Lancashire Legends, Traditions, Pageants, Sports, &c./Appendix/The Dragon of Wantley


The story of the Dragon of Wantley has been claimed for several districts. Hunter, in his "Hallamshire," 1820, claims that locality for the scene of the conflict; but Mr Gregson, in his "Fragments," pp. 151-2, shows pretty conclusively that the tradition must be assigned to More Hall, in the Hundred of West Derby. Sir William de la More, who flourished about 1326, was a noted warrior. He distinguished himself at the battle of Poictiers, and was knighted by Edward I. His prowess gained him great fame, and he is supposed to have been the hero of the legend; although a similar story is told of Sir Thomas Venables, of Golborne David, in the county of Chester. It is not improbable that the issue of some family feud or Border fray is there allegorised by the author of the ballad, which is reprinted in the "Fragments" from a broadside issued for Randal Taylor, near Stationers' Hall, London, 1685.


Old stories tell how Hercules
A dragon slew at Lerna,
With seven heads and fourteen eyes,
To see and well discerna;
But he had a club
This dragon to drub,
Or he had ne'er don't, I warrant ye,
But More of More Hall,
With nothing at all,
He slew the Dragon of Wantley.
This dragon had two furious wings,
Each one upon each shoulder,
With a sting in his Tayl,
As long as a Flayl,
Which made him bolder and bolder.
He had long claws,
And in his jaws,
Four and forty teeth of iron,
With a hide as tough as any buff,
Which did him round inviron.
Have you not heard that the Trojan horse
Held seventy men in his belly?
This Dragon was not quite so big,
But very near I'll tell ye,
Devour did he,
Poor children three,
That could not with him grapple;
And at one sup
He eat them up,
As one should eat an apple.
All sorts of cattle this Dragon did eat,
Some say he'd eat up trees,
And that the forest sure he would
Devour up by degrees.

For houses and churches
Were to him gorse and burches,
He eat all and left none behind,
But some stones, dear Jack,
Which he could not crack,
Which on the hills you will find.
In Yorkshire fair, near Rotherham,
The place I know it well;
Some two or three miles or thereabout,
I vow I cannot tell;
But there is a ledge
Just on the hill edge,
And Matthew's house hard by it;
Oh! there and then
Was this Dragon's den,
You could not choose but spy it.
Some say this Dragon was a Witch;
Some say he was the Devil;
For from his nose a smoke arose,
And with it burning snivil;
Which he cast off,
When he did cough;
In a well which he did stand by,
Which made it look
Just like a brook
Running with burning brandy.
Hard by a furious Knight there dwelt,
Of whom all towns did ring,
For he could wrestle, play at staff,
Kick, cuff, box, huff,
Call son of a witch,
Do any kind of thing;
By the tail and the main,
With his hands twain,
He swung a horse till he was dead,
And that which was stranger,
He, for very anger,
Eat him all up but his head!

Three children, as I told, being eat;
Men, women, girls, and boys;
Sighing and sobbing, came to his lodging,
And made a hideous noyse,
Oh! save us all, More of More Hall,
Thou peerles Knight of these woods;
Do but slay this Dragon,
We won't leave us a rag on,
We'll give thee all our goods.
Tut, tut, quoth he, no goods I want,
But I want, I want in sooth,
A fair maid of sixteen, that's brisk,
And smiles about the mouth;
Hair as black as a sloe,
Both above and below,
With a blush her cheeks adorning;
To 'noynt me o'er night,
Ere I go to fight,
And to dress me in the morning.
This being done, he did engage
To hew this dragon down;
But first he went new armour to
Bespeak, at Sheffield town.
With spikes all about,
Not within, but without,
Of steel, so sharp and strong,
Both behind and before,
Arms, legs, all o'er,
Some five or six inches long.
Had you but seen him in this dress,
How fierce he look't and big,
You would have thought him for to be
An Egyptian Porcu-pig;
He frighted all,
Cats, dogs, and all,
Each cow, each horse, each hog,

For fear did flee
For they took him to be
Some strange, outlandish hedgehog.
To see this fight, all people there
Got upon trees and houses;
On churches some, and chimneys some,
But they put on their trowses;
Not to spoil their hose.
As soon as he rose,
To make him strong and mighty,
He drank by the tale,
Six pots of ale,
And a quart of aqua-vitæ.
It is not strength that always wins,
For wit doth strength excel;
Which made our cunning champion
Creep down into a well;
Where he did think,
This dragon would drink;
And so he did in truth;
And as he stoop't low
He rose up and cryed, bo!
And hit him in the mouth.
Oh! quoth the Dragon; pox take you! come out
Thou that disturb'st me at my drink;
And then he turned and spit at him—
Good lack! how he did stink,
Beshrew thy soul,
Thy body is foul,
Thy dung smells not like balsame;
Thou son of a witch,
Thou stink'st so sore,
Sure thy dyet is unwholesome.

Our politick knight, on the other side,
Crept out upon the brink,
And gave the Dragon such a doust,
He knew not what to think;
By cock, quoth he,

Say you so, do you see,
And then at him he let flie:
With hand and with foot,
And so they went to 't,
And the word it was—Hey, boyes, hey!
Your word, quoth the Dragon, I don't understand,
Then to 't they fell at all;
Like two wild bears, so fierce, I may
Compare great things with small.
Two dayes and a night
With this Dragon did fight
Our champion on the ground;
Tho' their strength it was great,
Yet their skill it was neat,
They never had one wound.
At length the hard ground began for to quake,
The Dragon gave him such a knock;
Which made him to reel,
And straightway he thought
To lift him high as a rock,
And thence let him fall;
But More of More Hall,
Like a valiant son of Mars,
As he came like a lout,
So he turned him about,
And hit him a kick on the back.
Oh! quoth the Dragon with a sigh,
And turn'd six times together;
Sobbing and tearing, cursing and swearing,
Out of his throat of leather.
Oh! thou rascall,
More of More Hall,
Would I had seen you never;
With the thing at thy foot,
Thou has prick't my gut,
Oh! I am quite undone for ever!
Murder! murder! the Dragon cryed,
Alack! alack! for grief;

Had you but miss't that place you would
Have done me no mischief.
Then his head he shak't,
Trembled and quaik't,
And down he layed, and cried;
First on one knee,
Then on back tumbled he,
So groaned, kick't, burst, and dyed.