For a few years in the middle of the eighteenth century, this fellside on the eastern edge of Blencathra was the the site of spectacular scenes.
The first sighting was on Midsummer’s Eve in 1735. A servant of Mr Lancaster watched a procession of ‘soldiers’, some on foot, some mounted, progress across the fell. He reported his sighting, but was widely abused. Two years later, Mr Lancaster himself, with other members of his family, witnessed the sight; on this occasion, they noted that the procession was five men deep, with mounted ‘officers’ riding around to keep them in order. No one believed Mr Lancaster’s report, either. Continue reading
The Spital Inn at Stainmore was in an interesting location. A completely wild part of the country even now, it was for centuries the main route into the Eden Valley and northern Cumbria. During the eighteenth century, the Spital Inn was a crucial part of the long-distance coaching route, and was the place where the national mail coach changed horses before heading down the hill in either direction.
At some point at the end of the eighteenth century – possibly 1797 – the innkeeper, George Alderson, was preparing to settle for the night when an old lady appeared at the door and asked if she could sleep by the fire. Alderson was not a man to turn the needy away, so he assented but asked his maid Bella to sleep downstairs, too. Continue reading
Move over Harry Potter: Cumbria has its own basilisk story. The basilisk, or cockatrice, was a feared mythical beast much talked-about from medieval times until the eighteenth century. Descriptions varied; they almost always had some cockerel body parts (unlike JK Rowling’s snake-like version), with a lizard’s, or dragon’s tail, and optional wings. They killed their victims with poisonous venom or by turning them to stone with a glance. Continue reading