Well, this month has been an incredibly interesting one; though I’ve delved into some tried and tested favourites by Mineko Iwasaki and Terry Pratchett, I’ve discovered some absolute comic gems in Ian Sansom and Jasper Fforde. You could say that comedy is this month’s theme, almost! I’ve certainly been enjoying myself.
The North Hylton area of Sunderland boasts the city’s only castle; the aptly named Hylton Castle, now in ruins. A castle has stood on this spot since 1066, when the Hilton family were awarded land in the area following the Norman Conquest. Rebuilt in stone during the 14th-15th centuries, all that remains today are the magnificent gate house and nearby chapel which was dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria in 1157.
Hylton Castle is also home to one of the north-east’s most enduring folk stories, which is well known to school children of the city and beyond. It concerns the life and death of a certain stablehand named Roger Skelton, who is thought to have served the Hylton family in the early 17th century.
There are many strange tales of ghosts and spirits from the north country, both old and new. Some are vengeful to the living, while others haunt buildings and landmarks with no purpose at all. The ghost in this story, known commonly as Nelly the Knocker, was allegedly once a common sight in the fields near Haltwhistle, today a small town in the southern reaches of Northumberland and not far from Hadrian’s Wall.
On a farm near the village of Haltwhistle there was a field in which stood a large stone. As far as memory could recall, this rock had been haunted by a spirit in the shape of a melancholy lady dressed in loose grey clothes. Every night, so it is said, she could be seen knocking feebly at the stone, and it is because of this the locals named her Nelly the Knocker. Nelly was a harmless type of ghost; she did no one any harm and so no one took any notice of her, save a mention or two when they passed by the field after nightfall – “Oh, there’s old Nelly at her knocking again!”.
Given the bustling industrial and urban nature of North Tyneside, you would not be blamed for believing that there are no tales of witches, fairies or dragons from these parts. However, stories of years gone from the north of the Tyne have long survived the layers of steel and concrete which now cover the land. You may be surprised to learn that a wicked witch once lived not far from where the bustling city stands today.
There once lived an old woman in a village near to Newcastle. To the villagers she seemed harmless, but what they did not know was that she had stolen a lot of money from them and hidden it away. The old woman lived by herself in a little cottage, but as she grew older she found it much harder to keep her house clean and tidy. She decided to hire a servant girl to do the housework for her.
Since we were ‘based’ in Sunderland, these were taken over the course of the weekend.
After yesterday’s fun in the south, we headed north in the company of the fine locals.