button to main menu  Clarke's Survey of the Lakes, 1787

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Page 17:-
as that period to visit the antiquities and curiosities of that country *. Mr Sandford farther says, whilst he was Schoolmaster in Penrith, this place was opened by William Turner, and the bones of a man of extraordinary stature, and a broad sword, were found there.
An equally probable account of this place is taken from an old tradition and song, which informs us that one Torquin, a man of gigantic stature, but addicted to all kinds of rapine and brutality, lived in a cave in this neighbourhood, on the banks of the river Emont. This den, which yet retains the name of the Giant's Cave, is about two miles from Penrith, and is, on some account, (the foundation of which is now forgotten,) much resorted to on the third Sunday in May by the country people, who carry with them tea, liquors, &c. and there make merry. It consists of several caverns in the rocks, the road to which leads down a frightful precipice, quite to the water's edge: this makes many decline the journey, but when down, the road is more tolerable. Many strange and incredible stories are told of this cave; one, which seems not so absurd as the rest, and to have had some real foundation is as follows:
Torquin, or Torquinas, (as some call him,) having stolen several virgins, conveyed them to this dismal mansion, where he kept them close prisoners. One of them, however, found means to escape along the side of the rock: in her road she was obliged to step over a hideous gap a yard and a half wide; a rugged, craggy rock over-hanging her head, so as scarcely to allow room to stand upright, and a perpendicular descent of 48 feet underneath: the sides of the rock are such as could afford no hold to her hand, and the boiling and rapidity of the impetuous torrent which roars beneath, are enough to confuse the calmest and most intrepid. Notwithstanding these horrors and difficulties, she preserved and effected her escape, and to this day the place has retained the name of the Maiden's Step.
  Torquin and Sir Lancelot
Tradition further says, that the ravages of this Torquin coming to the ears of King Arthur, he sent Sir Lancelot du Lake to bring him to Court: Torquin refusing, a battle ensued, in which Torquin fell, and was buried in Penrith church-yard, and these pillars erected at his head and feet.
The engagement between Sir Lancelot and Torquin is celebrated in many of the ballads of the ancient rustic poets: One of them I shall insert, which has certainly been in great esteem formerly, as Shakespeare puts the first line of it into the mouth of the facetious fat Sir John ‡ and it should likewise seem even then to be an old song, as Sir John is represented singing it in the height of mirth, in a style that may appear to be one of the songs of his youth.

(From an Old Manuscript.)
WHEN Arthur first in Court began, and was approved King,
By force of arms great vict'ries wanne, and conquests home did bring;
Then unto England strait he came with fiftye good and able
Knights that reverted unto him, and sate at his Round-Table.
And he had justes and tournaments, whereto were many prest,
Wherein some Knights did them excelle, and far surmount the rest;
But good Sir Lancelot Du Lake, who was approved well,
Hee for his deeds and feats of armes, all others did excelle.
_______ nonnulla desunt.
III. When
* Could this traveller be Mr Leland?
‡ Second part of Henry IV. Act III. Scene IV.
gazetteer links
button -- "Sir Hugh's Parlour" -- Giant's Caves
button -- "Giant's Grave" -- Giant's Grave
button -- "Maiden's Step" -- Maiden's Step
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