Gary Stocker shares the story of a murder, a ghost and a saint… whose legend I explore at the end of Gary’s post:
In the Warwickshire village of Offchurch in the 1650s a man was stabbed to death in a lane behind St Gregory’s Church. The murderer hid in the tower, escaped and was never apprehended. Shortly after though, the ghost of the murder victim was seen to follow the same route as the murderer. This ceased to be reported for a long time, until the 1700s, when it was repeated, accompanied by the ghostly tolling of the church bell. This was taken to be a portent that someone in the village would die a week later.
When some restoration work was carried out in the chancel in the nineteenth century, an ancient stone coffin was found. According to legend, it may have been that of the Mercian king, King Offa. However, he is fairly reliably known to be buried elsewhere. So it could be that of his relative, Fremund, who was an early Christian miracle worker, about whom there are some legends.
“Haunted Warwickshire by Meg Elizabeth Atkins, page 128.
From Sue Vincent~ The Legend of St Fremund
The legends mentioned above state, with the usual factual inaccuracies, that Fremund was the son of Offa. His birth in the ninth century had been foretold by a child who lived but three days. When Fremund came to the throne, he gave it up only eighteen months later, in order to follow a holy life. He set sail for an island infested with demons where he lived for seven years, eating only fruit and roots.
When the Vikings attacked and killed King Edmund, Offa sent twenty men to seek his son and beg for his aid. Fremund had a vision, in which each of his companions seemed to be a thousand to his enemies, and set off to battle, taking the twenty men and his own companions to defeat an army of forty thousand.
But as Fremund gives thanks for the heaven-sent victory, he is betrayed and a Christian turned pagan beheads the saint. As the blood washes over the traitor, Oswi, he is struck by remorse and begs forgiveness, both human and divine. Undeterred by the minor setback of death, Fremund grants Oswi absolution, before picking up his head and walking away. He stops at a place where a new spring bursts forth and washed away the blood.
This makes Fremund yet another of the cephalophores of saintly legend from this period…the saints who, once beheaded, pick up their severed head and walk away. It also adds him to the ranks of the many beheaded saints whose death caused a healing spring to come into being, as well as adding him to the ranks of those who speak after the beheading, placing him in the company of Bran the Blessed.
Fremund’s body was carried to Offchurch for burial, then later moved to Cropredy in Oxfordshire where his shrine became a place of pilgrimage and veneration. In the early years of the thirteenth century, Fremund was again moved, this time to Dunstable Priory, where he would rest in peace until the Reformation destroyed his shrine.
About the author
Gary Stocker graduated from Coventry Polytechnic in 1991 with a degree in combined engineering. He worked in civil engineering for nearly twenty years. For the last six years he has worked in materials science and currently works as a test engineer. His hobbies and interests include voluntary work, conservation work and blacksmithing. He is also interested in history, mythology and folklore and he says, “most things”.
How did your granny predict the weather? What did your great uncle Albert tell you about the little green men he saw in the woods that night? What strange creature stalks the woods in your area?
So many of these old stories are slipping away for want of being recorded. legendary creatures, odd bits of folklore, folk remedies and charms, and all the old stories that brought our landscape to life…
Tell me a story, share memories of the old ways that are being forgotten, share the folklore of your home. I am not looking for fiction with this feature, but for genuine bits of folklore, old wives tales, folk magic and local legends. Why not share what you know and preserve it for the future?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and put ‘Living Lore’ in the subject line. All I need is your article, bio and links, along with any of your own images you would like me to include and I’ll do the rest.