Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

How long didst thou think that his silence was slumber?
When the wind waved his garment, how oft didst thou start?
How many long days and long weeks didst thou number,
Ere he faded before thee, the friend of thy heart?
And, oh! was it meet, that — no requiem read o’er him—
No mother to weep, and no friend to deplore him,
And thou, little guardian, alone stretched before him
Unhonoured the Pilgrim from life should depart?

–  from Hellvellyn by Sir Walter Scott (1806)

In 1890 a young ‘artist, photographer and landscape painter’ called Joseph Lowe set off from the barn (‘shanty’) his was living in on Home Farm in Grisedale Bridge, Patterdale. He was walking to the summit of Helvellyn to be present at the unveiling of a memorial to another young artist called Charles Gough who had died there in 1805 in mysterious circumstances. Gough’s body hadn’t been found for three months but his faithful dog Foxie had never left him. Poets wrote poems about him, painters painted paintings, as I will tell.  Joseph Lowe would have first walked along Grisedale Beck and then either turned right to climb the vertigo inspiring Striding Edge, a route Charles Gough had taken, or left via Grisedale Tarn, the easier way to the summit.

Striding Edge 3DThe reason I want to write about Joseph Lowe is not so much to do with the fact that he married a Grisdale girl, or even because he lived and walked in places called Grisedale (which didn’t have the E in the nineteenth century); rather he became a wonderful photographer of the Lake District in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

But I like Charles Gough’s story so much I’ll start with him.

Gough was a tourist visiting the Lake District from Manchester in April 1805, when on 17 April he decided to walk over Helvellyn to Grasmere. He took his dog, Foxie, with him and set off via Striding Edge. He was never seen alive again. Three months later on 27 July a shepherd heard barking near Red Tarn, and on investigating, discovered Foxie beside the body of her master. The shepherd summoned assistance, and a crowd returned to the scene. They collected skeletal remains and some of Gough’s belongings, which included fishing tackle, a gold watch, silver pencil and two Claude glasses. Also recovered was Gough’s hat, which had been split in two. From this it was surmised that he had fallen to his death from the treacherous Striding Edge. Foxie was found to have not only survived the months beside her dead master, but had also given birth to a puppy, which died shortly afterwards.The healthy dog and the skeletal remains of Gough led a Carlisle newspaper to report “The bitch had pupped in a furze near the body of her master, and, shocking to relate, had torn the cloaths from his body and eaten him to a perfect skeleton.” Another report suggested that Gough had been eaten by ravens.

Mystery surrounded the circumstances of Gough’s death, not only as to how he had died but why he had attempted the dangerous ascent of Helvellyn without a guide. Gough had been contracted by a local artist to copy drawings, but was renowned for being adventurous to the point of taking dangerous risks. Thomas Clarkson, who had met him reported afterwards that Gough was a “venturesome person” whose headstrong nature had caused the local shepherds alarm”. Gough was to have been guided by a man who was a volunteer in the local militia, but who was busy on parade that day. Gough’s body was subsequently buried in the Quaker graveyard in Tirril.

gough text

The story of Gough and his faithful dog so touched Lakeland poet William Wordsworth that he wrote a poem called Fidelity about it. It was much mocked at the time, but I rather like it. Fidelity (1805) can be found at the end, as well as Sir Walter Scott’s poem of the next year called Hellvellyn; an extract from which I started with. Even Edwin Landseer painted the scene of  Gough’s death, calling it Attachment, see below.

For a slightly less Romantic view of the story do read this.

 

Edwin Landseer's Attachment

Edwin Landseer’s Attachment

Let’s return to budding artist and photographer Joseph Lowe. He was born in Rusholme, Manchester in 1865 into a Wesleyan Methodist family. On leaving school he started to work as a ‘warehouseman’, which he was already doing in Manchester when he was fifteen. But a working-class life in the squalor of Victorian Manchester obviously wasn’t his dream. He was probably something of a Romantic because sometime in the 1880s he set off from the city and found a new home in the Lake District – one of the spiritual homes of English Romanticism. The first home he found was, as mentioned, in a barn (called a ‘shanty’) of  the farmer of Home Farm in Grisdale Bridge near Patterdale in Westmorland. Sometime later, in the 1890s, Joseph moved to a cottage in Grisdale Bridge where his immediate neighbours were the family of Robert Grisdale. Robert was the bailiff of Hall Farm.

During these early years how did Joseph make a living? ‘He had not started to advertise a studio at that time so maybe he worked from home and travelled around taking pictures of the countryside and quite possibly visiting people at their homes to take their portraits.’

By 1901 Joseph calls himself a ‘landscape photographer’ – it seems did had given up his pretentions to be a painter. ‘By this time Joseph will have been taking pictures of the local countryside and selling them to the public.’

jessie 2

Jessie Grisdale Lowe

It was while living at Grisdale Bridge that Joseph would have met Robert Grisdale’s daughter Jessie, who was twelve years his junior. However things happened, in 1905 forty year-old Joseph married twenty-eight year-old Jessie Grisdale in Patterdale church. The couple set up home just down the road at ‘Yew Tree Cottage’ Deepdale Bridge, still in the parish of Patterdale. Here they would live and have the photography studio until Joseph’s death in 1934.

It was probably around this time that Joseph started to produce his landscapes in postcard format for sale to the public as picture postcards were becoming very popular… he travelled all over the Lake District taking topographical photographs and he published them as postcards.

As well as being a prolific photographer, Joseph also took an active interest in the village activities and was involved in some role or another in athletics, cricket, football and rifle shooting.

It was not until 1925, when he was 60 years old, that Joseph advertised his studio in trade directories. His studio was at his home in Yew Tree Cottage at Deepdale Bridge. Maybe his travelling activities had diminished by that stage in his life.

Because of his extensive knowledge Joseph gave lectures and talks about the Lake District.

From Photographers of Great Britain and Ireland, 1840-1940

Yew Tree Cottage at Deepdale Bridge (see below for Joseph's own picture)

Yew Tree Cottage at Deepdale Bridge (see below for Joseph’s own picture)

In 1909 Joseph and Jessie had a son called Geoffrey who didn’t  have his father’s artistic bent and became a ‘road contractor’. Geoffrey married and moved south and later in life his mother Jessie (Grisdale) Lowe probably left Yew Ree Cottage and lived with her son. She died in 1970 aged 94 in Surrey.

To finish I’ll just briefly place Jessie Grisdale’s family. She was the fifth of six children of Hartsop-born Robert Grisdale (1845-1912), who became the bailiff of Hall Fram in Grisdale Bridge, and his wife Rachel Storey. Robert’s parents were John Grisdale (1809-1883) and his second wife Mary Brownrigg. John’s an interesting man; he was born in Hartsop Hall became a miller in Hartsop then a landowner and ‘stateman farmer’ at Beckside Farm, as well as one of the last masters of the Patterdale Hunt before it merged with the Matterdale Hunt in 1871. And John’s parents were the Robert Grisdale and (1782-1861) and Elizabeth Jackson I discussed in a previous article (see here).

