Marine Mapping Helps Uncover the Past in the New Forest
Hampshire, UK, 08 September 2009 -
The New Forest National Park Authority is using detailed marine mapping from SeaZone to undertake an archaeological assessment of its coastline in response to changing sea levels... continues...
Sir Maurice Berkeley resided much at Bistherne, which was probably a much pleasanter abode than his grim Castle on the bleak Cotteswolds. A singular tradition still lingers at Bistherne respecting the slaughter of a Dragon, which is connected with the name of this Sir Maurice by a document preserved in the Evidence room at Berkeley Castle. The local tradition is to the effect that a Dragon had his den at Burley Beacon, about five miles from Bistherne, in a part of Burley known as Bistherne Closes. Thence the creature "flew" every morning to Bistherne for a supply of milk. Here a valiant man built himself a hut, and with two dogs lay in wait for the Dragon, keeping the dogs out of his sight also. The innocent creature came as usual one morning for his milk, when the hut door was opened, the dogs let fly at him, and while he was thus engaged with them, he was "shot" by the man. The dogs were killed on the spot, apparently under the idea that they had become dangerous through being bitten by the Dragon. The Dragon slayer himself, says another version of the tradition (which seems to come nearer the fifteenth century), only succeeded in overcoming his foe by covering his armour with glass. The locality of the fight still goes by the name of "Dragon Fields."
The documentary version of this tradition is contained in the margin of a pedigree roll written previously to 1618, and preserved, as already said, in the Evidence room at Berkeley Castle. It is as follows:--
"Sr Moris Barkley the sonne of Sr John Barkley, of Beverston, beinge a man of great strength and courage, in his tyme there was bread in Hampshire neere Bistherne a devouring Dragon, who doing much mischief upon men and cattell and could not be destroyed but spoiled many in attempting it, making his den neere unto a Beacon. This Sr Moris Barkley armed himself and encountered with it and at length overcam and killed it but died himself soone after. This is the common saying even to this day in those parts of Hampshire, and the better to approve the same his children and posterity even to this present do beare for their creast a Dragon standing before a burning beacon. Wch seemeth the rather more credible because Sr Morice Barkley did beare the Miter with this authentick seale of his armes as is heare underneath one of his own deedes exprest bearing date ye 10 of Henry 6. An Dni 1431."
From 'Dursley and its Neighbourhood' by JH Blunt (1877).