Sherston Magna

: Popular Rhymes And Nursery Tales

The following very curious observations on this town are extracted from

an anonymous MS. in my possession, written forty or fifty years ago. I

have never seen the lines in print. Aubrey, in his Natural History of

Wiltshire, mentions the plant called Danes-blood, and derives the

name from a similar circumstance. Some observations on Sherston may be

seen in Camden, ed. Gough, i. 96. It is Sceor-stan, where the celebrated

battle between the Anglo-Saxons and the Danes was fought in the year

1016, and prodigies of valour exhibited by the combatants.

"When a schoolboy, I have often traced the intrenchments at Sherston

Magna, which are still visible on the north side of the town, and

particularly in a field near the brow of a hill which overlooks a branch

of the river Avon, which rises a little below Didmarton; and with other

boys have gone in quest of a certain plant in the field where the battle

was said to have been fought, which the inhabitants pretended dropt

blood when gathered, and called Danesblood, corruptly no doubt for

Danewort, which was supposed to have sprung from the blood of the

Danes slain in that battle. Among other memorials, the statue of a brave

warrior, vulgarly called Rattlebone, but whose real name I could never

learn, is still standing upon a pedestal on the east side of the

church-porch, as I've been lately informed, where I saw it above fifty

years ago: of whose bravery, almost equal to that of Withrington, many

fabulous stories are told. One, in particular, like some of the Grecian

fables of old, built upon the resemblance his shield bears to the shape

of a tile-stone, which he is said to have placed over his stomach after

it had been ripped up in battle, and by that means maintained the field;

whilst the following rude verses are said to have been repeated by the

king by way of encouragement:

Fight on, Rattlebone,

And thou shalt have Sherstone;

If Sherstone will not do,

Then Easton Grey and Pinkney too."