Joseph Lowe

Joseph Lowe

Lowe-Joseph-obit

A few of Joseph Lowe’s photographs

lowe new 3lowe new 2lowe new

Patterdale township

Patterdale township

 

Lowe-Joseph-STUDIO-yew-tree-cottage

Yew Tree Cottage, Deepdale

 

Postcard of Ullswater  and St Patrick's Well

Postcard of Ullswater and St Patrick’s Well

 

Helvellyn

Helvellyn

 

FIDELITY (1805)

By William Wordsworth

The young man whose death gave occasion to this poem was named Charles Gough, and had come early in the spring to Patterdale for the sake of angling. While attempting to cross over Helvellyn to Grasmere he slipped from a steep part of the rock where the ice was not thawed, and perished. His body was discovered as is told in this poem. Walter Scott heard of the accident, and both he and I, without either of us knowing that the other had taken up the subject, each wrote a poem in admiration of the dog’s fidelity. His contains a most beautiful stanza:–

“How long didst thou think that his silence was slumber,

When the wind waved his garment how oft didst thou start.”

I will add that the sentiment in the last four lines of the last stanza in my verses was uttered by a shepherd with such exactness, that a traveller, who afterwards reported his account in print, was induced to question the man whether he had read them, which he had not.

A BARKING sound the Shepherd hears,

A cry as of a dog or fox;

He halts–and searches with his eyes

Among the scattered rocks:

And now at distance can discern

A stirring in a brake of fern;

And instantly a dog is seen,

Glancing through that covert green.

 

The Dog is not of mountain breed;

Its motions, too, are wild and shy;

With something, as the Shepherd thinks,

Unusual in its cry:

Nor is there any one in sight

All round, in hollow or on height;

Nor shout, nor whistle strikes his ear;

What is the creature doing here?

 

It was a cove, a huge recess,

That keeps, till June, December’s snow;

A lofty precipice in front,

A silent tarn below!

Far in the bosom of Helvellyn,

Remote from public road or dwelling,

Pathway, or cultivated land;

From trace of human foot or hand.

 

There sometimes doth a leaping fish

Send through the tarn a lonely cheer;

The crags repeat the raven’s croak,

In symphony austere;

Thither the rainbow comes–the cloud–

And mists that spread the flying shroud;

And sunbeams; and the sounding blast,

That, if it could, would hurry past;

But that enormous barrier holds it fast.

 

Not free from boding thoughts, a while

The Shepherd stood; then makes his way

O’er rocks and stones, following the Dog

As quickly as he may;

Nor far had gone before he found

A human skeleton on the ground;

The appalled Discoverer with a sigh

Looks round, to learn the history.

 

From those abrupt and perilous rocks

The Man had fallen, that place of fear!

At length upon the Shepherd’s mind

It breaks, and all is clear:

He instantly recalled the name,

And who he was, and whence he came;

Remembered, too, the very day

On which the Traveller passed this way.

 

But hear a wonder, for whose sake

This lamentable tale I tell!

A lasting monument of words

This wonder merits well.

The Dog, which still was hovering nigh,

Repeating the same timid cry,

This Dog, had been through three months’ space

A dweller in that savage place.

 

Yes, proof was plain that, since the day

When this ill-fated Traveller died,

The Dog had watched about the spot,

Or by his master’s side:

How nourished here through such long time

He knows, who gave that love sublime;

And gave that strength of feeling, great

Above all human estimate!

 

Hellvellyn (1806)

By Sir Walter Scott

 

I climbed the dark brow of the mighty Hellvellyn,

Lakes and mountains beneath me gleamed misty and wide;

All was still, save by fits, when the eagle was yelling,

And starting around me the echoes replied.

On the right, Striding-edge round the Red-tarn was bending,

And Catchedicam its left verge was defending,

One huge nameless rock in the front was ascending,

When I marked the sad spot where the wanderer had died.

 

Dark green was that spot ‘mid the brown mountain heather,

Where the Pilgrim of Nature lay stretched in decay,

Like the corpse of an outcast abandoned to weather,

Till the mountain winds wasted the tenantless clay.

Nor yet quite deserted, though lonely extended,

For, faithful in death, his mute favourite attended,

The much-loved remains of her master defended,

And chased the hill-fox and the raven away.

 

How long didst thou think that his silence was slumber?

When the wind waved his garment, how oft didst thou start?

How many long days and long weeks didst thou number,

Ere he faded before thee, the friend of thy heart?

And, oh! was it meet, that — no requiem read o’er him—

No mother to weep, and no friend to deplore him,

And thou, little guardian, alone stretched before him

Unhonoured the Pilgrim from life should depart?

 

When a prince to the fate of the peasant has yielded,

The tapestry waves dark round the dim-lighted hall;

With scutcheons of silver the coffin is shielded,

And pages stand mute by the canopied pall:

Through the courts, at deep midnight, the torches are gleaming;

In the proudly-arched chapel the banners are beaming,

Far adown the long aisle sacred music is streaming,

Lamenting a chief of the people should fall.

 

But meeter for thee, gentle lover of nature,

To lay down thy head like the meek mountain lamb,

When, wildered, he drops from some cliff huge in stature,

And draws his last sob by the side of his dam.

And more stately thy couch by this desert lake lying,

Thy obsequies sung by the gray plover flying,

With one faithful friend but to witness thy dying,

In the arms of Hellvellyn and Catchedicam.

Notes

In the spring of 1805 a young gentleman of talents, and of a most amiable disposition, perished by losing his way on the mountain Helvellyn, His remains were not discovered till three months afterwards, when they were found guarded by a faithful terrier-bunny, his constant attendant during frequent solitary rambles through the wilds of Cumberland and Westmoreland

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Oh, The grand old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men;
He marched them up to the top of the hill,
And he marched them down again.

And when they were up, they were up,
And when they were down, they were down,
And when they were only half-way up,
They were neither up nor down.

Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York

Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York

I learnt this nursery rhyme as a child. Maybe you did too? I had no idea what it meant, just as I had no idea of who the heck was Mother Hubbard. The funny thing is that nobody else knows either. If the rhyme has any basis in reality it’s probably connected with the Duke of York, Prince Frederick, and his defeat by the French at the Battle of Tourcoing in Flanders in 1794. Certainly it’s got nothing to do with Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, who contested King Henry VI’s right to the throne in the Wars of the Roses in the fifteenth century, although this has at times been claimed.

Actually it doesn’t much matter which of the many Dukes of York, if any of them, provided the historical seeds of the rhyme. If we want to be more realistic we could write:

Oh, The grand old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men;
He marched them up to the top of the hill,
And they never came down again.

