LAMBTON WORM
"The Curse of the Lambton Worm"

About the book “The Curse of the Lambton Worm” The Legend of the Lambton Worm
A brief biography of Robert Surtees The Order of the Knights of Rhodes and the Legend of the Dragon of Rhodes
The Lambton Worm Song About the author Andrew Jenkin
Website Links Bibliography
Stockists of "The Curse of the Lambton Worm" Terms & Conditions
Lambton Worm

The Curse of the Lambton Worm
Re-told and Illustrated by Andrew Jenkin.
Published by Arjent Design © 2009.
ISBN 978-0-9562222-0-6

The book retails at £7.95 plus £1.50 postage

DOWNLOAD A REVIEW OF THE BOOK
(.pdf 819KB)

Contact details:
Andrew Jenkin
Tel: 07788 542695 or 01484 666932
E-mail: andrew@arjentdesign.co.uk

The book, “The Curse of the Lambton Worm” is available from this website (details above) and also from selected Tourist Information Offices around the North East of England (see below).

With its beautiful original colour illustrations, lively story telling and in-depth research, the book and exhibition will appeal to adults and children alike.

An exhibition of the original illustrations toured the North-East of England in 2009.

Andrew launched the exhibition and book at Arts Centre Washington which is just five minutes walk from such locations as the Worm Hill and Worm Well where the action of the story is supposed to have unfolded almost 600 years ago. The connections with the area don’t stop there, as the current Earl of Durham, descendant of the Lambton family, has written the foreword to the book.

List of stockists:
Sunderland Tourist Information Centre
Durham Tourist Information Centre
Newcastle Tourist Information Centre
Bishop Auckland Tourist Information Centre
Stanhope Tourist Information Centre
Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens
Beamish Museum
Discovery Museum, Newcastle
Forum Books & Crafts, Corbridge
Hexham Abbey Shop
Durham University Botanic Gardens
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About the book “The Curse of the Lambton Worm”
Huddersfield based artist Andrew Jenkin, who has roots in the North East, has taken the story of the Lambton Worm and transformed it into an original work, both re-writing the story itself and also painting the accompanying watercolour illustrations.

With a B.A.(Hons) in History and Ancient History, Andrew has also used his expertise in carrying out extensive research into the background to the legend and has brought together into one book many of the theories on why the legend may have arisen, the historic background and locations mentioned in the legend, together with a detailed map of the relevant area, has produced a family tree of the early Lambton family, and discusses the tale’s influence on later stories, plays and local culture. Some of the ideas mentioned in the book are expanded in more detail on this website.

The Legend of the Lambton Worm
The legend tells of young John Lambton, son of a noble family in County Durham, who was fishing in the River Wear on a Sunday. When he was unable to catch a fish, he cursed the river, and immediately hooked an ugly little black worm which he later disposed of, in disgust, in the local well. This worm was to grow into a great serpent-like monster which blighted Lambton village and wreaked havoc in the area whilst John was away fighting in the Crusades for seven years.

When he returned home, now Sir John, he learned about the terrible creature that he had inflicted upon his village, and in remorse, set out to combat this monster. With the advice of a wise woman, he devised a suit of armour strong enough to withstand the power of the serpent and covered with spikes to penetrate its scales.

He successfully killed it, but in so doing inadvertently inflicted a curse upon his own family which was to last for nine generations.

The legend of the Lambton Worm is believed to date from the 14th century, and the earliest published version of the legend was by Robert Surtees, the well-known Durham historian who recorded the traditional oral version of the legend as recounted by Elizabeth Cockburn of Offerton. Surtees later included the legend in the second volume of his work ‘History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham’ published in 1820.

The draft version for this had been read and corrected by Sir John George Lambton, later 1st Earl of Durham, so we know that Surtees published that version of the Lambton Worm legend with the authority of the Lambton family. Sir John Lambton, reputedly the hero of the story, was a real person who became a Knight of Rhodes, and the book ‘The Curse of the Lambton Worm’ gives details of his place in the Lambton family tree.

