 miles (402 km).

The name Pennines is believed to come from the Celtic ‘pennioroches’, meaning “hill”, although the earliest written reference to the name dates only from the 18th century.

The Cumberland Sausage

Perhaps the most famous of British sausages is the Cumberland sausage, which has been a local speciality in the County of Cumberland for more than 500 years.

The Cumberland sausage has a distinct taste because of the meat being chopped rather than minced, giving it a meaty texture.

The Lake District

The Lake District is relatively young as a tourist attraction. Before the hordes of visitors arrived, drawn to the poetic picture created by William Wordsworth and others, these rugged lands were primarily used for farming, mining, and defence.

Tourists began to visit the Lake District at the turn of the 19th century, thanks in part to the works of local poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who extolled the beauty of the landscapes.

Egremont Castle

Egremont Castle, which stands above the River Ehen, was founded by William de Meschines in around 1130-1140. The barony of Copeland had been granted to William by King Henry I in 1120.

The title and estates passed to the FitzDuncan family through the marriage of Ranulph's sister and heiress, Alice, to William Fitz Duncan, a cousin of David I, King of Scots. No surviving male heir was produced by the marriage, leading to the barony passing to the de Lucy's, through the marriage of Alice's eldest daughter, Amabel, it became the property of her eldest son, Richard de Lucy.

Legend states that Richard de Lucy's wife, Grunwild, was savaged by a wolf on a hunting trip, leading to her death. The tale is recounted in the poem "The Woeful Chase".

Richard died without an heir, which lead to the birth of the superstitious legend that no male heir should ever inherit Egremont castle because of the conduct of previous members of the family.

The castle was granted its royal charter by Henry III in 1267.

Hadrian's Wall

Marching 73 miles from coast to coast, Hadrian’s Wall was built to guard the wild north-west frontier of the Roman Empire.

Hadrian’s Wall was a rich and vibrant place. It was a border, but it was also a place where borders were crossed. Here, soldiers and civilians from across Europe and North Africa met, traded and served together at the north-western frontier of the Roman Empire.

Many settled in this wild, foreign place across the sea and adopted local customs, worshipping native gods even while preserving their own traditions.

Ravenglass Roman Bath House and Muncaster Castle

The remains of the bath house of Ravenglass Roman fort, established in AD 130, are among the tallest Roman structures surviving in northern Britain - the walls stand almost four metres high.

The fort at Ravenglass (whose earthworks can be seen near the bath house) guarded what was probably a useful harbour, and there is evidence that soldiers stationed here served in Hadrian's fleet.

The Castle, believed to be standing on Roman remains, is a key part of the region’s history.

The castle was first built in the later 13th century and enlarged in the 14th when a pele tower was erected on Roman foundations (which would date back to 79AD), part of its fabric being incorporated in the south-west tower.

A coin from the time of Emperor Theodosius has been found, and a Victor ring, and it is also reputedly one of the most haunted buildings in the UK.

Despite regular research since 1992, scientists are still unable to explain many of the strange occurrences reported there.

Hardknott Roman Fort

One of the most remote and dramatically sited Roman forts in Britain, the small fort at Hardknott enjoyed command of the Eskdale Valley and the Roman road to Ravenglass.

The fort at Hardknott was established early in the 2nd century AD. A fragmentary inscription, dating from the reign of the Emperor Hadrian (117–38), from the south gate records the garrison as the Fourth Cohort of Dalmatians, from the Balkans.

The fort was demilitarised in the late 130s AD, when the Romans reoccupied southern Scotland, but was regarrisoned under Marcus Aurelius in the 160s. It was finally abandoned very early in the 3rd century.

Objects found around the fort suggest that thereafter its ruins offered temporary shelter to passing patrols and travellers.

Carlisle Cathedral

Carlisle Cathedral has a long and turbulent history. It started life as a Norman Priory Church in 1122, becoming a cathedral in 1133.

Notable features include figurative stone carving, wonky Norman arches, a set of medieval choir stalls and the largest window in the 'flowing decorated Gothic' style in England.

Furness Abbey, Lanercost Priory and Weatheral Gatehouse

The ruins of Furness Abbey

By the end of the 12th century Cumbria had been apportioned among several temporal and ecclesiastic feudal landlords.

The monasteries established granges (abbey farms) and started large-scale upland sheep pasturage. The monks also initiated iron mining and smelting (using bloom furnaces) in Furness with the resulting large-scale de-foresta­tion necessary for the production of charcoal.

What remains of Lanercost Priory

By the early 1500s large areas of Cumbria had been enclosed by the major landowners as sheep runs or deer parks and smaller areas were enclosed by tenant farmers.

