The Legend of the Swan

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St. John the Baptist, WolverleyThe Legend of the Swan

There is an ancient legend of Wolverley which has been transmitted for centuries. For a long time the Lord of this Manor was a Norman 'De Bois', in Latin 'de Bosco', and in English 'Attwood' from whom were descended the Attwood's of Trimpley and Wolverley, whose name is preserved in the name Park Attwood.

Wolverley Court belonged to the Attwoods, one of whom is said to have been a Crusader, and to have tarried so long at the wars that his lady at home supposing that her husband had died was about to marry again.

One morning the milkmaid at the court went down to the meadow to milk the cows, taking with her an old dog. The dog ran before the girl and presently barking directed her attention to a man lying asleep on the grass - a form, in appearance, more like a wild animal than a human being - emaciated, shaggy, and fettered with iron. The dog appeared to recognise this strange-looking object, fawned upon it and continued barking until the girl went back to the Court and told her mistress what had happened. The lady listened to the maid's story and returned with her to the place where the dog still kept guard over the stranger. The man being now awake greeted the lady as his wife, but she was alarmed and incredulous; then in confirmation of his identity he produced a half broken ring, which at parting, unknown to anyone except themselves, the husband and wife had broken, each keeping half. The lady found her portion of the ring and placed it beside that which the man held out to her. The two parts matched, and thereby was the lady convinced that her long-expected husband had returned.

A smith was sent for, and the knight released from his fetters. Great was the rejoicing at the return of the wanderer and eagerly did his friends and tenants listen to the relation of the Crusader's marvellous adventures. The soldier of the Cross had been taken prisoner, and kept for a long time in a dungeon, till one night, as he prayed to be delivered from his miserable state, an angel, or as some say, the Virgin Mary, appeared and spoke words of comfort to him, then he seemed to lose consciousness, till aroused by the barking of the dog, when he found himself no longer in the prison, but lying in the meadow below his own house in Wolverley. Though in a trance, the Knight had indistinct remembrance of movement through space, but being of too humble a heart to imagine that an angel had been sent to carry him he declared that a swan had brought him through the air.

The meadow by the Wolverley Canal Lock underneath Wolverley Court is still called "the Knights Meadow". At Wolverley Court the iron fetters, said to have been worn by the Knight, are still shown. The mutilated fragments of the alabaster effigy - the head, body and the feet of the old warrior - still remain and are to be seen in the church.