HOLLOW PLACES: An Unusual History of Land and Legend

HOLLOW PLACES: An Unusual History of Land and Legend

CHRISTOPHER HADLEY    Book Number: 90537    Product format: Hardback

The tombstone of dragon-slayer Piers Shonks in the wall of the church at Brent Pelham in Hertfordshire is the starting-point for a delightful historical detective investigation to find out about the legend and how it arose. The original story of Shonks tells how he tracked a dragon to its lair. Early in the 19th century a yew tree in nearby Great Pepsells Field was felled and a huge hole discovered underneath, which the legend then adapted to explain where Shonks's dragon lived. The supposed date of Shonks's dragon-slaying was 1086, according to the 17th century inscription created by a zealous antiquarian vicar, and the author uncovers details of a Peter Sonke in the area who flourished in the 13th century, becoming a landowner and jury member and dying in 1281. Members of the Sonke or Shonke family remained in the area, and the antiquarians of the 17th and 18th centuries continued the investigation. Gough's Sepulchral Monuments of 1786 describes a slab with cross, angel receiving a soul, tetramorph and dragon, though there is clearly no tetramorph. By the early 20th century the legend of Piers Shonks was well established, including his burial in the wall of the church to defeat the devil who had threatened to seize his soul on death whether he was buried inside or outside the church. The author travels to Langton Matravers in Dorset to investigate how Piers's tomb came to be carved in Purbeck marble, and although there is very little Purbeck marble in Hertfordshire, in the rolls there is a mention of a ship in 1229 loaded with marble headed for Waltham Abbey. A fascinating study of the birth of a legend. 438pp, notes, chronology, black and white photos.
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ISBN 9780008319472
Browse this category: Mythology

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