Knaresborough: 11th June 2016.
I went to Knaresborough so long ago, I’d almost forgotten it, and wondered about the feeling of déjà vu I had on seeing the River Nidd and the stately bridge over it. Then, I remembered … I don’t care to think about how many years ago … my friend Arnie, two girls, Jo and Carol (??) and a boat trip on the river.
However, we hadn’t come here for boating. We’d come to watch a bed race, and you’ll read more about that in the weeks to come.
This week, I want to discuss Knaresborough’s most famous inhabitant, Mother Shipton.
Ursula Shipton (née Southall) lived in the late 15th/early 16th Century, and is described as a ‘soothsayer, prophetess and prostitute’, who was born in a cave overlooking the River Nidd, now, today, known naturally as ‘Mother Shipton’s Cave’. Nearby is the Dropping Well, where, this being limestone country, objects dropped into it are slowly petrified by the lime-rich water flowing over them.
Now, although it’s possible that one of her predictions foretold the Great Fire of London in 1666, very little is known of her original predictions … several doubtful ones were published in the 19th Century, for instance:
A Carriage without a horse shall go;
Disaster fill the world with woe…
In water iron then shall float,
As easy as a wooden boat .
That one was attributed to her, but didn’t appear till 1862. But, it has proved rather accurate, hasn’t it. In the same year, there appeared:
‘The world to an end shall come
In eighteen hundred and eighty one’
Well, we know what happened to that one, don’t we? 1882 came around, and this wicked old world was still here. So, the ‘faithful’ changed the last line to read:
‘In nineteen hundred and ninety one’
Of course, 1992 came around without incident … well, apart from the Gulf War and the Maastricht Treaty. They gave up at that point!
You can read more of Mother Shipton’s prophesies … here … some of which should maybe be taken with a pinch of salt, because they use words which weren’t used in her day.