Equinox 15: Stocksbridge Bypass – Introduction. – Please Check It Out.
Equinox 15: Stocksbridge Bypass – The Legends. – Please Check It Out.
After learning about a few myths and legends with regards to Stocksbridge Bypass and the alleged claim of it been one of the most haunted roads in Britain we decided to do some research into the area to see if there is anything that can help back up the stories that are out there. We did not just stick to the Stocksbridge area as you will see we looked at a few other areas that had connections to it with regards to religious influence as one of the claims is of a monk.
Stocksbridge before the 18th century was largely a wooded area that had a few scattered farming cottages and a mill or two. From the 18th century moving forward that’s when Stocksbridge came to life with the industrial revolution. When looking at the myths and legends it is good to note the existence of people living there going further back than the 18th century, there is some evidence of a 14th and 15th century farming site. When we look back to review the legends at least we can place people living and working in Stocksbridge at an early date.
With Stocksbridge itself not having a structure like a town or village we decided to take the next step and look at the parish it sat in and look at what was behind the religious influence of the area.
Stocksbridge up until the mid 17th century sat in the parish of Ecclesfield with the main place of worship been Ecclesfield`s St Mary`s church. Ecclesfield`s parish was one of the largest in the country it had a priory and from 1478 the current church of St Mary`s began construction. There is evidence of an earlier 12th century church in St Mary`s church, actually the name of Ecclesfield is found in the Domesday book which some say is Old English for “a church in a field”. It is also said it is highly possible that the Anglo Saxons founded a church here around the year 600/650. What is also good to note is due to the size of the parish and the position of St Mary`s church it was also given the name Minister of the Moors with much effort from practitioners and monks alike to make it as good if not even better than their neighbours church`s.
So we have Stocksbridge that was under the religious guidance of Ecclesfield parish that was a major power. If we are to look at the monks connected to the parish and the source of its influence we should look at who in a way owned the priory.
So in search for the history of Stocksbridge we have found evidence of early farming & living quarters and we have looked at the parish it was sat in called Ecclesfield Parish. When looking at this parish we see at the centre was a church and a priory of great importance. This Parish was also a great importance to the ones who owned the church and the priory many miles away over in France.
At around 1142 Ecclesfield Church was in the possession of St Wandrille Abbey in Normandy. The confirmation of this was in the form of a papal bull from Pope Innocent ii. Monks are mentioned as early as 1161. Another Papal Bull mentions the priory in Ecclesfield by 1273 this time from Pope Clement lV.
So with this Abbey from overseas being in charge of our local Ecclesfield Parish let’s take a look at what history or influence if any was brought over with it.
Abbey of Saint Wandrille also known as Fontenelle Abbey as we can see came into the possession of Ecclesfield Parish in around 1142 making Ecclesfield Parish an alien priory. The Abbey of St Wandrille is located in the Normandy region close to the River Seine and was founded there around 649 to 657. The name of the Abbey came from the founder Saint Wandrille on land from a friend Saint Ouen that was the Archbishop of Rouen (a place close to the Abbey). Saint Wandrille himself had an high seat in the high court of King Dagobert l but decided to spend his time dedicated to the service of God. The Abbey of St Wandrille straight away shows the interests of Saints and a King but also in around the year 780 Saint Ansegisus joined St Wandrille Abbey and a relative of his St Girowald that was Abbot of the abbey recommended Ansegisus and in reply Emperor Charlemagne gave responsibilities to Ansegisus. Saint Ansegisus went on to do some great things and wrote many important documents in many things including law.
Just by looking at this history it is easy to see the importance of St Wandrille Abbey that possessed the priory of Ecclesfield and within this parish sat Stocksbridge. With connections to Saints, Kings, Papal Bulls and an Emperor, along with this St Wandrille produced many Saints and also became the resting place of many Saints. This Abbey saw the learning of many monks knowledgeable in the arts, sciences and calligraphy, it housed a great library and school which saw copies of the gospels wrote at the abbey and also the lives of the Saints. One aspect of all this we may keep in mind is that there is a feast day for all the saints at the abbey (even though they have their separate day) but this feast day also covers the abbey’s founding which is the 1st of March.
