says that the Viking Great Bo and his band of men
and pillaged their way up the Kent Valley from its estuary. They
landed in Morcambe Bay and without meeting any real opposition they
made their way north past Windermere and over Longsleddale Fell. They
stopped at Fawcett Forest where it meets High Borrowdale and they
turned down into Borrowdale. Never had they seen such a beautiful
valley and here they saw a young lady called Agitha who was herding
her goats on the steep fellside. She was the daughter of a local
landowner and Great Bo wanted her for his own. But she ran away up
onto a crag. He followed the girl but her pet goat butted him and he
fell of the crag and broke his neck. Agitha and the goat ran over the
fell to meet up with her father, who had been out hunting wild boar
and told him the tale.
the Viking band found his body they cursed the person who had killed
him, not realising that it was a goat. They picked up his body and
carried Great Bo along the road from Low Borrowbridge onto the
fellside at Carlingill. There they laid his body to rest under a pile
of stones. This spot is where the old county boundary of Westmorland
and Yorkshire meets. It is said that even today you get a strange
feeling if you stand on this spot and that his spirit is still
looking for the fair Agitha.
is said that even today you get a strange feeling if you stand on
Many years later, highwaymen who had been hanged would be taken to this
place in cages and left to rot on the gibbet. Farmers who used to use
the stone from here for walling often found human bones and stopped
using this area.
The hill is still known to locals as Gibbet Hill although it is not
marked on any recent maps.
Gallows near Carlingill
were very much a public spectacle in the past. There used to be gallows
near Carlingill in the Howgills, which stood on a rise call Hanging Hill.
In the 19th century it was still living memory to
body swinging from the gibbet, twisting round and round and creaking
horribly. Such bodies were left until the birds had picked the bones
clean, as a warning to anyone who thought they could copy their deeds.
The last man killed here was said to be a local sheep dealer, but many
of the prisoners hanged here were Scottish cattle thieves who were
often caught in the area.
The Tebay Witch
Mary Baines or Baynes was a farmer's daughter, born on an
isolated farm on the fellside near Tebay in 1721. She was a spinster
and stayed at home to look after her parents. When they died she was
forced to take a cottage in Tebay (now Old Tebay). She had grown more
and more eccentric as she had grown older and the villagers treated her
with fear and hatred and if children teased Mary she would threaten
them. Mary became the terror of Tebay and anything strange that
happened was thought to be her fault and some believed she had magic
powers to help her in her malicious deeds. She was not a good-looking
woman and it wasn't long before she was known as The Tebay Witch.
Mary did not like cruelty to animals and when the fox hunt
in Tebay one day she was said to have turned herself into a hare to
lead the hunt down into Tebay Gorge. When she reached Carlingill she
re-charged her magical powers on a heap of stones. (Could they be the
same stones that the Mighty Bo was buried under?). She then ran up the
fell above Low Carlingill. The hounds followed her but they couldn't
keep up with her and they returned to Tebay completely exhausted. Of
course by this time the hare had turned back into Mary Baines.
The following story is told about Mary in "Bygone Cumberland and
Westmorland" by Daniel Scott.
happened were laid at her charge and thoroughly believed by
people . Ned Nisson, of the Cross Keys Inn had a mastiff which worried
Mary's favourite cat. The owner decided to have the cat respectably
buried in her garden and a man named Willan dug a grave for it. Old
Mary handed an open book and pointed to something he was to read, but
Willan, not thinking it worth while to read anything over the
cat, took pussy by the leg and said:
to ashes, dust to dust
Heres's a hole
and in tha must
Mary grew angry and warned her companion he would fare no better than
his levity. Soon afterwards Willan was ploughing his field when the
implement suddenly bound up and the handle struck one of his eyes
causing blindness. Mary Baines was given credit for having bewitched
Mary also predicted that one-day carriages would go over
Fell without the help of horses. She was not to see this but her
predictions came true when the London & Glasgow Railway came to
Mary died aged 90 in 1811 and at that time Westmorland folk were
superstitious and took precautions to keep witches away from their
homes. Crooked pins were thought to protect against witchcraft and were
often buried under grates, floorboards and doorsteps.
Was Mary a witch or was it just superstition, and where is she buried?
Mount Pleasant in Tebay and various houses in Orton are
for their witches or Fairy Stones. These apear in many Westmorland
villages, and were not originally for ornamentation. They were believed
to keep spiritual invaders, and in particular witches, at bay.
Westmorland folk believed these stones were lucky especially, if they
had a hole through them.
A holed stone was often hung on a peg in the attic, byre or stable to
bring luck. As late as 1850, holed stones were regularly found
stables to protect the horses from witchcraft.
Miners were very superstitious, they looked for a holed stone which
they then wore around their neck for luck.
The word "Witch"
comes from the Anglo-Saxon Wich
meaning 'to bend'. Rowan trees were believed to have been a potent
charm against witches. Rowan was also called witchen. Many people
planted rowan trees near to the house door, or wore a sprig of rowan in
The Orton Boggle or Dobbie
Cooper House was the sight of a
national sensation in
1849 but one which divided the local community at the time. It
happened on the 5th anniversary of the drowning of Robert Gibson in
April 1844 who lived at Cooper House. The first manifestation was
when the cradle holding the child of Mr William Gibson, Robert's
grand child, was overturned and then other pieces of furniture
started dancing about the floor.
A few days later things became
so violent that the
neighbours were called in. One of them placed his hat on the table
and as he moved away the hat followed him and hit him over the head.
The man offered up prayers to exorcise the spirit but, as if in
defiance, a knife was thrown at him and hit him on the side. Everyone
was so scared that they fled from the house.
Five men from Orton went to
Coopers House to see for
themselves if the rumours were true and, as they were sitting having
tea with Mrs Gibson, things started to be thrown around and not just
in the house but also in the dairy.
On May 3rd 1849 there was a fair
in Orton so the news
spread even further and the number of people going up to Cooper House
increased. Eventually the Penrith police decided to visit and they
questioned a young servant called Ann Lindsay. They managed to get a
confession out of her that it was the work of her mistress and
herself but the Gibson family claimed that the confession had been
extorted out of the poor girl with the treat of jail if she didn't
admit the tricks.
No sooner had this confession
been reported in the
papers than news of another appearance came but slowly the interest
in the Orton boggle faded even though it lived on in a ballad written
Some think this area is still
haunted by the Orton
Boggle or was it just a trick, who knows?
If you have any myths or
legends from Orton or Tebay that you would like to share
please send it to any committee member to consider it for inclusion.