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Episode 8: Lancashire

Where is Lancashire?

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

St Mark's Eve

As we approach the last week of April, we come to St. Mark’s Day on the 25th, and, as with most holidays, its more important eve the night before.

This practice comes to us from the traditional reckoning of time and the practice of experiencing days from sunset to sunset… which, when you think about it, is somewhat more practical than the random Stroke of Midnight beginning we follow nowadays. More practical and more natural, attuned to the natural rhythms of day and night.

And so with the setting sun on the 24th we have St. Mark’s Eve, set aside as one of the traditional nights for divining the future. This is especially true for matters of the heart.

The Wars of the Roses

The Wars of the Roses were a series of conflicts during the fifteenth century which involved most of the English nobility.

There were many issues at stake, sometimes including who should be king. Writers during the Tudor period simplified the story of events into a battle for the throne between the Houses of York and Lancaster.

The first Tudor king, Henry VII, belonged to the Lancastrian family and he married Elizabeth Plantagenet, a princess from the House of York. He adopted the badge of the Tudor Rose (a white rose of York within a red rose of Lancaster) as a symbol of the peace he claimed to have brought to England by uniting their families.

The name of the Wars of the Roses developed as a result of this symbolism.

Dunsop Bridge

There are numerous places that claim to be located at the very centre of the United Kingdom but, according to the Ordnance Survey, the official centre of the Kingdom is in the parish of Dunsop Bridge just a short walk from the village centre.

Dunsop Bridge is the perfect place for those who love to explore local landmarks and admire the breath-taking views this stunning place has to offer.


Lancaster has a fascinating, varied and ancient history, with royal connections.

The Romans established a garrison on the hill by the river. The city’s first recorded name, Lancastre, meaning ‘Roman fort on the River Lune’ is recorded in the Domesday book in 1086.

Of national importance is Lancaster Castle, a Grade 1 listed building which sits in the centre of the city on a hilltop on the site of three successive Roman forts. It is a must for any visitor. The Normans began its construction in the 11th century for defence against the Scots, and it was further fortified and expanded over time. Some notable additions to the structure include the 12th century keep (later raised in height and substance by Elizabeth I in the 16th century as a possible defence against the Spanish Armada), and the 14th century witches tower and gateway.

There was further strengthening of the Castle in the 15th century by John O’Gaunt, the second Duke of Lancaster, one of the best known historical figures associated with the city.

Both the Houses of Lancaster and York were direct descendants of King Edward III (John of Gaunt was the third surviving son of Edward III) and were involved in the Wars of the Roses in the latter half of the 15th century.

The Forest of Bowland

Ward's Stone, the highest point of the Forest of Bowland

The Forest of Bowland is a landscape rich in heritage, designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, much of this beauty is related to the wild nature of the landscape - itself a result of hundreds, if not thousands of years of human activity.

Many of the features present in Bowland today were established in the post medieval period.

Across Bowland there are many fine examples of the stone buildings that were built to replace timber houses between the 16th and 18th centuries, with their characteristic stone mullions, lintels and datestones. There are also sites that survive as isolated reminders of the medieval heritage of the Forest of Bowland, for example the Cistercian monastery at Sawley.

It was the medieval period that perhaps had the greatest impact on the Bowland landscape. During this time the Royal hunting forests were established - the title ‘forest’ refers to hunting rights, and not to a large expanse of woodland, as we interpret it today.

The King used his rights to prevent landowners from clearing and cultivating the land, restricting development and prohibiting change. This controlling influence continued after the Forest laws were revoked in 1507, as deer parks and smaller estates replaced the hunting forests.

There were five main forests - the Royal Forest of Bowland and four others belonging to the earldom of Lancaster at Bleasdale, Quernmore, Wyresdale and Pendle. Hunting in these areas was traditionally for deer and wild boar, together with rabbits, foxes, hares, pheasants and partridges.

The Pendle Witches

The Pendle Witches lived during the reigns of Elizabeth I (1558 – 1603) and James I (1603 – 1625). As a result of King James I’s firm belief in the existence of witchcraft, an Act was passed which imposed the death penalty “for making a covenant with an evil spirit, using a corpse for magic, hurting life or limb, procuring love, or injuring cattle by means of charms”.

The trial took place in August 1612, with Judge Bromley presiding, accompanied by Judge Altham. The Judges were assisted by Lord Gerard and Sir Richard Hoghton. The Prosecutor was a former High Sheriff of Lancashire, Roger Nowell of Read Hall, near Burnley, who had sent the accused for trial, and the Clerk of the Court was Thomas Potts of London.

The prisoners were not allowed to have defence counsel to plead for them, nor could they call any witnesses to speak on their behalf.

In addition to the ten defendants from the Pendle locality, the so-called Samlesbury Witches – John Ramsden, Elizabeth Astley, Isabel Southgraves, Lawrence Haye, Jane Southworth, Jennet Brierly and Ellen Brierly – along with Isobel Robey from Windle, near St Helens and Margaret Pearson, the Padiham Witch, were also tried.

Much of the evidence given by prosecution witnesses was inconsistent, based on rumours, idle gossip and false confessions. The chief prosecution witness against the Pendle Witches was Jennet Device, granddaughter of “Old Demdike”.

At the end of the three-day Assize, a total of 10 people were found guilty of witchcraft, sentenced to death and hanged on the moor above the town.

The Cockerham Devil

St Michael's Church, Cockerham

The Devil once took a liking to the pretty village of Cockerham and decided to take up residence there. He delighted in patrolling the lanes of this sleepy village, frightening the villagers and filling their noses with the smell of brimstone.

At last they called upon the cleverest amongst them, the schoolmaster, to find some way to be rid of him.

In Pilling, it is said that he landed on Broadfleet Bridge – and his footprint can still be seen there, stamped into the stonework.

This is just one of many Devil's Marks in Lancashire, including those found on several stones up on Pendle Hill - like this one:

And, as promised, here is that cracking folk ballad we were talking about...

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