The Naughty Nuns of Nunkeeling

Today’s tale is the last one in this series for a while; partly because I shall be away for the next couple of weeks and partly because The Book is almost ready for proper editing. Some of the nuns in this tale seem to have been feisty ladies but possibly owing to the degree of shock the Archbishop experienced or a wish to avoid corrupting the innocent – he is lamentably sparse with the details…you will need to use your imagination! Here’s what my imagination tells me:-

The Naughty Nuns of Nunkeeling
Used to Get a Peculiar Feeling
When the Archbish Made his Laws
They Sharpened their Claws
And Slipped into Something Revealing

Nunkeeling Nunnery was founded in 1152 and for the first century or so life appeared settled and the ladies of the habit modest and devout if somewhat underfed and under-dressed – their poverty was severe.

It was not until 1314 that we learn of intransigence and naughty…er… habits. To smother this licentious behaviour, the Archbishop of York issued a number of rules:

1. No nun to miss services because she is absorbed with her sewing or other more agreeable tasks .
2. All doors to be kept locked, all the time and regularly checked to be so; all keys to be held by the sub-prioress and one other worthy woman.
3. The sub-prioress must investigate who was nicking the alms given to the nunnery and if it was the elemosinaria (the nun whose task it was to distribute alms) or if she was negligent she must be removed from office.
4. No young nun “concerning whom sinister suspicion might arise” may consort with or have meals with the lay brothers nor with any other man, inside or outside the nunnery, except she be chaperoned by an older nun. There’s no further explanation of “sinister suspicion” but I guess that the old Archbish was concerned that girls will be girls.
5. No nun to look dashing by wearing designer accessories of the day such as a flashy girdle or pair of Medieval Jimmy Choo’s and definitely not to wear anything unsuitable for a religious house.
6. No nun to be allowed out except on nunnery biz or to visit friends and relatives, in which case she must be accompanied by a worthy nun.

The same year as the Archbish issued his rules one of the nuns, Isabella St Quintin held the post of cellarer which was an important role within the community. However, that year the Archbish ordered her to be removed from this office in front of all the other nuns (huge disgrace); he forbade her to hold any further office and ordered her to keep within the nunnery walls. Clearly she had offended his male sensibilities in some way but the Archbish is just too coy or too shocked to dish the dirt.

For a time after, it did seem that the ladies of the nunnery obeyed the rules but their rebellious fires were merely damped down rather than extinguished.

Isabella appears to have remained popular with the other nuns because a couple of years after the Archbish’s rules, they all voted her the new prioress. The Men of the See of York were having none of this and quashed the election, claiming a breach of canonical procedure. Unfortunately their choice, Avice de la More, did no better and in 1318 they ordered her to desist from her conspiracies, rebellions and disobedience on pain of losing her retirement pension. Presumably she had regulated the nuns in a lax way as other examples of non-nun-like behaviour come to light. Dionisia Dareyns was to be incarcerated in the nunnery on account of her disobedience and to be disciplined every Friday. Avice de Lelle was most strictly forbidden to have any dealings with Robert de Eton, the chaplain and she too was locked up after she confessed her “incontinence” with him and ordered to do penance.

The following year, the poor old Archbish was forced to enquire yet again into the rebellious nuns of the house of Keeling since information had reached his unsullied ears that some of the ladies had ignored their vows of obedience and devotions to engage in intrigues. They had revealed secrets of the chapter to secular persons. On top of all that, he learned “with a bitter heart” that our Avice had yet again broken her vows of obedience and submission.

After this point there is nothing juicy to be learned from the records of the House of Nunkeeling apart from boring housekeeping details and eventually, along with the other religious communities, it was shut down by Henry VIII in 1537.

I wonder if the Archbishop of the time breathed a secret sigh of relief.

A Tale of Two Piers

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. The arrival of the railways to previously undistinguished coastal towns and villages provided a wonderful opportunity for such places to develop into that bastion of Britishness – the seaside resort together with its promenade, boarding houses, battleaxe landladies and sand in the unmentionables . Today’s tale is of Hornsea – one little east coast resort with aspirations…

The railway came to Hornsea bringing flocks of day trippers from cities like Hull to breathe the bracing sea air. Up and down Britain’s coastline, seaside towns were adding visitor attractions to entice these trippers to part company with their hard-earned “brass”. Little Hornsea was no exception and its leading light, “King Hornsea” was a gentleman called Joseph Armytage Wade. He was a businessman, a significant local employer, had all ten fingers in twenty local pies and was liberally endowed with all the necessary characteristics – bombastic, over-bearing, self-righteous – to earn the title of town prat. He decided that what Hornsea really needed to attract visitors was a pier and to this end, in 1865, he formed a company and obtained the necessary permissions to build one. He got as far as driving ten piles into the sand of the proposed site and then stopped. The ten piles, known locally as the ten virgins stood, as all good virgins should, untouched for the next ten years.

