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Old Nick and his footprints are back….!!!!

old nick - 1

I endeavoured to include a link to the following article, but it was far too long, and the resultant Tinyurl simply would not transfer. Very strange. One might almost say devilishly so! Anyway, I do hope Tara MacIsaac will not mind that I include the article in full, because I gladly acknowledge her work Devil’s Hoofprints Spotted in the Snow? which appeared in Beyond Science, Epoch Times, December 17, 2014.

On Feb. 9, 1855, in the county of Devon, England, residents were mystified when they awoke to find strange tracks in the snow—tracks unlike any animal tracks they’d seen before. As groups of people across multiple villages spanning some 40 to 100 miles followed the tracks, curiosity turned to a mounting sense of horror and dread.

“Some 4–5 inches long and in the shape of cloven hooves, they went up walls, across rooftops, from one side of objects inexplicably through to the other side. They seemed to sink so low in the snow, it’s almost as though they were hot and seared their way through. At spots, the tracks seemed to disappear, only to reappear some ways off, as though the being that made them had flown for a short stretch. The single-file prints suggested a biped.

“In some villages, it seemed the maker of the tracks had visited nearly every home.

“Was it animals? Was it a case of mass hysteria? Was it a trick played by some mischief-makers? Was it, as many believed, the Devil himself? No one really knows. Let’s take a look at the accounts, the evidence, and the possibilities.

“The most extensive modern investigation of the so-called Devil’s Hoofmarks was undertaken by Mike Dash, an editor for Fortean Times. He collected all primary documents available, including tracings of the prints made by witnesses, the accounts collected by Reverend H.T. Ellacombe, who was vicar of the parish of Clyst St. George in East Devon from 1850 to 1885, newspaper articles from the time, and more.

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Tracing of the “Devil’s Hoofmarks” by Mr. D’Urban of Clyst St. Mary in Devon, England, reproduced in the Illustrated London News.

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“Tracing of the “Devil’s Hoofmarks,” included in the papers collected by Reverend H.T. Ellacombe, who was vicar of the parish of Clyst St. George in Devon, England, from 1850 to 1885.

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“Tracing of the “Devil’s Hoofmarks” by G.M.M of Withecombs Raleigh, Exmouth, Devon, England, reproduced in the Illustrated London News.

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“Tracing of the “Devil’s Hoofmarks,” sent in a letter by Reverend G.M. Musgrave from Exmouth, East Devon, included in the papers collected by Reverend H.T. Ellacombe.

Reverend Thingie

“He wrote in a paper titled The Devil’s Hoofmarks: ‘On the whole it appears that a considerable majority of the people who might have been expected to be familiar with all manner of trails left by the local wildlife, were puzzled and in many cases scared by these tracks and by the places in which they were discovered.’

“Nonetheless, it seems that at least some of the tracks attributed to the Devil may have been made by animals. The night of Feb. 8 was an unusually cold one. But a thaw is said to have occurred partway through. The snow melted a little, then froze again when the temperatures dropped once more. This can distort animal prints, and some of the prints may have been made by hares hopping (the two hind feet can leave prints that may be mistaken for cloven hooves in single-file), or some other small animal. Claw marks were reportedly seen in some of the prints, suggesting little animal feet instead of hooves. In one account, the prints went through a drain pipe 6 inches in diameter. But, some of the other prints seem to defy this explanation and it may be that these regular animal prints were scrutinized alongside prints of a more mystifying nature.

“In Exmouth, a port town in East Devon, a witness named W. Courthope Forman said: “The footprints came up the front garden to within a few feet of the house, stopped abruptly, and began again at the back within a few feet of the building.” Others made similar comments about the prints crossing garden walls and other objects. In one case, the prints stopped on one side of a haystack and resumed on the other, without leaving a trace on top that anything had moved across it. Dash wrote: “Indeed the problem with assessing all the reports of prints found in strange places is a lack of full descriptions of their precise situation.”