This is what nobles do. The Duke of This or the Baron of That, the King of France or the Holy Roman Emperor, they called themselves warriors but actually they were just armed and heavily armoured thugs. If they weren’t leading their men up the hill to their death, they were leading them in the slaughter of the enemy. Sometimes in these battles the nobles died too. But in the middle-ages, in the so-called Age of Chivalry, while they expected the common soldiers, their ‘men’, to be slaughtered without mercy, they expected that if they themselves were facing defeat they would be able to ‘yield’, to be taken prisoner, to be treated honourably while awaiting the collection of a huge ransom paid for their release. The ransom money of course had to be ground out of their ever-suffering tenants and serfs back at home. That is what the common people were for. They only entered the nobles’ consciousness for two reasons: As a resource to be exploited and taxed to maintain their extravagant life-styles and to supply the soldiers to help them fight their never ending squabbles and wars.

Armed Banditti - 1066

Armed Banditti – 1066

Since the development and agriculture and the rise of Civilization this has been so. In 1776 the English radical Thomas Paine, strangely still so loved by the Americans (who without a moment’s thought would call him a ‘Commie’ if he were around today), and less strangely by the French, aptly called the Norman conquerors of England ‘armed banditti’. The ‘French bastard’ William was ‘the principal ruffian of some restless gang’.

These thugs quickly ejected the vast bulk of English aldermen and thegns from their land and divvied up the spoils between themselves. They built castles to protect themselves from a cowed, though still resentful and seething, English population. More importantly the castles also served to ratchet up the level of fear and intimidation. In the long years and centuries that followed they systematically set about reducing the English to de facto or de jure serfdom. All this required periodic doses of repression and violence, a thing these brutal, (though when they really had to fight, not very chivalrous), armed and armoured knights, on their huge war-horses, loved to do.

England was a conquered and occupied country. To use the language of the seventeenth century Levellers, it had fallen under the “Norman Yoke”, where it would remain for centuries.

In the fifteenth century there was a lord in Cumberland called Lancelot Threlkeld who was pretty honest about what the common English people were for.

The principal residence of the Threlkeld family was at Threlkeld in Cumberland; but they had large possessions at Crosby long previous to this time, for in 1304 and 1320 Henry Threlkeld had a grant of free warren in Yanwath, Crosby, Tibbay, &c., and in 1404 occurs the name of William Threlkeld, Knight, of Crosby. Sir Lancelot Threlkeld, Knight, was the son of Sir Lancelot Threlkeld, by Margaret, daughter and heiress of Henry Bromflatt, Lord Vescy, and widow of John de Clifford. He was wont to say he had three noble houses; one at Crosby Ravensworth for pleasure, where he had a park full of deer; one at Yanwath for comfort and warmth, wherein to reside in winter; and one at Threlkeld, well stocked with tenants, to go with him to the wars.

The Battle of Wakefield, 1460

The Battle of Wakefield, 1460

This Lancelot Threlkeld, who ‘stocked’ tenants ‘to go with him to the wars’, was the son of another Lancelot who had married Margaret Clifford, the widow of Sir John Clifford, known variously as ‘the Butcher’, ‘Bloody Clifford’ and ‘Black-faced Clifford’. In  Henry VI, Shakespeare has him killing Richard, the third Duke of York, and his son Edmund, Earl of Rutland, at the Battle of Wakefield in December 1460, during the Wars of the Roses.  John Clifford was soon killed by the Yorkists on 28 March 1461 at Ferrybridge in Yorkshire, on the eve of the Battle of Towton, a brutal affair which brought Edward IV (Richard of York’s son) to the throne. He left a son called Henry who went into hiding and lived as a ‘shepherd’ for 28 years. I wrote about Henry ‘the Shepherd lord’ recently.

It is some of these fifteenth-century goings-on that will be the subject of my next article. For now I’d like to end on a lighter note. Did you ever learn the mnemonic ROYGBIV for the colours of the rainbow? I was also once taught a rhyme to help remember this: ‘Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain’. The Richard here being the one Shakespeare has killed by John Clifford ‘the Butcher’ at Wakefield.

Rainbow- - ROYGBIV

Threlkeld is a lovely place in Cumberland. It lies between Keswick and Penrith and just next to Matterdale. I wanted to tell the story of ‘The Shepherd Lord’, Henry Clifford, the father of the first earl of Cumberland and I probably will. But maybe William Wordsworth , Arthur Clifford, Bishop Thomas Percy and even Isaac Albéniz, can tell it better.

In his long poem called The Waggoner, Wordsworth wrote:

And see beyond that hamlet small,
The ruined towers of Threlkeld Hall,
Lurking in a double shade.
By trees and lingering twilight made!
There at Blencathara’s rugged feet,
Sir Lancelot gave a safe retreat
To noble Clifford; from annoy
Concealed the persecuted boy.
Well pleased in rustic garb to feed
His flock, and pipe on shepherd’s reed,
Among this multitude of hills,
Crags, woodlands, waterfalls, and rills.

Isaac Albeniz

Isaac Albeniz

There is even an opera called Henry Clifford written in 1893-95, the first of a series of operas by Isaac Albéniz which were commissioned and supplied with English libretti by his wealthy English patron Francis Money-Coutts. You can listen to the ouverture here. I find it quite beautiful.

In his 1817 history of the Clifford family called Collectanea Cliffordiana Arthur Clifford tells the full story:

HENRY, LORD CLIFFORD, OF WESTMORELAND, / SURNAMED THE SHEPHERD.

“The life of Henry, Lord Clifford, surnamed the Shepherd, father of the first Earl of Cumberland, exhibited a memorable example of the awful vicissitudes of human grandeur. He is known in history by the name of Lord Clifford, the Shepherd, an appellation which he obtained from the following circumstance. His father, John Lord Clifford, being killed in the fatal battle of Towton, in the year 1460, fighting for Henry VI. and the house of Lancaster; and Edward Duke of York, obtaining the crown, the young Lord Clifford, who was then only seven years old, was exposed to such imminent peril from the victorious party, that his mother Lady Clifford found it necessary to conceal him at a’ farm-house, in the dress of a shepherd’s boy. The memory of his father, and grand-father, who was also killed in battle, was so hateful to the house of York, that all their property was confiscated, and their titles attainted ; and had young Henry been discovered, he would most probably have been put to death. He was first committed to the care of a shepherd’s wife, who lived at Lonsborough, in Yorkshire, the seat of Lady Clifford, his mother, who was a great heiress, and Baroness Vescy in her own right. This woman was particularly chosen for the purpose, as she had formerly been nursery-maid at Skipton castle; and therefore the young lord being well acquainted with her, and very fond of her, he the more readily submitted to his hard condition, and to be separated from his disconsolate mother. And she being examined about her children, replied, that she had given positive directions to have them transported beyond the seas, into the Low Countries, there to be educated, and she knew nothing further about them. This answer was the more readily believed, as she had taken the precaution, immediately on her husband’s death, to send both her children to the sea-side, and the youngest was actually sent into the Low Countries, there to be educated, where he soon after died.

