Lost Villages

One of my most read blog posts is the of the lost village of Ravenser Odd, a town once situated at the southernmost tip of the Holderness coast in East Yorkshire. Since it has proved most popular I thought I would give you a taste of a couple of the other thirty or so lost villages along that coastline.

erosion map (1)

Map of the Holderness Coast showing the lost villages

Owthorne and The Sister Churches

The story of Owthorne and its church comes to the fore to illustrate the almost surreal events that occasionally happened when the sea claimed the land.

Owthorne was a small village just north of Withernsea. In the centre of the village was the church, known as one of the Sister Churches. Two sisters owned the manors of Owthorne and Withernsea. Since the two manors ran side by side, they decided to build a church where their tenants could worship. The site of Owthorne Church was agreed upon and building commenced. It was only when the church had reached a certain height that discord between the sisters set in. One wished to adorn the church with a tower and the other to ornament it with a spire.

Square or Pointy? That is the question.

Finally the sisters decided that they would each build a church – one in Withernsea and one in Owthorne – in the design to which they each aspired. For ever after, the churches were known as the Sister Churches but no spire ever graced either church.

Whatever the circumstances of its origin, there is no doubt that the church at Owthorne was constantly under threat from the sea. Originally sited in the centre of the village, as the sea ate away the foot of the cliffs, the church at the top became a cliff-hanger:

‘standing like a solitary beacon on the verge of the cliff’.

By 1786 the church itself was only 12 yards from the cliff and the sea began its work on the churchyard. The villagers and their vicar made plans. In 1793 the chancel was demolished and six years later the rest of the church was partially demolished. It was not until a particularly violent storm in the early years of the 19th century that the remains fell with a crash into the sea.

Whitened bones and coffins landed on the beach and, it is said, that the villagers meandered sorrowfully among these relics, even recognising some of their erstwhile buddies although quite how one recognises a skeleton is a trifle difficult to imagine. It took 15 days of grisly work to collect up the relics, hopefully matching owners and bones correctly, before taking them for reburial to a new churchyard at Rimswell.

gravestone - henry.jpg

In 50 years the villagers of Owthorne saw the church and churchyard, vicarage, houses and streets disappear over the cliffs until almost nothing of their village remained. The second church in Withernsea fell into ruins by the late 19th century and was replaced by the parish church of St Nicholas.

Old Kilnsea

Further down the coast was once the village of Old Kilnsea – called Chilnesse in the Domesday Book. At that time it was several miles inland and established on a hill. Houses and cottages with gardens were clustered around the Medieval church; there was a village pond and green as well as numerous small fields. On the village green stood a large stone cross which was originally taken from the ancient and lost town of Ravenser where it had been erected to commemorate the landing of Henry VI in 1399. It was removed to Old Kilnsea when the sea swallowed up Ravenser. Eventually though, the sea worked its mischief in Old Kilnsea and the cross was removed altogether to safer ground.

By the early 19th century the village was under attack. In 1822 it comprised the church and around 30 houses. 30 years later only a handful of houses and the foundations of the church remained; by 1912 all had gone.

In 1824 the chancel went over the cliff and a couple of years later a huge storm took the north wall, pillars, arches, pulpit, reading desk and books right over the cliff ‘with a tremendous crash’. The tower held out for another couple of years before finally following the rest of the church into the sea.

After the loss of the church, Abbot Geoffrey de Sawtry describes Kilnsea religious observance thus:

‘… This is therefore another churchless village; but having a population of nearly two hundred, they have set apart a room for divine service, in which it is performed every third Sunday, weather permitting; otherwise, it is reported, the worthy pastor, feeling for his flock, grants them an indulgence to remain indoors and takes the same himself.’

The church bell was suspended from a beam in a stack yard and struck by throwing stones at it to call the faithful to their improvised place of worship.

Eventually Kilnsea was resettled to the west. During the First World War a small fort and gun battery was established at ‘new’ Kilnsea but these too have gone the way of the old village. The resettled village is still being chased further inland by the sea.

battery 10

Remains of the Fort and Battery at Kilnsea

battery 7

You can read more in my book ‘Close to the Edge – Tales from the Holderness Coast’ which is an eclectic mix of stories from this remarkable stretch of coastline

‘Like an Owl of the Desert – Lady Anne Clifford

In 1590 at Skipton Castle in Yorkshire the Countess of Cumberland, Margaret Russell gave birth to a daughter, Anne. Her father was George Clifford one of England’s heros; explorer, commander of ships during the Spanish Armada, favourite and champion of Queen Elizabeth I. However, whatever his public reputation, privately he was not much of a husband and father.


