King Henry's well, and Pudsay's leap
- Littledale, Henry Anthony

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Commentary

‘King Henry’s Well’ describes the retreat of Lancastrian King Henry VI from the Yorkist army following his defeat at the Battle of Hexham (1464), during the Wars of the Roses. Accompanied by his attendant Sir Ralph Pudsay (c.1405-1468), Henry journeys across northern England to seek shelter at Pudsay’s stately home Bolton Hall, Bolton-by-Bowland. The ballad is the first photopoetic travel narrative, and the reader follows Henry both to Bolton Hall and among its grounds, where he discovers a ‘stream … with plenteous current springing’, forever to be named King Henry’s Well. Littledale, writing as a descendant of Pudsay, notes in the final stanza how, four centuries later, both Well and tale continue to flow.

‘Pudsay’s Leap’ serves as a biography of Ralph Pudsay’s brother William (c.1414-1499), framed by an encounter between a Littledale-esque speaker and a ‘Serjeant’ figure close to ‘Pudsay’s Leap’, otherwise known as the Rainsber Scar overlooking the River Ribble. Pudsay owned a silver mine, and took to minting ‘Pudsay shillings, his debts to pay’, much to the irritation of the Crown whose soldiers, chasing Pudsay, caused him to leap the river to avoid being hanged – hence the name ‘Pudsay’s Leap.’ Queen Elizabeth I, his godmother, would later pardon him.

Although the volume contains mounted albumen prints, rather than original photographs, these present an interesting contrast to subsequent photopoetry in that – aside from the image of Pudsay’s tomb (tombs being a commonplace of early literature-related photography) – they represent interior spaces rather than the surrounding landscapes. This is especially interesting given that the major sites of the two poems are, respectively, the gardens of Bolton Hall and the River Ribble.

Book Details

Author: Littledale, Henry Anthony
Title: King Henry's well, and Pudsay's leap
Publication Year: 1859
Poets Featured: Littledale, Henry Anthony
Subjects: Ballads, English, Craven, England
Photographic process: Albumen prints

This book can be found in the University of St Andrews Library catalogue HERE

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