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Brent Pelham and Piers Shonks


‘A mighty dragon made its lair under the roots of an ancient yew tree and wrought havoc in the surrounding countryside. Piers Shonks, Lord of the Manor of Pelham, fought it accompanied by three huge hounds. He finally triumphed by thrusting a long spear down the dragon’s throat.

At the moment of victory the Devil appeared vowing vengeance on Shonks for destroying his beast. He swore that he would have Shonks’ soul, whether he was buried inside or outside the church.

Shonks foiled the Devil by being buried in a cavity within the church walls, therefore being neither inside nor outside the church.’

The above account is from an article by Richard Freeman.

In some versions of the story Piers is either the squire or lord of Brent Pelham and in others he is a giant of a man, standing twenty-three feet high. This giant lived on an island in Shonks Moat which is about one mile east of Brent Pelham. When he was on his deathbed he fired an arrow and proclaimed that he should be buried where it lands. The arrow went through the window of the church St Mary the Virgin at Brent Pelham and pierced the wall. Hence, Piers Shonks was buried within the church wall and his soul was saved from the Devil.

Brent Pelham was originally known as Burnt Pelham as tradition says the original village and church were destroyed in a fire whilst Henry I was on the throne. A tomb reputed to be that of Piers is still inside the church on the North wall.


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