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Rhymes, Ballads & Folk Tales Etc

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Rhymes, Songs & Ballads

Old Sheffield
Sheffield Rhyme - From Paradise Square to Brightside c. 1930 by Ellen Styring

The Sheffield Apprentice
The Sheffield Apprentice (also known as The Sheffield 'Prentice Boy) was as popular a song at sea as it was on land, and appears in several songs of the sea collections.  This was printed on numerous broadsides throughout England in the early 1800s. Several of these can be found at the Bodleian Library. Vaughan Williams collected this version in Norfolk, and it appeared in his Folk Songs from the Eastern Counties (1908).

Sheffield Park
Song - the words are collated from Dorset and Essex versions. The tune is from Puddletown, Dorset.

The Song of Steel
The Don Valley, between Sheffield and Rotherham, was once full of steelworks relied upon by many thousands of families for their daily bread. The Song of Steel offers a glimpse inside the lives of these men and women. The work was tough and dangerous and accidents were commonplace, but a special camaraderie was forged along with the steel.

Drowzy Sleeper
Printed c.1817 by J. Crome of Sheffield. Harding B 28(233).

Songs of the Ridings
Songs of the Ridings by F.W. Moorman: 25 Yorkshire Dialect Poems (Newly annotated in the year 2000).

Up in the North, Down in the South Album
Songs and tunes from the Mike Yates collection 1964-2000.  Folksongs that carried with them a history that was outside his own experience of life. Tunes set in the Dorian Mode about smugglers and highwaymen, subjects that, until then, had only been mentioned in library books.

Yorkshire Dialect Poems 1673-1915
Yorkshire Dialect Poems and Traditional Poems Compiled with an Historical Introduction by F. W. Moorman (Professor of English Language, University of Leeds).
In volume and variety the dialect poetry of Yorkshire surpasses that of all other English counties. Moreover, when the rise of the Standard English idiom crushed out our dialect literature, it was the Yorkshire dialect which first reasserted its claims upon the muse of poetry; hence, whereas the dialect literature of most of the English counties dates only from the beginning of the nineteenth century, that of Yorkshire reaches back to the second half of the seventeenth.

Yorkshire Expressions           << MORE
Sheffield Indexers collection of links and expressions including Sheffield, Barnsley & more.

Old Folk Music of England
Listen to recordings of Popular folk songs and ballads of old England since the 16th Century.

Ancient Poems, Ballads and Songs of Old England
Online publication of Poems, Ballads and Songs taken down from oral recitation and transcribed from private manuscripts, rare broadsides and scarce publications.

English & Scottish Popular Ballads
Compiled and edited by Francis J. Child and published in the last decade of the nineteenth century, is a standard reference for British ballads.  See also Child Ballads, listed versions found in Max Hunter's collection of Ozark folk songs. You can see and hear these songs by clicking on any of the Hunter Catalog numbers or titles.

My Song Book
Ongoing collection of Old English lyrics and background information linked with sounds and musical notation.

Roast Beef of Old England
An English patriotic ballad written by Henry Fielding for his play The Grub-Street Opera, which was first performed in 1731. The lyrics were added to over the next twenty years. The song increased in popularity when given a new setting by the composer Richard Leveridge, and it became customary for theatre audiences to sing it before, after, and occasionally during, any new play.

Ring a Ring O'Roses
"Nursery Rhymes" generally referring to those of European origin in or since the 17th century possibly a form of oral political cartoon, from an era when free speech could get the speaker imprisoned.  Some Nursery Rhymes, however, are substantially older, recorded as far back as the Middle Ages.  Arguably the most famous collection of nursery rhymes is that of Mother Goose.  The nursery rhyme Ring a Ring O'Roses is popularly believed to be a metaphorical reference to the Great Plague of London, although this has been widely discredited, particularly as none of the "symptoms" described by the poem even remotely correlate to those of the bubonic plague, and the first record of the rhyme's existence was not until 1881.

