The Legend of Semerwater

Yorkshire seems to be covered in reservoirs that required the flooding of whole villages to make them!

A ruined mill poking out from a reservoir that contains less water than normal.

A long time ago, in the spot where the great lake Semerwater, source of the river Bain, now occupies, was once a fair sized town.

One day an old man came to the town. He was scruffy, his clothes not much more than rags, and dirty from many months spent on the road.

He knocked on the first door he came to and ask for food, but they turned him away. He moved through the town, knocking on every door to ask for a meal and a drink. Each household told him the same. He was not welcome, and they would give him nothing.

As he got to the far end of town, he tried the very last house. It was a small and humble cottage, with an aged and poverty stricken couple. He repeated his request to these, and unlike the others, they invited him in.

They didn’t have much to share, but offered him all they could. A small bowl of stew, some bread, and some freshly drawn water to drink.

What’s more, they invited him to stay the night, dry and safe in their cottage, before continuing on his journey the next day.

When he left in the morning, he stood by the door of the cottage where he’d been welcomed in, and, looking back over the hard-hearted, uncharitable town, lifted up his hands and repeated the following lines:


Semerwater rise! Semerwater sink !

And swallow the town, all save this house, where they gave me meat and drink’


No sooner said than done. The waters of the valley rose, the town sunk and the houses disappeared beneath them.

But as they approached the hospitable cottage, the waves stopped short. Even now, you can see a small old house near the lower end of the lake, which is all that is left of the once flourishing town.

On some days, if you look carefully through the waters, you may yet see the roofs and chimneys of the other houses at the bottom of the lake.