Threlkeld Hall today

Threlkeld Hall today

In this manner, therefore, young Henry lived in complete disguise, near his mother at Lonsborough, till he was fourteen years of age; when his grandfather, Lord Vescy, dying, a fresh rumour prevailed in the court of Edward IV. that the young Lord Clifford was alive; and strict enquiry being made after him, his mother, with the help of Sir Launcelot Threlkeld, her second husband, had him removed, together with the same shepherd and his wife, into Cumberland, where a farm was taken for him on the borders of Scotland. Here he lived as a shepherd for about 18 years; but his good father-in-law often came on purpose to see him, and he was sometimes visited very privately by his affectionate mother. Is it possible to fancy a more romantic and more interesting situation?

The greatest inconvenience which resulted to Lord Clifford from this mode of life was, that his education was entirely neglected; as his mother was afraid even to have him taught to read or write for fear of discovery ; and it was not till he had been restored to his lands and honours that he learnt even to write his own name. But notwithstanding the total neglect of his education, he always appeared to be a very intelligent man, and was an excellent economist in the management of his estate, and fortune. He also became a great builder, and thoroughly repaired all his castles in the north of England, and in other parts; which having been in the hands of strangers for five and twenty years had fallen greatly into decay. Skipton castle, and the lands about it had been given by King Edward the Fourth, to Sir Wm. Stanley; and the county of Westmoreland to Richard Duke of Gloucester, afterwards King of England, by the name of Richard III. In this distressful situation, therefore, he lived as a shepherd till he was thirty- two years of age; when Henry VII. of the house of Lancaster, obtaining the crown, Lord Clifford was restored in blood and honours, and to all his baronies, lands, and castles, by an act of parliament in the first of King Henry’s reign, by which his attainder was reversed, and his property restored.

Lord Clifford having passed his youth in this lowly condition among the mountains, appears to have acquired a decided taste for rural retirement; for he passed the remainder of his life at a romantic spot called Barden Tower, in Craven, where he addicted himself with great assiduity and delight, to the studies of astronomy and chemistry, in which he was assisted by the monks of the neighbouring priory of Bolton. However, he was drawn out of his retreat in the year 1513, when near sixty years old, and was one of the principal commanders in the great victory obtained over the Scotch, at Flodden-field, when he shewed that the military genius of the family had neither been chilled in him by age, nor damped by the strange misfortunes of his youth, nor extinguished by long habits of peace. In the old metrical history of Flodden-field, the following description is given of the followers of Lord Clifford the Shepherd :

From Penigent to Pendle Hill,
From Linton to Long Addingham,
And all that Craven cotes did till
They with the lusty Clifford came.
All Staincliff hundred went with him
With striplings strong from Wharledale,
And all that Hanton hills did climb
With Longstroth eke, and Litton Dale;
Whose milk-fed fellows fleshy bred,
Well browned with sounding bows upbent,
All such as Horton fells had fed
On Clifford’s banner did attend.

Flodden Field 1513

Flodden Field 1513

Lord Clifford, the Shepherd, received a summons to the first parliament held in the reign of Henry VII., and to all the succeeding parliaments of that reign, as well as those of Henry VIII. until his death. But in the twenty-first year of the reign of Henry VII. he fell under the displeasure of that avaricious and umbrageous monarch, for having taken part with the commons against the tax-gatherers; so that the king ordered him to produce all his evidences, in order to show by what right he held his lands in Westmoreland, as well as the office of hereditary high sheriff of that county, which he performed to the complete satisfaction of the king and his council.

This Lord Clifford, of Westmoreland, was twice married. His first wife was Anne, only daughter of Sir John St. John, of Bletsho, and cousin-german to King Henry VII. She was a lady of singular virtue, goodness, and piety; and so great a housewife, that she was one of the first who caused those tapestry hangings to be made, which are so often mentioned by Shakespeare, and other early writers, by the name of Arras; but which in this Lady Clifford’s time, were a great rarity in England. Some of these hangings, with her arms and those of Lord Clifford wrought upon them, were remaining at Skipton castle, in the time of Charles I., but they appear to have been destroyed during the civil war between the king and the parliament. By this lady, Lord Clifford had three sons, and four daughters. His eldest son and heir, who was afterwards Earl of Cumberland, was born in the year 1493.

Lord Clifford’s second wife was Florence, or Florentia, daughter of — Pudsey, Esq. of an ancient family in Craven. By her he had two or three sons who died young, and one daughter named Dorothy, who was married to Sir Hugh Lowther, of Lowther, in Westmoreland, from whom the present Earl of Lonsdale is descended.

Lord Clifford’s widow survived him many years and took to her second husband,, Richard, Lord Gray, a younger son of Thomas, first Marquis of Dorset.

By his last will and testament, Lord Clifford appointed that his body should be interred by that of his grandfather, Henry Bromflete, Lord Vescy,. in the monastery of the White Friars, within the suburbs of London, provided he died in that city or neighbourhood. But in case he died in the north of England, he ordered his body to be buried in the abbey of Shapp, in Westmoreland,. or in Bolton-abbey, in Craven, to both of which he was a great benefactor. He died in one of his castles in the north of England, and ended his memorable life on the 23d of April, in the year 1523.”

The Nut Brown Maid by Joseph Southall

The Nut Brown Maid by Joseph Southall

Arthur Clifford also wrote that: “Dr. Whitaker, in his valuable history of Craven, has conjectured with great appearance of probability, that the romantic adventures of Lord Clifford, the shepherd, gave rise to the beautiful old ballad of the “Nutbrown Maid,” modernised by Prior, in his poem of “Henry and Emma.” The Dr. Whitaker Arthur Clifford refers to was Thomas Dunham Whitaker who was born on the 8th of June, 1759, at Rainham, in Norfolk. He wrote:

“Clifford had a miserly father and a jealous step-mother, and owing to the parsimony of the one and the repelling influence of the other, was led into pecuniary embarrassments, which were the natural result of the extravagance of the court.

To relieve himself of these embarrassments, he did not resort, as is the fashion at the present time, to accommodating Hebrews, but in keeping with the ruder and more picturesque character of the fifteenth century, in which he lived, he became an outlaw, gathered together a band of reckless followers, plundered religious houses, and terrorised whole districts to such an extent that the inhabitants were sometimes compelled to seek refusge in the churches.

Having “sown his wild oats” he reformed and married Lady Margaret Percy, daughter of the Earl of Northumberland. It was about the year 1502 that “The Ballad of the Nut Brown Maid” was first printed, and from internal evidences it is inferred that it must have been written within a very short period of that time. Clifford was celebrated in the use of the bow, and the words of the ballad ‘Such an archere, as men say ye be’, would well apply to him. The outlaw in the ballad, moreover, particularly describes Westmorland as his heritage, and thus identifies himself with Clifford. The high lineage of the “nut brown maid” is in keeping with that of Lady Margaret Percy, and it may be that the young outlaw lurked in the forests of the Percy family, and in a disguise, which he told her covered a knight, won the lady’s heart. The inversion in the ballad of the rank of the parties was probably nothing more than a veil of poetic fiction used to conceal an actual episode which was then recent and well known.”

