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Lincolnshire’s Identity: The Unraveling of Folklore

The Meaning of Folklore

Folklore has been defined by MacEdward Leach as the “generic term to designate the customs, beliefs, traditions, tales, magical practices, songs, and etc.;” This means that every story, belief, and practice, which is unique to one society or to one place, can be defined as folklore or the “lore of the people”.

One society’s lore is there for a purpose. It may be for entertainment, so that the place’s tourism will boost, or it could be for more important purposes such as establishing a society’s unique identity as well as to ensure the safety of the people.

As folklore contributes to a society’s identity, it must live on through passing it from one generation to another by the way of writing it, such as in essays and books, and by practicing it with everyone including the children.

Moreover, folklore is an aspect of a society’s culture. According to William Bascom, “it can also serve to validate a culture, as well as transmit a culture’s morals and values”. In a way, it is a mirror of what society is, their experiences, the lessons they’ve learned, and the practices they have done as answer to what they have learned.

A Connection: Folklore and Lincolnshire

In connection with this, folklore can be found in many places, in which includes a place, with many districts, called Lincolnshire. Several lores can be found in the place, which gives us a hint of what they are as a place and as a people.

Looking at the tales, beliefs, and practices of Lincolnshire, we can somehow assume that the place is composed of a romantic, fun-loving, peaceful, and generous group of people, beautiful historical places, and hidden stories kept for centuries. From these historical places and ancient practices, we can also see that deep in their hearts they know the significance of their own and the importance of continuing it.

Folklore in Lincolnshire: The Four Groups

The accumulated stories and practices, which can be found in Lincolnshire and its districts, can be divided into four groups, namely: The Legends, The Tales, The Ghosts, and The Traditions.

The Legends

Lincoln Imp

The first group is composed of several legends which can be found all over the county. Most of these legends have their “origin” on the apostles, the saints, the demon, and some animals. Somehow, this gives us a clue of the strength of faith the people has for miracles and an Almighty Being’s power.

An example of legends from the county includes The Legend of the Lincoln Imp, which can be found in the county town of Lincoln. The legend talks about how an imp happens to be in the pillar of the Lincoln Cathedral.

Outside of the city, in its border district North Kesteven, are two legends. One involves the Anwick Drake Stones, which several stories say have a druidic origin. Other sources, however, say that it is the cover of the Devil’s cave.

The second legend from the district of North Kesteven has something to do with the existence of a monument called Byard’s Leap in the little hamlet of Byard. The origin of this said monument comes from the story of a champion and a witch known as “Old Meg”, whom the people despise.

Other legends also exist on other districts of the county of Lincoln. Opposite North Kesteven, and another border of the county town of Lincoln, is the district of West Lindsey, wherein the legends of the Fonaby Stone and the Great Bell can be found.

The Legend of the Fonaby Stone is a legend which tells of an encounter between St. Paulinus and a man sowing corn. On the other hand, the Legend of the Great Bell of Burgh le Marsh talks about a story of martyrdom, kindness, and non-conformity, which was shown by an elderly sexton to a ship and its crews.

Lastly, we found another legend a few miles south-east of the county town, in a district known as the Borough of Boston. In that district, they have this belief that the streets of Boston were determined by a few cows without direction. That is why the streets seem to be quite confusing and unplanned.

The Tales

Tiddy Mun from alphabeast tumbler

Another form of folklore which can be found in the county of Lincolnshire are tales about a few things and a few people, including King Canute and the Tides, Tidy Mun, Old Mother Nightshade, Nunny Rutt, and the Devil at the Boston Stump.

These tales somehow makes us see, and learn, a value which we did not consider before as well as entertain us with stories which have been passed down from one generation to the next.

The first tale, which is quite old and famous, is that of King Canute and the Tides. This story tells us of how a respected and powerful king demonstrated quite shamefully that he is still just a mere human despite the powers and riches he has reign over. Moreover, it somehow talks about the significance and existence of an Almighty Being.

The second tale is about Tiddy Mun, the king of pixies who controls water. Somehow this tale tells of the force of nature and how it will harm us back if we disrupt its cycle.

The third tale is a myth about an old woman from Gedney Dyke, who was ostracized by the people and lived on the outskirts of the village. It also talks of the stupidity of a lad who wanted his unrequited love to love him back, using any means necessary.

Then we have the tale of Nunny Rutt, a famous figure in folklore. The story somehow teaches us to listen to warnings as well as to listen to our parents for they only want what’s best for us.

Last, but not the least, is the story of the Devil at the Boston Stump. Several stories says that St. Botolph, a Saxon monk, drove out the devil through prayers, resulting in the strong gush of wind at the octagonal tower.

However, these are not the only stories in Lincolnshire. Several stories include The Witches of Belvoir, The Wizard of Lincoln, The Werewolf, The Wild Man of Stainfield, Yallery Brown, Tom Hickathrift, the Death Mask at Horncastle, and the story of Mr. Ingram and the Bird of Ill Omen.

The Ghosts

The Boston Stump

Also included in a place’s folklore are stories of ghost and poltergeist, which has been in that place for centuries. Most of these stories usually tell of souls, which cannot be in peace due to reasons which can be traced back to the time when they lived. Some says that their souls stay for penance of what they have done.

The most famous ghost stories in Lincolnshire include the Ghost Jumpers of The Boston Stump at Boston, the Black Lady of Bradley Woods, and The Blacksmith, among many others.

The first story is about the Ghost Jumpers of the Boston Stump. The story tells of two women who have been sentenced to relive their deaths through repeatedly jumping down the Stump at a particular time. The two women have committed suicide, at separate times and era, for reasons which they cannot endure anymore.

The second story is about the Black Lady of Bradley Woods. The existence of this lady has been proven many times by many witnesses who swore to seeing her near the entrance of the woods. The story of her existence and haunting tells of a painful separation of a once complete family due to forces which cannot be avoided at that time.

Then, we have the story of the Blacksmith’s ghost, which haunts the place where he committed murder in the name of love. The story also tells of his regret and guilt as well as his fear for his soul.

Moreover, several other stories also exist all over the county, namely: the Geoff Moulder Leisure Center, the Tower of the Coleby Grange, the Spirits at the Sun Inn, the Ghost Walk at Gunby Hall, The Metheringham Lass, Tom Otter, the Headless Horseman, and The Green Lady of Thorpe Hall.

The Tradition

The Haxey Hood

The last classification of folklore which can be found in the county of Lincolnshire includes traditions which were practiced or are practiced since medieval times. Usually, these traditions have been made for a reason which can benefit the people as well as for reasons of entertainment and commemoration of an important event.

Some of the traditions found in the county include The Haxey Hood, The Pag Rag Day, and The Traditional Auction.

The Haxey Hood is a traditional event, which somehow looks like a sport played on the field. The event originated on the 14th century and is likely to be the oldest tradition in England. It originated from a story of chivalry.

The second tradition is the Pag Rag Day, which is an old tradition not likely to be held at the present. It is when servants leave home to find new employers to work for.

Lastly, we have The Traditional Auction of The White Bread Meadow. This auction is a custom which happens every April of the year. The money gained from the auction goes to charity.


It may be quite confusing with the number of examples of folklore which can be found in the county of Lincolnshire, however, this only means that the county is an old one with many different aspects and characteristics to look forward to. These beautiful and varied characteristics are mirrored in the folklore that this county has.

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