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Scutchamer Knob

Artificial Mound


For the most part, this venerable way is deserted save for an occasional shepherd or a solitary farm labourer returning home from work. Silent and lonely, it pursues its course over height and into hollow: now stretching away in a generous curve sharply defined by a bank on either side, now scarcely to be distinguished from the surounding turf.

At intervals are earthworks that guard it and barrows that keep watch. Round one of the latter, familiarly called the "Knob," not a few curious legends have gathered. Some distance below the old road there runs, also from east to west, a military ditch and vallum, and the story goes that the devil, having a fancy to turn ploughman, cleft this mighty furrow along the hillside. When he arrived opposite the spot where the barrow now stands, his ploughshare became clogged; he halted to clean it, and the soil which he scraped off he tossed over the Ridgeway in a heap to be known henceforth as the Knob. There is a lavishness about this proceeding which can only be properly appreciated by those who have seen the mound and the Devil's Dyke. The tale was told to me by a native of the district who had heard it when a boy, from the older labourers working on his father's farm.

Local opinion however, differed on the subject. While some people believed the Knob was due to His Satanic Majesty's industry, others posessing more education, maintained it was a genuine tumulus raised above the body of Cwichelm, king of the West Saxons; and yet a third party claimed that it was composed of the bodies of this king's soldiers, slain hereabouts in some great battle. So prevalent was this last belief that the owner of the land, who was a thrifty soul, cut into the mound and drew off several hundred loads of soil under the impression that it contained valuable fertilising qualities.

The informant to whom I am indebted for the above traditions, well remembers seeing the farm carts coming and going on their foolish errand, and the sensation created in the neighbourhood by this wanton destruction of the barrow. Its poor remains can still be viewed - a monument no longer of a dead chieftain or his forgotten host, but of man's credulity and ignorance.

When I first knew the Knob, it was surmounted by an enormous scaffold of fir-poles - now fallen into decay - which I fondly believed had been erected in honour of the Wessex leader. It was really the work of the Ordnance Department, having been built for triangulation purposes, and the knowledge of this fact, that I learnt later, destroyed much of the mystery with which I had invested the spot.
From Travels Round Our Village by Eleanor G Hayden (1902).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
8th May 2014ce
Edited 8th May 2014ce

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