Roll forward ten years and enter into the lists one Pierre Henri Martin du Gillon – a foreigner and sacre bleu, French to boot. Du Gillon bought a well-situated lump of land and drew up the most visionary and spectacular plans for “his” pier – known as the South pier. He didn’t just want a plank platform sticking out to sea; no, his plans included housing, a hotel, an aquarium and gardens. He proposed protecting it all by a huge sea wall. Yet there was more. He cleverly planned a a quay for fishing boats such as the herring fleets where they could land their catches. The quay would be linked by a tramway to the railway station and from thence to the fish markets at Hull. The plan outshone anything Mr Wade had ever come up with. The townsfolk rubbed their hands with glee (and to make sure that the anticipated wealth stuck firmly to them).

There was just one teensy-weensy fly in the ointment – du Gillon needed a narrow strip of land to link the proposed site to the railway station – land owned and suddenly cherished by Mr Wade. Discussions were opened, cordiality the plat du jour and our Frenchman came away from those discussions under the impression he had reached an agreement with Wade for the sale of the strip of land. Du Gillon drew up the agreement and Wade refused to sign it.

From that point on it was shovels at ten paces and the dispute would reach into the highest courts in the land. Thinly veiled allegations, not so veiled insults, letters to the press – Wade threw the works at du Gillon and yet sensing he had the townsfolk and two powerful local landowners behind him du Gillon pressed on. Wade’s current actions and earlier inaction stirred up the town against him but he was nothing if not a doughty fighter. When Du Gillon applied for a compulsory purchase order for the land, Wade, as Chair of the local Board of Health, whilst appearing to support du Gillon’s plans pointed out that the strip of land impinged on local sewage arrangements and the Board would need to think very carefully before supporting the purchase order in case it affected the town’s health interests. It was all a pile of poo but it potentially threw yet another shovel in the works for du Gillon. But he rode his luck and buoyed on by local support applied for permission to build his pier. Nothing daunted Wade hit back with his own application to build his pier – the North Pier and battle was joined. Finally both men appeared before a House of Commons select committee whose chairman ruled thus:
Each of you agree to the construction of the other’s pier or permission will only be granted for the building of one pier.

In the end, they agreed the compromise and little Hornsea was to become a two pier town.

Du Gillon was first out of the stalls in the building stakes but his scheme was doomed to failure. His capital had been eaten up with legal costs and he discovered that converting public support into public funds was akin to the water and wine miracle and certainly beyond his talents. He ran out of cash to splash and finally the weather did for him. A fierce storm blew up destroying his equipment and machinery overnight. He wound up his pier company and left Hornsea never to return.

His rival, after some serious gloating, fared little better when it came to finances and although the North pier was finished for the summer of 1880, one of the construction companies to whom Wade owed money took out a restraining order preventing Wade from taking possession of it. So whilst Hornsea had a pier stretching out to sea, it couldn’t actually be used. Later that autumn, during a violent storm, the brig the Earl of Derby lost her sails and was driven inexorably onto the newly built pier. The omens were not auspicious.

Eventually in the summer of 1881 Wade’s North pier opened but never really attracted the paying punters and the locals weren’t overly enthusiastic either – especially about paying to go on it -some having a habit of breaking in after hours. Wade died in 1896 and his pier just outlasted him before being demolished in 1897. Thus ends the tale of two piers.

Local Boys Made Good

In 14th century England change was in the air as the feudal system began to crumble. Ordinary folk started to wake up and question why they needed the bloke in the big house up the top end of the village to lord it over them. This is a period that marks the rise of the merchant class – the self-made men.

Fine specimens of this new class in society were the De la Pole brothers, William and Richard successful wool merchants who, before moving to Hull, hailed from Ravenser Odd – a once famous port founded on the Holderness coast and now lost to the sea.

They arrived at their wealth through wool export but by lending huge wads of cash to their royal highnesses Edward II and Edward III the brothers swelled the family coffers.

