Robert Nixon - truth or legend?
For centuries the prophecies of Robert Nixon have stirred the imagination
of Cheshire folk. Supposedly born in 1467, on a small farm held
by his father under the Abbey of Vale Royal, Nixon has become to
Cheshire what Mother Shipton is to Yorkshire.
He was known as the Cheshire Ploughboy Prophet, said
from his earliest years to be remarkable only for his stupidity,
indeed so much so that it was with great difficulty that he was
taught to drive a team of oxen, or to look after his fathers
Yet he apparently became so famous that he was commanded to foretell
the future for a king !
The story goes that whilst working in the fields, Nixon made many
predictions, notably concerning the Abbey of Vale Royal which stood
near to the River Weaver a few miles from the old town of Over.
Vale Royal, founded by King Edward I in 1277, was in its heyday
the largest Cistercian abbey in England.
Nixon told one abbot who annoyed him: When you the harrow
come on high, Soon a ravens nest will be. This prophecy
is supposed to have come true at the Reformation when the last abbot,
whose name was Harrow, was called before Sir Thomas Holcroft and
put to death for refusing to acknowledge that King Henry VIII was
the supreme head of the Church. Henry had given the monastery and
all its lands to Sir Thomas whose crest was a raven !
Sir Thomas Holcroft demolished the abbey and built in its place
the great house of Vale Royal which has recently been converted
into apartments and also serves as the clubhouse for the newly-created
Vale Royal Golf Club. Can there be a more historic 19th hole anywhere
in the world?
Nixon is also said to have foretold the outcome of the Battle of
Bosworth Field, fought between the armies of Richard III and Henry
VII. Whilst ploughing in Whitegate, the simpleton stopped his team
and with his whip, pointed from one hand to the other, crying Now
Richard ! Now Harry ! several times over, until at last he
said, Now Harry, get over that ditch and you gain the day.
The plough-holder related what had passed and the truth of the prediction
was verified by special messenger sent to announce the proclamation
of Henry, King of England, at Bosworth Field.
Legend has it that Nixon was duly sent for by the king, but upon
receiving the royal command, he ran like a madman around the town
of Over, declaring that at court he would be starved to death.
On his arrival and by way of a test, the king hid a valuable diamond
ring and asked the ploughboy to help him find it, whereupon Nixon
said: He who hideth can find. From then on, the king
ordered that whatever Nixon said should be written down. The upshot
of the tale was that Nixon, exactly as he had predicted, became
locked in a closet and died of starvation.
Other accounts of Nixon state that he was born during the reign
of James I (1603-25) and that he was for some time in the service
of Thomas Cholmondeley, master of Vale Royal after 1625.
When an eagle shall sit on top of the house, then an heir
shall be born to the Cholmondeley family was another of Nixons
revelations. And so it came to pass that when an heir was most needed
a large eagle perched on the edge of a great bay window and refused
to be driven away until a son was born.
Whether fact or fiction, Nixons name and his prophecies live
on to this very day, to enrich the folklore of Cheshire and Vale
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