The Bishoprick Garland or a Collections of Legends, Song , Ballads &c. Belonging to the County of Durham (1834)
OR A COLLECTION OF
Legends, Songs, Ballads, &c.
THE COUNTY OF DURHAM.
[By Sir Cuthbert Sharpe]
“That old and antique song we heard last night,
Methought, it did relieve my passion much,
More than light airs, and recollected terms,
Of these most brisk and giddy-paced times.”
NICHOLS, AND BALDWIN & CRADOCK.
Pour remembrer des ancessours,
Les fez, & les diz, & les mours;
Doit on les livres & les gestes,
Et les estoires lire as festes.
Prologue to Rou des Normand’s MS., 7567.
King’s Library—Paris. VERY County has its peculiarities, affected and modified by localities and accidental circumstances.
Durham, being a maritime County, it might have been expected (which is not the case) that its traditions and ballads would have been “tinged with the colours of the sea.”
The Palatine power, which was defined to be in this County equal to the authority of the King of England in the rest of his dominions, has left but few legendary remains; although the banner of St. Cuthbert* frequently waved over the field of battle. The last important occasion on which it was unfurled, was at the “fatal field of Flodden.”
History has preserved the rise and progress of the See; and this Garland has no higher pretensions than to collect a few of those scatter’d traditions, which are fast fading from the memory, and sinking rapidly into oblivion.
Ritson first collected the songs of the Bishoprick together into a “Garland,” which has exhausted several editions. †
A very amusing volume of the “Rhymes of Northern Bards, being a curious collection of old and new Songs and Poems, peculiar to the counties of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland, and Durham,” was published by Mr. John Bell, jun., ‡ in 1812, which is now out of print.
* Vide “St. Cuthbert,” by the Rev. James Raine, which contains much curious and original information.
† The first edition was published at Stockton, in 1784. A new edition corrected, was printed at Newcastle, in 1792; and a third, in London, in 1809. The title is eminently characteristic: viz.—
“The Bishoprick Garland, or Durham Minstrel, being a choice collection of excellent songs, relating to the above County: full of agreeable variety and pleasant mirth.”
‡ “Then a bookseller on the Quayside, and eminently distinguished for his love of antiquarian pursuits.
And thou, in antiquarian cell,
O’erlooking Tyne’s rich tide,
Long may’st thou see
Thy fair bells three,
Play sportful on its tide,
Cherish that generous spark of thine—
Above low thoughts of trade,
And from antiquity’s rich mine—
Be all thy toils repaid.
Ralph Spearman, of Eachwick, Esq., frequently mentioned a latent intention to arrange the recollections of a long life spent in the acquisition of antiquarian and legendary lore; but it is to be lamented, that he has left no work behind him to perpetuate that extensive local knowledge of which he seemed to be the sole depositary.*
The late historian of the County, who attained a high and marked pre-eminence as a scholar and an antiquary, and whose untimely loss is still the subject of painful and universal regret, took a lively and active interest in the progress of this Garland. From his pages, many of the traditions are gleaned, and amongst his other contributions, he gave a ballad, which, from its force and pathos, will be “vocal to the intelligent,” and requires no index. †
* His greatest pleasure was to communicate information, and in a letter to a young antiquary, he writes— “I can truly say with Hawser Trunnion, though my body is infirm, my memory is perfect, and my age enables me to explain what younger men cannot be acquainted with.” And again, Jan. 3, 1823, “my memory does not fail; try me as you like, so shall I be ready, like a faithful witness, to answer questions.” His was the skill—
“To con old deeds, and statutes disembroil.”
And his character has been faithfully sketched in the following lines:—
Of memory’s treasur’d store.
† Amongst his fugitive pieces, which are numerous, and which it is hoped may be collected and given to the public, the following playful extract, to a collector of dates, will not be misplaced here:—
Oft have we mark’d him in the long drawn aisle,
(With tatter’d banners hung, and scutcheons dreary),
Tracing some half-worn name, or gothic rhyme;
With trewest pains, and patience never weary.
Many of the following articles may appear peurile and trifling, and even obscure to the general reader, from the changes of times and manners; but the antiquary will not prize them the less on that account. Several of the songs belong to the nursery, and to the days of childhood; but, as recollections of by-gone times, connected with—
“The age when human bliss stands still,
Enjoys the good, without the fear of ill,”
they will be welcome to the heart of sensibility, and will bring back to the mind, that association of the gentler affections belonging to a period in human existence, equally free from guile and ambition; the recollection of which still lingers about the heart, though frequently in danger of total obliteration, by the cares and anxieties of a world, where life itself appears to be a perpetual struggle.