Richard began to spend his time carrying out various duties and services to the King which took him overseas leaving younger brother William to manage the merchant business. When Richard went to live in London in 1331 they dissolved their 20 year partnership. The document recording this is a model of brotherly love as they each “forgave all manner of injuries done, said and thought from the time of coming into the world to the writing of this deed” as well as freeing each other from any obligations. Then they divvied up the spoils of the business which were huge.

William continued to serve the King. He became the first mayor of Hull and fitted out ships with men and munitions for the King’s silly wars against the Scots. In 1339 he redeemed, almost certainly with his own money, the crown jewels which the King had pawned for 50000 gold florins. The king, whose debt to him by this time exceeded £100,000 in old money, created him the Chief Baron of the Exchequer and that’s when the snag came.

Edward was not a miserly King; he liked to live well, make a few wars now and then to keep his people on their toes and didn’t have a problem with living way beyond his means. To fund another minor war in France he demanded money not of William but of the kingdom. He wanted tithes, taxes and vast number of woolsacks to sell. William, who had readily mortgaged all he owned, would not mortgage the country. He told the King that the amount he demanded could not be raised without the very great likelihood of his having a war with his own people, never mind the French. Edward III was majorly miffed, threw his loyal and honest banker in jail and withdrew all privileges and possessions he had given him. A trumped up charge of wool smuggling was levied against him. To obtain a pardon the wily old royal made William wipe out all debts as well as give up his estates in Burstwick near Hull. Nevertheless, there was still plenty left for him to undertake a series of charitable works back in Hull before he died in 1366.

A Weighty Matter

One of the most important issues in doing any sort of historical research is finding sources contemporary or nearly so, to the times you want to write about. In researching the history of the East Yorkshire (aka Holderness) coastline I’ve reason to be grateful to one Thomas, Abbot and Chronicler of Meaux Abbey – although he was a bit long in words and wind. I thought I would enrich your day by explaining how his Abbey came to be founded.

The story of the founding of Meaux Abbey has much to do with the age and girth of one William le Gros, (Known as Fat Willy to his friends), Count of Aumale and, at the time (around 1151), the Lord of Holderness. Fat Willy had a problem. In his younger and slimmer days he had taken a vow to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. However this was one of those things in life that just kept getting put off until in 1150, now elderly, with a waistline that you would need a week to walk around, William looked for a way to be released from his vow.

A chance meeting with Adam, a monk from Fountains Abbey provided the solution. He could be released from his promise to pilgrimage if he stumped up the funds to establish a religious community. Adam selected what he considered a suitable site, thumping his staff on the ground and proclaiming to the few interested sheep grazing close by:
“Here shall be ordained a people worshipping Christ.”.

Unfortunately, William had already earmarked the land for his own hunting playground and tried to convince Adam that other, more worthy sites were available. He cajoled and threatened but Adam was nothing if not determined. He and his staff stood firm and the abbey was built in 1151, populated by monks from Fountains Abbey and led by Adam who presided as abbot until 1160.

Perhaps, after all though, Fat Willy had the last quiet laugh. The site Adam chose was not the best. It was located, about 12 miles inland from the coast, in the flood plain of the River Hull. Although amply provided with water, woodland and pasture the land around was marshy and liable to flood causing the abbey severe problems at times. In fact, the community at Meaux was regularly beset with difficulties and struggled against pestilence, debt, lawsuits and conflict both within the abbey itself and with other religious communities.

When the uxorious Henry VIII came on the scene taking unto his bosom the wealth of the monasteries, Meaux Abbey was already in some disrepair and it didn’t take much to reduce it to rubble. Today a few lumps and bumps in the middle of the field are all that remain of Fat William’s gift and Adam’s abbey.

Photo: © Copyright Jonathan Fry and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Ravenser Odd – The Town Under the Sea

Today’s tale, an extract from my book ‘Close to the Edge – Tales from the Holderness Coast’  is of the 13th/14th century lost town of Ravenser Odd, now lying under the North Sea, off the Humber estuary in East Yorkshire


By and large they were a bad lot in Ravenser Odd:
“The town of Ravenser Odd was an extremely famous borough, devoted to merchandise with many fisheries and the most abundantly provided with ships and burgesses of all the boroughs of that coast. But yet, by all its wicked deeds and especially wrong-doings on the sea, and by its evil actions and predations, it provoked the vengeance of God upon itself beyond measure.”

Such was the verdict of the Chronicler of Meaux Abbey in the mid-14th century when documenting the destruction of the town. The Abbey records reveal that the town began life as a sandbank, probably an island, thrown up by the tides and currents between the river Humber and the North Sea. Located off the tip of Spurn Point and about a mile off the Holderness coast, at some point it became accessible from the mainland.