Dragons of England
Illustration from the Book, ‘The Curse of the Lambton Worm’
“…Drawing his sword, he resolutely turned to face the vile creature that he had inflicted upon his village.
The Worm slowly unwound itself from the rock and slid into the river…”
There are many versions of the legend of the Lambton Worm, believed to be from the 15th century. Some of the later versions describe the Lambton Worm as a creature with a salamander-like head and nine holes on either side of its mouth; the salamander is unique amongst vertebrates in that it can regenerate lost limbs and other body parts.
It is uncertain where the origin of this came from, and it may have merely been a flight of fancy on the part of the story-teller. If we are to take Surtees’ account as the definitive version, he merely describes the young Worm as a “small worm or eft” (young eel) and the description may have become embellished over the years. © Andrew Jenkin 2009
Worm Well
Worm Hill
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A brief biography of Robert Surtees
Robert Surtees was born in 1779 at Mainsforth, Durham. . He studied law at Christ Church, Oxford, but without being called to the bar, he returned to the family estate at Mainsforth, which he inherited on his father Robert’s death in 1802, and where he lived for the rest of his life. He devoted himself to the study of local history and antiquities, and to collecting material for his ‘History and antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham’ which was published in four volumes from 1816 until the last in 1840, after the author’s death.

The work contains a large amount of genealogical and antiquarian information; written in a humorous and readable style. Surtees was also a talented ballad writer, and so successfully imitated the style of old ballads that he even managed to deceive Sir Walter Scott, who included a piece by Surtees called “The Death of Featherstonehaugh” in his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, under the impression that it was ancient. In 1807 Surtees married Anne Robinson of Herrington, and he died at Mainsforth on the 11th of February 1834; he is buried at Bishop Middleham. As a memorial to him the “Surtees Society” was founded in 1834 with the purpose of publishing ancient unedited manuscripts relevant to the history of Durham County.

The Order of the Knights of Rhodes and the Legend of the Dragon of Rhodes
In “The Curse of the Lambton Worm”, a possible connection between the legend of the Lambton Worm to a 14th century legend about the Dragon of Rhodes is mentioned. Sir John Lambton, as a Knight of Rhodes himself, would have been fully aware of the legend and would no doubt have recounted the story on his return to England. The legend of the Dragon of Rhodes, and details of the Order of the Knights of Rhodes is expanded below:

The Order of the Knights of Rhodes was founded from the Order of St. John, or the Hospitallers, which was an order of sworn brethren which had arisen at the time of the first Crusades. The Order of St John was begun in Jerusalem by monks who assisted penniless pilgrims who arrived at the city by not only feeding and housing them, but also doing their best to cure the many diseases that they caught on the journey. The Hospitallers obtained permission from the Pope to become warriors as well as monks so that they could further the Christian cause in Jerusalem. They were thus all in one – knights, priests, and nurses; and their monasteries became both castles and hospitals; where the sick pilgrim or wounded Crusader was sure of medical care, and, if he recovered, an escort to safety.

Around 1309 the island of Rhodes became home to this Order, and they became known as the Knights of Rhodes, in existence until 1522.

A few years after the Order of the Knights of Rhodes was founded on the island, Rhodes was ravaged by an enormous creature living in a swamp at the foot of Mount St. Stephen, about two miles from the city of Rhodes. It devoured sheep and cattle when they came to the water to drink, and even young shepherd boys went missing. Known locally as a dragon, it has been suggested that a crocodile or serpent might have been brought over by storms or currents from Africa, which could have grown to a formidable size unnoticed among the marshes, or grown with the re-telling of the story! Pilgrims visiting the Chapel of St. Stephen, on the hill above its lair, put their lives at risk as it was rumoured that they may be devoured by the dragon before they could climb the hill.

Several brave knights had tried to kill the creature, but the dragon was said to have been covered with impenetrable scales and all had perished in the attempt. At last the Grand Master, Helion de Villeneuve, forbade any further attempts to kill the creature.

