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The Isle of Wight: Latest Posts — Folklore

Luccombe Down (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

Close by but now apparently dried up, Pastscape records the site of "St Boniface Wishing Well" (SZ 5676878118):

"St. Boniface Wishing Well", a spring formerly much venerated, especially by seamen, because an impervious stratum caused it to rise high up on the side of a chalk down.

From "Undercliff of the IOW", 1911, 118-9. (J.L. Whitehead)

From Ward Lock's Illustrated Guidebook:

The Wishing Well is interesting to the geologist on account of its unusual height, and to the superstitious from the reverence formerly paid to it on account of a popular belief that if one achieved the difficult feat of climbing to the spring without looking backward, any three wishes formed while drinking its waters would be gratified.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
6th March 2013ce

The Devil's Punchbowl (Round Barrow(s))

(moth --> flame)
The largest tumulus, which is nearly circular, is about 60 feet in diameter and 5 feet high at the highest part. In the centre it is only 2 feet 6 inches. The site of this tumulus is marked upon the ordnance map and it is locally known as the "Punch Bowl" or "Devil's Punch Bowl," a designation which, as is well known, has been often applied to barrows, and originated doubtless in the legends and superstitions which found favour with the country people in former days; the bowl or cup-like form being due either to the pernicious habit of explorers, when excavating tumuli, of excavating a shaft or pit in the very centre of the mound, with the expectation of dropping at once on the anticipated treasure, perhaps finding nothing and abandoning the work, or from the fact of the barrow having been raised over cists containing urns or interments by inhumation, which gradually perishing and giving way, led to a subsidence of the soil in the crown of the tumulus.

There is a tradition current among the labourers on the estate that in this hollow portion of the "Bowl" a large stone formerly existed, and it was removed from its position by mischievous people, and sent rolling down the hill, and that, for some time after, it was to be seen near to a ditch or path adjoining Nunwell House. We instituted a careful search with one of the labourers, but was unable to trace the stone. It is possible that it had some association with the tumulus, and perhaps some significance as a limitary mark, or it may have been only placed there in recent times for the support of a staff or pole, the situation of the mound being one which might even be selected for a beacon.
From Excavations of Tumuli on the Brading Downs, Isle of Wight by John E Price and F G Hilton Price, in the Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, February 1882. There is a drawing of the antler artefact that TSC mentions.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
15th January 2013ce

The Longstone of Mottistone (Standing Stone / Menhir)

When at the Longstone or Mote-stone which gave its name to Mottistone, in the Isle of Wight, the other day [the writer] was told by an inhabitant of the locality that the two stones were said to have been thrown there from St. Catherine's Down (seven miles away as the crow flies), the larger one by a giant and the smaller by the Devil; and that the giant had to stoop to throw his stone because it was so heavy.
From the Hampshire Antiquary and Naturalist (v1, 1891, p136).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
21st June 2011ce

Shanklin Down (Round Barrow(s))

There are two barrows marked here on the summit on the OS map, although Magic doesn't actually list them as scheduled monuments. I read this about the Down in 'Folklore'*: ".. in Hampshire "stones grow." If you doubt this, you only have to gather the flints off a field and see if a double crop will not face you shortly! Besides, has not Shanklin Down increased one hundred feet in height?"

Well how bizarre. I found a bit more here. I guess it must have been local drollery in the C19th Isle of Wight. Unless of course, the hill really has been on the move.
"That high peak that we see is St. Katherine's, the highest point of the island, is it not?"
"Yes," he replied, "St. Katherine's is at present the highest point of the island."
"Is at present! Why, you do not mean to say that there ever was a time when its elevation was different?"
"That I know nothing about," he replied; "but it appears very probable that Shanklin Down will soon overtake it in height."
"Why, you don't mean to say that Shanklin Down is growing higher?"
"That, indeed, appears to be the case, or, at any rate, relatively to other heights in the island. The inhabitants of Chale will tell you that formerly Shanklin Down, from the interference of Week Down, could only be seen from the top of St. Katherine's, whereas it is now visible from Chale Down, which is much lower consequently, unless Week Down has sunk lower than it was, Shanklin Down must have risen considerably. Now, if Week Down is sinking, it is very probable that St. Katherine's is slipping down too; so that, whether Shanklin Down is growing higher or not, it seems very probable that it will in the course of time overlook all the rest of the Isle of Wight."
"Very curious," said [another], with a kind of supercilious air. "I suppose the two hills playing at see-saw.--Now we go up, up, up; and now we go down, down, down. Very curious, -- very," picking his teeth incredulously between the two last words.

