top of page

Lancashire: Widdershins

Updated: Jul 1

Where is Lancashire?

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

Liver Bird

The liver bird is a mythical creature which is the symbol of the English city of Liverpool. It is normally represented as a cormorant, and appears as such on the city's arms, in which it bears a branch of laver seaweed in its beak as a further pun on the name "Liverpool."

Representations of the bird can be found throughout Liverpool, most numerously on the heritage lamp standards in the town centre on which small versions sit as a top piece. The two most famous stand atop the clock towers of the Royal Liver Building at Liverpool's Pier Head, overlooking the Mersey. Their names are Bertie and Bella. The male, Bertie looks over the city and the female, Bella looks to the sea. The building, headquarters to the Royal Liver Assurance, was opened in 1911. The metal cormorant-like birds were designed by Carl Bernard Bartels and constructed by the Bromsgrove Guild of Applied Arts.


Scrimshaw is the name given to a handmade craft created by sea faring men, usually whalers who carved and etched the teeth and bones of whales and other marine mammals. They are often very beautiful. The craft came out of the mariners having a lot of time on their hands while out at sea. Particularly whalers, waiting for a catch.

It is thought the word “Scrimshaw” is derived from a mix of Scandinavian, Dutch and English slang for 'wasting time' or 'state of idleness'. Whaling voyages could last 3, 4 and sometimes 5 years and there would be long periods of time with nothing to do and so “scrimshandering” became a popular pastime which kept men occupied and out of trouble. Scrimshaw was most popular in the early 1800s when the whaling industry was at its peak; by the late 1800s this art form had almost died away.

Liverpool's Three Graces

Port of Liverpool Building

The Port of Liverpool Building is a Grade II listed building, which was designed and constructed between 1904 and 1907. Between 2006 and 2009 underwent a major £10m restoration that restored many original features of the building. The Port of Liverpool Building is in the Edwardian Baroque style and is noted for the large dome that sits atop it, acting as the focal point of the building.

Cunard Building

The Cunard Building is a Grade II listed building, which was designed and constructed between 1914 and 1917. The building was, from its construction until the 1960s, the headquarters of the Cunard Line, and the building still retains the name of its original tenants. Today, the building is owned by the Merseyside Pension Fund and is home to numerous public and private sector organisations. 

Royal Liver Building

Overlooking the River Mersey and dominating one of the world’s most famous waterfront skylines, is Royal Liver Building. This iconic symbol of Liverpool, built in 1911, and at the time, the tallest building in Europe, has the enviable status of a Grade 1 listed landmark building. Today the Royal Liver Building is one of the most recognisable landmarks in the city and is home to two fabled Liver Birds that watch over the city and the sea. Legend has it that if these two birds were to fly away, then the city would cease to exist.


Scouse is the city's traditional dish. A stew often made with lamb, beef, or both, it originates from the word 'lobscouse', which was a stew often eaten by sailors throughout Northern Europe, popular in port cities such as Liverpool. By association, Liverpudlians are known as Scousers, and many have their own special recipes for this delicious Liverpool staple. Recipes can vary from the ingredients to the method and most families will make the claim that theirs is the 'best' scouse in Liverpool. 


  • 500g Diced beef chunks

  • 500g Lamb mince

  • 3 Medium onions

  • 5 Carrots

  • 600g

  • Peeled potato

  • 1 Leek

  • 1 litre Beef stock 

  • 2 tbsp Tomato puree

  • 2 tbsp Black treacle

  • 1 tbsp Wholegrain mustard


  • Heat a large saucepan or stock pot over a high heat, using vegetable oil brown the beef until fully coloured and remove from the pan.

  • Seal lamb mince in the same pan until completely coloured.

  • Reduce to a medium heat and add chunky diced onion, peeled and roughly chopped carrots cook until they begin to soften. Add beef back to pan and stir.

  • Stir through tomato puree until fully combined, add peeled potatoes cut into large chunks (halves or quarters) dependent on size of potatoes.

  • Add beef stock or water (use 2 beef stock cubes).

  • Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until the beef is tender or until the potatoes start to break down and thicken the Scouse, approximately 2 hours.

  • Add sliced leeks, treacle and mustard and cook for a further 20 minutes, check seasoning and add salt if required.

  • Serve with crusty bread, pickled red cabbage or beetroot.

