Thursday, September 24, 2009

Staying on in Matlock near Cromford : local legends

Travelling around with storytellers is great because they all have so many stories behind the stories. For instance in Chesterfield where the bus brought me to from London we wandered around for a while to have a look at this old market town. One of Chesterfield’s notable tourist destinations is St Mary and All Saints Parish church. The Spire to the Church has a very distinct characteristic, it is bent and twisted and distinctly crooked. Some of the explanations : SHOD DEVIL: The story asserts that a magician persuaded a local blacksmith to shoe the Devil. The man was so nervous that he drove a nail into the Devil's foot. The Devil flew off howling and, as he was passing the church, felt a twinge of real agony. He lashed out savagely with his foot which caught the Spire and twisted it, leaving also a footprint on one of the buttresses. VIRGIN: A story of Chaucerian flavour. The spire was so amazed to hear of a virgin being married in the church that it developed its intricate twist in an attempt to see such a wonder with its own eyes. In a slightly amended version the Spire owes its twist to its admiration of a virtuous maiden of such beauty entering the church that the spire bowed in admiration, and could not resume its normal position. INCENSED DEVIL: Some attribute the deflection to His Satanic Majesty. The legend goes that Lucifer, after a long day's journey, alighted for a moment on the apex of the Spire. It so happened that midnight mass was being celebrated and that the abundant incense from below so irritated his unholy nostrils that he gave a violent sneeze. He managed to keep his hold with his claws and tail around the Spire; next morning, however, the damage was there for all to see. Of course something more like the truth goes, when the spire was added to the tower about the year 1362 unseasoned (green) timber was used and there was an absence of skilled craftsmen due to the (Black Death) and they neglected the cross-bracing of the structure.

Rachel Murray and her daughter Eva kindly asked me to stay on for a few days. Helen and Rachel, both tellers have been showing me the local district

Rachel and Helen took me for a walk on Stanton Moor, site of a stone circle dating back to prehistoric times, 0ver 3,500 years ago. It is known as the nine ladies and the king. Legend has it these women were turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath Burial mounds, field boundaries, ring cairns, more stone circles and the subtle traces of houses crowd the woodlands and lurk beneath heather. Who were the Nine Ladies and their King? As with stone circles, the Nine Ladies name comes from folklore. The standing stones of the circle are the women and the King Stone is the fiddler. We don’t know when the name was first used, except that it was probably some time after the arrival of Christianity. Dancing on Sundays during church services was punishable by excommunication from at least the 1500s, if not earlier. During the medieval period the Church linked many stone circles to devil worship as a way to wean people away from paganism. Follow the footsteps of our ancestors with a short 2 mile walk and explore the Life and death in prehistoryImagine Stanton Moor with timber roundhouses scattered among fields. This is what you would have seen here between 5,000 and 2,000 years ago. Archaeologists have mapped numerous sites that show where people lived, farmed, buried their dead and performed their ceremonies. These ancient farmers built roundhouses on circular, level platforms. They divided their fields with walls, hedges or fences. When they prepared the ground for farming, they removed stones from the fields and created cairns (heaps of stone) or dumped the stones against the boundaries they had made. Many sites survive on the moors because the moorland has been relatively undisturbed by later agriculture, unlike much of the surrounding area. More recent farmers have farmed more productive land.

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