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A Thousand Miles of History XXXXV: The Knights Come Down to Drink…

We had already been sidetracked by St Edwold’s tiny church, but we were definitely on our way home now. Except, we thought that as we were passing, it would be a pity not to visit the little village of Sutton Montis, the place where the ghostly knights that sleep beneath Cadbury Castle are said to bring their horses to drink. We had tried to visit on the first day of the workshop and taken a wrong turn somewhere. Perhaps we would have better luck this time.

So, sticking to the backroads as usual, we drove through the English countryside at its best. Small villages bedecked with flowers, vast swathes of vivid green against old, golden stone, tumbles of roses… and every so often, places we really wished we could have stopped.

The one place we had to pull over was the crossroads at Leigh, where an ancient carved cross stands on its steps, guarding the way. In 1905, the Reverend Dicker, Vicar of Piddletrenthide, wrote an account of the eight-hundred-year-old cross and from this we know that on two sides the carvings represented St. Christopher carrying the Christ and St. Michael slaying the dragon… two images that seem to follow us around.

Resisting the temptation to go in search of Leigh’s church, we continued to Sutton Montis and found the church where the spring is supposed to be, where Arthur and his knights water their horses.

There was a beautiful old yew that refused to be properly photographed, but there was no sign of the spring… perhaps the drought was to blame. But the church was intriguing. It was also, much to our disappointment, locked, which was a shame for the building has Saxon origins and these very old churches often contain real treasures.

The present church is largely twelfth century, with the usual later additions and Victorian restorations. A rather incongruous portico has been added in lieu of the traditional porch, beside which stands an old stone bowl, which might once have been a holy water stoup, but now lies forlorn and forgotten.

The windows were intriguing, from what little we could see from outside. It is always frustrating to get these exterior glimpses and be unable to get a proper look…

The east window, over the altar, is modern and, was one of John Hayward’s final works. The artist kept and incorporated fragments of ancient glass, including the circular fragment which contains the image of a crown. It also seemed to contain some interesting features, like a constellation of stars and geometries.

Oddly enough, the tracery of one of the chancel windows contained a hexagram… which would have been a perfect introduction to the workshop, had we found it that first day.

There was only one thing for it; where there is a square of clear-ish glass, the camera can work wonders. Sure enough, there were windows whose stories were unusual… especially that east window.

I also managed to get an interior shot that showed the carvings on the Norman chancel arch, but I could get little else. Perhaps we had seen all we were supposed to see here? That is often the feeling we get when denied full access and we have learned to accept it.

Still, beyond the seventeenth century barn at Parsonage Farm, there was something else to see… and a little further down the road too, where we got a wonderful view of Cadbury Castle.

It was the perfect farewell as we said our goodbyes to Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset… and headed off towards Wiltshire. We were never going to make it through Wiltshire without stopping… especially as the pub at Avebury would be open for lunch by the time we got there…