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary
Like many nursery rhymes, it has acquired various historical explanations. One is that it refers to Mary I of Scotland, with "how does your garden grow" referring to her reign, "silver bells" referring to (Catholic) cathedral bells, "cockleshells" insinuating that her husband cheated on her, and "pretty maids all in a row" referring to her babies that died. Another is that it refers to Mary I of England and her attempts to restore England to Roman Catholicism, identifying the "cockle shells," for example, with the symbol of pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint James in Spain (Santiago de Compostela) and the "pretty maids all in a row" with nuns.

Pop Goes the Weasel
The original theme of the rhyme seems to have been a darkly humorous portrait of the cycle of poverty of workers in the East End of London.

Sing a Song of Sixpence
The Straight Dope in its analysis of the rhyme states: according to the Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, an Italian cookbook from 1549 (translated into English in 1598) actually contains a recipe "to make pies so that birds may be alive in them and flie out when it is cut up." The ODNR also cites a 1723 cook who describes this as an earlier practice, the idea being that the birds cause "a diverting Hurley-Burley amongst the Guests."

Who Killed Cock Robin
The story has been connected with Robin Hood: There is, however, no direct indication in the text of the rhyme to support this claim beyond the simple similarity of name. Also, in the later Robin Hood tales, Robin Hood is killed by a nun who betrays and drains the outlaw's blood. The story might as easily have been connected to the mysterious murder of William Rufus, king of England, the unpopular son of the Conqueror, found dead in the New Forest with an arrow piercing his lung.

Bodleian Library
Broadside ballads were part of the rich mix of popular street literature produced in England from the 16th through 19th centuries. These ballads, printed cheaply on thin sheets of paper, were sold on the streets of England by peddlers and hawkers for a penny or half-penny, in most cases. The ballads centered on popular subject matter such as love, sex, marriage, politics, religion, fantastic tales, humorous anecdotes, social reform, and crime. Most included an illustration of some kind, though in many cases the image had little or nothing to do with the subject of the text.

Folktales, Ghosts Stories & Legends               <<  Back to Top >>

Robin Hood
The original ballads locate Robin in Barnsdale (the area between Pontefract and Doncaster, some fifty miles north of Sherwood in the county of Yorkshire. This is reinforced for some by the similarity of Locksley to the area of Loxley in Sheffield. 

Spring Heeled Jack, Sheffield
An urban legend ~ In April and May of 1873, there were numerous sightings of the Park Ghost in Sheffield, which locals came to identify as Spring Heeled Jack. These incidents culminated with thousands of people gathering each night to hunt the ghost.  See also "the complete Spring Heeled Jack page" for more and
BBC Legacies Spring Heeled Jack.

Rotting Corps of Spence Broughton
Convicted-criminal Spence Broughton’s body hung, in chains, on Attercliffe Common in Sheffield for 36 years. Gibbeted as a deterrent to others against committing crime, Broughton became a popular attraction, with people flocking to Sheffield to see his body rotting away.

Charles Peace (14 May 1832 – 25 February 1879)
A notorious English burglar and murderer from Sheffield, whose somewhat remarkable life, though terrifying at the time, later spawned dozens of romanticized novels and films. Peace is mentioned by name in the Sherlock Holmes short story, "The Adventure of the Illustrious Client."  See also story with illustrations and 'The life of Charles Peace-The Early Years.'

John "Swift Nick" Nevison
John (also known as William) Nevison was one of Britain's most flamboyant highwaymen, a man whose exploits earned him praise from even King Charles II, who was so impressed by the activities of this gentleman-rogue that he nicknamed the highwayman Swift Nick - allegedly!  Most probably, Nevison was born at Wortley near Sheffield around 1639/40. He came from a good family - according to reports his father is variously named as comfortably off wool merchant or a steward at Wortley Hall.

Manor Castle, Sheffield
Also known as the Manor Lodge was built about 1510 in what then was a large deer park east of Sheffield, to provide a country retreat for the fourth Earl of Shrewsbury. The remains of Sheffield Manor include the Turret House, where Mary Queen of Scots was held prisoner by the sixth Earl of Shrewsbury (her ghost is said by some to haunt the Turret House building).

