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Knowlton Henges



"In walking from Blandford to Damerham in September, 1852, I shaped my course by Horton, with a view to seeing Monmouth's ash on Horton Heath. Having reached the roadside inn, I found that the ash was four miles distant, and not having time to proceed thither, I waited at the inn.

Whilst waiting I saw a small ruined tower at the distance of half-a-mile or so, and, on asking a man, found it was the ruin of Knowlton Church. He also told me that at a very distant period there was a very valuable bell in that tower, so much so that it excited the cupidity of some fellows, who planned to steal it, take it to the coast, and, having crossed the Channel, sell it in France. This, considering the loneliness of the church, could be no very difficult matter; but somehow, after they had got the bell out of the tower, they were discovered, pursued, and overtaken at the bridge of Sturminster Marshall, and, being unable to proceed further with it, they threw it into the Stour and made off.

The Knowlton people let down ropes and pulled it up nearly within reach of hand, when down it went, without there being any apparent reason for the ropes breaking. A second and a third attempt were attended with the same result till, weary and dispirited, they gave it up. The old man said that there was a verse to the effect that
'All the devils in
Could never pull up Knowlton bell.' "
The writer says here that he considered this tale very pointless and incomplete but then found Hutchins' version:
"There is a tradition current among some of the old people in the village that many years ago the bellringers (or a party) of this village went secretly and removed one of the bells from the old ruined church at Knowlton [...]. They were successful so far, but, as there came a fall of snow during the expedition, they were afraid of being discovered by their tracks, and to baffle pursuit in case of discovery they reversed the shoes of the horses on their return. Arriving at the old bridge of White Mill, which is distant from Sturminster Church about half-a-mile, they sent on two of their party in advance to the village to see that the course was clear. As they were so long gone the remaining party thought something was a miss and that they were discovered, and, suspecting that the people of Knowlton were on their track, they, to dispose of the bell and put it out of sight, threw it into the River Stour, in a deep hole (now called Bell Hole or White Mill Hole). Hence the following doggerel:-
'Knowlton bell is a-stole
And thrown into White Mill Hole'."
From the Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History Society vol. 27, 1906. The first story is told by Mr A Reeves, all being part of an article on Church Bells of Dorset by the Rev. Canon Raven.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
30th March 2016ce
Edited 30th March 2016ce

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