Sunday, 18 March 2012

Long Lonkin and Lord Wearie

To these days of border warfare belongs the tale of Long Lonkin and Lord Wearie. There are various versions of the tale, but one of the most consistent names Nafferton as being the home of the skilled stonemason Lonkin, known as Long Lonkin because of his gangling long legs and great height. Long Lonkin fell in love with a farmer’s beautiful daughter, but she was well aware of her charms and was determined to make the most of them. Lonkin might have been a skilled mason, but the girl had her sights set higher than that. She spurned Lonkin’s attentions and soon after managed to attract the admiration of Lord Wearie of Welton Hall. The pair were married.

A few years later Lord Wearie decided that his property was not adequately fortified against raiding Scots, so he hired the best mason in the district - Long Lonkin - to improve the defences. Lonkin went to work with his customary skill and produced a structure that could not be captured except by an army with the very latest siege equipment and plenty of time to employ it. But Lord Wearie quibbled about the bill and refused to pay what he had promised.

Unknown to his many clients, Lonkin always included in the apparently impregnable structures that he built a secret entrance just wide enough for a single man to gain access. He had intended to fund his old age by selling the secrets of these entrances to robbers, Scots or whoever would pay the highest price. But with a double grievance against Lord Wearie - for having stolen his sweetheart and refusing to pay the bill - Lonkin decided to use the hidden entrance to Welton Hall himself.

First Lonkin set about seducing the nurse who cared for the Wearie’s new born baby son. With the nurse well and truly under his influence, Lonkin made an appointment to visit her secretly one night, entering by way of his secret door and so bypassing the guards at the gate. On the fatal night, Lonkin entered the building and persuaded the nurse to lead him silently to the bedchamber of Lord and Lady Wearie. Once there, Lonkin drew a long dagger and plunged it into the sleeping form of Lady Wearie, then turned on the baby in the cradle and killed him as well. Lord Wearie was absent, so Long Lonkin took to his heels and fled.

When Lord Wearie came home, he found the scene of slaughter in the bedroom. Distraught with grief though he was, Wearie gave chase. He and his men caught up with Long Lonkin as the latter was hiding in a tree overhanging a deep pool in the Whittle Burn. One version says that Lonkin threw himself into the pool and drowned, another that he was captured and hanged while the nurse was burned at the stake.

What makes the story rather odd is that Nafferton Pele Tower fell into ruin about a hundred years before Welton Hall was built, making it impossible for the owners of the two to have been engaged in a feud. However, Lonkin does not sound as if he were rich enough to afford to live in a tower, so perhaps that part of the tale is wrong. Or perhaps he lived there when it was a ruin.

from MYSTERIOUS NORTHUMBERLAND by Rupert Matthews

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