Michael O'Leary: Hagstone Story Teller

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Bevois and Ascupart

The legends of Bevois and Ascupart used to be well known in Southampton, and have given their names to many place names in the city, such as Bevois Town, Bevois Valley and Ascupart Street. Inside the Bargate (shown left), which used to be the main entrance to the city there are two wooden panels showing these two mighty heroes dressed in Roman apparel, looking rather like they're wearing mini-skirts.

Recently the city council, at not inconsiderable expense, decided to erect a statue of Bevois' sword, Mortglay, at the top of Bevois Valley. They then thought a sword might not be appropriate, and decided to make it a semi-abstract sort of a sword and call it "Shear" (cutting edge?), and decided it should be very tall, so as to rival The Angel of the North. There were objections to this, so our valiant councillors modified it, and finally had a strange object erected that has since then been popularly known as The Cheese Grater.

Mike has had some trouble in his stories with Sir Bevois grating the fearsome dragon into parmesan.

The stories are usually traced back to some medieval romances which have Bevois as a rather thuggish crusader, stories somewhat lacking in subtlety and charm. However around Hampshire and Sussex there are Neolithic sites with names such as Bevis' Thumb or Bevis' Grave, and Mike likes to trace the legends back before medieval times. In the council estates below Portsdown Hill, children tell stories of a wild spectral horse that gallops around the hill on stormy nights. There is a Bevis' Grave on Portsdown Hill and Bevois's horse, Arundel (or Hirondelle) is a major part of the legends. So Mike likes to connect these stories, and many a strange tale unfolds which Mike swears are all true. Bevois slumbers under Portsdown Hill, or was it Bevois Mount in Southampton? The dragon flies low over the Isle of Wight, or crawls from the Knuckers Hole, a strange lake at Lyminster, near Arundel. The lady Josian walks the Forest of Bere, or draws water from a New Forest Well.

These are local stories for the Hampshire/Sussex area. But whatever area you're in there are stories. You may be surprised what fragments you already know of such stories - the Hagstone Storyteller is always willing to help you find them; they're your stories.


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