John Lunn states that the elopement of Edward Tyldesley and Anne Leyland took place between 1558 and 1560 and gives a ballad which he suggests was "often recited on festive days and nights in the galleries of the famous halls of the neighbourhood" [FN1].
In fact the ballad is a much later work by C. Peter. It was published in 1834 in—rather oddly for a Lancashire tale—The White Rose of York [FN2]. Lunn gives a version in which the names of the eloping couple have been corrected to Ned and Anne, whereas C. Peter called them Ralph and Alice:
Morley HallBy C. Peter.
A TRADITION in the parish of Leigh recounts that a daughter of Leyland having formed an attachment to one of the Tildesleys, in opposition to the wishes of her father, she was shut up in her room; but having provided herself with a rope, she tied one end of it round her body, and threw the other to her expecting lover, on the opposite side of the moat, (30 feet wide and 6 feet deep) and casting herself out of the window into the water, she was dragged to the land, and they were married before the adventure became known to the family.
ALL are at rest in Morley Tow'r,
Save only Leyland's daughter,
Who gazes, from her summer bow'r,
O'er the surrounding water,
Watching a form she sees to glide
Along its silvery peaceful tide.
Her heart beats high,—it is her lover!
Ralph Tildesley of the Mersey side,
And if no waking eye discover,
Soon will their marriage knot be tied,
Though lock'd within her bow'r the maid,
And he upon the distant glade.
The casement's high, the water broad,
No bark is there to waft him o'er,
And all too deep the stream to ford,
He still must keep the distant shore,—
Yet locks, high casement, nor broad water,
Can daunt the soul of Leyland's daughter.
For lo! the maiden from her hand,
Hath flung to her expecting lover,
A lengthen'd twine of silken band
Which floats, the rippling water over,
And he hath seiz'd it, and hath bound
It firmly his strong hand around.
And she too, firmly round her waist,
The end retain'd by her, hath tied,
And from the lofty chamber cast
Herself into the glassy tide,—
She sinks beneath the murm'ring wave,
Nor deems that it might prove her grave.
But no, the lovely form is borne,
Quick through the opening tide;
Ralph to the shore his love hath drawn,
And she stands by his side.
" To horse, to horse," fair Alice said,
And on his bosom droop'd her head.
From neighb'ring tree his courser's rein
He quickly loosens, and the maid
And Tildesley dash along the plain,
Fast as the good steed's hoofs can tread;
To wood, to brake, to vale, to dell,
The maiden smiles a sweet farewell.
The noble steed hath borne them well,
And safely o'er the Mersey's flood,
O'er crag, morass, thro' vale and fell,
And brought them into Wardley's wood ;
And soon beneath the arched way,
They enter Tildesley's mansion grey.
The maid dismounts,—Ralph's sister there
Attends her in her lover's home;
"Vain now pursuit," he cried, "for ne'er
Beneath this roof may Leyland come
Till churchman's blessing one hath made,
Ralph Tildesley and this beauteous maid."
An hour is gone,—she stands array'd
In bridal robes before the priest;
The holy rites are done and said,
Their hands in token have been prest,
The ring, the pledge of faith, is given,
The last amen ascends to heav'n.
When hark! the sound of horn is heard,
And steeds come rushing up the plain,
Tis Leyland's self, (now little fear'd)
Who brings with him a gallant train;
The foam upon his charger's sides,
Bespeaks with how much haste he rides.
The bride hath to her chamber gone,
The bridegroom to the outer gates,
(Which welcome and wide ope are thrown)
And there for Leyland, Tildesley waits.
" Give back my child," the old man cries,
With threatening hand, and tear-fraught eyes.
"Dismount and enter," said the youth,
"Your daughter stays within the hall,
Unharm'd,—and here I pledge my truth,
No danger shall her sire befall;
So enter with your train, for they
I'll hail as welcome guests to-day."
He entered, and the bridal feast
Observ'd prepar'd, and Alice lies;
He caught his daughter to his breast,
She gently sank upon her knees,
"Your blessing, father dear," she cried,
"For I am Ralph de Tildesley's bride."
The old man look'd bewilder'd round,
He saw the priest and bridal train;
He rais'd fair Alice from the ground,
He press'd her to his heart again :—
"Ralph is as bold and brave" said he,
"As I would have your husband be -
"Wherefore"—he cast his sword aside,
And seized the maiden's trembling hand—
"I bless thee, Alice, Tildesley's bride,
And he shall have my halls and land:"
Then in his hand he Tildesley's grasp'd,
And firm in lasting friendship clasp'd.
Loud were his followers' shouts and cries,—
They'd ridden to a marriage feast;
And brightly Wardley's damsels' eyes
Shone on each unexpected guest:
And long remember'd was the day
When Tildesley bore his bride away.
In 1846 the elopement was to be the subject of an unfinished poem, also entitled Morley Hall, by Branwell Brontë.
1. The History of the Tyldesleys of Lancashire, John Lunn, 1966
2. The White Rose of York, George Hogarth (Editor), 1834