Gary continues his journey through Warwickshire’s folklore… the story of Alcock’s treasure reminded me forcibly of an old story about the treasure hidden beneath a Cistercian Abbey that I loved as a child…
On the A46 Stratford Road, on the left, going from Stratford-on-Avon in Warwickshire, is a conical hill known as either the Devil’s Nutting Bag, the Devil’s Nightcap or Alcock’s Arbour. It is more apparent visually though if you approach it from the Stratford Road/Trench Lane direction from the north, when it will be right in front of you.
The Devil appellations come from the legend that he was out gathering nuts one 21st September, appropriately known as the Devil’s Nutting Day: a rhyme from 1709 goes, “The Devil as common people say, Doth go a nutting on Holy-rood day”. Holy –rood day being the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (21st September). Anyway he unexpectedly met the Virgin Mary. Stories vary as to what happened next. Some say that he was so surprised that he dropped the bag of nuts. Another story says that she ordered him to drop the bag of nuts. Whatever happened, the bag of nuts became the hill. A Warwickshire saying was that anything dirty or dingy was said to be as, “the colour of the Devil’s nutting bag.”
The Alcock name comes from a robber called Alcock who kept his ill gotten gains locked in a chest in a cave inside the hill. There are documents from 1480 which mention a John Alcock. A partly filled in hole at the base of the hill marks where this cave was. The treasure is still said to be there, locked in a chest, with three locks and with a cockerel on top guarding. Someone did manage to open three of the locks once, but go torn to pieces by the cockerel when he tried to open the third. It is said that if the cockerel is given a bone from whoever put him there, then he will relinquish the treasure. Some Roman coins were un-earthered there. Which might be the origin of the treasure story.
Sources: “Haunted Warwickshire” by Meg Elizabeth Atkins. Page 90.
“Folk Lore in Shakespeare Land” by J Harvey Bloom. Page 126. https://www.cooksinfo.com/devils-nutting-day
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 email@example.com 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.