Oft have we mark’d him at the ’custom’d hour,
Push through the bustling throng of busy men;
Anxious, methinks, to reach St. Nich’las’ tower,
And gain the vestry ere the clock struck ten.
For reckless pass’d he thro’ the mingled tides,
That of their Argosies and Carracks dream;
So that sweet Arethuse still secret glides,
Nor deigns to mingle with salt Doris’ stream.
Two morns we miss’d him at his wonted task,
Nor aught the Priest, nor aught the clerk could tell:
To count their hoard, and part their glittering prey.
R. S. 18 March, 1817.
Lamentation on the death of Sir Robert Neville, Lord of Raby, in the year 1282; alluding to an ancient custom of offering a stag at the high altar of Durham Abbey, on Holy-Rood day, (Sep. 18th,) accompanied with the winding of horns:—
“Wel-i-wa, sal ys hornes blaw,
Holy-rode this day;
Nou es he dede, and lies law
Was wont to blaw them ay.”
This is probably the oldest genuine rhyme connected with the Bishoprick of Durham.
“Bellasys, Bellasys, daft was thy sowell,
When exchanged Bellasys for Henknowell.”
The family of Bellasyse were seated at Bellasis, shortly after the conquest; and tradition is constant in affirming, that John of Bellasis wishing to join the Crusaders, yet unwilling to leave his paternal acres, exchanged “the green pastures and deep meadows” of Bellasis with the church of Durham, for Henknowle, near Auckland. He lived to return, and to repent his bargain, and the record of this singular transaction was somewhat oddly preserved on one of the windows of the parish church of St. Andrew’s, Auckland, where the lines above quoted were inscribed in a belt encircling the arms of Bellasis.
The popular reading, still remembered in the neighbourhood of Bellasis, runs
“Johnny tuth’ Bellas daft was thy poll
When thou changed Bellas for Henknoll.”
The motto assumed by the family is “Bonne et belle-assez;” v. Hutchinson and Surtees.
CONYERS OF SOCKBURN.
“Sockburn, —where Conyers so trusty
A huge serpent did dish up,
That bad else eat the Bish-up,
But now his old faulchion’s grown rusty, grown rusty.”
The ancient service by which the manor of Sockburn was held, was by the presentation of a faulchion to the Bishop of Durham, on his first arrival in his diocese.
The ceremony is still retained; and the lord of Sockburn, or his steward, meets the bishop in the middle of the Tees, or on Croft bridge, and presents the faulchion, with the following address:—
“My Lord Bishop, I here present you with the faulchi on where with the champion Conyers slew the Worm, Dragon, or fiery flying Serpent, which destroyed man, woman, and child; in memory of which, the King then reigning gave him the manor of Sockburn, to hold by this tenure, that upon the first entrance of every bishop into the country this faulchion should be presented.”
The bishop takes the faulchion into his hand, and immediately returns it courteously to the person who presents it, wishing the lord of Sockburn health, and a long enjoyment of the manor.
This tenure is distinctly noted in the inquest held on the death of Sir John Conyers, in 1396; and the ancient service by which this manor was held proves the legend to be of no modern origin.
No doubt some gallant exploit is veiled under this chivalroutale, with at least an adumbration of truth.
The observance is still continued, and the steward of Sir Edward Blackett, the present lord of the manor, presented the faulchion to Bishop Van Mildert on Croft Bridge.*
THE BRAWN OF BRANCEPATH.
The boar, or brawn of Brancepath was a formidable animal which made his lair on Brandon Hill, and walked the forest in ancient undisputed sovereignty from the Wear to the Gaunless. The marshy, and then woody vale, extending from Croxdale to Ferry wood, was one of the brawn’s favourite haunts, affording roots and mast and the luxurious pleasure of volutation. Near Cleves-cross, Hodge, of Ferry, after carefully marking the boar’s track, dug a pitfall, slightly covered with boughs and turfs and then toling on his victim by some bait to the treacherous spot, stood armed with his good sword across the pitfall.
“At once with hope and fear his heart rebounds.”
* See Hutchinson, vol. 3, p. 149; Surtees, vol. 3, p. 243.
At length the gallant brute came trotting on his onward path, and seeing the passage barred, rushed headlong to the vile pitfall.*
TEMPEST AND UMFREVILLE.
“The martlet and the cinq foil notes
The Tempest und Umfreville coats.”
This auncient rhyme toke use in the Northe, on the cote of Tempest of Holmesett.