The story collectors

Some notable Lincolnshire folk tale collectors include:

Gervase Holles (1607-1675) was collecting popular antiquities, later to be known as folklore, long before the latter word was even devised. Born in Grimsby, he was a prominent Royalist and a lawyer. He served as Mayor of Grimsby and MP for the town both before and after the English Civil War. Abraham de la Pryme (1671-1704) was also an antiquarian. Born in Hatfield, on the Levels near Doncaster he became a curate in Broughton and then Hull. He kept a diary—Ephemeris Vitae: A Diary of My Own Life— from the age of twelve until his death, in which he recorded items of interest.

George Stovin (1696-1780) was born at Tetley Hall, in the parish of Crowle, and lived the life of a country gentleman. His main interest was research the topography and antiquities of the area of his birth. He was particularly interested in the drainage of the Level of Hatfield Chase, where he had inherited estates. It was said that he rarely left the Levels, regarding “no part of England comparable to the Isle of Axholme, and no town equal to Crowle.” Late in life, he did however cross the Trent where he took up residence in Winterton, “in a little cottage which he had made Arcadian with honeysuckles and other flowers, where he was to be seen with his pipe every morning at five, and where he was accustomed to amuse his neighbours with the variety of anecdote with which his memory supplied him.”

Henry Evan Smith (1828-1908) was a local correspondent for the Stamford Mercury, North Lincolnshire Star and other papers. He left numerous manuscript notes, many of which are now in the Lincolnshire Archives.

James Conway Walter (1831-1913), the eldest son of a Lincolnshire clergyman, was born in Langton near Horncastle. He went to Cambridge University and became vicar of St. Andrews, Langton (Woodhall Spa) and Kirkstead, Lincolnshire in 1869. In 1877 his father died of a chill caught whilst walking six miles home from a meeting in a snowstorm. After 21 years he relinquished the latter position and became rector at Langton. During his career he became a highly respected Lincolnshire historian, and wrote a number of books and papers on Lincolnshire history including ‘The Legend of Bayards Leap’ which was included in Andrews, W (Eds) (1891) Bygone Lincolnshire. He also contributed various items on folklore to Mabel Peacock including the script to a rather bawdy Lincolnshire Plough Play that had been performed in the kitchen of his Rectory, about the year 1889.

Edward Peacock (1831-1915) was the only son of Edward Shaw Peacock, a wealthy Lincolnshire landowner and agriculturalist. The young Edward was eductated at home and developed an interest in history and archaeology. He lived at Bottesford Manor House which is situated on the outskirts of modern Scunthorpe. He married Lucy Anne Wetherell from America and the couple had six children. In 1892, due to financial pressures, Edward and his daughter Mabel moved to Dunstan House, Kirton in Lindsay. He was an avid collector of folklore, which he sent to various publications including local newspapers. One of his informants was his aunt Mary Ann Ashton who lived at Northorpe, near Kirton in Lindsey. Mary Ann had lost her husband only five years after her marriage and lived as a widow in the village. At one time he was preparing to write The Folklore of Lincolnshire, a task that was eventually completed by his daughter Mabel. Throughout his life, Edward researched the Lincolnshire Dialect and he continued submitting short items to Folklore until 1908. He also wrote four novels, none of which were particularly successful. Along with the Peacocks there were two other notable people collecting folklore within Lincolnshire in the later nineteenth century.

Robert Marshall Heanley (1848-1915), the eldest son of a wealthy farmer, was born in Croft in the south east of the county. He entered the church in 1875 and became assistant curate at Burgh-le-Marsh before becoming rector of Wainfleet All Saints and perpetual curate of Wainfleet St Thomas until 1889. His parishes were close to the place of his birth and he drew on this and boyhood memories to produce pieces on Marshland folklore for Lincolnshire Notes and Queries (1891), for Folk-Lore (1898) and for an article on 'The Vikings: Traces of their Folklore in Marshland' for the Saga Book of the Viking Club (1903).

James Alpass Penny (1855-1944) was born in Crewkerne, Somerset, where his father was headmaster of the Grammar School, became vicar of Stixwould, a village near Horncastle in 1888. Seven years later he moved five miles to become vicar of Wispington until 1914. He spent his later years, suffering from blindness, at Woodhall Spa, also in the Horncastle area. He produced two collections of folklore from around the locality which also include popular memories and incidents from his own experience as a parish clergyman. Willingham Franklin Rawnsley (1845-1927), though born in Hertfordshire, was the eldest son of the rector of Halton Holgate, Lincolnshire. William's brother Canon Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley, who was one of the founders of the National Trust, and as such Willingham was interested in the environment. Though he was for a number of years, proprietor of Winton House, private school in Winchester and he spent his retirement in Guildford, he kept his interest in the county of his ancestors, as evidenced in his travel book The Highways and Byways of Lincolnshire (1914). He was also related by marriage to Tennyson, and an expert on his poems.