“Witnesses Reverend J.J. Rowe and R.H. Busk tell of how they followed the tracks with hounds. R.H. Busk said, “At last, in a wood, the hounds came back baying and terrified.” Rowe said: “The episode of the hounds … I well and distinctly remember.”Another man who followed the prints found a toad at the end of them, though it’s uncertain that a toad did or could make such marks.

“The prints were found in two other regions that same winter.

“In March 1855, they were sighted in Inverness, Scotland, where a local naturalist dismissed them as hare or polecat prints, according to an Inverness Courier report from that time.

“In January 1855, near Wolverhampton, England, about 200 miles north of Devon, hoofprints were said to have appeared on vertical walls and the roofs of pubs. According to Dash, Elizabeth Brown, landlady of The Lion pub in this region, told a public meeting that “her house was mainly frequented by quarrymen and the tracks were nothing new to them. Similar hoofmarks were to be seen burnt into the rock at Pearl Quarry, on Timmins Hill.”

“This brings us back to the reports that the footprints seemed to have been branded into the snow.

“Similar descriptions have been given in other cases. In the Spring 1957 edition of Tomorrow, a Quarterly Review of Psychical Research, anthropologist and psychical researcher Eric Dingwall reported one such case. A business man named Mr. Wilson found perplexing prints on a Devon beach in 1950. They appeared to be hoofmarks, though not cloven. The stride from one to the next was some six feet—a stark contrast to the small stride of the 1855 Devon prints which were only 8–12 inches apart—and he noticed, Dingwall wrote, “that no sand was splashed up at the edges: it looked as if each mark had been cut out of the sand with a flat iron.”

“Dingwall continued: “He had realized how totally inexplicable they were. For here was a biped with a track shaped like a hoof, starting immediately beneath a perpendicular cliff on a closed beach and ending in the sea. There was no returning track.” Dingwall asked Wilson if it’s possible that the animal, or whatever may have made the marks, turned right or left in the sea and returned to land elsewhere. “But Mr. Wilson produced photographs which showed that the beach was a comparatively narrow space completely enclosed by rocky headlands on either side.”

“In the winter of 1957, Lynda Hanson observed hoofmarks in her parents’ garden. In a letter to Fortean Times editor Bob Rickard, she wrote that it had snowed about an inch overnight and in the morning she saw them, “shaped as a cloven hoof, 4 inches across, approximately 12 inches apart, in a straight line and stopping in the middle of the garden.”

“She said dry concrete could be seen where the prints were, unlike with normal animal or human prints, which leave compressed snow.

“In 2009, retired local government official Jill Wade of North Devon awoke to find prints in her yard, about 5 inches long, with a stride of 11–17 inches. She called in experts to investigate. Zoologist Graham Inglis told the Telegraph: “This is certainly a first for me. The footprints are peculiar, but they are not the devil’s … Personally I think it belongs to a rabbit or hare but quite an academic punch-up has started over it.”

“Other explanations for the Devon prints—including an escaped kangaroo, a chain hanging from a weather balloon, and more—have been brought up and dismissed or deemed unlikely from various angles. As unlikely as the explanations may seem, it’s hard to prove or disprove any of them with certainty. Something unusual occurred in Devon, England, on the night of Feb. 8, 1855.”

So, is Beelezub back? Is he tramping our land again? What is he doing? Looking for victims? Or converts?

See also this article which contains similar information, but also the photograph of footprints at the top of this article, and the Victorian painting below. Um, Old Nick making a snow angel just sort of appeared. A little like his mysterious footprints. Happy Halloween!

Victorian hoofprints

snow devil





Significant opportunities missed?

Robert Stillington is likely to have been born in about 1420 and was consecrated as Bishop of Bath and Wells on 30 October 1465. As we know, in spring 1483, he confessed his knowledge of Edward IV’s bigamy. Based on Stillington’s evidence, the Three Estates voted to cancel the coronation of Edward V, inviting Richard Duke of Gloucester to become king instead, as described by the (otherwise hostile) James Gairdner as “almost a constitutional election”.

Richard III succeeded as a result of this decision but Stillington’s status remained unchanged during this reign. Edward IV had raised Canon Stillington to the first available see after his own second secret marriage ceremony and Richard could have rewarded him similarly on two, three, four or even five occasions.

