The Poem of the White Doe of Rylstone is founded on a local tradition, and on the Ballad in Percy's Collection, entitled "The Rising of the North." The tradition is as follows:--"About this time," not long after the Dissolution, "a White Doe," say the aged people of the neighbourhood, "long continued to make a weekly pilgrimage from Rylstone over the fells of Bolton, and was constantly found in the Abbey Church-yard during divine service; after the close of which she returned home as regularly as the rest of the congregation,"--Dr. Whitaker's History of the Deanery of Craven.--Rylstone was the property and residence of the Nortons, distinguished in that ill-advised and unfortunate Insurrection; which led me to connect with this tradition the principal circumstances of their fate, as recorded in the Ballad which I have thought it proper to annex.
The Rising in the North.
The subject of this ballad is the great Northern Insurrection in the 12th year of Elizabeth, 1569, which proved so fatal to Thomas Percy, the seventh Earl of Northumberland.
There had not long before been a secret negotiation entered into between some of the Scottish and English nobility, to bring about a marriage between Mary Q. of Scots, at that time a prisoner in England, and the Duke of Norfolk, a nobleman of excellent character. this match was proposed to all the most considerable of the English nobility, and among the rest to the Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland, two noblemen very powerful in the North. As it seemed to promise a speedy and safe conclusion of the troubles in Scotland, with many advantages to the crown of England, they all consented to it, provided it should prove agreeable to Queen Elizabeth. The Earl of Leicester (Elizabeth's favourite) undertook to break the matter to her ears by other hands, and she was thrown into a violent flame. the Duke of Norfolk, with several of his friends, was committed to the Tower, and summons were sent to the Northern Earls instantly to make their appearance at court. It is said that the Earl of Northumberland, who was a man of a mild and gentle nature,* was deliberating with himself whether he should not obey the message, and rely upon the Queen's candour and clemency, when he was forced into desperate measures by a sudden report at midnight, Nov. 14, that a party of his enemies were come to seize his person. The Earl was then at his house at Topcliffe in Yorkshire. When, rising hastily out of bed, he withdrew to the Earl of Westmoreland at Brancepeth, where the country came in to them, and pressed them to take up arms in their own defence. They accordingly set up their standards, declaring their intent was to restore the ancient Religion, to get the succession of the crown firmly settled, and to prevent the destruction of the ancient nobility, &c. Their common banner (on which was displayed the cross, together with the five wounds of Christ) was borne by an ancient gentleman, Richard Norton, Esquire, who, with his sons, (among whom, Christopher, Marmaduke, and Thomas, are expressly named by Camden,) distinguished himself on this occasion. Having entered Durham, they tore the Bible, &c. and casued mass to be said there; they then marched on to Clifford-moor near Wetherby, where they mustered their men.
The two Earls, who spent their estates in hospitality, and were extremely beloved on that account, were masters of little ready money; the E. of Northumberland bringing with him only 8000 crowns, and the E. of Westmoreland nothing at all, for the subsistence of their forces, they were not able to march to London, as they had at first intended. In these circumstances, Westmoreland began so visibly to despond, that many of his men slunk away, though Northumberland still kept up his resolution, and was master of the field till December 13, when the Earl of Sussex, accompanied by Lord Hunsden and others, having marched out of York at the head of a large body of forces, and being followed by a still larger army under the command of Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick, the insurgents retreated northward towards the borders, and there dismissing their followers, made their escape into Scotland. Though this insurrection had been suppressed with so little bloodshed, the Earl of Sussex and Sir George Bowes, marshal of the army, put vast numbers to death by martial law, without any regular trial. The former of these caused at Durham sixty-three constables to be hanged at once. And the latter made his boast, that for sixty miles in length, and forty in breadth, betwixt Newcastle and Wetherby, there was hardly a town or village wherein he had not executed some of the inhabitants. This exceeds the cruelties practiced in the West after Monmouth's rebellion.
