The Legend of the Romsey Nuns

This is from Folklore Legends and Superstitious Customs in Connection with Andover and Neighbourhood  by M Gillett (Andover 1917.) A shortish book with were wolves, ghosts, shadows of the firstborn and the Glastonbury holy thorn. This dramatic tale shows how legends are made...

The following legend I admit is rather hard to believe, but I have heard it from two quite different sources, and I relate it as follows:

 When the Danes ravaged Wessex, they marched up to Romsey Abbey, pillaging as they went. The nuns,  terrified at the barbarous and heathen hordes, fled, and supposing Winchester to have shared the same fate, journeyed on to Wherwell Abbey - now Wherwell Priory. But before they arrived at the nunnery they got lost in the woods, which still remain, and many of them perished from exposure and starvation. Tradition says that the nuns sat down in despair, and  in their hopelessness began to abuse the Almighty  and angered Him to such an extent that when they died their souls became wild cats.

But these are the true facts:-

1. The Danes did ravage Romsey.

2. The nuns did flee to Wherwell Priory.

3. A great number did perish in the woods.

4. Some of the oldest inhabitants of Wherwell Priory remember when wild cats did live in the woods.

This legend is as it was told to me, but I cannot be over-certain as to the foundations for it, except the preceding notes.

2 thoughts on “The Legend of the Romsey Nuns

  1. Sidney James

    There is an equally spooky legend about Wherwell Priory – that it's cellar once harboured a basilisk or cockatrice no less, which was killed by a man named Green who lowered a mirror into its lair, so that it killed itself with its reflected stare (seem to be lapsing into poetry). There is still a piece of land nearby called Green's Acres or Green's Copse or similar, with which he was rewarded. Wherwell Church accordingly had a basilisk weather vane, now in Andover Museum

  2. admin Post author

    Many thanks SJ. That old mirror trick!
    There is probably by now a newer book of supernatural Andover occurrences, if not there should be.


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