The sandbank grew and was initially inhabited by a handful of enterprising souls selling provisions to passing ships. Around 1235 the Count and Countess of Aumale whose fiefdom embraced Holderness, recognised the strategic possibilities of the site and started to build the town. A few years later the monks of Meaux Abbey got in on the act and acquired buildings there for storing fish and other provisions.

The town prospered. Its position between the Humber and the North Sea was perfect for fishing, trading and servicing shipping. Perhaps being at the outer reaches of the Holderness coast and away from any regular attention of the law, the men of Ravenser Odd were able to develop their own approach to trade by intercepting merchant ships and “persuading” them to berth at their port rather than at Hull or Grimsby. This practice, called forestalling, became a bone of contention with the merchants of Hull and Grimsby who saw their own trade suffer. In 1290 the King instituted an Inquiry into the deeds of the Ravenser Odd men. Grimsby merchants asserted that the Ravenser Odd men would:
“go out with their boats where there are ships carrying merchandise and intending to come to Grimsby with their merchandise. Said men hinder those ships and lead them to Ravenser Odd harbour by force when they cannot persuade them amicably”.
The men of Ravenser Odd triumphed at the Inquiry with all charges not proven and even commended for their entrepreneurship.

The town flourished with more than 100 houses, warehouses, quays and other port buildings. It was granted borough status in 1298/9 for which the then huge sum of £300 was paid. It is in keeping with the spirit of the town that little of the money was actually handed over.

Yet there is still some evidence that the Ravenser Odd men found it hard to shake off old ways and become model citizens. Around 1300 two Norwegian merchants petitioned the English king claiming that when their ship was driven ashore off Ravenser Odd:

“men came from there with force and arms and stole our ship and goods.”

The petition ends with a plaintive request for remedy and compensation for their goods as they “have nothing from which to live”.

Under the King’s patronage, whatever piracy and misdemeanours were committed were ignored and the town grew in importance, wealth and prosperity. The town was represented by two MPs in the Model Parliaments of the time and supported the king in the wars against the Scots by providing ships, provisions, arms and men.

However by the middle of the century it became clear that the golden years of Ravenser Odd were drawing to a close. Merchants started to move away as the flooding by the sea became more regular and more serious. There were a number of petitions made for the lowering of taxes because buildings and land had been washed away.

In 1355 flooding damaged the chapel in the town exposing bones and corpses. These were removed for reburial elsewhere. The chapel itself was ultimately washed away but not before some of the townsfolk looted many of its artefacts.

The town was abandoned soon after and, unsurprisingly, it became something of a pirates’ lair until the coup de grace was applied in 1362. In January of that year a south-westerly gale raged across the UK. This storm known as the Great Drowning of Men combined with unusually high tides, produced a storm surge that swept the last stones of Ravenser Odd back to the sea. The town founded on a sandbank vanished without trace.

spurn across the binks1

Chips With Everything

Today it’s time for the tale of Tom Moman who lived in the early part of the nineteenth century in East Yorkshire. He was a man whose wits were found to be wanting – a chucklehead or noddycock if you want the vernacular. Indeed for some time even up to the last century should anyone do or say something foolish, he might well have been called a “Tom Moman” in derision:
“Eeh tha big lummox, tha’s a reet Tom Moman”.

Be that as it may, Tom presents something of a paradox; on the one hand he is derided as a half-wit and on the other, the tricks he got up to show a great deal of native wit and shrewdness. Take for example the story of the great potato pie.

For those of you lacking an agricultural education a potato pie was a method of storing potatoes over winter. You dug them all up and lay them on a bed of straw in the field and then covered them thickly with more straw and finished the pie of with a “crust” of well-slapped down earth.

Now in a certain Holderness village there lived a farmer who was more than careful with his “brass” – he was downright mean and miserly. He was a tough old bugger and his one pleasure in life (that we know of) was driving a particularly hard bargain. One autumn, after a productive potato harvest he made his “pie” in a small field a little away from the farm at the other end of the village.

On a dark autumn night, Tom, who did odd jobs to earn a penny or two, came to Miserly Farmer’s door with a heavy sack of potatoes that he had paid for from his earnings. Miserly Farmer, knowing of Tom’s reputed lack of wits, took great delight in bantering and browbeating him until he accepted sixpence for the sack of spuds. Delighted with the bargain Miserly Farmer asked Tom to bring more sacks and he would purchase them at the same measly price of sixpence.

