|Mark Olly is a Cheshire writer and archaeologist
who runs the Celtic Warrington Project Archaeological Unit. You can
read about Mark's work in the 'Celtic Warrington & Other Mysteries'
| GAWAIN, LANCELOT AND
ARTHUR ARRIVE IN CHESHIRE
| Mark Olly
| Origin Of The Stories
It is interesting to note that the Mersey route to the Goyt Valley
into Derbyshire and Staffordshire figures as important in the tales
of King Arthur and his knights, especially the Middle-English Cheshire
dialect tale 'Gawain And The Green Knight' written by a Staffordshire
Monk in late Medieval times (which actually relates to the 'Pagan'
death and rebirth cycles of the land and the Celtic goddess as noted
in her many forms). It is highly likely that the original Gawain/Arthur
stories first came to the Mersey Valley and Cheshire with Welsh, Irish
and French settlers and later in more developed form with the Normans.
It is also significant that Sir Thomas Malory (or Malorie), who wrote
probably the most famous collection of Arthurian stories 'Morte D'Arthur',
and the monk who wrote 'Gawain And The Green Knight' should both have
very firm geographic ties to the North West (and during the same,
later period in history).
| Thomas Malory
Lancelot and Arthur can also be found here. - Sir Thomas Malory, Knight
and Lord of the manor of Winwick, compiled his book from early Welsh,
French and English sources between the 4th March 1469 AD and 3rd March
1470 AD while in prison at Lancaster for offences committed during
the 'Wars Of The Roses' (1455 AD to 1485 AD). His book was printed
by William Caxton in 1485 AD but the discovery of the 'Winchester
Manuscript' version indicates that both originate from Malory's (lost)
original which either no longer survives or has yet to be discovered!
- The Cheshire monk who constructed the 'Gawain And The Green Knight'
poem some time between about 1350 AD and 1450 AD is unknown, but evidently
he set out to 'Christianise' his northern Pagan surroundings and brought
together many recognisable local land marks, traditions and even aspects
of his Patron in the composition which exists in its original late
Medieval form. - Briefly, it can be said that Lancashire has claim
to Lancelot in the legends of the 'Mermaid Of Martin Mere' and the
'Conflict Of Sir Lancelot And Sir Tarquine'.
| The Legends
The first legend states that Lancelot's mother came to Lancashire
to escape her enemies in France and, whilst attempting to save her
husband's life, left baby Lancelot by a now drained lake between Formby
and Southport then called 'Martin Mere'. Here the nymph Vivian adopted
Lancelot and vanished into the lake taking him with her. When he appears
at Arthur's court aged eighteen he is knighted 'Lancelot Of The Lake'.
At some point following this, Sir Lancelot makes his way to the ford
in Medlock where he faces Arthur's enemy Sir Tarquine, beating him
and capturing his castle at Manchester close by. - Current opinion
also now places Arthur himself in North Wales and, therefore, also
bordering and in North Cheshire, which has been often connected to
Wales in Celtic times.