Carbrook Hall, Sheffield
A building was recorded on the site as far back as 1176, however the building as it exists today dates back to at least 1462, although there is enough evidence in the style of its interior to place it in the early years of the first Elizabethan era.  From a private dwelling the Hall eventually became, of course, a Public House. The green fields of Carbrook have vanished forever, but it is pleasant to think that a strong link with our past history is still maintained, through the presence of Carbrook Hall.

Mosborough Hall
A 16th Century Manor House, providing accommodation, conference and wedding facilities and a restaurant. Includes photographs, a location map, a brief history of the building and information about the resident ghosts.

National Emergency Services Museum
formerly the Sheffield Fire & Police Museum

Spirits of Fire Paranormal Investigation.  The museum opens July 1st, 2007. In September 1900 the building was opened as a Police & Fire station and was one of the UK's First purpose built Stations. In 1929 the Fire Service moved to Rockingham Street.  The Museum is now one of the Worlds Largest Fire & Police Museum's and it's Tower is the only still standing Fire Service Tower in the UK.

Ghost Hunts, Sheffield
To add to all of the entertainment in Sheffield you can now take part in a Ghost Hunting around the city centre.

Paranormal, Sheffield
Containing over six thousand stories of Irish and UK ghosts, hauntings, monsters, UFO reports, myths, legends, shuck reports and other strange and paranormal occurrences.

Sheffield Ghost Sightings
Reported sightings of Ghosts around Sheffield - They're closer than you think.  See also Rotherham, Barnsley, Doncaster and more Ghost Sightings.

Spectre Dogs, Gabriel's Hounds of Sheffield
Their yelping is said to be sometimes as loud as the note of a bloodhound, but sharper and more terrific. Why they have anywhere received the name of Gabriel's hounds appears unaccountable, for they are always supposed to be evil spirits hunting the souls of the dead, or, by their diabolical yelping, to betoken the speedy death of some person. Thus Mr. Holland, of Sheffield, describes in the following sonnet the superstition as held in Yorkshire...

Deepcar  & Stocksbridge - Ghosts of the Bypass
The A616 Stocksbridge bypass was built to divert heavy lorries from the centre of Stocksbridge. Seven miles long, it runs from Underbank to meet the MI. The area has had many unexplained paranormal sightings. 

Howden Moor Incident
An unidentified flying object hovering in the clear night sky; callers jamming police switchboards to report a light aircraft skimming rooftops on a collision course with the hills west of Sheffield; RAF jets screaming through the sky as if in pursuit of something...And finally, a deafening explosion which sent gamekeepers rushing from their isolated cottage on a Yorkshire moor.

Oakwell Hall, Batley           << NEW
Oakwell Hall (Batley, West Yorkshire) was built by John Batt in 1583 and is now furnished as the Batt family home in the 1690s.  Thanks to only minor alterations over the years and a fine collection of period furniture, the Hall offers visitors a real insight into a post English Civil War household. Oakwell's most famous legend concerns the ghost of William Batt, owner of the house in 1684. He was a young man of 25, a bachelor whose widowed mother, Elizabeth, lived at Oakwell.

Paranormal Database           << NEW
The Paranormal Database is a serious ongoing project to quantitatively document as many locations with paranormal / cryptozoological interest as possible, region by region, in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Sixty-five areas are currently covered, now totaling over 8100 entries, with frequent additions and current stories continuously updated.  See also Yorkshire.

Haunted Yorkshire
Welcome to Haunted Yorkshire Paranormal research group. Take a step into the Paranormal side of Yorkshire!

Yorkshire Ghost's (A-Z)
Our ghost stories are often romantic, poetic and always grim. From our shaggy black dog stories to naked poltergeists, here are Yorkshire Ghosts.

English Folklore
Wikipedia's popular links to information on miscellaneous English Folklore.  See also English Mythology.

Folklore, Fairies, Arthur & More
Folklore and legends of England and other resources at sacred-texts website about the British Isles.

Urban Legends
Urban legends often are born of fears and insecurities, or specifically designed to prey on such concerns. Whatever the reason, urban legends continue to be a part of our world.