The Nut-Brown Maid is a ballad included by Bishop Thomas Percy in his Reliques of Ancient English Poetry of 1765. Percy wrote: “The sentimental beauties of this ancient ballad have always recommended it to readers of taste, notwithstanding the rust of antiquity which obscures the style and expression. The text is formed from two copies found in two different editions of Arnolde’s Chronicle, a book supposed to be first printed about 1521. The ballad of the “Nutbrowne Mayd” was first revived in The Muses’ Mercury for June 1707, 4to, being prefaced with a little “Essay on the old English Poets and Poetry,” in which this poem is concluded to be “near 300 years old,” upon reasons which, though they appear inconclusive to us now, were sufficient to determine Prior, who there first met with it. However, this opinion had the approbation of the learned Wanley, an excellent judge of ancient books. For that whatever related to the reprinting of this old piece was referred to Wanley, appears from two letters of Prior’s preserved in the British Museum [Harl. MSS. No. 3777].”

Here I use Arthur Quiller-Couch’s edition, contained in his The Oxford Book of Ballads of 1910. It’s exactly as the original except in slightly more modern English:

I

He.  BE it right or wrong, these men among
On women do complain;
Affirming this, how that it is
A labour spent in vain
To love them wele; for never a dele
They love a man again:
For let a man do what he can
Their favour to attain,
Yet if a new to them pursue,
Their first true lover than
Laboureth for naught; for from her thought
He is a banished man.

II

She.  I say not nay, but that all day
It is both written and said
That woman’s faith is, as who saith.
All utterly decay’d:
But nevertheless, right good witnèss
In this case might be laid
That they love true and continùe:
Record the Nut-brown Maid,
Which, when her love came her to prove,
To her to make his moan,
Would not depart; for in her heart
She loved but him alone.

III

He.  Then between us let us discuss
What was all the manere
Between them two: we will also
Tell all the pain in fere
That she was in. Now I begin,
So that ye me answere:
Wherefore all ye that present be,
I pray you, give an ear.
I am the Knight. I come by night,
As secret as I can,
Saying, Alas! thus standeth the case,
I am a banished man.

IV

She.  And I your will for to fulfil
In this will not refuse;
Trusting to show, in wordès few,
That men have an ill use—
To their own shame—women to blame,
And causeless them accuse.
Therefore to you I answer now,
All women to excuse:
Mine own heart dear, with you what cheer
I pray you, tell anone;
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.

V

He.  It standeth so: a deed is do
Whereof great harm shall grow:
My destiny is for to die
A shameful death, I trow;
Or else to flee.The t’ one must be.
None other way I know
But to withdraw as an outlaw,
And take me to my bow.
Wherefore adieu, mine own heart true!
None other rede I can:
For I must to the green-wood go,
Alone, a banished man.

VI

She.  O Lord, what is this worldis bliss,
That changeth as the moon!
My summer’s day in lusty May
Is darked before the noon.
I hear you say, farewell: Nay, nay,
We dèpart not so soon.
Why say ye so?whither will ye go?
Alas! what have ye done?
All my welfàre to sorrow and care
Should change, if ye were gone:
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.

VII

He.  I can believe it shall you grieve,
And somewhat you distrain;
But afterward, your painès hard
Within a day or twain
Shall soon aslake; and ye shall take
Comfort to you again.
Why should ye ought? for, to make thought,
Your labour were in vain.
And thus I do; and pray you to,
As hartèly as I can:
For I must to the green-wood go,
Alone, a banished man.

VIII

She.  Now, sith that ye have showed to me
The secret of your mind,
I shall be plain to you again,
Like as ye shall me find.
Sith it is so that ye will go,
I will not live behind.
Shall never be said the Nut-brown Maid
Was to her love unkind.
Make you ready, for so am I,
Although it were anone:
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.

IX

He.  Yet I you rede to take good heed
What men will think and say:
Of young, of old, it shall be told
That ye be gone away
Your wanton will for to fulfil,
In green-wood you to play;
And that ye might for your delight
No longer make delay.
Rather than ye should thus for me
Be called an ill woman
Yet would I to the green-wood go,
Alone, a banished man.

X

She.  Though it be sung of old and young
That I should be to blame,
Theirs be the charge that speak so large
In hurting of my name:
For I will prove that faithful love
It is devoid of shame;
In your distress and heaviness
To part with you the same:
And sure all tho that do not so
True lovers are they none:
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.

XI

He.  I counsel you, Remember how
It is no maiden’s law
Nothing to doubt, but to run out
To wood with an outlàw.
For ye must there in your hand bear
A bow ready to draw;
And as a thief thus must you live
Ever in dread and awe;
Whereby to you great harm might grow:
Yet had I liever than
That I had to the green-wood go,
Alone, a banished man.

XII

She.  I think not nay but as ye say;
It is no maiden’s lore;
But love may make me for your sake,
As I have said before,
To come on foot, to hunt and shoot,
To get us meat and store;
For so that I your company
May have, I ask no more.
From which to part it maketh my heart
As cold as any stone;
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.

XIII

He.  For an outlàw this is the law,
That men him take and bind:
Without pitie, hangèd to be,
And waver with the wind.
If I had need (as God forbede!)
What socours could ye find?
Forsooth, I trow, you and your bow
For fear would draw behind.
And no mervail; for little avail
Were in your counsel than:
Wherefore I’ll to the green-wood go,
Alone, a banished man.

XIV

She.  Right well know ye that women be
But feeble for to fight;
No womanhede it is, indeed,
To be bold as a knight:
Yet in such fear if that ye were
With enemies day and night,
I would withstand, with bow in hand,
To grieve them as I might,
And you to save; as women have
From death men many one:
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.

XV

He.  Yet take good hede; for ever I drede
That ye could not sustain
The thorny ways, the deep vallèys,
The snow, the frost, the rain,
The cold, the heat; for dry or wete,
We must lodge on the plain;
And, us above, no other roof
But a brake bush or twain:
Which soon should grieve you, I believe;
And ye would gladly than
That I had to the green-wood go,
Alone, a banished man.

XVI

She.  Sith I have here been partynere
With you of joy and bliss,
I must alsò part of your woe
Endure, as reason is:
Yet I am sure of one pleasure,
And shortly it is this—
That where ye be, me seemeth, pardé,
I could not fare amiss.
Without more speech I you beseech
That we were shortly gone;
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.

XVII

He.  If ye go thyder, ye must consider,
When ye have lust to dine,
There shall no meat be for to gete,
Nether bere, ale, ne wine,
Ne shetès clean, to lie between,
Made of the thread and twine;
None other house, but leaves and boughs,
To cover your head and mine.
Lo, mine heart sweet, this ill diète
Should make you pale and wan:
Wherefore I’ll to the green-wood go,
Alone, a banished man.

XVIII

She.  Among the wild deer such an archère,
As men say that ye be,
Ne may not fail of good vitayle
Where is so great plentè
And water clear of the rivere
Shall be full sweet to me;
With which in hele I shall right wele
Endure, as ye shall see
And, or we go, a bed or two
I can provide anone;
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.