Skipton Castle Gateway

George Clifford died in 1605 when his daughter was just fifteen. His final act of neglect was to disinherit his daughter of all the land, titles and possessions of the Clifford estates. Why he did this is not clear. Perhaps he felt that the responsibilities were too much for a young lady to carry. The estate was substantial encompassing the old county of Westmoreland and parts of North Yorkshire. Five castles stood within the boundaries – Skipton to the south, Brougham in the north  with Appleby, Brough and Pendragon in between – in all some 90,000 acres.He willed his estate to his brother, Anne’s uncle Francis and his brother’s male heirs. The problem was that legally, he could not disinherit his daughter. By an entail made by an earlier Clifford, the estates were to be left to direct descendants regardless of gender. In effect George Clifford’s will was invalid and the fight was on!

George had reckoned without his daughter’s persistence, even stubborness and her very acute sense of what was due to her. Together with her mother they start a legal action in the earl marshall’s court which is dismissed. A year later in 1607 they demolish her uncle’s case and the judges decide that half the estate is rightfully hers. Her uncle however refuses to yield any of the estates.

In 1609 Anne marries the Earl of Dorset, Richard Sackville.


Richard Sackville

Like her father he is a courtier with expensive tastes and frequently empty pockets. He takes charge of the lawsuit and in 1615 the courts decide she can chose one or other half of the estates Skipton or Westmoreland but she cannot have them both. But no, Anne is adamant, she wants what she is entitled to and that is that.

The situation hots up. Anne is now subject to criticism from her friends who urge her to settle. Her husband uses both threats and fine words and she suffers an hour and a half of sermonising from the Archbishop of Canterbury. She digs her heels in.

In 1616 she buys time to relieve the pressure on her. She insists that she must discuss the settlement terms with her mother. She goes north to meet her and the response she sends back is ‘a direct denial’ to agree to the settlement. Now the situation really sizzles.

In May that year her husband tells her she may no longer live in his houses, Knowle and Bolebrooke. He sends a message saying he will see her one last time. A further letter is sent telling her to send their only child to London, to be separated from her. Then her husband changes tactics. He tries to sweeten her and delays the separation from her child. The whole affair becomes the talk of the London society and she comes in for heavy condemnation for her intransigence. All the while she is quite alone, living quietly in the country, suffering ill health whilst her husband enjoys himself, expensively, in London. She writes sadly,

‘Being condemned by most folk…I may truly say I am like an owl in the desert.’*

At the end of the month Anne loses her only ally, her mother who dies at Brougham castle.


Brougham Castle

Her husband, ever with an eye to the main chance, sends her to Brougham to take possession. Fights break out between Anne’s faithful retainers and her uncle’s men. Her husband and her cousin are set to fight a duel. The king, James I steps in. He tells her husband to fetch Anne back from the north and he, the king himself, will settle matters once and for all.

So, in January 1617 Anne finds herself back in London and summoned to the king’s presence. He asks both Anne and her husband to trust him and leave the matter in his hands. Her husband readily agrees but Anne beseeches the king to:

‘pardon me for that I would never part with Westmoreland while I lived under any conditions whatsoever.’

The king subjects her to both fair and foul means of persuasion yet still she resists. Two days later she is sent for again. This time she has not only the king and her husband to contend with but also her uncle and cousin plus any number of other nobles.  Everyone agrees to submit to the king’s judgement…except Anne. At this, she is subjected to much harassment. In Anne’s words:

‘The king flew into a great chaffe’

at which point, fearing that she might be publicly disgraced, her husband puts her out of the room. After which a settlement is agreed upon. Her uncle gets all the estates and she is awarded £17,000 compensation which is quickly snaffled by her husband. In effect she has nothing. The fight is over.