Every few nights for a month or so, Tom would shuffle up to Miserly Farmer’s door, bent double under the weight of a sack of potatoes. Every few nights Tom would pocket his sixpence and Miserly Farmer would chuckle and congratulate himself at having beaten down the half-wit.

Later that winter, Miserly Farmer wanted to open his “Pie” and move some of the potatoes down to his barn. Seeing Tom lollygagging around the village he asked him to help him in this task. Tom agreed. The next morning, Miserly Farmer waited for Tom to show up but he never did. Fuming, he plodded off to the potato field to move the potatoes himself. When he got there, he found the pie had been opened up and his spuds nicked.

Tom had his revenge – all these past weeks he had been selling Miserly Farmer his own spuds and pocketing the sixpences.

Personally I think his reputation for half-wittedness undeserved. Tom merely reflects the old Yorkshire saying:
‘Ear all, see all, say nowt; Eyt all, sup all, pay nowt; And if ivver tha does owt fer nowt – Allus do it fer thissen.

Email me if you need a translation!

Winner Takes All

Time for another tale of the Holderness coast and this one involves two abbots and an argument about who can fish where.
Photos of Hornsea Mere, Hornsea
This photo of Hornsea Mere is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Fish were much munched in the 13th century and Hornsea Mere – the last surviving, post ice-age lake in the area – teemed with the wee beasties. Local spiritual homes, the abbeys of Meaux (rhymes with juice – don’t ask) and St Mary’s each had fishing rights on the Mere with supposedly a clear boundary between each abbey’s patch. However, the boundary wasn’t clear and the abbots of each establishment accused the other of poaching their perch and pike. Unable to resolve their disagreement through prayer and persuasion, the abbots opted for trial by combat – the most common way of resolving land, boundary and other disputes back in those days.

Trial by combat or Duellum was a fancy French method of resolving disputes brought over to England by no less than Billy the Conqueror. Each party to the dispute hired champions to fight on their behalf and last man standing was the winner. Once the champions agreed to do battle on behalf of their paymaster, they each gave the judge in the dispute a gauntlet with one penny in each finger.

Arriving at the fight arena suitably dressed for the rumble, each champion swore an oath affirming the rightness of their paymaster’s cause. They also solemnly promised they were not smothered in concealed charms, talismans or other magic tokens and had eschewed all forms of sorcery. It was to be a fair fight.

Now the Abbot of Meaux was probably a bit more worldly than his adversary and he mopped up the market for champions by employing seven of the best around at great cost to the abbey. In monopolising the market in this way he forced St Mary’s abbot to employ the left-overs and, by inference, the less accomplished. The appointed day of battle dawned; the disputed boundary marked out and the champions set to no doubt watched by a host of locals having a bit of a flutter out of sight of the holy men.

Trial by combat only ended when one party was dead or cried “craven” to submit. The abbots’ champions knocked seven bells out of each other for most of the day before surprise, surprise, the men of Meaux submitted and owned themselves beat.

Imagine the chagrin of the Abbot of Meaux after going to all that effort to secure the best and especially when back in his treasure house he counted the cost of his failed endeavour.

Clearly, on this occasion, might was not right.
Pictures of Hornsea Mere - Attraction Photos
This photo of Hornsea Mere is courtesy of TripAdvisor

One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things

The title quote from Henry Miller is right on the money this week for me.

I started to pull together all the considerable research I’ve been doing for my book on the lost villages of Holderness. For once I’ve managed the research notes pretty well, even if I have to say it myself. One folder for each village or village cluster working from north to south down the coastline. Each folder contains my “visit” notes where I tried to locate the lost site without disappearing myself under a freezing North Sea –although I cut it fine once when I got the tides wrong and went home with a soggy bottom (soggy not saggy…and yet the mirror never lies). In addition there are notes from historical documents, copies of maps and photographs. By and large a goodly haul of data and now all I have to do is to turn it into something magical, readable and sellable.

Trouble is, once I started on the first of what is usually a zillion drafts, my ever sharp, incisive brain cell that has just returned from its holiday in La-la Land – noticed a theme emerging. I mean how many different ways can you say “Fell into the sea, 1413” “Went back to the sea 1172” and so on? Even old Roget the Thesaurus would be hard pressed to find sufficient verbs to describe falling, slipping, sliding, tumbling, going arse over tip etc all whilst keeping a reader’s interest. Ay, and there’s the rub – the whole saga (as I had conceived it) is mind-numbingly, eye-wateringly, jaw-breakingly bloody boring- just ‘words, words, mere words’. How could I have been so stupid? That’s a rhetorical question folks. One day a week for I don’t know how long, I’ve ventured forth bristling with cameras, notebooks, pens, thermos and water wings to search for evidence; all that time and effort for what?

