Folklore & Local Legends
There is plenty of folklore and mysteries to be told from across northern England from the lighthearted to the sinister, these tales of our ancestors are ingrained in our region, and our local areas of Cockerham and Lancaster is no exception. The folklore and tales have been passed down through the generations, within families, at the pub or around the fire and these are our favourites from our local area.
Cockersands Abbey is a ruined Cistercian abbey located just north of Cockerham along the coast. Founded in the 12th century, the abbey was dissolved in the 16th century during the English Reformation. Legend has it that the ghost of a nun haunts the ruins of the abbey. According to the story, the nun was in love with a monk from the abbey, and when their relationship was discovered, they were both punished. The monk was sent away, and left outside to die alone and the nun was walled up alive in the abbey as punishment for her sins. To this day, some visitors to the abbey claim to have seen the ghostly figure of the nun wandering the ruins.
Plover Scar Lighthouse
The Plover Scar Lighthouse is another landmark with its own folklore. The lighthouse was built in the early 19th century and stands tall off the coast of Cockerham. According to legend, the lighthouse is haunted by the ghost of a young woman who drowned in the sea while trying to rescue her lover. It is said that her ghost can be seen walking along the beach and around the lighthouse on certain nights
The Pendle Witches
The Pendle Witches were a group of people who were accused of witchcraft in the early 17th century. The most famous of these witches was a woman named Elizabeth Southerns, who was known as "Old Demdike". She was said to have made a pact with the devil, and was eventually found guilty of witchcraft and hanged, along with several others at Lancaster Castle.
There is said to be a local curse from the witches that anyone who chooses to leave to explore a life elsewhere will always return whether they choose to or not.
The Legend of the Cockerham Bell
One of the most well-known stories from Cockerham is the legend of the Cockerham Bell. According to the story, there was once a church in the village that had a large bell in its tower. One day, the bell disappeared, and no one knew what had happened to it. Years later, a group of fishermen were out at sea when they heard the sound of a bell ringing underwater. They followed the sound to a spot just off the coast of Cockerham, where they discovered the missing bell at the bottom of the sea. To this day, the bell remains at the bottom of the sea, and some say that on quiet nights, the sound of its ringing can still be heard.
Cockerham and Devil
"The Devil once took a liking to the pretty village of Cockerham and decided to take up residence there. He delighted in patrolling the lanes of this sleepy village, frightening the villagers and filling their noses with the smell of brimstone.
At last they called upon the cleverest amongst them, the schoolmaster, to find some way to be rid of him. One night, at midnight, the schoolmaster consulted an old book of spells and summoned the Devil using the time-honoured device of repeating the Lord’s Prayer backwards.
When the Devil duly appeared, the schoolteacher demanded that he henceforth leave the village, but the Devil was not so obedient. He did, however, strike a compromise – he challenged the schoolteacher to set him three tasks, promising that if he could not complete them, he would leave that place for ever.
The first task was to count the number of dewdrops in a hedge. This, unfortunately, the Devil found too easy, for when he went to the hedge to count, the wild wind caused by his arrival blew the hedge dry and there were only thirteen dewdrops left to count.
The second task thought up by the schoolteacher was to count the number of stalks in a cornfield. Unfortunately, when the Devil gave his answer, the schoolteacher realised he had no way of checking whether he was correct!
The third task was to make a rope of sand, which could be lifted and would withstand washing in the river Cocker. The Devil vanished, but in just a few moments he proudly reappeared with a beautifully woven rope of sand. His confidence soon faded, however, when he and the schoolteacher went to the river to wash the rope, which promptly dissolved clean away.
The Devil was furious, but a bargain was a bargain and, accepting that he was beaten, the Devil flew away to Pilling Moss and was never seen in Cockerham again.
In Pilling, it is said that he landed on Broadfleet Bridge – and his footprint can still be seen there, stamped into the stonework." this story has been taken from Lancashire Folk website here
The Vikings in Cockerham
The Vikings were known to have raided and settled in the area during the 9th and 10th centuries, the Vikings conducted frequent raids along the coast of Lancashire, including our little village of Cockerham. According to local historian, George Clark, the Vikings targeted Cockerham because of its strategic location near the River Lune, which provided easy access to the inland areas of Lancashire. The Vikings would sail up the river and raid local villages and towns, stealing livestock and goods, and taking prisoners. These raids continued until the Vikings were defeated by the Anglo-Saxons at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066.
We can also see the influence of the Vikings in local the place-names in and around the surrounding area.
Many of the local names have Viking origins, such as the nearby town of Lancaster (which comes from the Old Norse for "Roman fort on the Lune"), and the village of Thurnham (which means "thorn tree settlement" in Old Norse), and Ellel (which means "the temple by the alder trees" in Old Norse), and even the name Cockerham itself is thought to come from the Old Norse words "kokr" (meaning "rooster") and "heimr" (meaning "home" or "village").
Finally, there is evidence to suggest that the Vikings also buried their dead in Cockerham. In the 19th century, several Viking burial mounds were discovered in Cockerham. These mounds, also known as barrows, were typically used to bury important members of Viking society, such as chieftains and warriors. The burial mounds in Cockerham contained a range of artefacts, including weapons, jewelry, and pottery. While the burial mounds have been excavated and studied, their exact origins and purpose remain a topic of debate among archaeologists.