People from the past pop up in book of tales

Bedford author Jen Foley with her book Bedfordshire Folk Tales
Bedford author Jen Foley with her book Bedfordshire Folk Tales

A storyteller from Bedford has compiled a book revealing some of the county’s intriguing folk tales.

Jen Foley has written the set of short stories combining Bedfordshire’s myths and fables with archive material and social history.

Bedfordshire Folk Tales uncovers stories from all over the county and covers periods of history from pre-history to Viking, Georgian and modern day. A whole range of characters appear - lascivious monks, warriors, lace-workers, match-makers and witches.

As well as Bedfordshire characters, there are some of our best-loved buildings and landmarks including Houghton House in Ampthill and the Five Knolls in Dunstable. The book also introduces little-known gems such as Someries Castle in Luton and Roxton Congregational Church.

Jen said: “Bedfordshire has its own unique folk heritage. Although not best-known for its history, there is so much to see when you scratch beneath the surface. This book celebrates Bedfordshire’s past through a mix of folk tales and stories using its social and archive history.”

Stories around Bedford include:

The Bedford Brotherhood – two proud warriors, Viking and Saxon, meet in battle. The storyis based on a Viking sword displayed at The Higgins Bedford.

Three highwaymen begin their nefarious crime spree in Clophill but rivalry between them brings a grim end.

Courtship of Edith – devoted love and implacable hatred as a Norman invader woos a young Saxon girl.

Cardington Roll of Honour – Cardington housed airships in the huge hangars which still dominate the skyline today. A poignant story of the RAF men who dedicated their lives in service and the families left behind who related premonitions of disaster to come.

Odell and Sir Rowland Alston’s Soul – An ambitious aristocrat from Odell sells his soul to the devil. A story of overarching ambition and the pride that comes before a fall.

Marston Moretaine and The Devil’s Favourite Game - A mischievous tale of how the village turns the tables on a harsh, puritan vicar. Based on a traditional tale from Marston Moretaine.

Oakley Witches - describes a witch-hunt in Oakley and how one woman’s life was saved by the bravery of a bystander.

Wootton Leather Breeches - based on a ghost story. At a time of famine and great want, the ebullient innkeeper and his wife face their greatest test. A tale of love and friendship.

Biggleswade stories feature:

Tempsford Brotherhood - Viking invaders build a fort at Tempsford and travel through the night to launch a suprise attack on Saxons in Bedford.

Chicksands and Dorothy Osborne - Playful and optimistic, Dorothy Osborne was a remarkable woman living in the remarkable times of the Civil War. This is the story of a life full of resilience and ingenuity.

Old Warden and The Merry Monk based in Old Warden, explains how a lascivious monk gets his come-uppance.

Roxton and The Silent Sentinels - Solemn trees overlook Roxton Congregational Church and the garden is a small oasis of peace. A story from the point of view of the silent sentinels.

Luton and district stories feature:

The Flaming Gibbet of Galley Hill - a story full of deception and lies. Full of foreboding it explains the diabolical presence of the black dog of Galley Hall.

Finding the Source - a story which celebrates the town’s link with its ancient Celtic past.

Barton-le-Clay: Till I See you Again - a tense tale of poachers who beat the odds one too many times.

Maiden Bower and The Mai Dun - A feisty heroine confronts a warlord and wins a battle of words. Set in Maiden Bower in the aftermath of the Roman withdrawal from the county.

Kimberwell near Toddington and Saint Cyneburga - Cyneburga was the daughter of the Saxon King, Penda. Expected to marry for the good of her family, she joins a suspicious court in Northumberland, but yearns for her pagan home.

Dunstable and The Swan Jewel, an exquisite gold and enamel brooch. Found in Dunstable, its importance to the nation is reflected by its current exhibition in the British Museum. The medieval story, full of family drama and sorcery, tells the tale of the Dunstable Swan Knight.

The Witch in the Bottle appears to be a story of a wise woman of herbs wrongfully arrested and burnt at the stake who comes back from the grave to take her vengeance. A true story of victorian rivalry lies beneath the surface.

The Giant of the Five Knolls is a whimsical tale describing how the Five Knolls came into existence.

Studham and The Little Blue Man is an intriguing story about the sighting of an alien by a group of children in Studham in the 1960s. The truth is out there.

The book is commissioned and published by the History Press

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