Such is the account collected from Stow, Speed, Camden, Guthrie, Carte, and Rapin; it agrees, in most particulars, with the following Ballad, apparently the production of some northern minstrel.--Listen, lively lordings all,
Earle Percy is into his garden gone,
And after him walks his fair leddie:
I heard a bird sing in mine ear,
That I must either fight, or flee.
Now heaven forefend, my dearest lord,
That ever such harm should hap to thee:
But goe to London to the court,
And fair fall truth and honestie.
Now nay, now nay, my ladye gay,
Alas! thy counsell suits not mee;
Mine enemies prevail so fast,
That at the court I may not bee.
0 goe to the court yet, good my lord,
And take thy gallant men with thee;
If any dare to do you wrong,
Then your warrant they may bee.
Now nay, now nay, thou ladye faire,
The court is full of subtiltie:
And if I goe to the court, ladye,
Never more I may thee see.
Yet goe to the court, my lord, she sayes,
And I myselfe will ryde wi' thee:
At court then for my dearest lord,
His faithful borrowe I will bee.
Now nay, now nay, my ladye deare;
Far lever had I lose my life,
Than leave among my cruell foes
My love in jeopardy and strife.
But come thou hither, my little foot-page,
Come thou hither unto mee,
To Maister Norton thou must goe
In all the haste that ever may bee.
Commend me to that gentleman,
And beare this letter here fro mee;
And say that earnestly I praye,
He will ryde in my companie.
One while the little foot-page went,
And another while he ran;
Untill he came to his journey's end,
The little foot-page never blan.
When to that gentleman he came,
Down he kneeled on his knee;
And took the letter betwixt his hands,
And lett the gentleman it see.
And when the letter it was redd,
Affore that goodlye companie,
I wis if you the truthe wold know,
There was many a weeping eye.
He sayd, Come thither, Christopher Norton,
A gallant youth thou seem'st to bee;
What dost thou counsell me, my sonne,
Now that good earle's in jeopardy?
Father, my counselle's fair and free;
That erle he is a noble lord,
And whatsoever to him you hight,
I would not have you breake your word.
Gramercy, Christopher, my sonne,
Thy counsell well it liketh mee,
And if we speed and 'scape with life,
Well advanced shalt thou bee.
Come you hither, my nine good sonnes,
Gallant men I trowe you bee:
How many of you, my children deare,
Will stand by that good erle and mee?
Eight of them did answer make,
Eight of them spake hastilie,
O Father, till the day we dye
We'll stand by that good erle and thee.
Gramercy, now, my children deare,
You shew yourselves right bold and brave,
And whethersoe'er I live or dye,
A father's blessing you shall have.
But what say'st thou, O Francis Norton,
Thou art mine eldest sonne and heire:
Somewhat lies brooding in thy breast;
Whatever it bee, to mee declare.
Father, you are an aged man,
Your head is white, your beard is gray;
It were a shame at these your years
For you to ryse in such a fray.
Now fye upon thee, coward Francis,
Thou never learned'st this of mee;
When thou wert young and tender of age,
Why did I make soe much of thee?
But, father, I will wend with you,
Unarm'd and naked will I bee;
And he that strikes against the crowne,
Ever an ill death may he dee.
Then rose that reverend gentleman,
And with him came a goodlye band
To join with the brave Earle Percy,
And all the flower o' Northumberland.
With them the noble Nevill came,
The erle of Westmoreland was hee;
At Wetherbye they mustered their host,
Thirteen thousand fair to see.
Lord Westmorland his ancyent raisde,
The Dun Bull he rays'd on hye,
And three Dogs with golden collars
Were there set out most royallye.
Erie Percy there his ancyent spread,
The Halfe Moone shining all soe faire;
The Nortons ancyent had the Crosse,
And the five wounds our Lord did beare.
Then Sir George Bowes he straitwaye rose,
After them some spoile to make:
Those noble erles turned back againe,
And aye they vowed that knight to take.