The Legends Revisited.
We started this journey powered by a few stories and legends mostly about monks in the area of Stocksbridge, so after doing some research let’s see if any of them have any weight.
The Imprisoned Monk.
The first legend we looked at was by the word of mouth and the main idea was that the monk was looking at taking the role of Prior at Ecclesfield Priory but instead found himself in prison. Due to this the monk was left angry.
What we found when looking for any evidence of this was in 1376 a monk of St Wandrille Abbey in Normandy made a petition to be restored as the prior of Ecclesfield Priory, as St Wandrille has held this Priory for a long length of time. The argument is also backed up as the monk did hold the position as prior but was removed after false accusations. The monk had further issues with his replacement that he claimed committed waste and destruction while in possession of the priory to the buildings and the surrounding woods.
The monk in question also did time in Newgate prison because of the argument over the position at the priory, and when the monk came out of prison he then challenged another prior over his position so you could say this monk had passion for the job.
The Change Of Time.
Another legend we looked at was with regards to a monk that roamed the parish possibly visiting the homes of people living on farms and was concerned with the deterioration of faith over time. This would be hard to pin down but we did find information of early farm homes in the Stocksbridge area coupled with Stocksbridge been in the Ecclesfield parish. Did monks visit parishioners? Was he visiting people he knew?.
One thing that can be said is that some monks would have cared a lot about the parish and their local church and while researching we did find some events that may have angered the ones that cared.
In 1386 during the 100 year war the priory was taken fromt the Abbey of St Wandrille and given to a Coventry Priory of St Anne and these are Carthusian monks which could show a change in style of belief.
In the 1640`s St Mary`s church that was also called the Minister of the Moors and the focal point of the old Parish suffered vandalism of its stained glass windows and any decorative pieces of Angels and Saints due to puritan rule. In 1650 the Bradfield Parish broke away and one area that made its way from the Ecclesfield parish to the Bradfield Parish and at the same time dropping Ecclesfield`s St Marys church as the main church was Stocksbridge.
This legend is a story of a different kind, it mentions a monk that brought with him a relic that held some sort of power. It goes on to mention that the monk guards this power.
We know quite well that monks were in the Ecclesfield Parish and could easily have roamed the woods of Stocksbridge as they did in other woods and lands around the area, some had permission to graze animals on lands also near by.
We also know monks from Abbeys held relics in their possession these could range from the remains of Saints, books anything of Christian importance.
Another thing to note is that during the viking raids that the Abbey of St Wandrille suffered and monks fled taking relics to safety. Even though this may have taken place earlier than the possession of Ecclesfield parish could it be possible the monks eventually brought relics to one of their most valuable lands.
Now could the relic be in connection with the next piece we found out about. As we now St Wandrille sits close to the River Seine and the founding of the Abbey had connections to Rouen.
Legend has it the bishop of Rouen around the year 631`ish subdued a dragon that some said had a lion’s head the wings of a bat and breathed fire. There is many versions of what happened next but it ends with only the dragon’s head remaining and used to mount on the walls of new churches to scare away evil. There is mention of a few stray teeth been collected from the dragon could these be relics? The name of the dragon was Gargouille and this is where Gargoyles find their origin and it is the reason why a gargoyle is often a dragon head or a lion’s head with water flowing from its mouth due to one story saying when the dragon fell and they chopped off its head instead of fire coming from it’s mouth water flowed. Could the special relic be in the form of a special Gargoyle.
The Legends From The Net.
At the beginning of our Stocksbridge legends research we did come across legends from the internet. These included a monk buried in an unmarked grave and having the resting place disturbed to a wandering monk getting lost in bad weather. These legends would be nigh on impossible to find any hard evidence but personally the only one that would surprise me is a monk getting lost in bad weather, they were pretty good at getting around and would have surely known the area.
On one last note some could ask why would the monk emerge after so long and yes that could go for any haunting spirit but in 1970 the St Wandrille abbey gained a new church.
Investigation Check Sheet.
The below is a list of words and questions that we may use and ask when visiting these areas in hope it may help us reach out to the past.
Soon to come.