But soft, what light through yonder tunnel breaks? (Those of you still with me will notice something of a Shakespearean touch this morning.) OK, so the plopping into the sea of thirty or so villages is a trifle tedious not to say repetitive, but what I also have hidden within my notes is a far more interesting story; it’s the story of the people and communities along the coast who, down the centuries, have lived with their hungry, briny neighbour lapping at their doorsteps. These communities have learned to adapt or perish and as far as this book is concerned, I think I have to do the same. Sorry Lost Villages – you’re only part of a much larger story – you’ll just have to exit stage left minus the bear.

(Altogether too much Shakespeare in the Park – Ed)

Close to the Edge

As it is the weekend, I thought I’d give you another story gleaned for my book about the Holderness Coast. I’m still trying to find a title for the book; to date its working title has been the Uncertain Coast – in reference to the fragile nature of the coastline. However, it’s a naff title so I’ve moved on to Living at the Edge. If any of you have any ideas pleeeeeese tell me.

Anyhow, to commemorate the start of the 2013 Ashes series – that’s the traditional cricket series v Australia for those not in the know – I thought I’d tell you a tale about the disappearing village of Skipsea. True Followers of this blog may remember Drogo and Skipsea castle but this story rolls us forward several centuries from the 1100s to the 1950s. At that time Skipsea was a peaceful, sleepy backwater, beloved by post-war caravan and chalet tourists. Its regular inhabitants numbered around 350. The only thing disturbing the peace was the constant nibbling away at the land by the hungry sea on Skipsea’s doorstep.

However, in deepest Aldermaston, the boffins at the Atomic Research Establishment were hatching a plot to convert sleepy Skipsea into the UKs first above-ground nuclear test site. It was this tranquil character plus proximity to local RAF bases that won the casting vote from the Aldermaston boffins.

Once the initial shock/horror passed, common sense and a helping of recalcitrant Yorkshire character prevailed when Skipsea’s great and good pointed out the proximity of the proposed test site to bungalows and beach huts with a public right of way running through for good measure.

The Aldermaston folk eventually came to their senses and switched their focus back to Australia where the first test had been carried out. 12 further tests were carried out in the mid 1950s, giving a whole new meaning to the terms “Test Series” and “Ashes” and a shameful legacy from nuclear testing lives on today.

Have a great weekend.

My Arm is Long and My Vengeance Total

The title of this post is one of my favourite quotations taken from the film Billion Dollar Brain, based on the book by Len Deighton. I use it frequently to keep friends and relatives in their proper places. However, in researching stories for my book on the lost villages of the Holderness coast I discovered a gory tale which illustrates the quote perfectly. Being the generous sort of gal I am, I thought I’d share it with you.

The little village of Kilnsea squats right down on the southern tip of the Holderness coast, open to all the elements and particularly the depredations of the sea. There’s not that much left of it now, just a small huddle of cottages. But the story goes that back in the seventeenth century a horrendous, gory crime was committed there by a woman called Peg Fyfe. A few claimed she was a witch but everyone knew she was the leader of a band of ruffians, practising theft and extortion with equal aplomb.

Deciding to rob a Kilnsea farmer of his horses, she threatens and terrifies the farmer’s servant lad into leaving the stable door open one night so she can perpetrate said theft. She promises that should he reveal the plot to anyone she will skin him alive. The lad, being of Yorkshire stock and therefore having more wits about him than most, is torn between fear of Peg and duty to his gaffer. Craftily he asks the farmer to come to the stable and in his presence the lad whispers to the horses telling them what’s going to happen – thus letting the farmer know what game was afoot whilst not spilling the beans directly.

Peg and her mob come to get the horses only to find themselves on the receiving end of a load of lead shot. Despite being injured she and the gang get clean away.

For weeks the lad is terrified of going anywhere for fear of Peg. But as weeks turn to months and nothing more is heard of the gang, the lad gets braver and goes further afield only to find himself one day snatched by the robber gang and taken to Peg. There she makes good her promise and flays the poor boy who despite the agony makes nary a squeak until it comes to the skin on his palms and the soles of his feet when he emits a terrible cry, heard far out at sea. He crawls home, a bloody mass before snuffing it on his doorstep. Peg, the charmer, was later captured and hanged for her many crimes.

Now isn’t that an uplifting story to start your day (or finish it)?