After the dissolution of the monasteries (1536-1540), the monastic estates passed into private hands and trade which previously had been reserved to the monks was released to the market towns.

Weatheral Priory Gatehouse


Deep in the waters of Windermere is said to dwell a creature that is becoming a Legend of the Lake District.

As Loch Ness in Scotland is famous for its mysterious monster, attracting sightseers from far and wide, and known affectionately as ‘Nessie’, Cumbria has ‘Bownessie’ who resides in England’s largest lake, Windermere, in Bowness-on-Windermere

There have been sightings by a number of independent witnesses… and even a few close encounters… but the phenomenon remains an enticing enigma.


Shy, water-loving creatures, Tizzie-Whizies are reputed to have the body of a hedgehog, the tail of a squirrel or fox and a pair of bee-like wings.

This one was captured in 1906. Struggling and squealing, it was rushed to Louis Herbert's Photographic Studio, opposite St Martin's Church. Having calmed it down with some warm milk and morsels of ginger biscuit he took this immortal portrait of the Tizzie Whizie, before it jumped off his table and flew out of the window to regain its freedom.

It had a very faint cry, which could just be heard if you had your ear at water level.

Many thousands of postcards were sold from this one photograph.

The Crier of Claife

A long time ago, a monk from Furness Abbey, whose job was to save the souls of immoral women, fell for one of his clients. He followed her back to Claife Heights on the western shores of Windermere, but she rejected him. He took this badly, spent a lot of time wailing, and finally dropped dead. But didn’t stop wailing.

The ferrymen who operated the Windermere boat service from Ferry Nab to Sawrey learned to ignore calls for transport from the western side of the lake after dark, as it was probably just the monk complaining again.

Then one day a new recruit decided this was bunkum and crossed the lake to pick up the fare.

The new ferryman returned the following morning, stark raving mad, and died a couple of days later without telling anyone what he’d seen.

Now this was a tad upsetting for the boatmen, so they called on the monks who lived on Lady Holme, an island on Windermere. The monk popped on-shore with his bell and bible, and confined the spook to the old quarry at Claife Heights, ‘until men should walk dryshod across the lake’.

He’s still there, and still wailing. Or so you’ll be told if you visit the Claife Crier Bar, or take a pint of Claife Crier beer…

The Fairy Hills of Cumbria

The Hardknott Pass - part of the old Roman road from Ravenglass to Ambleside - is a steep and narrow road with hairpin bends which connects Eskdale with central Lakeland.

Local tradition holds that a fairy rath stands within the site, where King Eveling holds court.

Opinions vary as to the identity and nature of this king. There is some apparent overlap of place associations between him and King Arthur elsewhere in Cumbria, but it has been alternatively suggested that he was a fairy or perhaps elfish ruler, based on the possible derivation of his name from the Old Norse for elf.

Whatever the truth, the link between Eveling and Cumbria is a long established one and well documented by William Camden in his book Britannia, published in 1607.

Some 18 miles north of the Fort at Hardknott Pass lies Bassenthwaite Lake and two reputed fairy sites.

The first, a fairy castle or howe, stands just off the main A66, on the banks of the lake itself but the second - Elva Hill - is by far the more impressive.

The hill itself is locally reputed to be a fairy hill and, according to some, hides a secret gateway into the otherworld, which only opens at certain times of the year.

The Beast of Cumbria

One of the most famous and commonly sighted of England's big cats is known as the "Beast of Cumbria."

Said to be a giant panther like creature that roams the Lake District and kills livestock at its will, you can definitely understand why it has a reputation with the locals.

Additionally, it has been sighted well over 50 times, much more than any other supposed big cat.

The Girt Dog of Ennerdale

Between the first reports of a dog-like creature killing sheep and its eventual death in the cold waters of the River Ehen, the ‘girt dog’ killed between 300 and 400 sheep. Frequently, corpses would be found drained of blood, the bulk of the meat untouched but soft organs such as the liver having been consumed.

Farmers began patrolling at night in pursuit of the creature, however its killing spree continued, averaging around eight dead sheep per night. With many others badly mauled but left alive, the animal appeared to be killing for sport in many cases. Despite a £10 reward offered for any man that could kill or capture the girt dog it continued to evade hunters, fueling speculation that the creature was supernatural in nature.

Eventually, the creature’s luck and cunning ran out as a hunter managed to clip it with a blast of buckshot. Badly injured, the animal was ran down by the hounds and killed.

The animal was stuffed and put on display at Keswick Museum but was thrown out by an overzealous museum employee around 70 years ago, leaving the exact identity of the girt dog a mystery.