XIX

He.  Lo yet, before, ye must do more,
If ye will go with me:
As, cut your hair up by your ear,
Your kirtle by the knee;
With bow in hand for to withstand
Your enemies, if need be:
And this same night, before daylight,
To woodward will I flee.
If that ye will all this fulfil,
Do it shortly as ye can:
Else will I to the green-wood go,
Alone, a banished man.

XX

She.  I shall as now do more for you
Than ’longeth to womanhede;
To short my hair, a bow to bear,
To shoot in time of need.
O my sweet mother! before all other
For you I have most drede!
But now, adieu! I must ensue
Where fortune doth me lead.
All this make ye: Now let us flee;
The day cometh fast upon:
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.

XXI

He.  Nay, nay, not so; ye shall not go,
And I shall tell you why—
Your appetite is to be light
Of love,I well espy:
For, right as ye have said to me,
In likewise hardily
Ye would answere whosoever it were,
In way of company:
It is said of old, Soon hot, soon cold,
And so is a womàn:
Wherefore I to the wood will go,
Alone, a banished man.

XXII

She.  If ye take heed, it is no need
Such words to say to me;
For oft ye prayed, and long assayed,
Or I loved you, pardè:
And though that I of ancestry
A baron’s daughter be,
Yet have you proved how I you loved,
A squire of low degree;
And ever shall, whatso befall,
To die therefore anone;
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.

XXIII

He.  A baron’s child to be beguiled,
It were a cursèd deed!
To be felàw with an outlaw—
Almighty God forbede!
Yet better were the poor squyere
Alone to forest yede
Than ye shall say another day
That by my cursèd rede
Ye were betrayed.
Wherefore, good maid,
The best rede that I can,
Is, that I to the green-wood go,
Alone, a banished man.

XXIV

She.  Whatever befall, I never shall
Of this thing be upbraid:
But if ye go, and leave me so,
Then have ye me betrayed.
Remember you wele, how that ye dele;
For if ye, as ye said,
Be so unkind to leave behind
Your love, the Nut-brown Maid,
Trust me truly that I shall die
Soon after ye be gone:
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.

XXV

He.  If that ye went, ye should repent;
For in the forest now
I have purveyed me of a maid
Whom I love more than you:
Another more fair than ever ye were
I dare it well avow;
And of you both each should be wroth
With other, as I trow:
It were mine ease to live in peace;
So will I, if I can:
Wherefore I to the wood will go,
Alone, a banished man.

XXVI

She.  Though in the wood I understood
Ye had a paramour,
All this may nought remove my thought,
But that I will be your’:
And she shall find me soft and kind
And courteis every hour;
Glad to fulfil all that she will
Command me, to my power:
For had ye, lo, an hundred mo,
Yet would I be that one:
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.

XXVII

He.  Mine own dear love, I see the prove
That ye be kind and true;
Of maid, of wife, in all my life,
The best that ever I knew.
Be merry and glad; be no more sad;
The case is changéd new;
For it were ruth that for your truth
Ye should have cause to rue.
Be not dismayed, whatsoever I said
To you when I began;
I will not to the green-wood go;
I am no banished man.

XXVIII

She.  These tidings be more glad to me
Than to be made a queen,
If I were sure they should endure;
But it is often seen
When men will break promise they speak
The wordis on the splene.
Ye shape some wile me to beguile,
And steal from me, I ween:
Then were the case worse than it was,
And I more wo-begone:
For, in my mind, of all mankind
I love but you alone.

XXIX

He.  Ye shall not nede further to drede:
I will not disparáge
You (God defend), sith you descend
Of so great a lináge.
Now understand: to Westmoreland,
Which is my heritage,
I will you bring; and with a ring,
By way of marriáge
I will you take, and lady make,
As shortly as I can:
Thus have you won an Earle’s son,
And not a banished man.

XXX

Here may ye see that women be
In love meek, kind, and stable;
Let never man reprove them than,
Or call them variable;
But rather pray God that we may
To them be comfortable;
Which sometime proveth such as He loveth,
If they be charitable.
For sith men would that women should
Be meek to them each one;
Much more ought they to God obey,
And serve but Him alone.

Wordsworth of course wasn’t content with a few lines, he had to tell the story at greater length, which he did in Song at the Feast of Brougham Castle upon the Restoration of Lord Clifford, the Shepherd, to the Estates and Honours of his Ancestors:

High in the breathless Hall the Minstrel sate,
And Emont’s murmur mingled with the Song.
The words of ancient time I thus translate,
A festal strain that hath been silent long:—

From town to town, from tower to tower,
The red rose is a gladsome flower.
Her thirty years of winter past,
The red rose is revived at last;
She lifts her head for endless spring,
For everlasting blossoming:
Both roses flourish, red and white:
In love and sisterly delight
The two that were at strife are blended,
And all old troubles now are ended.—
Joy! joy to both! but most to her
Who is the flower of Lancaster!
Behold her how She smiles to-day
On this great throng, this bright array!
Fair greeting doth she send to all
From every corner of the hall;
But chiefly from above the board
Where sits in state our rightful Lord,
A Clifford to his own restored!

They came with banner, spear, and shield;
And it was proved in Bosworth-field.
Not long the Avenger was withstood—
Earth helped him with the cry of blood:
St. George was for us, and the might
Of blessed Angels crowned the right.
Loud voice the Land has uttered forth,
We loudest in the faithful north:
Our fields rejoice, our mountains ring,
Our streams proclaim a welcoming;
Our strong-abodes and castles see
The glory of their loyalty.

How glad is Skipton at this hour—
Though lonely, a deserted Tower;
Knight, squire, and yeoman, page and groom,
We have them at the feast of Brough’m.
How glad Pendragon—though the sleep
Of years be on her!—She shall reap
A taste of this great pleasure, viewing
As in a dream her own renewing.
Rejoiced is Brough, right glad, I deem,
Beside her little humble stream;
And she that keepeth watch and ward
Her statelier Eden’s course to guard;
They both are happy at this hour,
Though each is but a lonely Tower:—
But here is perfect joy and pride
For one fair House by Emont’s side,
This day, distinguished without peer,
To see her Master and to cheer—
Him, and his Lady-mother dear!

Oh! it was a time forlorn
When the fatherless was born—
Give her wings that she may fly,
Or she sees her infant die!
Swords that are with slaughter wild
Hunt the Mother and the Child.
Who will take them from the light?
—Yonder is a man in sight—
Yonder is a house—but where?
No, they must not enter there.
To the caves, and to the brooks,
To the clouds of heaven she looks;
She is speechless, but her eyes
Pray in ghostly agonies.
Blissful Mary, Mother mild,
Maid and Mother undefiled,
Save a Mother and her Child!

Now who is he that bounds with joy
On Carrock’s side, a Shepherd-boy?
No thoughts hath he but thoughts that pass
Light as the wind along the grass.
Can this be He who hither came
In secret, like a smothered flame?
O’er whom such thankful tears were shed
For shelter, and a poor man’s bread!
God loves the Child; and God hath willed
That those dear words should be fulfilled,
The Lady’s words, when forced away
The last she to her Babe did say:
“My own, my own, thy fellow-guest
I may not be; but rest thee, rest,
For lowly shepherd’s life is best!”