John Roby

John Roby (5 January 1793 – 18 June 1850) was an English banker, poet, and writer.

Roby wrote an influential, two-volume study on English folklore, The Traditions of Lancashire, in 1829. The book was a hit with the British upper classes, and it was reprinted within a year. Roby published a second series in 1831. Francis Palgrave thanked Roby for the work and asked him to write more.

Nevertheless, readers did not believe that a banker could have written the books, and speculation named several others as the real author, including Crofton Croker who included, though, one plagiarised story in the collection. The works were condensed into three volumes and republished in 1841 for the general public as Popular Traditions of Lancashire. Roby wrote in the introduction that he intended to continue with volumes on other popular English traditions, but he never followed up on the promise. Different versions of The Traditions of Lancashire were reprinted in 1906, 1911, 1928, and 1930.

Monument of William Mackenzie

Interred in 1851, William Mackenzie's name is mentioned in many Liverpool guidebooks owing to the fact that grave is marked with an impressive fifteen foot (4.57 metre) pyramid shaped tombstone.

The story, often told as a sworn truth, goes that McKenzie was a keen gambler and left instructions that he should be entombed above ground within the pyramid, sitting upright at a card table and clutching a winning hand of cards . Some tellers go one step further asserting that MacKenzie ensured that his body was never committed to the earth as a means of cheating Satan out of claiming his immortal soul . It follows almost naturally that tales of MacKenzie’s ghost roaming the overgrown churchyard and surrounding area are told today by many local folklorists and tour guides alike .

Mancunium Roman Fort

Hidden beneath the bustling streets and modern buildings of Manchester, lies a remarkable piece of history – Mamucium. Often referred to as “Mancunium,” this ancient Roman fort represents the city’s rich and multifaceted heritage. In this article, we’ll embark on a journey back in time to explore the captivating story of Mamucium and its role in shaping the history of Manchester.

Mamucium, believed to have been established around AD 79, was a crucial Roman fort located in the region now known as Manchester. Its strategic location near the confluence of the rivers Medlock and Irwell made it an ideal site for controlling trade routes and serving as a key military installation within the Roman province of Britannia.

The fort was constructed in a typical Roman fashion, featuring defensive walls, ditches, and a gatehouse. Mamucium served as a supply depot for the Roman fort of Deva Victrix (modern-day Chester) and played a significant role in maintaining Roman control in the region.

Waddow Hall and Peg O'Nell

The Grade II listed 17th century Waddow Hall has been owned by the Girl Guides Association since 1928. There is an old folk tradition associated with Waddow Hall and the ghost of Peg O’Nell or Peg o’ th’ Well.

"Peggy’s Well.—Peggy’s Well is near the Ribble, in a field below Waddow Hall, not far from Brunckerley stepping-stones, in attempting to cross by which several lives have been lost, when the river was swollen by a rapid rise, which even a day’s rain will produce. These calamities, as well as any other fatal accidents that occur in the neighbourhood, are usually attributed to Peggy, the evil spirit of the well. There is a mutilated stone figure by the well, which has been the subject of many strange tales and apprehensions. It was placed there when turned out of the house at Waddow, to allay the terrors of the domestics, who durst not continue under the same roof with this mis-shapen figure. It was then broken, either from accident or design, and the head, some time ago, as is understood, was in one of the attic chambers at Waddow. Who Peggy of the Well was, tradition doth not inform us."

Blackpool Pleasure Beach

Pleasure Beach Resort, formerly known as Blackpool Pleasure Beach, is an amusement park situated on Blackpool's South Shore, in the county of Lancashire, North West England. The park was founded in 1896 by A. W. G. Bean and his partner John Outhwaite. The current managing director is Amanda Thompson.

The park is host to many records, including the largest collection of wooden roller coasters of any park in the United Kingdom with four: the Big Dipper, Blue Flyer, Grand National and Nickelodeon Streak. Many of the roller coasters in the park are record-breaking attractions.

When it opened in 1994, The Big One was the tallest roller coaster in the world. It was also the steepest, with an incline angle of 65° and the second fastest with a top speed of 74 miles per hour (119 km/h). The ride holds the record as the second tallest roller coaster in the United Kingdom, standing at 213 ft (65 m), with a first drop of 205 ft (62 m) and the longest roller coaster in Europe, with a track length of 5,497 ft (1,675 m).

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...

6 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page