"There is no animal," thought I to myself, "so jealous of another of the same species, as your regular story-teller."
From 'Tales and Legends of the Isle of Wight - with the adventures of the author in search of them.' by Abraham Elder, Esq.
p535 in Bentley's Miscellany, vol 5 (1839). Apparently it's mentioned in Worsley's 1781 History of the Isle of Wight, if you can find it.

*Hampshire Folklore
D. H. Moutray Read
Folklore, Vol. 22, No. 3. (Sep. 30, 1911), pp. 292-329.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
28th April 2007ce
Edited 2nd May 2007ce

The Longstone of Mottistone (Standing Stone / Menhir)

"A child might easily swing the great stone backwards and forwards, but a 'mighty man' with great strength would fail to move it if he had 'guilt on his soul'."

(Adrean Searle, in 'Isle of Wight Folklore' (1998) -he doesn't state where he's quoting from)
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
15th February 2006ce

Michael Moorey's Hump (Round Barrow(s))

Local folklore would have us believe that a local man murdered his grandson in a nearby cottage and then set fire to the building in order to hide the evidence. He was later captured in a nearby cave and hung on the downs above. The gibbet was constructed on top of the ancient burial mound where he was left to decompose then buried in the mound. Those amongst you brave enough should visit the mound at midnight, circling it twelve times before calling "Michael Morey" three times, after which his ghost should appear.
The true story is far more gruesome as he lured the boy to a local wood where he cut off his head with a billhook, then hacked off his arms and legs before stuffing the remains jnto some old saddle bags and concealing them in the undergrowth.He was later captured and taken for trial in Winchester where he was found guilty and hung. His body was returned to the island to be hung in chains as a deterrent to others. The gibbet post which was erected on the burial mound can supposedly still be seen in the local pub (the 'Hare and Hounds' at Downend) along with a skull, which for many years was said to be Michael Moreys, recent evidence suggests that it is more likely to belong to one of the original prehistoric burials.
Information was taken from"For Rooks and Ravens" by Kenneth S. Phillips
Posted by bert
22nd September 2004ce

Gallibury Hump (Round Barrow(s))

Gallibury Hump is the most conspicuous of the barrows on Brightstone Down - in fact, at three metres high it's probably the biggest round barrow on the Isle of Wight. According to Dyer's 'Southern England' it's largely composed of flints.

Sir John Oglander described it in 1640 as being "where ye ffrench weare buried, being overcome theyre in a battayle" - hence neatly explaining its purpose and name in one.

Dyer however backs the explanation that a gallows probably stood on it.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
20th August 2004ce

The Longstone of Mottistone (Standing Stone / Menhir)

The 13 foot stone is a probable remnant of a Neolithic long barrow. legend has it that the stone was thrown here by a giant, the smaller stone being thrown by the Devil. Alternatively the Devil dropped some stones from his overloaded cart. There was also a belief that Druids used to meet at this stone. pure joy Posted by pure joy
19th March 2003ce

Apparently -

Mottistone means 'speaker's stone' in Old English. The Druids are supposed to have sacrificed white bulls beside the longstone (white cattle with red ears belonged to the fairies or came from the Celtic underworld, so perhaps that is relevant). The two stones here have been interpreted as male and female. Perhaps it's more likely they are the remains of a destroyed burial chamber with more stones.
(folklore found in the Reader's Digest 'Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain')
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
9th May 2002ce
Edited 13th October 2016ce