Sidney Oldall Addy (1848-1933) was an antiquary and man of letters. Born at Norton, Derbyshire, the son of a colliery owner, he studied Classics at Lincoln College, Oxford. He became a solicitor and spent much of his life in Sheffield, combining his work with his other interests. He wrote a number of books including a collection of tales from Household Tales with other Traditional Remains Collected in the Counties of York, Lincoln, Derby. In the introduction, he noted that “the ancient stories, beautiful or highly humorous even in their decay, linger with us here and there in England, and, like rare plants, may be found by those who seek them.” He collected all the tales from the oral tradition, rather then printed sources and wrote them up using the words of the narrator but without the dialect, with the exception of obsolete words.

Mabel Geraldine Woodruffe Peacock (1856-1920) followed on from the work of her father in submitting papers and notes to Folklore between 1887 and 1917, quite a number of which were based on Lincolnshire Folklore. She published three collections of stories and verse, Tales and Rhymes in Lindsey Folk-Speech (1886), Tales fra Linkisheere (1889) and Lincolnshire Tales – the recollections of Eli Twigg (1897) which include a number of Lincolnshire versions of traditional tales and rhymes telling stories of boggarts, fairies and fools. In 1902 she commenced correspondence with the Folklore Society on the subject of taking over from her father in the collection of Lincolnshire Folklore from printed sources. This work, which was carried out with Mrs Gutch, was completed and published in 1908. Mabel did not collect folklore in the field, indeed a neighbour is recorded as saying that she rarely left her house, but gleaned information from friends and acquaintances.

Marie Clothilde Balfour (1862-1931) was born in Edinburgh, but spent some of her childhood in New Zealand. She was a cousin of Robert Louis Stevenson, and in 1885 she married another of her cousins, James Craig Balfour, a physician and surgeon. Between 1887 and 1889 the couple lived in the Vicarage at Redbourne, North Lincolnshire, where Marie collected a number of stories from the local people. A description of this experience was included in a semi-biographical novel, and outlined earlier in this introduction. The first of the tales collected by Marie was included by Andrew Lang in both Longman's Magazine and Folk-Lore, the journal of the Folk Lore Society. This received a favourable reaction and probably prompted her to send the Legends to the Society. Sadly, Balfour was not skilled in dialect but attempted to record the tales accurately. This misguided attempt led to later criticism of the authenticity of the stories, but an investigation into their content, and the views of people from the are leads me to conclude that they were indeed from the Lincolnshire Carrs.

Leland Lewis Duncan (1862-1923) was born in Kent and became a life member of Kent Archaelogical Society. He was made a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in London in 1890.

Ethel H. Rudkin (1893-1985) followed in the footsteps of Mabel Peacock, indeed as a child, she recalled visits made as a child with her parents, to the Kirton in Lindsey home of the Peacocks. Born Ethel Hutchinson in Willoughton, Lincolnshire, her mothers family were the Pickthalls of Suffolk. An only child, she was educated in Scarborough before gaining employment as a governess. Whilst at a point-to-point meeting at Burton near Lincoln in 1914, she met and then three years later, married George Rudkin, who served in the War, firstly in the Yeomanry, and then as a Lieutenant in the Machine Gun Corps. Sadly George died on 28th October 1918 from the influenza epidemic which is believed to have killed 250,000 people in Britain and millions worldwide. His mother died on the same day. As his widow Ethel gained George's share in the Rudkin family farm and for a time she helped in this venture. By 1927 she had returned to live with her parents in Willoughton, where she stayed to look after her elderly parents. A devoted, and lifelong collector of Lincolnshire oral history and folklore, she traveled up and down the county in the 1920s and 1930s, in a bull-nosed Morris car, collecting evidence directly from the rural villagers on a broad range of topics. She submitted a number of articles to Folklore and produced a book Lincolnshire Folklore, which was published at her own expense in 1936. The preface to the book stated that everything in it was “authentic and collected between World War One and Two from people not books.” Ethel also had a keen interest in archaeology, local and social history and dialect, and eventually became an acknowledged expert in all these subjects within the county. Her home became a place of pilgrimage for researchers wishing to view an enormous quantity of books, manuscripts, artefacts, memorabilia and farm implements and also enjoy a cup of tea with the lively lady herself. In the 1970s Ethel moved to a cottage in Toynton All Saints where she spent the remaining years of her life. She was instrumental in cataloguing the vast collection of artefacts that formed the core of the Museum of Lincolnshire Life and much of her collection was donated to the Lincolnshire Museum Service after her death.

Ruth Lyndall Tongue (1898-1981) is normally regarded as a Somerset folklorist, though she was born in Staffordshire. Her mother Betsy Mabel Jones was from Whitchurch, Shropshire, but her father, a Congregational Minster had been born in Louth, Lincolnshire and both of his parents, and grandparents were natives of Lincolnshire. Ruth recalled hearing stories from her Aunt Annie Tongue in Alkborough, and from Great Aunt Hetty Carr of Blyton Farm, near Gainsborough. Annie Tongue, Ruth said had heard stories from her female ancestors who also were born in, and raised in Lincolnshire. Ruth's grandfather, Joseph Tongue was, like her own father, a minister (Primitive Methodist) but in his later years he moved back to the birth place of his wife. They lived in West Halton Lane, Alkborough.