As the late David Baldwin’s Richard III (pp.172-3) reveals, two Bishops died during Richard’s reign – had he been of similar character to the first Lancastrian, the second or fourth “Tudor”, there may have been three:
1) William Dudley (Durham) died on 29 November 1483 and John Shirwood was appointed. The Prince-Bishopric of Durham was the next highest see in the province of York and Thomas Wolsey (right) was to be translated there from Bath and Wells in 1523, although he had already been Archbishop of York for nine years and was really only an administrator in the other dioceses.
2) Lionel Wydeville (Salisbury), who had hitherto thought himself to be Edward IV’s brother-in-law, died some time in late 1484. Thomas Langton was translated from St. David’s and Hugh Pavy appointed there. Both of these diocesan livings were better than that of Bath and Wells. Earlier than this, he could have been deprived for treason. Langton was appointed as an administrator from March 1484.
3) John Morton (Ely) was arrested in June 1483 for treason and might have been deprived after his attainter, as Cranmer was summer 1553. Again, Ely was a more lucrative see.
4) Peter Courtenay (Exeter) joined the Buckingham rebellion in autumn 1483 and fled to Europe after attainder – another comfortable senior vacancy.

So there we have it. As we also showed here, Richard III had several good opportunities to promote Robert Stillington after his election by the Three Estates but took none of them, clearly implying that he regarded the cleric as having merely performed his conscientious duty, not a favour of any kind.

The would-be thieving hounds of Bosworth Field….!

Bosworth Reenactment

So renegade detectorists were prowling around Bosworth Field at night, trying to find treasures that had somehow been overlooked. Imagine if they’d happened upon something vital and made off with it – to sell to the highest bidder! We might never get to see it, let alone have it properly examined and identified by historians and experts!
I do hope that if these mongrels had located something, a furious Richard would have promptly ridden back from the Hereafter to strike dread into them!


Almost every Ricardian knows about the famous novels ‘The Sunne in Splendour’ by Sharon Penman and ‘We Speak No Treason’ by Rosemary Hawley Jarman.  Most know  Majorie Bowen’s ‘Dickon’,  Carleton’s ‘Under The Hog,’ and ‘The White Boar’ by Marian Palmer. More recent readers who are discovering  the world of kindle  probably have seen Meredith Whitford’s ‘Treason’, J.P. Reedman’s ‘I Richard Plantagenet’, Joanne Larner’s ‘Richard Liveth Yet’ time travel series, and many more.

However, a lot more novels have been written about King Richard in the past, and I am tracking them down as I am something of a completist (Ok,ok, the word is ‘nerd.’) I have recently managed to obtain  two particularly usual Ricardian novels that almost  never get a mention, both of which I believe have some merit.

FIRE AND MORNING by Francis Leary was published by Ace Giants in 1957. I found this an excellent read, with beautiful language that  is often missing from modern novels. Quite unusually, it starts when Richard is already King, and does not cover earlier periods in his life, although it refers to them. It is well researched with the knowledge available at the time, and uses it well. It is not the most appealing portrayal of Richard ever written, but  it shows a human being who is conflicted and real.  Elizabeth of York being in love with Richard is used as a device but there is no secret tryst between them–he outright rejects her. Bosworth is well written, and though there is outdated information, such as Richard being  on Ambion Hill, the  battle and weaponry are well described and the action realistic. In the aftermath of the battle one passage goes: ‘This was what he had dicovered: the end of the quest. The dishonoured broken body passing, like the bloody shame of a perished England. Men would become harder, more cruel; there would be less truth, less love.’

(I noted in the author’s  acknowledgements that Leary mentioned ‘his friend’ Isolde Wigram and the Fellowship of the White Boar.)

KING’S RANSOM  was written by Glenn Pierce (the penname of an American history professor) and published in 1986. It was never well known, no doubt floundering in the  titanic shadow of Sunne in Splendour, which preceded it by several years. Ignore the cover, which is  truly awful–Richard is wearing his dad’s hat and is modelled on a photo of Emilio Estevez (yes, really; we even found the photo!), there is a big muscly executioner with an axe, and, gasp, the wrong date is written on the reverse side…it says 1486!

