Writer: Leicestershire Guild of Storytelling
Publishing House: The History Press
Date of Publication: February 28th 2013
Rating: 5 stars
‘’Standing in the Great Hall, with the cold of the flagstoned floor underfoot and the dark timbers of the roof trusses above, the noise of our twenty-first century city is muffled. The stairs leading from the hall to the Old Town Library creak, though no one treads them, and there is a powerful sense of long-gone times.’’
Leicestershire is one of the most ancient and most important counties in the UK. Its cultural and economic significance dates all the way back to the Roman era and the turbulent history of the country is ever traceable in its landmarks and nature. Having visited Leicester a dozen times since 2018 due to a very special friend who’s currently residing there, I can verify that walking down its streets gives you a unique feeling of treading on ancient ground and discovering a vast cultural heritage while belonging in a modern, polyphonic, diverse community. So, today we are travelling to Leicestershire with a few stops to Rutland, the country’s smallest county.
Now, you are going to meet some extremely interesting individuals (and Leicester is full of interesting residents, I promise you…) like the monk of Leicester who couldn’t really catch a break, even in death.
*Necessary stop to highlight that most of the lovely tales included in this volume are quite sensual. After all, Leicester is quite a sensual place. Speaking from experience.*
OK. Moving on!
Simon De Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, the tragic hero who makes you think of the city’s reputation as ‘’unlucky’’. He is one of the most tangible reminders of the land’s history and a marvellous concert hall, a university and a rather pretty street bear his name. Richard Smith, a brave lad who refused to betray his conviction. Supposedly, his gravestone is still bleeding on the anniversary of his death. And naturally, we have witches (we are in England, right?) belonging to a ruthless coven. The story of Harry’s Bus will give you chills, a haunting British rendition of the Vanishing Hitchhiker with a tender, moving twist, and a contemporary incident that took place in Haymarket Shopping Centre (which I’ve never liked…) will make you rather cautious while heading to a parking at night. Meet the ghost of Brooksby Hall and learn about the legend of Black Annis that reaches back to the dawn of the Celtic pantheon Cross paths with a Black Hound haunting an area close to the River Soar, actually protecting those who walk alone at night and the black cat/familiar/witch/all-around feisty queen of Edmnondthorpe Hall.
Don’t be surprised when you encounter King Lear or Richard III, whose remains were found in a car park – and the King Power Stadium brings strange connotations to mind, but I digress… – or the sorrows of maidens who gave up their heart to the wrong man or tried to escape from the bloody hands of an unworthy suitor. Read about the tragic fate of Lady Jane Grey and the young woman who played a Christmas hide-and-seek and met a tragic death inside a chest. Walk the legendary path of the myth of Branwen, Llyr and Brian the Blessed whose head supports the entire country. End your fascinating journey in sad contemplation as you read about Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, and Eliane Plewman who took part in many successful sabotage missions, was arrested and tortured by the Gestapo and executed at Dachau by the Nazi beasts.
Apart from my personal relationship with Leicester, this volume spoke to my heart because the tales are narrated in such a unique, direct voice by the Leicestershire Guild of Storytelling. They are full of an autumnal, quiet melancholy, a spirited elegance and a poignant focus on the vices and the obsessions that plague the human heart.
Again, speaking from experience…