That baron he to his castle fled,
To Barnard castle then fled hee.
The uttermost walles were eathe to win,
The earles have wonne them presentlie.
The uttermost walles were lime and bricke;
But though they won them soon anone,
Long ere they wan their innermost walles,
For they were cut in rocke and stone.
Then news unto leeve London came
In all the speed that ever might bee,
And word is brought to our royall queene
Of the rysing in the North countrie.
Her grace she turned her round about,
And like a royall queene shee swore,
I will ordayne them such a breakfast,
As never was in the North before.
Shee caused thirty thousand men be rays'd,
With horse and harneis faire to see;
She caused thirty thousand men be raised
To take the earles i' th' North countrie.
Wi' them the false Erle Warwicke went,
The Erle Sussex and the Lord Hunsden,
Untill they to York castle came
I wiss they never stint ne blan.
Now spred thy ancyent, Westmoreland,
Thy dun Bull faine would we spye:
And thou, the Erle of Northumberland,
Now rayse thy Halfe Moone on hye.
But the dun bulle is fled and gone,
And the halfe moone vanished away:
The Erles, though they were brave and bold,
Against soe many could not stay.
Thee, Norton, wi' thine eight good sonnes,
They doomed to dye, alas! for ruth!
Thy reverend lockes thee could not save,
Nor them their faire and blooming youthe.
Wi' them full many a gallant wight
They cruellye bereav'd of life:
And many a child made fatherlesse,
And widowed many a tender wife.
"Bolton Priory," Says Dr. Whitaker in his excellent book, the History and Antiquities of the Deanery of Craven, "stands upon a beautiful curvature of the Wharf, on a level sufficiently elevated to protect it from inundations, and low enough for every purpose of picturesque effect.
"Opposite to the East window of the Priory Church, the river washes the foot of a rock nearly perpendicular, and of the richest purple, where several of the mineral beds, which break out, instead of maintaining their usual inclination to the horizon, are twisted by some inconceivable process into undulating and spiral lines. To the South all is soft and delicious; the eye reposes upon a few rich pastures, a moderate reach of the river, sufficiently tranquil to form a mirror to the sun, and the bounding hills beyond, neither too near nor too lofty to exclude, even in winter, any portion of his rays.
"But after all, the glories of Bolton are on the North. Whatever the most fastidious taste could require to constitute a perfect landscape, is not only found here, but in its proper place. In front, and immediately under the eye, is a smooth expanse of park-like enclosure, spotted with native elm, ash, &c. of the finest growth: on the right a skirting oak wood, with jutting points of grey rock; on the left a rising copse. Still forward are seen the aged groves of Bolton Park, the growth of centuries; and farther yet, the barren and rocky distances of Simon-seat and Barden Fell contrasted with the warmth, fertility, and luxuriant foliage of the valley below.
"About half a mile above Bolton the Valley closes, and either side of the Wharf is overhung by solemn woods, from which huge perpendicular masses of grey rock jut out at intervals.
"This sequestered scene was almost inaccessible till of late, that ridings have been cut on both sides of the River, and the most interesting points laid open by judicious thinnings in the woods. Here a tributary stream rushes from a waterfall, and bursts through a woody glen to mingle its waters with the Wharf: there the Wharf itself is nearly lost in a deep cleft in the rock and next becomes a horned flood enclosing a woody island--sometimes it reposes for a moment, and then resumes its native character, lively, irregular, and impetuous.
"The cleft mentioned above is the tremendous Strid. This chasm, being incapable of receiving the winter floods, has formed on either side a broad strand of naked gritstone full of rock-basons, or 'pots of the Linn,' which bear witness to the restless impetuosity of so many Northern torrents. But, if here Wharf is lost to the eye, it amply repays another sense by its deep and solemn roar, like 'the Voice of the angry Spirit of the Waters,' heard far above and beneath, amidst the silence of the surrounding woods.
