Saturday, 21 November 2020

More monstrous landscapes of medieval Lincolnshire

A previous post on here listed a number of field and other local minor names from Lindsey that made reference to folkloric and monstrous creatures inhabiting northern Lincolnshire; the aim of the following brief discussion is to offer some further names of the same type, based this time on the Place-Names of Lincolnshire, volumes 1–7. Once again, it should be noted that the majority of these names derive from medieval and early modern sources and suggest the existence of local folklore and tales, long since lost, focused on the pits, mires, fields, pools and mounds of the pre-Modern Lincolnshire landscape.

J. R. Skelton's 1908 illustration of Grendel, who is described as a þyrs/thyrs in Beowulf (image: Wikimedia Commons).

Old Norse þurs (thurs)/Old English þyrs (thyrs)—a giant, a monster/ogre/demon

A word indicating a giant or similar monster with a dangerous or destructive nature; most famously found in the Old Norse compound hrímþursar, the 'frost giants', and as a description of Grendel in line 426 of the Old English poem Beowulf. It seems to indicate a malevolent, fen-dwelling monster of the Grendel type, with the Old English Maxims II saying that þyrs sceal on fenne gewunian ana innan lande, 'the þyrs (giant, ogre) shall dwell in the fen, alone in his realm'; compare the Thrusmyre in Edlington parish, 'a mire, Old Norse myrr, inhabited by a þurs'. The names below imply a number of features thought to be either inhabited by—or made by—such creatures in the medieval/early modern Lincolnshire landscape; note, the dates indicate the year in which the name is first documented.

  • Thirsewell, Thorsey Nab, Glentham (1220)—'spring haunted by giants', sometimes with nabbi, 'hill/knoll'.
  • Thyrstpit, Usselby (1372)—'giant-pit' or 'demon-haunted pit'; note, the compound þyrspyt etc is first recorded in a ninth-century Old English charter.
  • Thurspits, Bottesford (1679)—'the pits, hollows haunted by giants, demons or goblins'.
  • Low Thrush pits/Upper thrushpit, Ashby near Scunthorpe (1750)—'the pit/hollow haunted by a demon or giant' or 'giant-pit'.
  • Trusdall, Nettleton (1577)—'the share of land haunted by a demon or giant'.
  • Tursfeild Crosse, Scawby (1669)—'the field haunted by demons, giants or goblins' + cros, 'cross'.
  • Threshole, Saxilby and Ingleby (1766)—'the hollow occupied by a giant or demon'. Note, Bishop White Kennett, in a glossary written in c. 1700, defines a 'Thurs-house or Thurs-hole' as 'a hollow vault... looked on as enchanted holes'.
  • Thirspitts, Waltham (1601)—'the pit occupied by a giant or demon'.
  • Thuswelle closes, Hemswell (1670)—'spring haunted by a giant or demon'.

Image from the title page of 'Robin Goodfellow: His Mad Pranks and Merry Jests' (1629); Robin Goodfellow is generally considered a type of hob or hobgoblin (image: Wikimedia Commons).

Middle English hob(be)—a mischievous spirit/hobgoblin

A word for a mischievous spirit or goblin; a hob in Northern and Midland English folklore was a rough, hairy, creature of the 'brownie' type, whose work could bring prosperity to farms but who could become mischievous or dangerous if annoyed. Household variants might be given new clothes to get them to leave forever, although other hobs lived outside in caves or holes. The normal form in Northern and North Midland counties was apparently Hobthrus or Hobthrust, which is a compound of Middle English hob(be), 'a hobgoblin', and thurs(e), 'a devil, evil spirit', from OE þyrs/ON þurs, 'a giant, monster'; note, Dickins considers hob to be in fact an abbreviation of hobthrus, with the latter being the original form and the hob as a creature thus being a less-malevolent development of the Old Norse þurs (thurs)/Old English þyrs (thyrs).

  • Hob Lane, East Halton (1804)—'a lane haunted by a hobgoblin'; see also the Hoblurke recorded at East Halton in the 1200s in the previous post. A tale of a hobthurst (hob + thurs) from East Halton was collected by Mabel Peacock around the turn of the nineteenth century, when it was apparently living in the cellar of Manor Farm in an iron pot and was described as 'a kind of devil' and 'a little fellow with a big head'. He would apparently help the farmer on occasion, for example driving sheep to the barn so that they could be sheared, although he was also mischievous and once left the wagon on top of the barn; the farmer was meant to leave the hobthrust a linen shirt for his help each year, but when he gave the creature a hempen shirt one year instead, the hobthrust set up an angry wail and refused to ever help on the farm again.
  • Hobbing hole, Lissingleys in Buslingthorpe parish (1846)—'hollow frequented by a hobgoblin', presumably somewhere on the ancient medieval common pasturage and meeting-place of Lissingleys, now in Buslingthorpe parish but before 1851 an extra-parochial area shared between the surrounding parishes.
  • Hobthrust Dale, Burton-upon-Stather (1698)—'the share of land haunted by a hob-thrust, a goblin', with hob-thrust as above.
  • Hobtrust Lane, Goxhill (1775)—another name involving the compound hobthrust < hob(be) + thurs(e). Note, Goxhill is a neighbouring village to East Halton, above.

