Newcastle glovemaker's daughter

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In the late seventeenth century, the daughter of a Newcastle glovemaker was wandering about the city when she discovered a road she had never seen before. She followed this to a house, which she had also never seen. The girl began exploring the house, which was empty and had several unusual features: in one room she heard bird song, and the mirror showed the room to be full of birds although there were none in the room itself; several of the house's windows looked out upon the city of Newcastle, while others looked out elsewhere; shadows played in one set of rooms as if cast by leafy trees, though there were no trees outside those windows and the season was autumn; and from the end of one corridor came a sound of rushing water.

The girl climbed up many staircases in the house; the higher up she went, the smaller the staircases and the passageways became until they would let no one larger than a child pass. She passed through a door and was surrounded by countless flying ravens. She heard someone say her name, and the birds disappeared. The girl was able to see the only other occupant of the room: a man with ragged black hair, sitting upon the floor with a silver basin of water. The man called out her name again and told her not to be afraid. She spent several hours in his company before he led her back to Newcastle. Some of her family, who had been searching for her, saw the man accompanying her down the hill, but she returned home alone.

Based on her story, people have concluded that the man whom the girl encountered was the Raven King [39].

The interest of this story lies in the date, the late seventeenth century - long after John Uskglass had departed his lands in England for elsewhere. The story of the Newcastle Glovemaker's Child is one quoted by Jonathan Strange in the course of his conversation with Gilbert Norrell regarding the nature of the Raven King's withdrawal from England. Mr. Norrell argued that this departure was final and absolute, whereas Strange was more willing to believe it was only partial, with the King making occasional returns. Mr. Strange evidently thought the tale of the Newcastle glovemaker's child an indication that the King sometimes revisited his former realm: Mr. Norrell disagreed. He considered such stories to be hearsay and superstition, and no sound history at all. He classed with it the tale of the Yorkshire farmer and the Basque sailor as equally unreliable "evidence"[39].

17th C glove (men's gauntlet).jpg

Editor's note:
Not everyone can accept there is truth in the story. One correspondent has raised the question of whether indeed Newcastle could even have supported a glovemaker in the 17th century; for such gloves as survive from that period are generally costly and replete with elegant adornments.

We must bear in mind however that those examples of the clothing of a bygone age which anyone troubles to keep are prized as either remarkable in themselves (for their costly ornaments), or else as having an association with some famous person (which in the case of gloves is usually Good Queen Bess.). So, while there may not have been glovemakers in Newcastle who could stitch as fine a glove as is shown here it does not alter the fact that, however humble, glovemakers there would have been.