A young French knight, however, named Dieudonné de Goza (also known as de Gozo or de Gozon), who had seen the creature but had never managed to attack it, was unwilling to give up. He requested leave of absence, returned to his father’s castle in Languedoc, and had a model made of the monster. He had noticed that the creature’s belly was unprotected by scales, but was impossible to reach due to its huge teeth and lashing tail. He made the stomach of his model hollow and filled it with food, then trained two fierce young mastiffs to attack the underside of the monster, while he earfuld attacking the monster from above, mounted on his warhorse.

When he was satisfied that the horse and dogs were trained, he returned to Rhodes, landing in a remote part of the island for fear of being prevented from carrying out his plan. Having prayed at the chapel of St. Stephen, he left his two French squires, instructing them to return home if he were slain, but to watch and come to him if he killed the dragon, or was injured by it. He then rode down the hill towards the haunt of the dragon. It roused itself as he came, and at first he charged it with his lance, which was useless against the scales. His horse was quick to notice the difference between the true and the false monster, and reared up, so that Dieudonne was forced to leap to the ground and was knocked down by the monster’s lashing tail; but the two dogs attacked the creature as they had been trained, and the knight, regaining his feet, plunged his sword into the creature. When the servants finally arrived, they found the knight lying apparently dead under the carcass of the dragon, but they managed to revive him and brought him into the city amid the ecstatic shouts of the whole populace, who conducted him in triumph to the palace of the Grand Master.

There was, however, a great moral to be learnt from this tale – which was probably recounted to all the succeeding probationary Knights of Rhodes, including Sir John Lambton – for despite praising the knight for his brave actions, the Grand Master, Villeneuve, was angry with his disobedience and dismissed him from the Order. As he pointed out, the discipline of the Order of Rhodes was humility and implicit obedience to the Grand Master, and Dieudonné had broken this vow and followed his own self-will. Dieudonné was, however, eventually reinstated, and the dragon’s head was set up over the gate of the city, where historians allegedly saw it even in the seventeenth century, describing it as larger than that of a horse, with a huge mouth and teeth and very large eyes. Dieudonné de Goza was elected to the Grand Mastership after the death of Villeneuve in 1346, and was reputed to be a great soldier, much loved by all the poor peasants of the island, to whom he was exceedingly kind. He died in 1353, and his tomb is said to have been inscribed with these words:
“Here lies the Dragon Slayer.”
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The Lambton Worm Song
Much of the enduring fame of the Lambton Worm is owed to the song which was written for the pantomime version of ‘The Lambton Worm’ in 1867 by C.M.Leumane, and which has been adopted as a folk song. The pantomime was first performed at Tyne Theatre and Opera House in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The lyrics and music are shown below:
Lambton Worm Song
The Lambton Worm Song by C.M. Leumane 1867
One Sunday morn young Lambton Went a-fishin’ in the Wear;
An’ catched a fish upon his huek He thowt leuk’t varry queer, But whatt’n a kind a fish it was
Young Lambton cudden’t tell.
He waddn’t fash to carry’t hyem  So he hoyed it doon a well
This earful worm wad often feed
On calves an’ lambs an’ sheep,
An’ swally little bairns alive
When they laid doon to sleep.
An’ when he’d eaten aal he cud
An’ he had had he’s fill,
He craaled away an’ lapped his tail
Seven times roond Pensher Hill.
(Chorus)
(Chorus)
Whisht! Lads, haad yor gobs, An Aa’ll tell ye aall an aaful story,
Whisht! Lads, haad yor gobs,
An’ Aa’ll tell ye ‘bout the Worm.
The news of this most aaful worm
An’ his queer gannins on
Seun crossed the seas, gat to the ears
Of brave an’ bowld Sir John.
So hyem he cam an’ catched the beast
An’ cut ‘im in twe halves,
An’ that seun stopped he’s eatin’ bairns,
An’ sheep an’ lambs and calves.
(Chorus)
Noo Lambton felt inclined to gan
An’ fight in foreign wars.
He joined a troop o’ Knights that cared
For neither wounds nor scars, An’ off he went to Palestine
Where queer things him befell,
An’ varry seun forgot aboot
The queer worm I’ the well.
(Chorus)
So noo ye knaa hoo aall the folks
 On byeth sides of the Wear
 Lost lots o’ sheep an’ lots o’ sleep
 An’ lived in mortal feor.
 So let’s hev one to brave Sir John
 That kept the bairns frae harm
 Saved coos an’ calves by myekin’ halves
 O’ the famis Lambton Worm
(Chorus)
But the worm got fat an’ growed an’ growed,
An’ growed an aaful size;
He’d greet big teeth, a greet big gob,
An’ greet big goggle eyes.
An’ when at neets he craaled aboot
To pick up bits o’news,
If he felt dry upon the road,
He milked a dozen coos.
(Chorus)
 Noo lads, Aa’ll haad me gob,
 That’s aall Aa knaa aboot the story
 Of Sir John’s clivvor job
 Wi’ the aaful Lambton Worm!
Dragon, Lambton Worm
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About the author Andrew Jenkin
Andrew Jenkin is a self-taught artist, author and illustrator. He was shortlisted for ‘Artist of the Year’ by Artist & Illustrators magazine in 2012.

