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Cannington Camp


<b>Cannington Camp</b>Posted by juameiImage © © Environment Agency copyright and/or database right 2015.
Also known as:
  • Cynwit Castle
  • Cannington Park
  • Combwich

Nearest Town:Bridgwater (7km ESE)
OS Ref (GB):   ST246405 / Sheet: 182
Latitude:51° 9' 29.56" N
Longitude:   3° 4' 41.98" W

Added by Rhiannon

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<b>Cannington Camp</b>Posted by juamei


Add folklore Add folklore
Miss Lock may be interested to know that the Rev. C.W. Whistler, a former vicar of Stockland, Bristol, and one of the greatest authorities upon the traditions and folk-lore of the Quantock country, recorded the local tradition that Rodway Hill, between Cannington village and the "Park" near Combwich, is so named from the rood erected on it to protect villagers from the Devil's hunt. He recorded, too, the story of a man who was said to have met a great black spectral hound on this hill, and that it brushed up against him in passing and that he was paralysed ever after.
Mentioned in 'Local Notes and Queries' in the Taunton Courier, 1st January 1936.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
11th June 2023ce

Just beyond Cannington... a lane reaches out to a desolate field encircling a quarry. It is called the Warren. Archaeological excavations may have answered the talk about 'several misty figures' and the area's sometimes sombre mood. Not only were a number of skeletons unearthed, but experts believe it is the site of a huge battle because several of the skeletons showed signs of injury.

Cannington Park ... [spurs] forth a pack of demon hounds on misty mornings. Cynwit's Castle ... is said to be very haunted by scary faeries and a demonic wild hunt. ... [The] Park's headless horsemen of 'The Devil's Hunting Ground' have given the Park's wilderness a grim reputation. It has also given good incentive for the locally superstitious to uphold the custom of either carrying a small cross of aspen wood, wear blue, or simply avoid the place after sunset...
Seemingly a bit geographically confused? but you hope the stories really are still doing the rounds. From 'Haunted Somerset' by John Garland (2007).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
17th April 2009ce

Fear of meeting the Wild Hunt prevents most villagers from using the footpath across the fields under the camp after dark yet. It is told that one man who dared to cross it about midnight heard the sounds of a pack of hounds in full cry, and for a time wondered what fetched "the old squire" out hunting at that time of night. However, as there was evidently a good run going on, he hastened to open the field gate toward which the pack was coming, and stood by to watch. And when the dogs came through, they were not the squire's, but terrible great black dogs, with fiery red tongues lolling out, and the gentleman with them was riding a great black horse without a head.

No harm came to the man in this case. But only the quick wit of another man saved him. He also dared to cross the path in the dark, and was overtaken by the Wild Hunt as it passed overhead. And when he looked up, there was the devil himself following the hounds and riding on a great pig. What was worse, the devil pulled up and spoke to him.
"Good fellow," he called, "how ambles my sow?"
The man was "most terrible feared," but he knew that he must make some answer, so he replied:
"Eh, by the Lord, her ambles well enow!"
And that saved him, for the devil could not abide the Name of the Lord, so he and his dogs vanished in a flash of fire!
Local Traditions of the Quantocks
C. W. Whistler
Folklore, Vol. 19, No. 1. (Mar. 30, 1908), pp. 31-51.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
7th October 2006ce

..The riders of the Wild Hunt are specially localised at the riverward end of the trackway [from Dowsborough], where the hill fort of Combwich has a most uncanny reputation. The hill itself is a bold, rounded mass of the mountain limestone of the Mendip formation, cropping out through the red sandstone, and is said to have been brought from the Mendips by the devil when he dug out Cheddar gorge, which is plainly visible from any point of the distric commanding an eastward view across the Parrett. After throwing some material into the sea, thereby forming Flatholme and Steepholme islands, the next spadeful made the Knoll at Brent, falling short of the water, and the labourer decided to carry the next load westward. He filled a basket accordingly, and with it on his back leapt over the Parrett, landing so heavily that the load was jerked from the basket to form the hill, at whose foot one may still see, deeply impressed in the rock, the mark of his hoof. This is a very definite imprint, but the corresponding impression of his hand - for the devil came down on all fours as he lighted from the leap - on the opposite side of the hill, I have not been able to locate, though it is said to be there.
Local Traditions of the Quantocks
C. W. Whistler
Folklore, Vol. 19, No. 1. (Mar. 30, 1908), pp. 31-51.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
7th October 2006ce
Edited 7th October 2006ce

I saw this wooded hill fort from the road; although it doesn't seem there is access over it, paths do lead around its base.

According to Berta Lawrence in 'Somerset Legends' (1973) it was "not many years ago" that people referred to this fort as "the place where they came from Athelney to fight."

Athelney (not so far away, the opposite side of Bridgwater) is where King Alfred was recuperating after coming off worst with the Danes. And now they were back. Odda spotted their ships from Longstone Hill on the Quantocks and set a beacon fire. He led his men (and one assumes, those from Athelney) to Cynwit Castle, meeting the Danish soldiers at the bottom of the hill, before nipping up into the safety of the camp to think.
When the pagans saw the stronghold unprepared and unguarded except for defenses built after our manner, they did not venture to storm it because from the nature of the ground the place was very secure on every side except on the east, as I myself have seen; instead they began to besiege it, thinking that those men would quickly be forced to surrender because of hunger and thirst, for there was no water near. But it did not turn out as they expected. For the Christians, before they suffered any such straits, prompted by God to believe it much better to win either death or victory, at dawn made an unexpected sortie upon the pagans, and shortly slew most of them, together with their king, only a few escaping to the boats.
(from Bishop Asser's 'Life of King Alfred', quoted at the Medieval Sourcebook.

Lawrence says that 1200 Danes were slaughtered, and were buried together where the modern quarry is now. She adds the ghastly detail that the quarrying left skeletons protruding from the soil and that they were 'quite a familiar sight to blackberry pickers'! (ugh)

Perhaps this idea of bones comes from a shrine/cemetery on the hill dating possibly from Roman times - see the story about the 'child of Cannington' on the Cannington Web Pages here:
It seems that areas of the hill have been quarried into regardless of the fact that they are a scheduled monument, and the Somerset Historic Env. Record says that the EH boundary markers appear to have been moved. Tsk. What has been lost? The hill has obviously been of great importance over a very long period of time, and finds have been made of pre Iron-Age objects. It's possible (according to the Cannington web pages) that the quarry may be reopened.

Lawrence adds in her book that the few Danes remaining buried their chief, Hubba, in a mound of his own. Near Chippenham there is Hubbaslow - Chippenham being the site of an earlier battle - but she suggests that everyone knows his burial mound is the one at Wick, next to Hinkley Point power station. (Of course we can say that both mounds are prehistoric and nothing to do with the Danes, though they might have been reused).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
30th August 2005ce
Edited 30th August 2005ce