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on 22 May 2006
Lore of the Land does exactly what it claims - it is a comprehensive A-Z of folklore, legends and ghost / paranormal tales organised by County. It's not in the right format to read in bulk, but is absolutely fascinating for local interest and research purposes.

Highly recommended - this is the most accurate and thorough book I have seen on the subject. Not cheap but worth it.
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on 16 November 2008
The Lore of the Land: A Guide to England's Legends, from Spring-heeled Jack to the Witches of Warboys

I chose this book for my prizegiving and I was certainly not disappointed. It is really interesting and logically laid out and the beautiful photos and the sheer amount of information contained within it are astounding. It is quite thick with small print in order to fit as much as possible in it. Great stuff x
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 January 2011
This massive book - even in paperback - gives the reader a county-by-county reference to every folktale, legend and story the authors can track down. Each county starts with a map, keying the location and giving the type of tale with a series of symbols, making it extremely easy to pick out the tales of an area. Within the chapter, the arrangement is alphabetically by placename. Engravings and photos are embedded in the text; for example a photo of a real "hand of glory" from Whitby museum illustrates a tale about its use during a burglary in the 19th century at Old Spital Inn in Co Durham.

Digressions - printed on contrasting paper - are buried in the main text, Shakespeare for instance in Warwickshire. These mini essays, of which there are many, are picked out in the index with page numbers in bold type. However there some eccentricities which make the information harder to use than it might be; there is an excellent essay on the folklore of King Lear, as used by Shakespeare in his play, but this is indexed under "Leir, King" and placed in the chapter on Leicestershire because of a little-known suggestion that he is buried at Leicester. The essay on Shakespeare doesn't reference it, as it covers legends ABOUT Shakespeare. The Leir essay cross-refernces to the entry on KING LUD'S ENTRENCHMENTS but doesn't give the page number, so you have to go to the index again to find it. The type throughout varies from the very small to the incredibly tiny, and the book unwieldily thick, so this toing and froing is no small matter.

These are minor quibbles about an otherwise excellent book. The index does enable the reader - or at least the reader with preternaturally keen eyesight - to find legends by subject, which is a huge bonus. Look on the book as rather like the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford; a huge resource, sometimes requiring you to get out your torch and peer closely at things.
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on 8 November 2005
This book is not only perfectly designed for browsing, but clearly very well researched.
It works on various levels too. If you are touring or visiting England, or if you live here and want to delve into the legendary and curious aspects of England then just buy this book. It is also thorough enough to be an important source for researchers.
It's also dedicated to the wonderful Katharine Briggs.
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on 26 October 2005
I bought this as a birthday present for my mum but I'm going to have to get her another copy as I can't bring myself to part with it! The pictures are just fantastic: makes you realise just how many ghostly stories have built up around really famous places like Hampton Court and the Tower of London. But it's not just famous places that get a mention - really tiny villages like East Bergholt in Suffolk are in there too (the chirch was deprived of a steeple by the machinations of the devil, apparently). Highly recommended!
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on 9 September 2011
My copy is the first printing paperback. It has a sewn binding, and the same high-quality paper as the hardback, and all the original colour photographs, too. It's just printed smaller. This is worth it to have a book that is so much easier to handle, because it is one for constant use and dipping into - an ideal bedside book - and the hardback weighs a ton. (The paperback is still a very thick book, and the ideal would be to take it to a bookbinder and give it a library-style turtleback cover, to stop it turning into a football!)

Until now the English tradition has lacked a one-volume collection of local and historical legends that can stand alongside the classic English fairy tale collections of Joseph Jacobs, in the same way that the Grimms' fairy tales were matched with their own great collection of German legends. Maybe this is a fair reflection of their relative value. Fairy tales are told knowingly as fiction, and so are more deeply escapist - hence they are steeped in a greater sense of hope, or belief in a higher order of things. Local and historical legends tell what is believed to be true, shading into real history, so can at times depict life more cruelly closed in. I guess this is most apparent in the fear and superstition which underlies many witch-legends. A local legend might tell of a famous witch and her downfall, reinforcing the superstitions of those who persecuted her; but even a lonely outcast who is victimized as a witch could be comforted by a fairy tale.

But that's being a bit too gloomy! Legendary tales deal with so many other things, too, and the sheer range of this book prevents any claustrophobia. There are stories of ancient kings and battles; dragons; giants and ghosts; highwaymen; the landscape itself. Many share the same ingredients as fairy tales (the dividing line between the two types of folk tale is not absolute), and certainly have the same foundation of folklore. Thank goodness, too, that the editors, Simpson and Westwood, decided to use a diversity of sources, and to quote each legend with the minimum of retelling; otherwise the book could have been very flat and homogenized. Their own voice just serves to tie together the many distinct voices across the huge book.