Andrew lives in North Wales with his wife Tracey and daughter Violet. He was born in 1976 in Cheshire and spent most of his life in Yorkshire. He studied at Keele University in Staffordshire where he obtained an Honours degree in History and Ancient History. Andrew worked as a land-surveyor in Huddersfield and began painting watercolours in 1999 at evening classes held at the North Light Gallery Art School. He joined the Huddersfield Art Society in 1999, soon accepting the role of Secretary 2004-09 then Vice-President 2009-10.

In 2003 he set up the Arjent Design studio in a nineteenth-century textile mill near Huddersfield. Arjent Design continues to produce greetings cards, bookmarks and prints from his paintings; to date, over 50,000 greetings cards have been sold. Andrew works freelance producing original artwork for commissions and commercial galleries, as well as supplying outlets selling printed work. He has organised a number of large solo- and joint-exhibitions at a range of venues, and has designed images for use as book illustrations, CD covers, large-scale retail displays, museum exhibits, tourist information panels and furniture upholstery. Andrew has undertaken a variety of commissions for private individuals, most recently for the University of Huddersfield, Conwy Golf Club and the Huddersfield Choral Society.

Andrew has written and illustrated a folklore book ‘The Curse of the Lambton Worm’, about a dragon in the North-East of England. An exhibition of the original illustrations from the book toured venues in the North-East in 2009. The book was featured in North East Life magazine and on Sun FM. In 2011 he was invited by the Akron Fossils & Science Centre in Cleveland, Ohio, to exhibit the illustrations and research from the book. He has also illustrated two books about Honley, the West Yorkshire village where he grew up, and has recently illustrated ‘Tapestry’, a children’s fairytale written by Richard King and published by Silverhill.

He is also an enthusiastic art tutor, running weekly watercolour classes in North Wales, and monthly workshops in West Yorkshire. He demonstrates and runs workshops for art societies and other groups. He was Head Tutor and Studio Manager at North Light Gallery Art School in Huddersfield until moving to Wales in 2010.

Andrew is currently chairman of the Picture House Gallery artists at Scala Arts Centre in Prestatyn. He is a regular invited exhibitor & demonstrator at Holmfirth Artweek & Fringe Exhibition, and has also exhibited work and demonstrated at the Patchings Art Festival near Nottingham.

Information and other work by this artist may be found on his website www.arjentdesign.co.uk

