Thursday, 25 November 2010

Pagan Ghosts in Knowlton, Dorset

The ruined church of Knowlton stands in the middle of an ancient henge that dates back at least 4,000 years to the Neolithic Age, before the knowledge of how to make metal tools had reached Britain. The site has been considered as sacred for longer than perhaps any other in England.

The ghosts that lurk here seem to date back to pagan days. The tall man dressed in a long cloak who walks about the inner ring of the earthen bank that marks the outside of the henge is generally held to be a pagan priest of some kind, while the great black hound that patrols outside is marked down as a dog of the Devil – but then Christianity viewed all the old gods as devils. Certainly local people believe that it is the henge alone that keeps the ghosts trapped inside and protects the surrounding Christians from pagan wrath.

The medieval church is ruined, as it has been for many years. In its time the church was famous for having a magnificent peal of three bells. When the church was closed, one bell was taken to Sturminster Marshall and a second to Shapwick, but the largest and finest was left at Knowlton. In the mid 19th century a gang of crooks decided to steal it, take it to France and sell it. They got the bell only so far as Sturminster Newton. The horse pulling the cart on which the bell was loaded refused to cross the Stour. No amount of whipping would persuade the horse to move, but in the commotion the cart overturned and the bell fell into the Stour.

The local folk rallied to the cause and next day came with horses and ropes to pull the bell out of the river so that it could be restored to its proper place. Again the horses refused to work. And when the men tried brute human muscle power, the ropes broke. And so the bell remained in the Stour where, when flood waters rage down the stream, it can be heard tolling as it tumbles about.


This is an extract from Haunted Places of Dorset by Rupert Matthews

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