The editors are excellent in describing the physical setting of each tale, as well. My only (slight) disappointment is that the book's format makes it harder to see the wider geograpical connections between tales. The arrangement is alphabetical, by county and then by place within the county. This is very sensible, but since this means that neighbouring places are split up, you have to rely on the book's maps to read tales from the same district together. There is a large one for each county, but the problem is that these maps are almost empty of any information about the physical geography which forms the setting (and defining influence) on the tales. All they have are the place-names, and rather gimmicky tale-type symbols (witches' hats, skulls, and so on). I would have liked smaller maps, but ones with more topographical and geographical information; and the saved space given over to a short introduction to each county, describing not only something of its physical character, but also wider regional links. If the maps at least showed the main cross-county landscapes, you could then, for example, have a pointer towards reading West Oxfordshire tales along with other parts of the Cotswolds, or joining up the Fenland counties. (For the same reason it's a pity that coverage of northern England stops at the border!) It could also be useful to have some general comments on the nature of the sources for each county, to understand any biases.

On the other hand, a specially attractive feature are the many green-tinted double-page essays scattered through the book, bringing out themes that connect tales in other ways: major story-types and motifs, famous characters, folk-lore, and literary associations (articles from 'Robin Hood' and 'Mermaids' to 'Dragons' and 'Laying Ghosts').
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on 10 January 2010
I return to this book time and again. There are some amazingly unique stories, and as you flick through, there are some stories which have themes that are echoed around the country. Really reveals the rich history that our country has, a history which is usually held in the minds of local people. Being from a tiny village in the smallest county of England - Rutland - I know that there are many, many more stories out there, which have been handed down generation by generation - I beg the authors to create a Rutland and Leicestershire anthology!

Do note - this text is about an inch and a half thick - literally!
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on 5 January 2012
Although I only got this book from my Uni library i feel it is that good that it is worth a review on here for others too see. The book is both very easily to brouse through with a clear and detailed index, but thoroughly researched, making it useful for even my university essay onto the popularity of British Myths. Intending to simply use the book for research i found it such an interesting read, i was sidetracked into reading many of the thousands of myths it includes to even find one on Dick Turpin from my hometown of Loughton. Would highly recommend this book to anybody either interested or researching in English myths.
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on 10 October 2015
I’m finding it difficult to write a review of this book, as it has all the information about folklore, traditions, etc. that you would expect and it is well written; yet somehow it failed to satisfy me.
I’ve been interested in myths and legends since I was a child, and when I saw this book on Amazon it seemed a perfect purchase for me to get for myself.
Yet, reading it, I found it overly repetitive. Perhaps that’s my fault for expecting it to be something that it’s not. I expected to read it cover to cover over a few days learning about a wide variety of phenomena. Instead I found that the way that it is organised – by county leads to very similar stories coming up again and again in close succession. For example, reading the chapters from Devon and Cornwall we get very similar stories about giants and saints. This is to be expected but it leads to what feels like repetition.
Scattered throughout the book are informative sections about phenomena or figures of particular importance or significance e.g. Dick Turpin, Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Dragons, etc. These are well written and informative. The book is also well illustrated with colour photographs as well as chapbook illustrations and woodcuts, where appropriate. Each county chapter also comes with a map that uses icons to show what type of story is associated with each place shown.
All in all it would seem just about perfect – except that what originally sparked my interest in the subject was a book that my parents bought when I was about five years old. That was FOLKLORE, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF BRITAIN. published by the Reader’s Digest in 1973.
Both books cover the same areas of interest, but Folklore, Myths… just manages to do it slightly better. What is better in Folklore, Myths.. is that while it also does a county by county survey, it has a far higher preponderance of articles about the phenomena that it describes. This makes it a more varied and interesting read (it should be noted that Folklore, Myths.. is however far lighter on colour illustrations, though has a higher content of black and white and woodcuts, drawings, etc.). Interestingly, both books seem to have made use of exactly the same map images and icons (though the content differs between them).
If you wish to buy a book on these subject areas to use as a research tool or because you expect to be travelling to a particular area and would like ideas of where to visit then Lore of the Land would be a good choice. If, however, you want a book that you can use in that way AND use to learn more about the phenomena described (and can actually enjoy reading cover to cover) I feel that Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain would be slightly better.
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on 22 December 2013
As other readers have pointed out, this is not a book to be read in one go, more a kind of reference work to dip in and out of. The book is huge, and more might have been gained by producing individual books on certain running themes: i.e. one work concentrating on ghosts, one on fairy mythology, one on the Devil and witchcraft and so on. That said, this work is endlessly fascinating, and expertly researched and I cannot fault the content at all. The reason why I have given this book three stars is because of a publishing mess-up which (in my copy, at least) completely fudges the section on Yorkshire. A great swathe of this chapter is missing, replaced by duplicated pages from earlier and also some pages duplicated from the bibliography. This messy, unprofessional approach to publishing this work slightly detracted from what I otherwise consider to be an excellent book.
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