However, once one forgets this 80’s cheesiness, it turns into rather a decent novel after a slowish start. The beginning is also different from other Ricardian novels, taking place in the 1980’s at an archaeological dig…in a car park, no less! No, not Richard they were digging up, but a monk–a monk buried with a manuscript and a secret. Therein develops a sub plot set in modern times about who gets the manuscript, which tells the real story of Richard’s life, how it should beinterpreted, and what to do with it. Most of the book, however, takes place in Richard’s own lifetime. There are a few noticeable  gaffes in the chronology, perhaps made deliberately so the events would flow easily into each other (and the author has a weird habit of giving everyone moustaches!) , but despite that,  it is an extremely readable novel and the author has the knack of carrying you on from page to page without flagging. The  story is told mainly from the first person POV of the monk Godfrey, whose bones were found in the car park, as he follows Richard and by his writing unravels the later Tudor propaganda.




Athelstan and Brunaburh

Athelstan’s tomb at Malmesbury

The precise location of the 937 battle of Burnaburh, at which Athelstan reasserted the authority of the House of Wessex over Viking, Scottish and Welsh forces has not been conclusively determined yet and nor has the anniversary, although it could not have been before Vikings crossed the Irish Sea in August. What we do know is that Athelstan succeeded his father, Edward the Elder, in 924 and died two years after the battle, unmarried, to be succeded by two half-brothers in turn. Vikings in the north of England, and occasionally the midlands, were a feature of the tenth century after the consolidation of the Heptarchy and the re-urbanisation policy that followed.

We can also be certain that Brunaburh is somewhere in northern England or southern Scotland and that the battle was fierce with large numbers of casualties on both sides, although seemingly none among the commanders. Against Athelstan and the future Edmund I, Olaf III of Dublin, three kings: Constantine II of Alba (Scotland down to the Forth-Clyde line) and Owain I of Strathclyde (including Cumbria) had lined up their troops. Knowing the site of the battle would enable us to interpret its implications better. In this, we do have access to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as well as songs and poems in several languages. There are several modern settlements with similar names, from villages in Yorkshire – as favoured by Michael Wood – or on the Wirral to towns such as Lanchester and Burnley.

Viking influence in northern and central England was to resurface several times over the next century, leading to the double deposition of one Wessex king and the death of another. If one of the more northerly suggestions is the true site of Brunaburh, it would be particularly significant that the battle of Carham, in about 1018, was to settle the eastern Anglo-Scottish border, adding the Lothians to the Scottish kingdom – until Richard III’s time.

Three new books about Herefordshire villages….

Herefordshire Archive and Records Centre (HARC)
& Logaston Press
invite you to celebrate the launch of three Parish histories
at 7.30pm on Tuesday 7th November
at HARC, Fir Tree Lane, Rotherwas, Hereford HR2 6LA

With short talks by the authors Refreshments available

Eardisley's Early History and the story of The BaskervillesEardisley’s Early History
and the story of The Baskervilles
Edited by Malcolm Mason
This book details the results of research projects commissioned by Eardisley History Group, including a geophysical survey and archaeological excavation of the castle; a building survey of some of the outlying farms and their barns by Duncan James; an evaluation of the earthwork remains at Bollingham and in The Pitts, an area between The Field and Eardisley Wootton; and an account of the changes in the road pattern in recent centuries, and the various projected routes of the tramway. It also includes new research by Bruce Coplestone-Crow on the Baskerville family

The Story of DilwynThe Story of Dilwyn
by Tony Hobbs & Andrew Stirling-Brown
This book gives an outline history of some of the post Domesday landowners and their families, along with what is known of the castle site and development of the churches at both Dilwyn and Stretford, and the brief appearance Dilwyn made in the Civil War. Much of the book then focuses on the past 150 or so years, giving the history of various properties, the school, and those of the local shops, pubs, businesses and some of the farms, together with much social history on the recent life of the village.