Alas! when evil men are strong
No life is good, no pleasure long.
The Boy must part from Mosedale’s groves,
And leave Blencathara’s rugged coves,
And quit the flowers that summer brings
To Glenderamakin’s lofty springs;
Must vanish, and his careless cheer
Be turned to heaviness and fear.
– Give Sir Lancelot Threlkeld praise!
Hear it, good man, old in days!
Thou tree of covert and of rest
For this young Bird that is distrest;
Among thy branches safe he lay,
And he was free to sport and play,
When falcons were abroad for prey.

A recreant harp, that sings of fear
And heaviness in Clifford’s ear!
I said, when evil men are strong,
No life is good, no pleasure long,
A weak and cowardly untruth!
Our Clifford was a happy Youth,
And thankful through a weary time,
That brought him up to manhood’s prime.
– Again he wanders forth at will,
And tends a flock from hill to hill:
His garb is humble; ne’er was seen
Such garb with such a noble mien;
Among the shepherd-grooms no mate
Hath he, a Child of strength and state!
Yet lacks not friends for simple glee,
Nor yet for higher sympathy.

To his side the fallow-deer
Came and rested without fear;
The eagle, lord of land and sea,
Stooped down to pay him fealty;
And both the undying fish that swim
Through Bowscale-tarn did wait on him;
The pair were servants of his eye
In their immortality;
And glancing, gleaming, dark or bright,
Moved to and fro, for his delight.
He knew the rocks which Angels haunt
Upon the mountains visitant;
He hath kenned them taking wing:
And into caves where Faeries sing
He hath entered; and been told
By Voices how men lived of old.
Among the heavens his eye can see
The face of thing that is to be;
And, if that men report him right,
His tongue could whisper words of might.
Now another day is come,
Fitter hope, and nobler doom;
He hath thrown aside his crook,
And hath buried deep his book;
Armour rusting in his halls
On the blood of Clifford calls,—
‘Quell the Scot,’ exclaims the Lance—
Bear me to the heart of France,
Is the longing of the Shield—
Tell thy name, thou trembling field;
Field of death, where’er thou be,
Groan thou with our victory!
Happy day, and mighty hour,
When our Shepherd, in his power,
Mailed and horsed, with lance and sword,
To his ancestors restored
Like a re-appearing Star,
Like a glory from afar
First shall head the flock of war!”

Alas! the impassioned minstrel did not know
How, by Heaven’s grace, this Clifford’s heart was framed:
How he, long forced in humble walks to go,
Was softened into feeling, soothed, and tamed.

Love had he found in huts where poor men lie;
His daily teachers had been woods and rills,
The silence that is in the starry sky,
The sleep that is among the lonely hills.

In him the savage virtue of the Race,
Revenge and all ferocious thoughts were dead:
Nor did he change; but kept in lofty place
The wisdom which adversity had bred.

Glad were the vales, and every cottage-hearth; The Shepherd-lord was honoured more and more;
And, ages after he was laid in earth,
“The good Lord Clifford” was the name he bore.

‘Twas strange, ‘twas passing strange; ‘Twas pitiful, ‘twas wondrous pitiful. Othello; William Shakespeare.

One cold night in 1766, a 50 year old butcher called Thomas Parker was treating his friends to a few drinks at the Cross Keys Inn in Carleton, near Penrith, Cumberland. He was on his way to his home in nearby Langwathby after a successful day at Penrith market. He had decided, like countless Englishmen before and since, to drop into the local pub for a bit of refreshment. It seems that in his high spirits he flashed his money around a bit. ‘Being somewhat the worse for drink,’ the landlord stopped serving him. He urged Thomas to stay overnight in the Inn. Declining the offer, ‘the shaggy sot pressed on his way’. Not far from the inn ‘this poor muddled man’ was ‘beaten to death… after a violent struggle with the assassin’. When his body was found the next day, it appeared that the attack had been brutal and his purse had been stolen.

Three days later Thomas was buried in Saint Cuthbert’s Church in Edenhall. The parish register states:

Thomas Parker, householder, November 21st. This man was found murdered on the road from Penrith to Edenhall, near the place called Nancy Dobson’s Stone, on Tuesday night, the 18th of this instant….

The Cross Keys Inn, Carleton, Penrith

The Cross Keys Inn, Carleton, Penrith

Who had murdered Thomas Parker? Suspicion soon fell on two men who had been drinking with him: a certain ‘Lee’, who had disappeared, and Parker’s 27 year old godson, Thomas Nicholson. Nicholson was arrested on ‘suspicion’ and sent for trial at the next Carlisle Assizes. He sat in jail for ten months until his case came before the court on 22 August 1787. The evidence against him was, it seems, compelling, but it was all circumstantial. A jury today would probably have found a ‘reasonable doubt, but not the one in 1767. Thomas Nicholson was found guilty of murdering his godfather.

English justice had often been arbitrary and was more often than not a form of social repression and control. It is true that murderers, even traitors, were no longer hung, drawn and quartered, but simple hanging was no longer deemed enough. In the early eighteenth century, there had started to be a sort of punishment inflation. People were being hanged for such crimes as simple larceny i.e. theft. Parliament decided it needed a new law ‘for better preventing the horrid crime of murder’. It felt that ‘some form of further terror and peculiar mark of infamy be added to the punishment’. In 1751 it introduced and passed The Murder Act, saying that, ‘in no case whatsoever shall the body of a murderer be suffered to be buried.’ The Act mandated either public dissection or the ‘hanging in chains’ of the cadaver. Not infrequently both.

Judgement Day for Dissected Bodies

Remember this was the Age of the Enlightenment. An age which, in the previous century, had seen that ‘great’ French Enlightenment thinker Rene Descartes cutting up live animals. When they screamed in agony he told his colleagues not to be concerned because animals couldn’t feel pain as that were only ‘machines’. In England, our Enlightenment thinkers wanted to get a better understanding of human anatomy. But human cadavers on which to experiment were in short-supply. People wanted to bury their dead for simple compassionate and familial reasons and because many still believed that the resurrection of the dead on judgement day ‘required that the body be buried whole facing east so that the body could rise facing God’. The 1751 Murder Act was a welcome bonanza for the early anatomists.

The dissections performed on hanged felons were public: indeed part of the punishment was the delivery from hangman to surgeons at the gallows following public execution, and later public exhibition of the open body itself.

Hanging in Chains

Hanging in Chains

If the court decided instead to sentence the convicted murderer to ‘hanging by chains’, often called ‘gibbeting’, rather than dissection, the procedure was equally gruesome. A contemporary French visitor to England, Cesar de Saussure, wrote:

There is no other form of execution but hanging; it is thought that the taking of life is sufficient punishment for any crime without worse torture. After hanging murderers are, however, punished in a particular fashion. They are first hung on the common gibbet, their bodies are then covered with tallow and fat substances, over this is placed a tarred shirt fastened down with iron bands, and the bodies are hung with chains to the gibbet, which is erected on the spot, or as near as possible to the place, where the crime was committed, and there it hangs till it falls to dust. This is what is called in this country to ‘hang in chains’.