Jane Eyre encountering Mr Rochester's horse, which she at first mistakes for a Gytrash, a Northern English variant of the 'shag foal' (image: Wikimedia Commons).

The 'Shag Foal'
—a rough-coated goblin horse

Also known as the Tatterfoal, he was goblin horse or donkey that was common across Lincolnshire and seems to have had a preference for hills; he is also said to have haunted Spittle Hill at Frieston, Ogarth Hill at Tathwell, Kirton-in-Lindsey, South Ferriby, and Boggart Lane at Roxby (below). According to Westwood and Simpson, something akin to the 'shag foal' was first mention by Gervase of Tilbury in c. 1211, when he termed it a 'grant'; Eli Twigg of Asgarthorpe in the nineteenth century described the shag foal as 'a shagg'd-looking hoss, and given to all manner of goings-on', including catching hold of anyone riding home drunk, pulling them from the saddle, and 'scaring a old woman three parts out of her skin, and making her drop her shop-things in the blatter and blash, and run for it'.
  • Shag Foal, Ulceby in North Lincolnshire (1826)—a piece of land haunted by a 'shag foal'.

The road from Roxby to Winterton Cliff House in 1898, showing the position of Roxby Mill; this was presumably known as Boggart Lane in the 1830s, where a 'shag foal' was seen by a young man as he passed Roxby Mill  (image: David Rumsey).


'Boggart' was a general northern term for a frightening creature that might be a ghost, malicious fairy or minor demon, with outdoor boggarts generally haunting pits, wells or lonely lanes.
  • Bogger Furlong, Caistor (1649)—a furlong in the old open field that was haunted by a boggart.
  • Boggart Lane, Roxby (1830s)—the boggart haunting this lane, also known as Goosey Lane, may be identical with the 'shag foal' met by a young man as he passed Roxby Mill, which was 'sum'ate as big as a watter-tub' and 'a gret shagg'd thing', with huge eyes; it 'shooved him roond wheniver he tried to slip past it'.

J. R. Skelton's 1908 illustration of the slave in Beowulf who stole the dragon's golden cup, thinking to redeem himself, and thus awoke the dragon (image: Wikimedia Commons).

Dragons, trolls, elves & other creatures

  • Drakehou, drackhole, Owmby by Spital (1330)—probably the hollow inhabited by a dragon, although the earliest form has the second element Old Norse haugr, 'mound, barrow', which would fit with other early-recorded dragons; as the Old English Maxims II puts it, Draca sceal on hlæw, frod, frætwum wlanc, 'A dragon belongs in a mound, old and proud of treasures', and compare Drakelow, Derbyshire, æt Dracan hlawen in 942, which is Old English dracan hlāw, 'the dragon's mound'.
  • Drakehord, Nettleham (1348–9)—Old English dracanhord, 'dragon's hoard'; see above.
  • Draykmoor, Tetney (1764)—Middle English drāke, 'a dragon', + mōr, 'a marsh'.
  • Poke Close, Willoughton (1554)—'the goblin infested enclosure', pūca, compare 'Puck of Pook's Hill'.
  • Trolleheudland, Goxhill (1309)—'the headland (place where the plough turned) haunted by a troll'.
  • Aluehou, Tetney (12th century)—a Scandinavian name meaning 'the mound, haugr, haunted by elves',
  • Scrittecroft, Scothern (1216–72)—'croft, small field' + scritta, probably with the sense 'devil, wizard', cf. ON skratti.
  • Grimesdic, Dunholme (1154–89)—'Grim's ditch', with reference to the Óðinn-name Grímr used as a synonym for the devil.
  • Grimeshow, Nettleham (1348–9)—'Grim's mound/barrow, ON haugr', with reference to the Óðinn-name Grímr used as a synonym for the devil.

The content of this post and page, including any original illustrations, is Copyright © Caitlin R. Green, 2020, All Rights Reserved, and should not be used without permission.

Saturday, 7 November 2020

Some interesting early maps of Cornwall

This post is primarily intended to share images of some of the interesting early maps of Cornwall that still exist, dating from the medieval era through until the early seventeenth century, following on from a similar post on early maps of Lincolnshire. Details of each map and a brief discussion of the principal points of interest are provided in the captions to the following image gallery, which I aim to add to over time.

