Monday, 15 November 2010

The Terrifying Sir Humphrey Kynaston of Shropshire

The modern A5 swoops past Nesscliffe, carrying juggernaut trucks and cars by the thousand on their way to and from North Wales. Before the modern dual carriageway was constructed, however, the road ran through the village of Nesscliffe on its way from Shrewsbury to Oswestry.

Just before the old road enters the village it runs beneath a towering hill with, on the left, the Three Pigeons pub and a small war memorial on the right. Today, this is a welcoming place where the pub offers good food and fine ales to travellers and locals alike. But in Tudor times this was a dangerous and forbidding place. So risky was passing this way, that the wool merchants guild in Shrewsbury hired tough mercenary ex-soldiers to escort its members to Oswestry on their way to buy wool from Welsh sheep farmers.

The main problem came in the form of a daring and violent highway robber by the name of Sir Humphrey Kynaston. This Sir Humphrey had been born into wealth and privilege, but as soon as he inherited his lands around Myddle, he drank and gambled his inheritance away. Scorning anything so common as working for a living, Kynaston became a robber, finding easy prey among the travellers on the road to Oswestry. He lived in a cave set high up on the hill above Nesscliffe, where he carved himself a fine chair out of the living rock.

It was the feats of Kynaston’s horse that gave rise to the rumours that he was in league with the Devil. Pursued by his enemies, Kynaston once jumped his horse over the River Severn itself, a distance of 40 feet. On another occasion he was trapped inside a yard at Aston, but his horse leapt the 12 foot tall gates to freedom.

It is no wonder that the towering figure of a huge man mounted on a gigantic black horse that has been seen galloping past the Three Pigeons is said to be Sir Humphrey Kynaston. Whether this is, indeed, the legendary outlaw returning to his old haunts on his satanic steed or some quite different phantom it is hard to judge. Perhaps it is best to believe the old stories - they are certainly the romantic option.

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

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