Free Stories and Audio

Here are two of the stories that are included in the Lincolnshire Folk Tales book. There is also an audio file of the story of Ten Pint Smith of Louth at the end of this page.

 

1. THE LEGEND OF BYARD'S LEAP

In the midst of what was once a lonely tract of high land called Ancaster Heath, ran the old Roman Road from Ancaster to Lincoln (now known as the High Dyke or Viking Way). On the eastern side of this road was a farmhouse known as Byard's Leap. About fifty yards north of this old building, near a pond by the roadside, can be found two sets of four very large iron horse shoes, embedded in the ground...

About four hundred years ago, in a local cave there lived a vindictive old witch. All the local people were wary of her and did her bidding, for if they did not she would get her revenge. She could addle the milk, turn the ale sour, make the cows drop their calves and even give a baby a squint through just a look. Things came to a head when a baby was still-born to a woman who had turned the witch away from her house. The local people hatched a plan to trap the witch and the local shepherd was chosen to help as it was rumoured that he was on intimate terms with the old woman. In fact it was said that he was too afraid to break off relations with the witch, for fear of the consequences.

At last they were ready “to get shut of her” and a plan was hatched that in the evening the shepherd would lead the farm horses to water at the pond by the roadside, opposite the hag's den. He would then throw a stone into the water as the horses were drinking, and watched to see which horse raised its head first. The young man was then to climb onto the back of this horse and call for the old woman to climb up behind him. When she did so, he would stab her with a two-edged knife as if in self-defence. The witch, in the struggle, would fall into the pond and be drowned and so die in the way common to witches.

As darkness was just beginning to fall, the young shepherd did as he had been told. He led the horses to the water, threw a stone into the pond and then climbed onto the back of the horse that had raised its head. This horse was in fact blind Bayard, which was fortunate because a normal horse would shrink from contact with the witch.

When the witch heard the shepherd call, instead of coming out, she replied “Wait till I've buckled my shoes and suckled the cubs, and I'll be with you.”

The shepherd stayed where he was and in time the witch came out and climbed onto the horse. The lad plunged the knife into the old hag's breast and she, in agony, dug her sharp finger nails into the horse's back.

Blind Bayard at once made a wild, sudden leap, which unseated the witch and took him sixty feet from the spot. The horse then made a second leap, as large as the first to the place that is now marked by four horseshoes, and the witch fell into the pond, and drowned, as planned.


Ethel Rudkin was informed that the witch lived in a hut on Ancaster Heath. The man chosen to attack the witch was an old soldier from Ancaster who had returned from the wars with his horse Old Blind Bayard. He had tried the experiment of throwing the stone into the water, three times, and each time it was his horse who had turned its head. He rode to her house, and waited whilst she 'suckled' her 'cubs' and then he severed one of her breasts. This act drove her into a fury and she leapt onto the horse and dug her fingers and toes into the horse such that it made three giant leaps. The witch clung on until the soldier turned and ran her through with his sword, piercing old Bayard too. The witch and her 'cubs' were said to be buried under a nearby stone which looks like a mounting block.

Rudkin noted that the story was widely told in Lincolnshire, and that there was a field at Ashby Lodge Farm, (just off the A15, four and a half miles north-east of Byard's Leap) known as 'Meg's Hole' where it was said that the witch spent time and also died.

Sidney Addy found a version of the tale that was set near Market Rasen and which included a wiseman who gave advice to farmers who wished to be rid of a local witch.  During the attempt, the witch's arm was grazed by the dagger and the horse leapt seven yards on each of three leaps. After this the witch lost her powers. Another account has the witch named 'Old Meg' and the attacker 'Big Jim'. A further account has the witch living in the farmhouse, another that she, when attacked, turned into a lion.

The most interesting thing about the Legend is that the footprints were preserved. As a consequence, the site can still be found on the A17 past Sleaford on the way to Newark, past Cranwell Airfield then left onto the B6403 to Ancaster. Postcode NG34 8EY.

The witch's hut is believed to have been located under the present garage and the green in front of it and where once there were eight holes in the ground marking the hoof prints caused by Byard's giant leaps, now two sets of four horseshoes mark the spots.

The present horseshoes were apparently installed in the late nineteenth century by Colonel Reeve of nearby Leadenham House who had the shoes, which collectively weighed nearly seven stone, set into large blocks of stone to prevent them being easily moved.

The sign board at the site gives the following interpretation:

“This is the site of a famous Lincolnshire legend. The name Byards Leap derives from the name of the horse in the tale, he was a Bay horse called Bayard or Byard. The story has it that a Witch lived nearby and a villager from Ancaster was appointed to kill her. He used his horse Byard, he mounted the horse on the mounting stone by the farm gates on the other side of the now B6403. The horse took three huge leaps and the witch and the horse vanished. The horseshoes here and the other set in the small wood mark the horse's huge strides.”

2.  THE WEREWOLF OF LANGRICK FEN

In the 1920s a young archaeologist by the name of Jones was digging in the peat bog at Langrick Fen when he found some apparently human bones. He took them back home and cleaned them up and found to his horror that the bones made up a human skeleton, but with a wolf's head. He was at a loss to understand how this could have come about and speculated that maybe it had been an exhibit from a from a travelling show – the bones of half-man, half wolf.
That evening as he continued to examine and ponder on the bones he heard a scratching on the path outside and the sound of the latch being lifted on his locked door. He looked out the window and by the light of the moon he saw a strange dark figure with a human form and a wolf's head. The creature started to claw at the window and snarl at Jones, who ran to hide in the kitchen where he barricaded the door with furniture. 
Jones heard the sound of breaking glass but then the snarling died down. He stayed in that kitchen all night, not daring to sleep and as dawn broke he crept out and over to the front door wondering if the creature would still be there.
There was no sign of the creature, but there was glass all over the floor by the window and the table on which the bones had been placed had been overturned. Jones knew that there was only one thing he should do with the bones.
He hastily gathered all the bones together, placed them into a box, and put them all bag where he had found them deep in the peat bog. He returned home and was never again disturbed by the supernatural visitor.
People said that for many years after, the man would tell his tale to those who would listen, and as he recounted the happenings of the night the tremor could still be heard in his voice, and the fear still seen in his eyes.

Christopher Marlowe gave an account of a mystery from Langrick Fen, in his Legends of the Fenland People. A variant of the 'true' story was also told by Ethel Rudkin to a neighbour in Spilsby in the 1970s.

Here is an audio recording of Ten Pint Smith of Louth.