Detail from the Anglo-Saxon world map from Cotton MS Tiberius B V/1, dated c. 1025–50, probably drawn at Canterbury; click for a larger view. The map is in an unusual rectangular format and is believed to have been based on a model made during the Roman period. Many medieval mappa mundi don't offer any real indication of the Cornish peninsula, but this map clearly depicts it; the British Library notes that the size of the Cornish peninsula is exaggerated' and suggests that this is 'probably reflecting the importance of its copper and tin mines in the ancient world'. The image drawn on the Cornish peninsula is uncertain: it could be two figures fighting, possibly a reference to conflicts between the Britons of that area and the Anglo-Saxon kings of Wessex, as the BL suggests? (image: British Library).
Al-Idrīsī's mid-twelfth-century Arabic map of Britain, from a late sixteenth-century copy in the Bodleian Library, Oxford; the map is split across three different drawings which have been combined together here so that the whole island can be seen (Bodleian Library MS. Pococke 375 folios 281b-282a, 308b, 310b-311a)—click for a larger view. The map is orientated with south at the top, rather than north; the south coast of England runs right-to-left along the top of the map and then down to the bottom right corner. As with the Anglo-Saxon Cotton Map, which may be based on a lost Roman original, the Cornish peninsula is exaggerated and very obvious as the sharp-pointed finger of land on the right of the image, though no towns or rivers are named and the peninsula is noted only as 'the extremity of England'. For more on this map, see my note 'Al-Idrisi's twelfth-century map and description of eastern England', which includes Konrad Miller's redrawn and transliterated version of al-Idrīsī's map, and 'Islamic gold dinars in late eleventh- and twelfth-century England', which maps the towns al-Idrīsī depicts along the south coast, the most westerly of these being Dorchester, Dorset. (Image: Bodleian Library).
Map of Cornwall and the South-West, extracted from the map of England by Matthew Paris, c. 1250; click for a larger view. The names Cornwall, Devon, and Somerset are large labels written in blue and red ink, with Dorset written in red ink; Dorset is oddly placed north of Somerset and Devon is curiously to the north of both of these and slightly to the east of Dorset. The place-name on the far west of Cornwall is Bodmin, with Tintagel then to the north-east of this (above the label for Cornwall), whilst the next name to the east, on the south coast, is Dartmouth, with a river separating it from Totnes and the Scilly Isles then being depicted as an island immediately to the south of these names; the Corpus Christi College Library, Cambridge, version of this map (top half only) also mentions St Michael's Mount in Cornwall on its scale legend, but this is not depicted on this map. Note, the name next to the 'Cornwall' label and on the west of a bend of the river is Exeter, with Portsmouth written vertically below this to the east of Totnes. (Image: BL Cotton MS Claudius D VI, fol. 12v, via Wikimedia Commons).
A portolan chart of south-western England and southern Wales by Genoese cartographer Pietro Vesconte with north on the right, c. 1331, based on his earlier portolan sailing charts and mariners' reports; click for a larger view. The Cornish peninsula is clearly visible, as is the Bristol Channel, and various place-names are readable, including Mousehole, St Michael's Mount, Lizard, Falmouth, Fowey and Plymouth. Note, there is significantly more detail shown of the south coast of Cornwall than there is of the north (Image: British Library).
Close up of Cornwall and Devon on the fourteenth-century Gough Map (c. 1360), which has east at the top and north on the left, showing major roads, rivers and settlements. Cornwall and Devon are written in red on the map, along with a single routeway marked in red moving from the top of the map (east) and ultimately London through to the tip of Cornwall. Important places are marked by drawings of buildings/churches of varying sizes; the names are very difficult to decipher, but the road is believed to terminate at Iwes, St Ives, which is potentially a point of some interest with regard to St Ives's local import. Other places on the map have been identified as Bodmin, Boscastle, Camelford, Fowey, ?Launceton, Liskeard, Looe, Lostwithiel, Padstow, Penzance, Redruth, St Buryan, St Colomb, St Germans, St Michael's Mount, ?Stratton, ?Tintagel, Tregony, and Truro. (Image: Wikimedia Commons).
A redrawn version of the Gough Map showing more clearly the details of the Devon and Cornwall; note, only a few of the names are transcribed on this; click image for a larger view. (Image: Ordnance Survey, 1875).
A portolan sailing chart of Cornwall drawn by Grazioso Benincasa of Ancona, Italy, dated 1466, showing numerous places including Mousehole, Falmouth, Fowey and Portsmouth. It is worth comparing this to the c. 1331 chart by Pietro Vesconte, above, as there is slightly more detail of the north coast, with two bays shown, perhaps St Ives Bay and Padstow/the Camel Estuary. (Image: BnF).
