On the trail of Old Mont

Continued from last post…

After chatting to Martin Dodds about Sheila Stewart and her book Lifting the Latch: Life on the land, we left Martin to go back to his work, and continued our search for Old Mont.

On our way to the village of Old Enstone, Edward pointed out the shed where Old Mont had once attended the local  dances. In the book, Old Mont called this “the dancing shed.” I don’t believe the local dances are still held there now, though. Nowadays, the “dancing shed” seems to be in a state of disrepair, and the laneway leading down to it is very muddy, and very narrow. For various reasons, we could not gain access to the site to take photos.

Above: Just around the corner of the road leading to Old (Neat) Enstone and Fulwell, we stopped at an ancient monument that consists of three rocks of varying sizes. In Sheila Stewart’s book, Lifting the Latch, Old Mont, a true-blue local of the Enstone-Fulwell area and whose speech is dialectic,  calls this monument the “Hoar Stone,” the name used in local history clubs  and more official circles but not by the local people of the area who only know these Stones  as “The Rock of Gibraltar.”  There is also some argument about whether this tri-part burial chamber is of Neolithic or Bronze Age origin.

Local legend has it that these rocks are a great Knight, his royal horse, and his loyal, and equally royal dog.  As the locals tell it, the Knight was on a long journey, and his animals had grown weary. So the great Knight, being a gentleman and a Sir as all Knights are,  decided to take a few minutes to rest his animals in this shady out-of-the-way glen. There, safely tucked away in the leafy peaceful place, the Knight’s animals soon fell  into a sound sleep. While they slept, the great Knight stood watch as all great good Knights are supposed to do. Unfortunately for them, though, the great Knight was also weary, and he, too, soon nodded off into a deep sleep.

He had ignored the golden rule for all great Knights–don’t go to sleep on the job, when you are in strange territory make sure you keep one eye open because funny things can happen. And funny things did happen back then because…it just so happened that the very spot on which the Knight had chosen to rest belonged to a Wizard.

Now, as everyone knows, and knew even back then, you don’t  make free use of a Wizard’s land. This Wizard, being a great Wizard, did not mind the great Knight stopping for a few minutes to rest his animals, but he didn’t like the Knight making himself too comfortable in what was the Wizard’s own special place.  The Wizard saw this as the great Knight acting in a high-handed manner and taking him for granted.  This proved to be a bit much for the great Wizard– “So, you wish to sleep do you? Did you ask me first if you could sleep here in my place? No? Well then, sleep,”–and he turned the Knight, his horse, and his dog, into stone.

I have been trying to work out the moral to this tale and have come up with a great many possibilities, all or any of which may or may not be correct, but all which might make a good story.


Below: A nearby plaque informs visitors merely that this Prehistoric burial chamber is protected under the Ancient Monuments Acts of 1913-53. But given that the Stone is enclosed by a rocky Bronze Age fence, it was probably the burial chamber of some great Bronze Age or Prehistoric Knight, or even a very important member of Neolithic Royalty.

(Many thanks to Bob for taking similar photos to the ones I myself took but accidentally deleted when attempting to transfer them from my camera to my computer. That’s a different story again, and one I’m not telling here.)

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