The chains or iron straps were designed to ensure that the body stayed upright and didn’t fall apart while it decayed and putrefied. The stinking body would often be ‘left hanging, sometimes for years, as a gruesome warning. ‘

'Chains'

‘Chains’

This was the fate to which the Carlisle judge sentenced Thomas Nicholson. He was, says the record, to be ‘hanged by chains’.

It wasn’t that hanging by chains was a new punishment, only introduced by the 1751 Act. Not at all, it had gone on for centuries. All the Act did was regularise it. In fact, in the late 1600s: ‘So much highway robbery and other violent crimes were going on – and being prosecuted – that foreign travellers remarked on the great number of gibbets that lined the road from Portsmouth to London. Highwaymen and violent offenders were hanged, their corpses often dipped in tar and then suspended in irons from a post and cross-beam placed near the scene of their crimes. If they weren’t cut down by relatives stealthily in the night and secretly buried, they dangled preserved literally for years along the roadside as a gruesome warning against crime.’

Until the seventeenth century people could be gibbeted in this way while still alive. They might even be placed instead in an iron cage and left to starve. The last case of live gibbeting in Derbyshire’s Peak District happened in the 17th century on the aptly named Gibbet Moor, behind Chatsworth House:

The condemned man was a tramp. He had murdered a woman by pouring boiling fat down her throat when she refused him food. Left to die slowly in his gibbet, the tramp’s torture was drawn out when a well-meaning traveller gave him food. It is said that screams from the moors so distressed the Duke of Devonshire that he personally acted to end live gibbeting in Derbyshire.

The Murder Act had stipulated that convicted murderers were to be executed (by hanging) and then gibbeted or dissected two days after their conviction unless that day were a Sunday and then the gap should be three days. This was the case with Thomas Nicholson, who was, says the Edenhall Parish record, ‘executed and hung in chains near the same place (where the murder had occurred) on August 31st 1767’.

Beacon Hill, Penrith

Beacon Hill, Penrith

The precise place of Thomas’s execution was on the eastern spur of Beacon Hill, near ‘Cowdraik Quarry’, a place chosen so that it could be clearly seen from both the Cross Keys Inn and the town of Penrith itself. It is said there was a large crowd.

For seven months, Nicholson’s body hung in the gibbet, crawling with maggots and picked over by carrion birds, until it blew down. The people of Edenhall, perhaps feeling compassion for the man’s local relatives, gathered Nicholson’s bones into a winding sheet and buried them nearby.

Was Thomas guilty? Well it seems he likely was. His accomplice in the crime, Lee, was hung in York sometime later for other crimes. Before he died, Lee confessed to his part in Thomas Parker’s murder, saying that he was ‘the instigator and Nicholson the perpetrator’.

A spot near where the gibbeting took place was ‘long after distinguished by the letters, large and legible, ‘T. P. M.,’ signifying ‘here Thomas Parker was murdered’. It is said that here on winter nights Nicholson’s unhappy spirit appears again.

William Jobling

William Jobling

Hanging by chains wasn’t abolished in England until 1834. Poor miner William Jobling was gibbeted after his execution at Durham on the 3rd of August 1832, for the murder of a colliery owner. ‘His gibbet was erected at the place of the crime at Jarrow Slake and is described as being formed from a square piece of oak, 21 feet long and about 3 feet in diameter with strong bars of iron up each side. The post was fixed into a 1-1/2 ton stone base, sunk into the slake. Jobling’s body was hoisted up to the top of the post and left as a warning to the populace.’

The body was encased in flat bars of iron of two and a half inches in breadth, the feet were placed in stirrups, from which a bar of iron went up each side of the head, and ended in a ring by which he was suspended; a bar from the collar went down the breast, and another down the back, there were also bars in the inside of the legs which communicated with the above; and crossbars at the ankles, the knees, the thighs, the bowels the breast and the shoulders; the hands were hung by the side and covered with pitch, the face was pitched and covered with a piece of white cloth.

Twenty-one year old bookbinder James Cook became the last man in England to suffer being hung in chains, for the murder of creditor John Paas, at Leicester on the 10th of August 1832. ‘His head was shaved and tarred, to preserve it from the action of the weather; and the cap in which he had suffered was drawn over his face. On Saturday afternoon his body, attired as at the time of his execution, having been firmly fixed in the irons necessary to keep the limbs together, was carried to the place of its intended suspension.’ According to The Newgate Calendar: ‘Thousands of persons were attracted to the spot, to view this novel but most barbarous exhibition; and considerable annoyance was felt by persons resident in the neighbourhood of the dreadful scene. Representations were in consequence made to the authorities, and on the following Tuesday morning instructions were received from the Home Office directing the removal of the gibbet.’

In Book Twelve of The Prelude William Wordsworth wrote:

 We had not travelled long, ere some mischance
Disjoined me from my comrade; and, through fear
Dismounting, down the rough and stony moor
I led my horse, and, stumbling on, at length
Came to a bottom, where in former times
A murderer had been hung in iron chains.
The gibbet-mast had mouldered down, the bones
And iron case were gone; but on the turf,
Hard by, soon after that fell deed was wrought,
Some unknown hand had carved the murderer’s name.
The monumental letters were inscribed
In times long past; but still, from year to year
By superstition of the neighbourhood,
The grass is cleared away, and to this hour
The characters are fresh and visible:
A casual glance had shown them, and I fled..

The gibbet-mast that Wordsworth saw ‘mouldered down’ wasn’t actually that of Thomas Nicholson, although the poem refers to the place, but that’s beside the point.

Once again I would like to leave the last word to A. E. Housman, from the ninth verse of his poem 1887 in A Shropshire Lad. Note that hanging in chains was also called ‘keeping sheep by moonlight’:

 On moonlit heath and lonesome bank
The sheep beside me graze;
And yon the gallows used to clank
Fast by the four cross ways.

A careless shepherd once would keep
The flocks by moonlight there,        *
And high amongst the glimmering sheep
The dead man stood on air.

They hang us now in Shrewsbury jail:
The whistles blow forlorn,
And trains all night groan on the rail
To men that die at morn.

There sleeps in Shrewsbury jail to-night,
Or wakes, as may betide,
A better lad, if things went right,
Than most that sleep outside.

And naked to the hangman’s noose
The morning clocks will ring
A neck God made for other use
Than strangling in a string.

And sharp the link of life will snap,
And dead on air will stand
Heels that held up as straight a chap
As treads upon the land.

So here I’ll watch the night and wait
To see the morning shine,
When he will hear the stroke of eight
And not the stroke of nine;

And wish my friend as sound a sleep
As lads’ I did not know,
That shepherded the moonlit sheep
A hundred years ago.