Folklore at North Lincolnshire Museums
Rose Nicholson, Heritage Manager

Posted: 11th September 2020

Humber Museums Partnership - Folklore at North Lincolnshire Museums

North Lincolnshire Museums collection features a wide range of fascinating folklore related material. As well as the justly famous Rudkin and Peacock archives, there is material from local traditions such as the Haxey Hood and the Plough Jags tradition, and a wealth of archaeological objects related to religion and ritual.

Each day during the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown, as part of our Digital Museum work, we shared a Lincolnshire dialect word from the Peacock word books across our social media feeds. This series stirred up a great deal of interest in our followers, many of whom had often not heard the words before, despite living in Lincolnshire all their lives. This is, of course, because dialect changes all the time and is subject to the influence of a more mobile modern population. Many words associated with once common trades and industries have also fallen out of use. We have now launched #SuperstitionSunday, sharing posts on our social media feeds about local folklore, myths, legends, and dialect.

Here we share posts introducing the Peacock Family and Ethel Rudkin archives, which were originally created for the recently formed Folklore Museums Network.

The Peacock Family
The Peacocks were a distinguished family of scholars who lived at Bottesford Manor and worked in North Lincolnshire during the later 19th and early 20th century. They were Edward Peacock, and his seven children: Adrian, Edith, Florence, Julian, Mabel, Maximillian and Ralf. Although a farmer, Edward was primarily an historian, who published numerous works from serious academic studies to popular novels. He educated and passed on his enthusiasm to his children.

Although based on studies of this area, most of the Peacocks’ work is of national importance. Edward’s two dictionaries of local dialect terms were groundbreaking. A third volume compiled by Mabel and Maximilian, was eventually pieced together by Eileen Elder. Adrian wrote widely on agriculture and natural history, Florence was an historian and poet, Julian a genealogist, and Mabel the most widely recognised writer in Lincolnshire dialect. Maximilian was a collector of dialect and natural history observations.

The Peacock Family Archive is now part of the North Lincolnshire Museums collections. It consists of agricultural records, domestic records, common-place books, lesson books, drawings, photographs, diaries, personal correspondence and Lincolnshire dialect cards. An incredibly rich resource, it shines a light on the views and lives of people who lived in the local area from the early 18th century to the early 20th century.

The photographs here show Edward and his daughter Mabel, two of the people we have to thank for recording the local dialect.

Edward Peacock

Mabel Peacock daughter of Edward

Ethel Rudkin (1893-1984)
Ethel Rudkin was a pioneering archaeologist, historian, folklorist, recorder of oral tradition, and collector of ‘bygones’, who lived and worked in Lincolnshire. She has been described as one of the last of the ‘old style’ antiquarians.

Ethel Hutchinson was born in Willoughton, and married George Henry Rudkin in 1917. He became a commissioned officer during the First World War, but tragically died in 1918. As a child Ethel visited the Peacock Family at Bottesford Manor with her parents, and this clearly fostered an interest in folklore and dialect for which she is best known. Her 1936 publication, ‘Lincolnshire Folklore’, is the best-known account of the subject in this area. It can be viewed as forming a direct succession to the work of Edward and Mabel Peacock.

Bob Paisley, Ethel Rudkin’s friend and editor of her fascinating diary has this to say of her legacy: “Due to her wide ranging interests, Rudkin never viewed individual subjects in isolation, and often discovered unique connections between folklore and tradition, archaeology and history. She was willing to pass on her discoveries and influenced a new generation of Lincolnshire archaeologists and historians.”

As well as copies of all her publications, the Rudkin Collection at North Lincolnshire Museum consists of notes, photographs, ephemera, her library of folklore and history books and archaeological small finds from throughout Lincolnshire and including comparative material from abroad. The star archaeological object is a Neolithic jade axe from Wroot. There is also a small collection of folklore objects, including a wooden hobby horse from a plough jag team and witch balls. Poignantly we also have one of Ethel’s handbags, which contains the flowers worn in her hair at her wedding to George and a handful of letters received from him whilst away serving during the First World War.

Ethel Rudkin