Exhibitions / Events include:
2014
Royal Cambrian Academy Open Exhibition
Art4Cards exhibition at North Light Gallery
Illustrated ‘Tapestry’ by Richard King (Silverhill Publishing)
2013
Royal Cambrian Academy Open Exhibition
Solo exhibition ‘A Portrait of Honley’ book illustrations at Holmfirth Artweek
‘Hawthorn House’ painting won ‘Sponsor’s Favourite’ prize at Huddersfield Art Society Annual Exhibition
Solo exhibition at Colwyn Bay Library
2012
Shortlisted for ‘Artist of the Year’ by Artist & Illustrators magazine
Illustrated ‘Trouble at T’Mill’ book about the Luddite uprisings in West Yorkshire
2011
Exhibition of Lambton Worm at Akron Fossils & Science Museum, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Exhibition at Harrison Lord Gallery, Brighouse
2010
Solo exhibition at Harrison Lord Gallery, Brighouse
2009
Publication of folklore book ‘The Curse of the Lambton Worm’, which I wrote and illustrated. A solo exhibition of
‘The Curse of the Lambton Worm’ book illustrations toured venues in the North-East from May to December.
‘Autumn Gold’ painting won ‘Selector’s Favourite’ prize at Huddersfield Art Society Annual Exhibition.
2007 - Huddersfield Open Studio Trail
2006 - Huddersfield Open Studio Trail
2004 - Solo exhibition at Arts Centre Washington, ‘North by North-East’
2003 - Established Arjent Design to print and distribute artwork

If you wish to research the background to the Worm legends of the North East of England, a wealth of information can be gleaned from the internet and from books.

Website links:
http://ngfl.northumberland.gov.uk/english/Lambton/default.htm www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk
www.surlalunefairytales.com
A version from More English Fairy Tales, 1894, as collected by Joseph Jacobs
www.orderofthewhitelion.com
A version of the story by Claire Russell
www.herrington-heritage.org.uk
www.theserenedragon.net
www.newadvent.org/cathen/07477a.htm
Details of the Order of the Hospitaliers
 

Bibliography:

  • Anglo-Saxon Saga: an examination of their value as aids to history’, by Daniel Henry Haigh. J.R.Smith, 1861
  • Vicissitudes of family and other essays (Recollections of English counties)’, by Sir Bernard Burke. Longman & Co, 1860
  • An historical, topographical and descriptive view of the County Palatine of Durham’, by Eneas Mackenzie, Marvin Ross.
    Mackenzie and Dent 1834, Newcastle
  • History, topography and directory of the County Palatine of Durham’, by William Whellan. Whittaker & Co 1856, Londo
  • ‘Memorials of Old Durham’ ed. by Henry Reginald Leighton. Silling & Sons, Guildford
  • The history and antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham’, by William Hutchinson, London, 1785
  • The history and antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham’by Robert Surtees 4 vols. Nicholls, Son & Bentley 1816-1840
  • The Bishoprick Garland, or a collection of legends, songs, ballads etc belonging to the County of Durham’, by Sir Cuthbert Sharpe. Nichols, Baldwin & Cradock, London 1834
  • A memoir of Robert Surtees’ by George Taylor, Robert Surtees and James Raine, published for the Surtees Society by G.Andrews, 1852
  • ‘Alice in Sunderland’, a graphic novel by Bryan Talbot. Jonathan Cape Ltd, 2007
  • ‘The Lambton Worm’ by Joan Henderson. Newcastle Library & Information Services, 1992
  • ‘Legend of the Lambton Worm’ by Jorge Lulic. Keepdate Publishing Ltd, 1993
  • ‘Conrad Bladey’s Beuk of Newcassel Sangs’ Part 2
  • The Book of Ballads - ancient and modern’, London, Virtue, Spalding, and Co
  • ‘The Lambton Worm’ by Terry Deary, illus Charlotte Firmin A & C Black, 1985
  • ‘Reliques of Ancient English poetry’, by Thomas Percy. C.Desilver, 1856
  • ‘Legends of Durham’, by Miss Florence N.Cockburn – (NB this is the same surname as the narrator of the oral version to Robert Surtees, the historian) in ‘Memorials of Old Durham’ ed. by Henry Reginald Leighton. Silling & Sons, Guildford
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Terms and Conditions
This site and all subject matter, artwork and imagery it contains are the exclusive property of Andrew Jenkin. All materials on this site, including images and artwork, are owned and controlled by Andrew Jenkin and may not be copied, reproduced or republished in any way. All artwork on this site and the images contained therein have been produced by Andrew Jenkin. The exclusive copyright in the artwork is the property of Andrew Jenkin. All rights reserved

The Legend of the Lambton Worm, Worm hill and Worm Well. History and legends of Durham.