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Mother Shipton, North Yorkshire

Opinions differ as to whether Mother Shipton’s story is the stuff of myth or legend – many through the years have claimed her as real, and some have sworn by her supposed prophesies; the more careful note that no contemporary records of the wise woman have been found.
Mother Shipton’s name according to the story was Ursula Southill, and she was rather picturesquely born in a cave on the outskirts of Knaresborough , near The Dropping Well. Famously ugly, with archetypal witch’s features – long hooked nose, crazy hair, mad eyes - she made a living of sorts by telling fortunes, though she also had a husband, one Toby Shipton, a carpenter. But she is remembered for her prophesies, the Yorkshire version of Nostradamus.
These prophesies, however, only appeared in written form in 1641, some 80 years after her death. And over the years their veracity if any has been diminished by such as Charles Hindley, a Victorian writer who embellished them with many of his own making, unsurprisingly predicting with accuracy many recent events and inventions such as the railways, and the Crystal Palace .
The most famous of Mother Shipton’s prophesies was about the end of the world; but breathe easily, she gave the date as 1881, or rather those who built on her words gave that date.
Her cave is said to be the longest continuously maintained tourist attraction in Britain, in theory dating back to 1630, but as with the story of her life perhaps the date may be viewed with a touch of scepticism. And to add more colour to her legacy, she is suggested as the original model for the pantomime dame. Oh no she’s not! Oh yes she is!

1 Response to Mother Shipton

From Adrian Sayers on 15th October 2009
It's hardly surprising that no actual record of her prophecies exist in her writing, few people could write in those days I don't feel that means she never existed, Jesus didn't write the bible, that was written and then re-written hundreds of years later! The Petrifying Well (next to the cave)is OFFICIALLY England's Oldest visitor Attraction opened by Sir Henry Slingsby in 1630 and confirmed in wirting by the English Tourist Board (as was) Charles Hindley embelished in a book in the 1800's although how much and quite what he admitted to is as legendary as Old Mother Shipton herself!

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