British Folklore, Facts & Legends
Every month contains something interesting about the British festivals and traditions. These pages look at each month in detail giving a better insight into the richness of Britain's past.

Unusual Folklore Customs and Ceremonies
Calendar of curious, strange and unusual events and traditions in England, Scotland and Wales.

Fairy Tales
The fairy tale was part of an oral tradition; tales were told, rather than written down, and handed down from generation to generation. Because of this, the history of their development is necessarily obscure. Illiterate peoples, in particular, may have long told tales without there being any records of them.

Old Games & Sport              <<  Back to Top >>

The first recorded game of Conkers using horse chestnuts was on the Isle of Wight in 1848. Until then, children used snail shells or hazelnuts.  In 1965 the World Conker Championships were set up in Ashton (near Oundle, NTH), and still take place on the second Sunday of October every year.

Medieval Games & Pastimes
Games including; Chess, draughts, tables, merrills, pass the parcel, court of love, blind man's bluff, queek and stone throwing.

Elizabethan Sports
Various Sports were played and watched and formed much of Elizabethan Entertainment, especially for the Nobility. Elizabethan Team sports gained in popularity during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The team sports were enjoyed by both the players and the spectators. The Elizabethan era was dangerous and violent. Blood sports were enjoyed involving bears, bulls, cocks and dogs - team sports were also rough and violent. Even some card games were played in teams such as 'Ruff and Honors'!

List of Traditional Children's Games
Internationally originated, these are informal games, most often played by children without adult organisation, sometimes even despite the disapproval of adults. They are part of children's street culture.  Some games of possible British origins bringing back many fond memories; Bad Egg, Blind Man's Bluff, British Bull Dog/Bullrush, Ducks & Drakes, Hide-and-Seek, Hopscotch, Musical Chairs, Piggy in the Middle, Postman's Knock, Witches Casket and more.

Marbles are often mentioned in Roman literature, and there are many examples of marbles from ancient Egypt and were originally made from clay or marble, hence their name.

Oranges and Lemons
The origins of Oranges and Lemons are not well known, but are thought to date to at least the 17th or 17th century. A square dance named "Oranges and Lemons" dates to 1665. Some believe that it may be a reference to when King Charles I was beheaded and all the church bells rang to mark his execution. The final lines in the children's party game may refer to capital punishment.

The sport is very old, originating in Great Britain and Ireland,  has been documented as early as the seventeenth century. The earliest nationally formalised rules of play were devised by the GAA in Ireland in 1884. Liverpudlian and Scottish associations were formed in 1889.

Shove ha-penny or shove halfpenny is a pub game for two players or two teams that came into existence around 1840. In times past considerable sums could be wagered on games of shove ha'penny and influencing the referee - whether actual or suspected - could result in sudden and violent confrontations. Because of this some public houses will only allow trusted locals to play, sometimes keeping the board in a back room and denying its existence to strangers. This is particularly common in the case of the 'Dorset long board', making it difficult even for a shove ha'penny enthusiast to ascertain how many pubs still have this archaic board. It is believed that the Dorset long board was the 'game of shufflegroat' at which King Henry the Eighth is legendarily alleged to have lost large sums to his more-dubious drinking companions.

Tag or "It, Tick, Touch, Had or Dobby" Game
Played throughout the world and since ancient Egypt if not earlier. Some popular variations of Tag are; Babysitting, Bulldog, Dub-dub-in, Hide-O-Tic, Tag Bob Down or What Time is it Mr. Wolf?.

More Sheffield History

Sheffield Indexers, Sheffield History
Sheffield Indexers collection of links to historical Sheffield including; Sheffield History, Laws & Acts, Living & Working Conditions, Historical Land & Buildings, Sheffield Flood and War Memories.

Sheffield Indexers, Other Historical Info
Sheffield Indexers collection of links to more articles of interest relating to Sheffield including; Sheffield Stories, Newspaper Articles, Editorials & General Interests, Sheffield Rhymes Etc, Cherished Sheffield Family Memories, Recipes of Olde Yorkshire, Old Sheffield Picture Post Cards and Yorkshire Expressions.

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