"The terminating object of the landscape is the remains of Barden Tower, interesting from their form and situation, and still more so from the recollections which they excite."
* Camden expressly says that he was violently attached to the Catholic Religion. [return to note]
[return to text]
From Bolton's old monastic tower
It is to be regretted that at the present day Bolton Abbey wants this ornament: but the Poem, according to the imagination of the Poet, is composed in Queen Elizabeth's time. "Formerly," says Dr. Whitaker, "over the Transept was a tower. This is proved not only from the mention of bells at the Dissolution, when they could have had no other place, but from the pointed roof of the choir, which must have terminated westward, in some building of superior height to the ridge." [return to text]
A rural Chapel, neatly drest
"The Nave of the Church having been reserved at the Dissolution for the use of the Saxon Cure, is still a parochial Chapel; and, at this day, is as well kept as the neatest English Cathedral." [return to text]
Who sate in the shade of the Prior's Oak"At a small distance from the great gateway stood the Prior's Oak, which was felled about the year 1720, and sold for 70l. According to the price of wood at that time, it could scarcely have contained less than 1400 feet of timber." [return to text]
When Lady Aaliza mourn'd
The detail of this tradition may be found in Dr. Whitaker's book, and in the foregoing Poem, The Force of Prayer, &c. [return to text]
Pass, pass who will, yon chantry door
"At the East end of the North aisle of Bolton Priory Church is a chantry belonging to Bethmesly Hall, and a vault, where, according to tradition, the Claphams" (who inherited this estate, by the female line, from the Mauleverers) "were interred upright." John de Clapham, of whom this ferocious act is recorded, was a man of great note in his time: "he was a vehement partisan of the house of Lancaster, in whom the spirit of his chieftains, the Cliffords, seemed to survive." [return to text]
Who loved the Shepherd Lord to meet
In the second volume of Poems published by the author, will be found one, entitled, "Song at the Feast of Brougham Castle, upon the Restoration of Lord Clifford, the Shepherd, to the Estates and Honours of his Ancestors." To that Poem is annexed an account of this personage, chiefly extracted from Burn's and Nicholson's History of Cumberland and Westmoreland. It gives me pleasure to add these further particulars concerning him, from Dr. Whitaker, who says he "retired to the solitude of Barden, where he seems to have enlarged the tower out of a common keeper's lodge, and where he found a retreat equally favourable to taste, to instruction, and to devotion. The narrow limits of his residence shew that he had learned to despise the pomp of greatness, and that a small train of servants could suffice him, who had lived to the age of thirty a servant himself. I think this nobleman resided here almost entirely when in Yorkshire, for all his charters which I have seen are dated at Barden.
"His early habits, and the want of those artificial measures of time which even shepherds now possess, had given him a turn for observing the motions of the heavenly bodies; and, having purchased such an apparatus as could then be procured, he amused and informed himself by those pursuits, with the aid of the Canons of Bolton, some of whom are said to have been well versed in what was then known of the science.
"I suspect this nobleman to have been sometimes occupied in a more visionary pursuit, and probably in the same company.
"For, from the family evidences, I have met with two MSS. on the subject of Alchemy, which, from the character, spelling, &c., may almost certainly be referred to the reign of Henry the Seventh. If these were originally deposited with the MSS. of the Cliffords, it might have been for the use of this nobleman. If they were brought from Bolton at the Dissolution, they must have been the work of those Canons whom he almost exclusively conversed with.
"In these peaceful employments Lord Clifford spent the whole reign of Henry the Seventh, and the first years of his son. But in the year 1513, when almost sixty years old, he was appointed to a principal command over the army which fought at Flodden, and shewed that the military genius of the family had neither been chilled in him by age, nor extinguished by habits of peace.
