Carving from inside Deerhurst church
|Now bearing that in mind we have to
wonder why there is a Deerhurst Dragon legend at all but it's at this point the church
comes in to it's own for it is covered in dragon carvings.We must ask ourselves why are there so many carvings in this
particular location. It must have been an important site for the Saxons.
Odda's Chapel is Saxon and the church is part Saxon but why carve so many dragons. They don't appear in such abundance anywhere else in the area. Though the Saxon-Norman church of Tredington, a few miles to the east also has a dragon carving and an actual dragon for fossilised in a stone in the porch are the bones of a small dinosaur.
I'll get back to the business of the legend in a minute but first I want to tell you about an alignment of ancient sites of which Deerhurst or rate Walton hill lies at one end.
Canon Harry Cheals's maze at
|Wyck Rissington has a church and
it's old and we all know the Christians were in the habit of building there places of
worship on pagan sacred sites and indeed the name of the place gives us some indication
that this may be the case for the name Wyck Rissington translates from Saxon as "A
building of special significance on a hill covered with brushwood."
Now the building in question could have been anything from a shrine to a cowshed but I don't think the latter would have merited having a place named after it even back then. Not only that but in 1947 the than Cannon Harry Cheales had a vision there instructing him to build a maze.Now it may seem odd to sight an event which took place in 1947 in support of an ancient alignment but what is a maze representative of in ancient pagan art. The coils of earth energy otherwise know as the serpent.
The next site was Wagborough Bush.
Tumuli and barrows are often used as mark points on alignments and once again the significance of this one lies in its name.We know that "borough" derives from the Saxon "Beorg" meaning barrow and in this case it's my belief the "Wag" derives from the Saxon "Weg" meaning way. Therefore we have the name "Way Barrow". Obvious isn't it?
From Gloucestershire Notes and Queries. Vol 4 1890
1568 – The legend of the Dragon of Deerhurst – The Rev. George Butterworth, in his very interesting volume, entitled Deerhurst: a Parish in the Vale of Gloucester (Tewkesbury 1887) has written thus, pp.140-142:
The “Legend of Deerhurst” is one of the old dragon tales which are related in connexion with so many localities both at home and abroad. As the was a dragon of Wantley in Yorkshire, and one that gave its name to Dragon’s Hill in Berkshire, and sundry winged monsters are chronicled, who, until slain by as many saintly heroes, ravaged parts of northern France, so a dragon, or a “serpent of prodigious bigness,” covered with impenetrable scales, once lived and flourished at Deerhurst.
History fails to record the age of his appearance. However, like most of his kind, he was set upon mischief and poisoned the inhabitants and killed their cattle. There appears to have been a king in those days, at one at hand; this ruler, having estates of his own in the district, promised a fine portion of land to anyone who should slay the monster. Accordingly a labouring man engaged in the perilous enterprise, and was successful.
Knowing well the favourite resort of the serpent, he brought there, in the temporary absence of the animal, a large quantity of milk. This, as was foreseen, was so much relished by the huge creature, that he swallowed the whole supply, and then becoming lazy and stupefied, fairly fell asleep. Upon this the labourer, one John Smith, advanced, axe in hand, and smote the dragon between the scales, and severed his head from his body.
Smith, as he deserved, got the estate and handed it to his posterity. The axe was to be seen in the last century (ed. Presumably the 1700’s).
What interpretation is to be given to the story I cannot say: possibly it is based upon something which once occurred. Some marauder from over the Severn or some other quarter may, it is conceivable, have once in a time of yore effected a settlement here, and pillaged, and made himself generally obnoxious, till he was knocked on the head by a certain bold avenger of his own and his neighbours wrongs. Or there may have been mischief of a different kind, whether insalubrious conditions of soil or other general nuisance, which the excellent Smith boldly encountered and remedied.
I take “Smith” to be the name of occupation, not a patronym. It is simply to be added that the villagers still talk with bated breath of the “flying addard”. Also, have we not dragons’ heads on the walls of our church! In the middle ages a dragon was the emblem of the standard of Gloucester.