Lurking in corners of churches and cathedrals are hidden curiosities waiting to surprise the unsuspecting visitor.
David Castleton in his Church Curiosities – Strange Objects and Bizarre Legends (Shirebooks, 2021 <www.shirebooks.co.uk> takes his reader on a guided tour of some of the most unusual, quirky and sometimes mystifying items that he has discovered.
As he explains he has, “always been fascinated by spooky things – including spooky old churches – ever since I was a kid. When I was writing my novel The Standing Water <https://www.davidcastleton.net/home/the-standing-water/>this interest intensified as the novel includes a lot of strange legends and a spooky old church and my interest was further enhanced by blogging and tweeting to market the book.”
Church Curiosities – Strange Objects and Bizarre Legends provides the reader with glimpses of the humour, history and values of our ancestors and the strange heritage legacy they have left. The artefacts range from the poem of George Routleigh, a watchmaker on his tomb in Lydford, Devon to Ogham inscriptions, Giant’s Graves and Holy Wells.
Tavistock, the market town in which I live has its own Holy Well. The origins of St. John’s Well are shrouded in myth. Its origins are not clearly documented, but possibly date back to the time of Tavistock’s Benedictine Abbey and the hermit who is reputed to have lived near the spring.
The National Park of Dartmoor close to my hometown is brim full of unusual objects and the folklore that accompanies them. One of the ‘myths’ that David Castleton has highlighted is about the ‘demonic’ Squire Richard Cabell of Buckfastleigh and how his story may have inspired Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Dartmoor is a place that is saturated in myths and folk tales and every squelchy step that you take across the Moor resonates with the voices of the past from stories of the Hairy Hands and farmer’s wives being ‘pixie led’ to adders living under bronze age standing stones waiting to strike unwary travellers.
As a collector of unusual historical facts, I was particularly fascinated by the section on the thought-provoking, realistic funeral effigies with faces made of wax and dressed in their best early 18th century best.
This slim volume packed with information is just the kind of resource and a guidebook that would make an excellent addition to your holiday reading if you were thinking of exploring the U.K. this year.