"He survived the battle of Flodden ten years, and died April 23d, 1523, aged about 70. I shall endeavour to appropriate to him a tomb, vault, and chantry, in the choir of the church of Bolton, as I should be sorry to believe that he was deposited, when dead, at a distance from the place which in his lifetime he loved so well.
"By his last will he appointed his body to be interred at Shap, if he died in Westmoreland; or at Bolton, if he died in Yorkshire."
With respect to the Canons of Bolton, Dr. Whitaker shews from MSS. that not only alchemy but astronomy was a favourite pursuit with them. [return to text]
Ye Watchmen upon Brancepeth Towers
Brancepeth Castle stands near the river Were, a few miles from the city of Durham. It formerly belonged to the Nevilles, Earls of Westmoreland. See Dr. Percy's account. [return to text]
Of mitred Thurston--what a Host
See the Historians for the account of this memorable battle, usually denominated the Battle of the Standard. [return to text]
In that other day of Neville's Cross
'In the night before the battle of Durham was strucken and begun, the 17th
day of October, anno 1346, there did appear to John Fosser, then Prior of the
abbey of Durham, a Vision, commanding him to take the holy Corporax-cloth,
wherewith St. Cuthbert did cover the chalice when he used to say mass, and to
put the same holy relique like to a banner-cloth upon the point of a spear, and
the next morning to go and repair to a place on the west side of the city of
Durham, called the Red Hills, where the Maid's Bower wont to be, and there to
remain and abide till the end of the battle. To which vision the Prior obeying,
and taking the same for a revelation of God's grace and mercy by the mediation
of Holy St. Cuthbert, did accordingly the next morning, with the monks of the
said abbey, repair to the said Red Hills, and there most devoutly humbling and
prostrating themselves in prayer for the victory in the said battle: (a great
multitude of the Scots running and pressing by them, with intention to have
spoiled them, yet had no power to commit any violence under such holy persons,
so occupied in prayer, being protected and defended by the mighty Providence of
Almighty God, and by the mediation of Holy St. Cuthbert, and the presence of the
holy relique). And, after many conflicts and warlike exploits there had and done
between the English men and the King of Scots and his company, the said battle
ended, and the victory was obtained, to the great overthrow and confusion of the
Scots, their enemies: And then the said Prior and monks accompanied with Ralph
Lord Nevil, and John Nevil his son, and the Lord Percy, and many other nobles of
England, returned home and went to the abbey church, there joining in hearty
prayer and thanksgiving to God and Holy St. Cuthbert for the victory achieved
This battle was afterwards called the Battle of Neville's Cross from the following circumstance:--
"On the west side of the city of Durham, where two roads pass each other, a most notable, famous, and goodly cross of stone-work was erected and set up to the honour of God for the victory there obtained in the field of battle, and known by the name of Nevil's Cross, and built at the sole cost of the Lord Ralph Nevil, one of the most excellent and chief persons in the said battle." The Relique of St. Cuthbert afterwards became of great importance in military events. For soon after this battle, says the same author, "The prior caused a goodly and sumptuous banner to be made, (which is then described at great length) and in the midst of the same banner-cloth was the said holy relique and corporax-cloth enclosed, &c. &c. and so sumptuously finished, and absolutely perfected, this banner was dedicated to holy St. Cuthbert, of intent and purpose that for the future it should be carried to any battle, as occasion should serve; and was never carried and shewed at any battle but by the especial grace of God Almighty, and the mediation of holy St. Cuthbert, it brought home victory; which banner-cloth, after the dissolution of the abbey, fell into the possession of Dean Whittingham, whose wife, called Katharine, being a French woman (as is most credibly reported by eyewitnesses), did most injuriously burn the same in her fire, to the open contempt and disgrace of all ancient and goodly reliques."-- Extracted from a book entitled "Durham Cathedral, as it stood before the Dissolution of the Monastery." It appears, from the old metrical History, that the above-mentioned banner was carried by the Earl of Surry to Flodden Field. [return to text]
An Edifice of warlike frame
Stands single (Norton Tower its name.
