The crisis, the most severe to hit the regime since it had come into office, began in Lincolnshire. Columns of smoke rose above the English countryside. At one point the nation's leader was tempted to take personal charge of the management of the crisis. But when the Lincolnshire problem proved to be shortlived, he unwisely wound the preventative operation down, persuading himself that the crisis was under control, even over. But at that very moment it spread to Yorkshire, into the pastoral uplands of Richmondshire, on towards Skipton and the Lake District, and down the Ribble valley into north Lancashire. It is a question whether these new outbreaks were independent and spontaneous, or deliberately propagated from the original flashpoints. But there is no doubt that they were accompanied and fed by rumours and fear. The Government in London was itself a victim of the rumour mill. 'This matter hangeth yet like a fever, one day good, one day bad.' The result of the crisis and of its mismanagement was personal ruin for many and the end of a way of life in the North Country, symbolised by the monasteries, now facing wholesale dissolution.
LRB 1 November 2001 | PDF Download