The Rookhope Ride, image 1
Some verses of The Rookhope Ryde
Source : Bishopric Garland or Durham Minstrel 1792 Jos. Ritson.  Private collection
Copyright: © C. Ruskin.

image 2

Some Verses of The Bonny Moorhen

Source: Private collection J. Gall
Copyright: © Chris Ruskin.

Eastgate Roman Altar
Original Location: Weardale
Current Location: Widely available published work
Theme: Cultural/Social
Period: Post-medieval
Date: c.1792

What is it?
The Rookhope Ryde is a bishopric border raiding ballad and The Bonny Moor Hen is a ballad often referred to as ‘The Battle of Stanhope’. Ballads are indigenous to a specific geographical locale. They are based on factual accounts of well chronicled historical events.

What is its relevance to the North Pennines?
The Rookhope Ryde tells the story of a raid by Tynedale cattle thieves on Weardale in December 1569. The timing is significant as many local men were absent having joined ‘the Rising of the North’ – the plot to overthrow Elizabeth I and restore Roman Catholicism. But those remaining, although outnumbered by the intruders, chased after them and recovered their livestock.
The Bonny Moor Hen is another, later ballad which chronicles the tale of the confrontation between the Bishop of Durham’s baliffs and several Weardale miners who were alleged to have been poaching the Bishop’s game.

Why is it important?
Both ballads are examples of traditional oral poetry associated very specifically with the High North Pennines - the Rookhope Valley and Weardale. The Rookhope Ryde is the only traditional English raiding ballad that has survived. The place names and historical characters are preserved intact. The Rookhope Ryde was chanted, rather than sung, and probably handed down probably from father to son. There was no manuscript until Joseph Ritson wrote the words down when he heard George Collingwood the Elder of Boltsburn chanting it in 1792. The last line of verse 23 is missing because Mr Collingwood being 80 at the time, forgot the words! Most people would have been illiterate at this time so they would learn the words and pass the tradition on. Later, when printing became cheaper, many ballads were sold as broadsheets at local shows and fairs.

The ballads were often accompanied by music and several local families were associated with playing these tunes such as the Wilkinsons of Stanhope, the Havelocks of Rookhope, the Waltons and Fawcetts of Frosterley and Jack Gray of Pease Myers, Stanhope.   They would be played on fiddles, concertinas, Northumbrian pipes and Winrow accordians or Flutinas. Flutinas were imported from France around 1850 minus their reeds to avoid import duty. They were notorious for going out of tune in damp conditions and an itinerant tuner ‘Dulcimer Jack’ would come round at sheep clipping time to tune the pipes and flutinas. He was so flea ridden that the housewives would remove the cushions from the chairs.

Video: J. Gall playing tune to The Bonny Moor Hen, Copyright: © C. Ruskin.

Further Information

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