It is so called to this day, and is thus described by Dr. Whitaker. "Rylstone Fell yet exhibits a monument of the old warfare between the Nortons and Cliffords. On a point of very high ground, commanding an immense prospect, and protected by two deep ravines, are the remains of a square tower, expressly said by Dodsworth to have been built by Richard Norton. The walls are of strong grout-work, about four feet thick. It seems to have been three stories high. Breaches have been industriously made in all the sides, almost to the ground, to render it untenable.
"But Norton Tower was probably a sort of pleasure-house in summer, as there
are, adjoining to it, several large mounds, (two of them are pretty entire,) of
which no other account can be given than that they were butts for large
companies of archers.
"The place is savagely wild, and admirably adapted to the uses of a watch-tower." [return to text]
--despoil and desolation
O'er Rylstone's fair domain have blown.
"After the attainder of Richard Norton, his estates were forfeited to the crown, where they remained till the 2d or 3d of James; they were then granted to Francis Earl of Cumberland." From an accurate survey made at that time, several particulars have been extracted by Dr. W. It appears that the mansion-house was then in decay. Immediately adjoining is a close, called the Vivery, so called, undoubtedly, from the French Vivier, or modern Latin Vivarium; for there are near the house large remains of a pleasure-ground, such as were introduced in the earlier part of Elizabeth's time, with topiary works, fish-ponds, an island, &c. The whole township was ranged by an hundred and thirty red deer, the property of the Lord, which, together with the wood, had, after the attainder of Mr. Norton, been committed to Sir Stephen Tempest. The wood, it seems, had been abandoned to depredations, before which time it appears that the neighbourhood must have exhibited a forest-like and sylvan scene. In this survey, among the old tenants is mentioned one Richard Kitchen, butler to Mr. Norton, who rose in rebellion with his master, and was executed at Ripon. [return to text]
In the deep fork of Amerdale.
"At the extremity of the parish of Burnsal, the valley of Wharf forks off into two great branches, one of which retains the name of Wharfdale, to the source of the river; the other is usually called Littondale, but more anciently and properly, Amerdale. Dern-brook, which runs along an obscure valley from the N.W., is derived from a Teutonic word, signifying concealment."--Dr. Whitaker. [return to text]
When the bells of Rylstone played
Their Sabbath music--"God us ayde."
On one of the bells of Rylstone church, which seems coeval with the building of the tower, is this cypher, J.N. for John Norton, and the motto, "God us ayde." [return to text]
The grassy rock-encircled Pound
Which is thus described by Dr. Whitaker:--"On the plain summit of the
hill are the foundations of a strong wall stretching from the S.W. to the N.E.
corner of the tower, and to the edge of a very deep glen. From this glen, a
ditch, several hundred yards long, runs south to another deep and rugged ravine.
On the N. and W., where the banks are very steep, no wall or mound is
discoverable, paling being the only fence that could stand on such ground.
"From the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, it appears that such pounds for deer, sheep, &c., were far from being uncommon in the south of Scotland. The principle of them was something like that of a wire mouse-trap. On the declivity of a steep hill, the bottom and sides of which were fenced so as to be impassable, a wall was constructed nearly level with the surface on the outside, yet so high within, that without wings it was impossible to escape in the opposite direction. Care was probably taken that these enclosures should contain better feed than the neighbouring parks or forests; and whoever is acquainted with the habits of these sequacious animals, will easily conceive, that if the leader was once tempted to descend into the snare, a herd would follow."
I cannot conclude without recommending to the notice of all lovers of beautiful scenery Bolton Abbey and its neighbourhood. This enchanting spot belongs to the Duke of Devonshire; and the superintendence of it has for some years been entrusted to the Rev. William Carr, who has most skilfully opened out its features; and, in whatever he has added, has done justice to the place, by working with an invisible hand of art in the very spirit of nature. [return to text]
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