However, in all good stories there is a twist in the tale. Anne’s great great grandfather Henry was a keen astronomer and astrologer. There is a tradition that on the birth of his grandson (Anne’s grandfather) he read the stars. He predicted that this new grandson would have two sons ‘between whom and their descendants there would be great lawsuits and that the heirs male of the line should end with these two sons…or thereafter’.

And that is what happened. Anne’s uncle Francis died and the estates passed to his only son, her cousin Henry who died without a male heir.

Nearly forty years after it all began Lady Anne Clifford regained her inheritance and as she approached her sixtieth year she moved back north to claim her lands and never again left them. She died in the great chamber at Brougham castle in 1670.

anne clifford

Lady Anne at 58 years old


*’I am like an owl of the desert; loving solitude, moping among ruins, hooting discordantly.’ Psalm 102:6



Happy Christmas/Bonne Fete



My good intention to blog regularly has crashed down into the nether regions but I thought if I did a quick catch-up I might be saved from hellfire.

I published my first novel The Weave in November.


The transition from writing to publishing has created a whole new ball game. In effect as an independently published author I am running a new business – promoting, marketing, creating copy, promotional offers and so on. It requires some business skills that I had folded away in a drawer and forgotten about and other skills, completely new to me.  It’s a new mind set – from introversion – spending the past eighteen months quietly researching and writing – to extraversion – active on social media, supporting other authors and so on. This is going to take some getting used to.

I am fortunate however. I have no-one to worry about other than myself. It really doesn’t matter that the washing pile reaches the height of an African anthill. House work? Bah, humbug. Not a priority. A quick swish and whish keeps the worst at bay.

Shopping – supermarket dash; cooking – there’s always cheese and biscuits.


Seriously though I do wonder at and admire those with far more responsibilities who still manage to turn out book after book.

My only current commitment is Zouzou, a golden, hairy stray who seems to think I run a B&B exclusively for him. You do realise I’m talking about a dog don’t you? However he gets me out walking which gives me time to think, plan and plot.

Rashly I agreed to help with the Christmas decorations around the village which ate up the better part of a week but worth it for the effects.


One of many!

However with icy winds and teeming rain for the most of the week…well let’s just say it was a challenge, not helped by Zou’s predilection for chewing the garlands I made.

Another week slipped by sorting out my health insurance, council tax payments and gather all the evidence for my application for citizenship. I will have lived in France for the requisite five years this coming February and in view of the Brexit “uncertainties” I want to safeguard my residency status.

Between all this I’m on the first draft of my second novel; set in the seventh century, in Northern England during a time of great change and conflict. It’s also a time when few contemporary accounts were written thus allowing me to let my imagination off the leash.

So perseverance is the watchword or sheer Yorkshire bloody-mindedness if you prefer, as I career towards the end of the year.

Thank you to those who have followed this somewhat erratic blog and to those who have helped me with tweets, retweets and other free publicity. An extra big thank you plus a hug to those who have parted with hard-won cash to buy a copy of The Weave (paperback out in the New Year).

I wish you all happy holidays and the very best for the New Year.

Keep reading!


Kissing Under The Mistletoe


I thought I would beguile you this week with a tale about mistletoe. The ‘season to be merry’ time approaches after all. The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe grows out of Norse mythology and here is the story.

Baldur the Beloved


One of the most beloved of the gods was Baldur, son of Odin and Frigg. He was the god of the summer sun and just one of those handsome, generous, happy, brave guys that was a pleasure to hang out with.

However dark dreams began to trouble Baldur and so the rest of the gods, fearing the worst, got together and voted Odin the man most likely to find out the meaning of the dreams. Odin saddled up his trusty steed Slepnir and rode, incognito, into the underworld to seek out a dead seeress. When he arrived he found the place all decked out in splendour as though waiting for the guest of honour…yep you guessed it, Baldur.

Odin returned to base in Asgard and gave the gods the bad news. Frigg in her distress went around every entity, the four elements, all things living and non-living and got them to swear an oath never to harm her son. What mother could do less?

At this point everyone cheered up and began teasing Baldur throwing rocks and sticks and anything else they could find to test his invincibility. All of which he took in great good humour.

Enter the Villain, Stage Left.


The villain, Loki was an irreverent, malicious trickster. He asked Frigg whether she had really asked all things to swear the oath and she told him ‘all except the mistletoe; small innocent as it is what harm could it do?