Another, slightly later portolan sailing chart of Cornwall drawn by Visconte Maggiolo of Genoa, Italy, dated 1510; a comparison with the previous portolans of c. 1331 and 1466 shows that there had been further development of the north coast of Cornwall and Devon. (Image: British Library, Egerton MS. 2803 f. 6v).
Extract from the Angliae Figura showing Cornwall and Devon (click image for a larger view), a vellum map probably created in the 1530s and perhaps hanging at Hampton Court as the property of Henry VIII; both this map and the Gough Map are thought to derive from a common source map dating from around 1290. The coastline of Cornwall and Devon is included in this extract, with Devon, Cornwall and Exeter labelled in red. A significant number of place-names in Cornwall are also labelled, including St Just, St Buryan, St Ives, Lelant, St Michael's Mount, St Columb, Falmouth, Padstow, Bodmin, Tintagel, St Austell and Looe; there are also reasonable depictions of the Hayle Estuary, the Fal Estuary, and the Tamar river. (Image: British Library).
The Cornish section of a detailed, ten-foot-long map of south-west coast of England from Exeter to Lands End, dated 1539-40; click here for a zoomable version. According to the British Library, this map is the result of an order by Thomas Cromwell in 1539 for the coasts to be surveyed by local people, with these then being edited and compiled and then presented to King Henry VIII and displayed in Whitehall; the intent was to show where foreign invaders might land, with forts and intended-but-unmade forts marked. The following images consist of details taken from this map. (Image: British LibraryCotton Augustus I. i. 35).
St Ives Bay and the Hayle Estuary on the above 1539-40 map of Cornwall, showing St Ives' church, medieval harbour and the fortification built in 1490 known as 'The Castle' (perhaps modern Quay House on the harbour beach), Phillack Church in the Towans (sand-dunes) of St Ives Bay, and Lelant; click image for a larger view (Image: British Library, Cotton Augustus I. i. 35).
Mount's Bay in around 1540 under a hypothetical invasion scenario, showing Mousehole on the top right, Penzance on the bottom right, St Michael's Mount in the bay, and Chapel Rock between the Mount and Marazion still with its chapel upon it. (Image: British Library, Cotton MS Augustus I i 34)
The Cornish peninsula on the France page of Mercator's Atlas of Europe, which was based on his 1554 wall map of Europe (p. 10). (Image: British Library, Maps C.29.c.13)
Gerard Mercator's engraving of a map of Cornwall, originally produced in 1564 and put together into atlas form in the 1570s; north is on the right hand side for this map, which is thought to have been simply engraved by Mercator from an English original, possibly produced by John Elder to assist the French or Spanish in planning an invasion to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I. It is worth noting that the map offers more detail than many earlier maps, but also has a notable number of inaccuracies, such as the placement of St Michael's Mount as inland rather than in Mount's Bay and St Ives on the east of the Hayle Estuary. (Image: British Library, Maps C.29.c.13).
A section from the detailed Map of Cornwall by William Saxton, dated 1576, included in the atlas of Lord Burghley, first published 1579; click the image for a larger view of this section and here for zoomable version of the entire map. (Image: British Library, Royal MS. 18. D.III, f.8r).
A full view of a different copy of the Map of Cornwall by William Saxton, dated 1576; click the image for a larger view of this map. (Image: British Library).
A map of Falmouth Haven from the atlas of William Cecil, Lord Burghley, dated 1595. It takes the form of a bird's eye view of Falmouth Haven, with St Mawes and its larger sister castle, Pendennis at the mouth. (Image: British Library, Royal MS. 18. D.III, f.16).
Proof version of John Speed's 1611/12 map of Cornwall, which closely followed the Saxton map of 1576 in offering a much more accurate and detailed depiction of the county, but includes additional settlements, rivers and other details; a zoomable version of this map is available here. Speed's map also includes a plan of Launceston and drawings of some stones, including The Hurlers. (Image: Cambridge University).
A map of Cornwall and Devon with places and rivers represented anthropomorphically, drawn by William Hole and used to illustrate Michael Drayton's Poly-Olbionfrom a copy dated 1622; click the image for a closer view or here for a zoomable version. The maps from Poly-Olbion are particularly interested in the rivers of Cornwall and the other counties of England, and depict a nymph for each major river; these are shown 'disporting themselves in a variety of engaging poses', as the Society of Antiquaries puts it(Image: David Rumsey).

The text content of this post and page is Copyright © Caitlin R. Green, 2020, All Rights Reserved, and should not be used without permission.