History of Lyonshall

A History of Lyonshall
From Prehistory to 1850
by Sarah & John Zaluckyj
This book covers the evidence for both prehistoric man in the parish and for settlement in the Roman period, the building of the Saxon dyke, and the arrival of the Normans. It relates the history of the lords of the castle, some of whom had a role on the national stage, and then, from the 1600s, that of the wider population of the parish. The effects of enclosure as strip fields were amalgamated is detailed. Included are various overseers’ efforts to help the poor, as well as accounts of theft, slander and drunken misbehaviour. The shift of the village centre and the effect industries and the industrial revolution with the coming of the tramway are also explored.


Now Henry V’s great ship has been found in the Hamble…..


Medieval fleet from Edwards IV’s ‘Descent from Rollo and The Romance of the Three Kings’ Sons, London, c.1475-85 British Library

“Historians and archaeologists have tentatively identified the location of one of medieval England’s greatest ships.

“Detailed archival and aerial photographic research carried out by British maritime historian, Ian Friel, has pinpointed a 30 metre stretch of the River Hamble near Southampton as the final resting place of one of Henry V’s largest warships – the Holigost (in modern English, the Holy Ghost).”

To read more, go here:

The Conisburgh Manorial Court Rolls….

Conisburgh Manorial Rolls

I’m afraid I wouldn’t be capable of reading the original entries in these rolls. My interest, as those who know me are only too aware, is the late mediaeval period, specifically Richards II and III). I would dearly like to be able to understand the source material for “my” period, but haven’t the know-how. But, if you go to the third link below, you see modern translations. Excellent for us all.

Isn’t it amazing to think such a complete record has survived? If only—if ONLY!—the same could be said of all the records for Richard III. Unfortunately, the Tudors did a very thorough job of making things “disappear”. Including Richard himself, but he’s been found again now, and it’s Tudor reputations that are on the line. Hooray!

To see much more about the rolls and the translations, go here.

Another Leicestershire transport pioneer

Here, we showed how the hansom cab was patented in 1834 by a Hinckley man. Just seven years later, a Market Harborough resident was transporting Temperance Society colleagues the short distance from Leicester (Campbell Street) to Loughborough.

Campbell Street station no longer remains but Thomas Cook (left) now stands at the entrance of London Road station, where people arrive in the city to view Richard’s tomb about a mile away. His eponymous company, as a partnership, dates from 1872.

Lannister and York: Kasabian’s III Ray (The King)

A very unusual video came down my timeline the other day; at first I thought it was a joke (ok, ok, I’m older than God and am no longer in touch with the current music scene!) but it seems I was very wrong.  Successful Leicester band Kasabian have released a music trailer for their new song III Ray–The King (which contains the lyrics ‘King for a Day) which uses the finding of Richard’s remains as a basis. It is funny but silly, and certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste, but even if it’s taking the mickey, it seems to be poking fun in  a non-vicious way.

In the video, a female history freak holds seances and lights candles in a carpark and then, magically,  Richard appears! Stunned and dazed, the King is dragged through the streets of Leicester like a celebrity lumbered by his ‘biggest fan’. He ends up in a pub, where he immediately notices the low necklines on the female population, and finds out that beer is much stronger in the 21st c than in the 15th! At the end though, magic doesn’t last and he can only be ‘king for a day.’

Richard is played by Michael Socha , star of THIS IS ENGLAND, and at least is in the right age group and wearing clothes that are actually based on those in Richard’s portraits (better than what we’ve recently  seen on certain documentaries fronted by ‘historians’, ahem.)

Perhaps the most interesting part of the Kasabian video is that ‘the fan’ is played by Lena Headey, star of the wildly successful series  GAMES OF THRONES, in which she plays the scheming and incestuous Cersei Lannister. GOT  is, in part, based on Wars of the Roses, and many characters are amalgamations of historical figures mixed with the author’s own ideas. Some believe Cersei is  partly based on Elizabeth Woodville and partly on Margaret of Anjou. The character also did  the infamous ‘Walk of Shame’ which was clearly based on Jane Shore’s penance…only it was much, much worse.


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