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Lambton Worm

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The Lambton worm by Rubens Oscroft

Artist's Rendering

The Lambton Worm is a legend from North East England in the UK. The story takes place around the River Wear, and is one of the area's most famous pieces of folklore, having been adapted from written and oral tradition into pantomime and song formats.

The story states that the young John Lambton was a rebellious character who missed his duties to go fishing in the River Wear. John Lambton does not catch anything until the time the church service finishes, at which point he fishes out a small eel- or lamprey-like creature with nine holes on each side of its salamander-like head. Depending on the version of the story the worm is no bigger than a thumb, or about 3 feet long. In some renditions it has legs, while in others it is said to more closely resemble a snake. At this point the old man returns, although in some versions it is a different character. John declares that he has caught a demon and decides to dispose of his catch by discarding it down a nearby well. The old man then issues further warnings about the nature of the beast. John then forgets about the creature and eventually grows up. As a penance for his rebellious early years he joins the crusades. Eventually the worm grows extremely large and the well becomes poisonous. The villagers start to notice livestock going missing and discover that the fully-grown worm has emerged from the well and coiled itself around a local hill.

In some versions of the story the hill is Penshaw Hill, that on which the Penshaw Monument now stands, but locally the credit goes to the nearby Worm Hill, in Fatfield. In most versions of the story the worm is large enough to wrap itself around the hill 7 times. It is said that one can still see the marks of the worm on Worm Hill. The worm terrorises the nearby villages, eating sheep, preventing cows from producing milk and snatching away small children. It then heads towards Lambton Castle where the Lord (John Lambton's aged father) manages to sedate the creature in what becomes a daily ritual of offering the worm milk of nine good cows, twenty gallons, or a filled wooden/stone trough. A number of brave villagers try to kill the beast but are quickly dispatched. When a chunk is cut off the worm it simply reattaches the missing piece. Visiting knights also try to assault the beast but none survive. When annoyed the worm would uproot trees by coiling its tail around them. It then created devastation by waving around the uprooted trees like a club. The story is set (apparently) in AD 1200-1300.

The Lambton Curse

This curse affect to nine generation of Lambton. This curse seems to have held true for at least three generations, possibly helping to contribute to the popularity of the story.

  • 1st generation: Robert Lambton, drowned at Newrig.
  • 2nd: Sir William Lambton, a Colonel of Foot, killed at Marston Moor.
  • 3rd: William Lambton, died in battle at Wakefield.
  • 9th: Henry Lambton, died in his carriage crossing Lambton Bridge on June 26, 1761.

Song Based of The Legend

Lambton Worm front

(Front) The Lambton Worm from Weird N Wild "Monsters of the Mind" - Card 14

Lambton Worm back

(Back) The Lambton Worm from Weird N Wild "Monsters of the Mind" - Card 14

One Sunday morn young Lambton
Went a-fishin' in the Wear;
He catched a fish upon his heuk,
He thowt leuk't varry queer,

But whatt'na kind of fish it was
Young Lambton couldna tell.
He waddna fash to carry hyem,
So he hoyed it in a well.

Chorus:
Whisht! lads, haad ya gobs,
Aa'll tell ye aall an aaful story,
Whisht! lads, haad ya gobs,
An aa'll tell ye ‘boot the worm.

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 befel,
An' varry seun forgot aboot
The queer worm in the well.
(Chorus)
But the worm got fat an' graad an' graad,
An' graad an aaful size;
With greet big teeth, and greet big mooth,
An' greet big goggley eyes.

An' when at neets he craaled ‘oot
To pick up bits o' news,
If he felt dry upon the road,
He milked a dozen coos.
(Chorus)
This feorful 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 aall he cud
An' he had had his fill,
He craaled away an' lapped his tail
Seven times roond Pensher Hill.
(Chorus)
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 three halves,
An' that seun stopped him eatin' bairns
An' sheep an' lambs and calves.
(Chorus)
So noo ye knaa hoo aall the folks                             thumb|link=File:Lambton_worm_by_shyrii-d6xh4z0.jpg
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.

(Final 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.                               

Notes

  • According to a study known as "Dragonology" the Lambton Worm is actually a sub-species of dragon that is serpent-like.

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