It is a story that Hoghton folk have dined out on for centuries.
King James I of England was so impressed by a joint of beef served to him during a visit to the village in 1617 that he took out his sword and knighted it “Sir Loin.”
But now, 400 years on, the well-told legend could finally be declared a myth, thanks to a grant of almost £100,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Hoghton Tower, the place where James and his entourage stayed en route from Scotland to London, has been given the cash to fund an education project focusing on that celebrated three-day royal visit.
In conjunction with the University of Lancaster’s history department, it aims to bring to life the key event in the building’s past, delving deeper into history and unearthing previously unseen and unknown facts from 1617.
“We’re thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund,” said Elena Faraoni, of the Hoghton Tower Preservation Trust.
“We’re confident that this project will help to take the trust’s education offer to the next level and make the tower’s unique story come to life in new ways.”
The “Sir Loin” tale has drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors to Hoghton Tower over the years. The acclaimed moment in folklore even has a pub named after it in the village.
But historians have long poured cold water on the story, claiming the term sirloin actually originated from the French “sur loin,” meaning over or above the loin where the joint of beef comes from.
The visit of King James in August 1617 is factual.
Indeed the de Hoghton family, who have had their ancestral home in the village since the time of William the Conqueror, threw such a lavish party for the monarch that they practically bankrupted themselves.
It was said that a plush red carpet was laid the entire length of the mile-long drive to greet His Royal Highness and his court.
Legend has it that during a grand banquet the king was so moved by an enormous joint of beef served up by kitchen staff that he rose to his feet and, as courtiers dropped to their knees, he drew his sword and knighted it on the table in front of him.
Almost 140 years later Samuel Johnson included the anecdote in his 1755 Dictionary of the English Language, stating that the king had made the gesture in “a fit of good humour.”
Satirist Jonathan Swift had earlier recounted the story in a 1738 essay, saying the joint had been knighted “in a frolic”.
But over history other monarchs, including Charles II, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, have also been credited with the meat’s investiture.
The aim of the new two-year Project LEAP, paid for by the Heritage Lottery grant of £96,300, is to “educate and inspire the next generation by bringing to life a key event in the tower’s history, the 1617 visit of King James I.”
Elena Faraoni added: “We hope that the exciting opportunities made possible by this funding will attract new groups of visitors from all walks of life and is in line with our desire to engage future generations to become as inspired by our heritage as we are.”