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Myths And Legends

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Peak District Myths and Legends

As the early morning mists descend upon the Dark Peak, or the hazy heat from the sun distorts the lush green pastures of the White Peak, it is not hard to imagine the Peak District has been around much longer than we have, and has a huge wealth of myths and legends. Some are true and some are......... who knows? Peak District myths and also its legends add to the mystery and wonder of the place, adding a sense of it being a world apart, a place where magic can happen and weird and wonderful things are all around.


The Legend of Winnat's Pass

If you drive through Winnat's Pass, just outside Castleton in the night-time, it's not hard to believe that it's haunted by two ghosts with a tragic love story. The murder and robbery of Allan and Clara occurred in the 1700's. They were on their way riding to Peak Forest to be married at the famous Runaway Church, and arrived at Castleton in the dark. They stopped at a local inn, where a group of lead miners noticed they were carrying a large bag of money and when they resumed their journey, they were robbed and murdered, their bodies hidden and not discovered for many years. The two runaway lovers died together, but divine justice punished their five murderers in the end. One broke his neck in the Winnat's, a second was crushed under falling stones, and another committed suicide, one died mad and the fifth made a deathbed confession. It's possible to see Clara's red leather saddle in the shop in The Speedwell cavern at the entrance to the Pass.


The Legend Of King Arthur

'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight' is a legend from mediaeval Arthurian times, and has links with the wonderfully contorted outcrop that is The Roaches in the Staffordshire moorlands.  It's a 14th century romance which highlights the importance of honour and chivalry, involving a hero going on a quest, testing his prowess, accepting the challenge from the mysterious Green knight who challenges him. He is invited to strike him with an axe, if he will take a return blow in a year and a day. The Green Chapel is in nearby Back forest. Where resides a deep cavern on the hillside above Gardbach in Staffordshire, called Lud's Chruch, which has been suggested as the scene of Gawain's fateful rendezvous with the Green Knight. It is not hard to imagine because it is over 100 meters long and 18 metres deep, mossy and overgrown and is wet and cool even on the hottest days - it is also very green!
Lud's Church was definitely used as a remote place where Lollards came to worship, the followers of John Wyclif, in the 16th century. The legend goes that during a raid, the leader of the pack's daughter was shot in the ravine and that she still haunts it to this day.


The Legend Of Robin Hood

One of the most common legends is those revolving around England's most famous folk hero and outlaw Robin Hood. It is thought he was a frequent visitor to the Derbyshire landscape and there are a lot of place names which mention him, so it must be true, or is it? One such place is 'Robin Hood's Stride,' near Winster, which is an amazingly impressive grit stone outcrop, with two isolated pinnacles, quite far apart. It is thought the outlaw must have had superhuman powers because he actually strode across the breadth of it but he must've also been a giant! The other name for the weird shaped rocks is Mock Beggar's Hall, due to its resemblance to the ruined building when it is seen from a distance, silhouetted in the dark.


Little John was reputedly a giant and was allegedly born in Hathersage in the Hope Valley and was a nail maker by trade. His huge grave is visible today, cared for by The Ancient Order Of Foresters, just outside the porch in the grave of St Michael's Church in Hathersage . They come annually to pay tribute but sadly there is no conclusive evidence that Littlejohn ever existed.


Another reference to Robin Hood is the nearby grit stone escarpment of Stanage Edge. 'Robin Hood's Cave' has been a real hiding hole for climbers and walkers, and it's great to have a wander up there with the kids to let them play and think that Robin Hood actually stayed here overnight. There are also references to Robin Hood's and Littlejohn's Wells on the National Trusts Longshaw estate and there is also a hamlet and pub called the Robin Hood on the A619 Chesterfield Road.


The Fatal Duel in Winster

In May 1821 there was a duel at Winster where a young surgeon was killed. His name was William Cuddie and that the tender age of 31 , he fell in love with Mary, the daughter of a wealthy Brittlebank family. Her brother tried to keep them apart, and one evening the two men quarelled. Ouddie received a note, challenging him to a duel but he refused to reply. The next afternoon, the three Brittlebank brothers turned up in his garden with two loaded pistols and Cuddie reluctantly accepted one of the weapons. Two shots were fired, but only Cuddie died, and it is thought his pistol wasn't loaded. Two of the Brittlebanks were tried in Derby and found not guilty and the brother involved in the duel fled to Australia with £100 reward on his head, still having descendants living in Australia today. Mary is thought to have married and moved away, but returned to Winster in her later years.


The Christmas Eve Murder In Hassop

In 1866 on Christmas Eve, Edward Wager spent the morning in the pub at Hassop, arriving home at Bleaklow Farm near Great Longstone in a very aggressive mood. He was annoyed to find a neighbour, Alice Hancock at home with his wife, Harriet, who ran outside to get out this way, used to feeling her husband's fists. Alice last saw him chasing Harriet across the fields and she screamed 'murder.' Harriet was sadly found in the dam near Deep Rake lead mine and three months later, Edward was tried for the murder, sentenced to death and was later commuted to life imprisonment.


The Legend of Cutthroat Bridge , Near Lady Bower

This takes its gruesome name from a 400 year old murder and an old document tells the story of a chap named Robert Ridge, who came across a man with a wound in his throat. The man was still alive and Ridge and other helpers carried him into a house half a mile away and then onto Bamford Hall, where he died two days later. A bridge was built about 40 yards from where the victim was found and the local people always refer to it as Cutthroat Bridge. The present bridge was built in 1821 and another murder victim was found here a few years ago, minus his head.

Gibbets In The Peak District

Dotted around the Peak District, there are all sorts of place names with gibbets in the name. Gibbet's Moor, Barn, several Gibbet's woods and also Gibbet's fields. A gibbet was a scaffold where the corpse of a criminal was hung as a warning to others and in early times the criminal was gibbeted alive and left to starve to death. In April 1815, the body of Anthony Lingard of Tideswell was gibbeted at Wardlow Miers. Hannah Bocking of Litton was a 16 year old servant girl and in 1888 was turned down for a job. Another local girl, Jane Grant was taken on instead and Hannah hit her jealousy and remained friends with Jane, until one day they were out walking past the skeleton of Lingard in the gibbet. She gave Jane a poisoned cake and soon Jane was dead. A minstrel of the peak, William Newton, was moved by the grief of Lingard's father, and wrote a poem called 'Supposed Soliloquy Of A Father,' which began to change public opinion and there was no more gibbeting in Derbyshire from then on.


The Potty Murder Of Matlock

the Reverend Julius Benn and his son William, arrived at Matlock in 1883 for hydropathic treatment and rest and booked into a small boarding establishment, Harley House at the bottom of Steep Turnpike. Six days later the guests failed to come down for breakfast and the proprietor went upstairs and found the reverend lying dead with a heavy porcelain chamber pot nearby. His son was wandering around in a state of confusion and had tried to cut his own throat and blood was everywhere. William later confessed he had beaten his father with the potty, but was too ill to be charged with murder and suffered a severe mental breakdown. The bloodstains were still there when the house was sold in 1995.


The Legend Of Lovers Leap

Jilted lover Hannah Adderley of Stoney Middleton threw herself off the steep cliffs of Middleton Dale in 1762 only to be saved by her petticoats, which acted like a parachute and gently carried her down to a thorn bush below. Sadly she died unaware that of natural causes only two years later.


There are lots of myths and legends and we have just scratched the surface but if you have any more but you can add then please e-mail them in to us at info@peakdistrictonline.co.uk and we will add them to this page.