Hagg Worms

According to legend, Haggs Wood near Silverdale was home to giant hairy worms which were large enough to swallow small birds.

One young boy reputedly saw one fly right past him and land high in a tree. When he ran home and told the village what he’d seen a group of locals set out and burned down the tree, presumably killing the Hagg Worm.

The Renwick Cockatrice

'Cockatrice' is an Anglo-French synonym for 'basilisk', a fabulous monster, part bird, part reptile, hatched from an egg laid by a male bird and fertilised by a serpent. It was reputed to be able to slay by looking at, or breathing on, its victim.

William Hutchinson's 'History of the County of Cumberland', published in 1794, which contains agricultural footnotes written by a surveyor called John Housman, is the earliest known record of this legend.

The inhabitants of Renwick were pulling down the village church when a large winged creature emerged from the ruin. They fled in panic, so John Tallentire took a rowan bough and killed it - for which he and his heirs were exempted from tithes.

The Vampire of Croglin Grange

Croglin village today

Croglin Low Hall, or ‘Croglin Grange’ as it is often referred to in this folktale, sits about 15 miles south-east of Carlisle. The name ‘Croglin’ may derive from the Brittonic ‘crug’ (isolated hill), and ‘linn’ (pool).

Croglin Grange had been rented to a young woman named Amelia Cranswell, and her two brothers, Edward and Michael. During one particularly humid summer’s evening, Amelia was trying to desperately sleep, when a strange creature appeared at her window.

It began picking out the lead surrounding a windowpane with its long fingernail. Removing the glass, it put its hand through the gap to undo the latch and it let itself in. The creature was described as having human features, a brown face, and flaming eyes.

Terrified, Amelia froze, allowing the creature to grab her and bite her throat. Screaming awoke her brothers, but by the time they came into the room, her assailant was gone.

After a trip to Switzerland, the three returned to Croglin Grange and the creature appeared as before. This time, Edward shot it in the leg and the brothers were able to track it down to a burial vault in the local cemetery. They waited until morning to enter the vault, where they found the vampire, with a fresh wound to the leg, sleeping inside a coffin.

They set fire to the coffin, burning its occupant, dead!

Adam Bell

Adam Bell had two Merrie Men, William of Cloudsley and Clym the Clough, who were outlawed to the Forest of Inglewood, by Hutton-in-the-Forest, north of Penrith, for stealing game.

After an audacious adventure at Carlisle, the outlaws were captured. The King agreed to pardon Adam and the Merrie Men if Adam could shoot an apple on his young son’s head at a distance of 120 paces.

Adam, a master longbow man, did just this and earned his pardon.

Long Meg and her Daughters

One of the finest stone circles in the north of England, Long Meg and Her Daughters stone circle has a diameter of about 350 feet, the second biggest in the country.

Long Meg is the tallest of the 69 stones, about 12 feet high, with three mysterious symbols, its four corners facing the points of the compass and standing some 60 feet outside the circle.

The stones probably date from about 1500 BC, and it was likely to have been used as a meeting place or for some form of religious ritual.

Long Meg is made of local red sandstone, whereas the daughters are boulders of rhyolite, a form of granite.

The Wizard Michael Scot

Michael Scot was a Scottish mathematician and scholar in the Middle Ages. He was educated at Oxford and Paris, and worked in Bologna and Toledo, where he learned Arabic. His patron was Frederick II of the Holy Roman Empire and Scot served as science adviser and court astrologer to him.

Scot translated Averroes and was the greatest public intellectual of his day. The second version of Fibonacci's famous book on mathematics, Liber Abaci, was dedicated to him in 1227 and it has been suggested that Scot played a part in Fibonacci's presentation of the Fibonacci sequence.

A recent study of a passage written by Michael Scot on multiple rainbows, a phenomenon understood only by modern physics and recent observations, suggests that Michael Scot may have had contact with the Tuareg people in the Sahara desert.

The legendary Michael Scot used to feast his friends with dishes brought by spirits from the royal kitchens of France and Spain and other lands. He is also said to have turned to stone a coven of witches, which have become the stone circle of Long Meg and her Daughters in Cumbria.

Scot's reputation as a magician had already become fixed in the age immediately following his own. He appears in Dante's Divine Comedy, the only Scot to do so, in the fourth bolgia located in the Eighth Circle of Hell, reserved for sorcerers, astrologers, and false prophets.

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Great start to the new series - I have since had to eat several Cumberland sausages! Also slightly startled to hear Carlisle has moved to the top of Scafell Pike!

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Yep - that's one piece of research that should have gone straight in the bin! Haha!

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