You’ve heard of the battle of Hastings
an’ William t’Conquerors rout,
of Saxons, who fought like young lions,
but couldn’t keep Norman lot out.
Well, twenty year after th’invasion,
an’ wond’rin’ how much he were worth.
King William sent out ‘is assessors,
the value o’ stuff to unearth.
He sent ‘em to all parts o’ kingdom,
Commissioners as they were known.
If folk didn’t answer their questions,
for a fortneight in jail they were thrown.
On an ‘ill farm due south o’ Great Harwood,
a tenant named Joe Summersgill,
saw a Norman pull up on his wagon,
wi’ an armful o’ scrolls an’ a quill.
Said the Norman in strong garlic accent,
“I ‘ave come to record all you ‘ave,
but before we can get down to business,
sil vous plait, can I borrow your lav?”
Whilst’fella were usin’ the petty,
Joe grabbed ‘is owd woman an’ said.
“tek nobby the pig, mi new hoe an’ scythe,
an’ hide ‘em in t’bushes near t’shed.
Soon, Norm as Joe called ‘im were sittin’
on upturned pail mekkin his notes
on the size of ‘is ‘ouse an’ small’oldin’
an’ t’number o’ cattle an’ goats.
“‘ow much will you sting us wi’ t’taxes,”
shouted Joe wi’ a bit of a roar.
“As much as is fair I suspect” muttered Norm.
Joe sez “aye, an’ I’ve heard that afore.”
After notin’ all t’stock on ‘is vellum,
in a hand that were splendid an’ lush.
Norm were ready to climb on ‘is cart an’ depart
when he heard a loud grunt from a bush.
“Quesque c’est in le undergrowth gruntin’?”
The assessor demanded to know.
“It were Gilbert mi lad an’ ‘is sinus,
blow your nose lad then t’Norman can go!”
When Gilbert stepped out from the bushes,
wi' th'anky an’ sniffin on cue,
the Norman said “reight I’ll be off then,
you’ll soon know what taxes is due?”
Joe were quite suited wi’ trick that he’d played,
but ‘is missus became rather vexed.
“if they find out folks cheatin’ th’assessors,
they’ll be bringin’ a poll tax out next?”
Into t’neighbourin, village rolled Norman,
to visit ‘is next port o’ call.
A ramb-e-ling alehouse at th’end o’ the street,
wi a blue whippet painted on t’wall.
The landlord stepped out to greet t’wagon,
wi’ what Norman suspected were t’spouse,
he were nobbut eight stone drippin’ watter,
but ‘is missus were built like an ‘ouse.
“I ‘ave come to assess your belongings,
on his majesty’s Williams behalf.”
While the landlady lifted ‘im down from ‘is cart,
whisp’rin’ “this should be good for a laugh?”
“I think we may start with t’provisions,
like your ale an’ your pies, an’ no doubt.
I’ll sample a flagon or deux if I may
‘cause I’ve heard ale’s tres bien hereabouts?”
So Phoebe as t’landlady liked to be known,
poured Norman a jug of her best,
that were known in these parts as “Owd Nitro” because,
it could blow great big holes in your vest.
Well after a couple o’ flagons,
Norm were out like a leight on the bench,
an’ to the amusement o’ locals,
were snorin’ an’ mutt’rin’ in French.
After five hours o’ kip Norman staggered outside,
to a picture that give ‘im a start.
‘is ‘orse, scrolls an’ quills an’ ‘is brass‘ad all gone,
an’ on four piles o’ bricks stood ‘is cart.
“Sacre bleu!” Norman shrieked when he saw what were done,
poor frenchie fair trembled wi’ freight.
“Serves you reight” chuckled Phoebe, ‘er ‘onds on ‘er ‘ips,
“leavin’ t’cart out in Clayton at neight!”
Norm set off on Shanks’s to London,
‘cause in them days there weren’t any trains.
While phoeb’ an’ ‘er gang sat in t’whippet,
dividing their ill gotten gains.
When Norman towd Will what ‘ad ‘appened,
t’Conquerors face turned bright red.
“I’ll not waste more wagons on that ‘orde up north,
we’ll survey all t’locals instead!”
So some folk were spared all th’assessments,
and to Phoebe an’ pals go the thanks,
frey Northumberland, Cumberland, Durham,
Westmorland an’ a chunk of East Lancs.