‘Ah-ha’ thought Loki, ‘time for mischief’. He cut a bough of mistletoe to make a spear and whispered to the blind god Hodr.

‘Such a shame you cannot join in the fun. Let me help you. Throw this branch at Baldur.’

He put the spear in Hodr’s hand and, standing behind him helped him to hurl it right at Baldur. It pierced him through and through.


The Ransom

Frigg offered to pay a ransom for the return of her son and whilst another of Odin’s sons, (to be called the obscure son), galloped off to the underworld the rest of the gods prepared for Baldur’s funeral.


They took his ship ‘Hringhorni’ (the-ship-with-a- circle-in-the-stem) piled it with goodies, including Baldur’s wife who had dropped dead with grief and his horse. They couldn’t push the ship off the shore and into the water so recruited the help of a giantess who launched it with one mighty shove that shook the world.

Meanwhile Back in the Underworld…

The obscure son of Odin found Hel, the goddess of that region sitting with a pale and wan Baldur. Hel set the ransom thus:

‘let every living thing in the cosmos weep for him and I will send him back; should but one refuse to weep, I will keep him.’

Loki’s Last Trick

The obscure son hastened back to Asgard and messengers were despatched across the cosmos. Everyone wept…except one a giantess who said.

‘Let Hel keep him.’

And so the ransom could not be paid and Baldur remained dead in the cold, dark damp of the underworld.

The giantess was actually Loki in disguise.


However, weep not – there is an alternative ending to this tale that goes:

for three days the cosmos wept for Baldur. His mother’s tears turned into the white berries of the mistletoe. However, all the weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth did the trick and Baldur was resurrected. Frigg vowed to kiss all who pass under the mistletoe. Hence the tradition of a mistletoe kiss was born.



Guest author: Sheila Williams ~ St Tropez, a story extract and a NEW book!

Thank you to Sue Vincent for letting me loose on her blog site.

You can learn more about Sue and her work here: https://scvincent.com/about/

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

When I was fifteen my parents considered me sensible enough to go on an exchange holiday to France. Little did they know. I was excited, nervous. I had never been on holiday alone; I had never been in a plane; my french was execrable which didn’t matter anyway because being shy, I always became tongue-tied with strangers.

I flew from what was then, in the sixties, Yeadon airport (Leeds/Bradford airport). It was just a big shed really in comparison to airports now.  I arrived at Nice airport in the afternoon. It was then that things started to go wrong. No-one came to meet me. I waited and waited, getting more and more anxious. I considered ‘phoning my parents but I knew they would only tell me to come home. The stubborn streak in me wasn’t going to let that happen!

The problem was that I didn’t have the full address…

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TheWeave -#Fantasy -Out Now!



It’s taken eighteen months, two full edits and countless revisions to turn my debut fantasy novel ‘The Weave’ from a two thousand word short story to a seventy-odd thousand word novel. I can almost quote it by heart.

It’s out on Amazon now – a bit earlier than anticipated. Here’s what it’s about:

the weave (1)+blurb


I’ve brought out the e-book first with a paperback to follow.

If you feel motivated to purchase for the incredibly affordable price of £2.99 (or equivalent) just click on the image above and it will whizz you to the Amazon page.

One final request – reader reviews are extremely important to authors. They are the prime influence on other potential buyers and help with Amazon rankings. If you do purchase ‘The Weave’ please leave a review. It doesn’t have to be a long screed – just a star rating and any comments you feel moved to make.

Now I’m looking forward to finishing the next book.

Thank you to everyone who has helped me spread the word. I appreciate your support.




Promote Your Book Party!

A very generous offer which deserves sharing. Thank you Charles

charles french words reading and writing



Hello to everyone! I want once again to offer an opportunity for all writers who follow this blog to share information on their books. It can be very difficult to generate publicity for our writing, so I thought this little effort might help. All books may be mentioned, and there is no restriction on genre. This includes poetry and non-fiction.

To participate, simply give your name, your book, information about it, and where to purchase it in the comments section. Then please be willing to reblog and/or tweet this post. The more people that see it, the more publicity we can generate for everyone’s books.

Thank you for participating!



Celebrate and promote your writing! Shout it out to the world! Let everyone know about your work!

Feel free to promote a new or an older book!

I hope this idea is successful, and I…

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