Legends of Alderley Edge

20 Sep 2021

Everyone local has at least a basic idea of the myth and legend surrounding Alderley Edge, right? If not, they should. Alderley Edge has a place in national folklore – or history, according to some – of which we are rightly proud. Whether it’s King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Merlin the Wizard, or Alan Garner’s gripping Weirdstone of Brisingamen, our village possesses a magic and mystery all its own.

The Legend of Alderley Edge

First stop, the National Trust, tells us a little about the Legend of Alderley Edge. The legend inspired our resident author, Alan Garner, when he first penned The Weirdstone of Brisingamen. Various focal points, including the Druids’ Circle and Engine Vein, are still in-situ and form part of the Wizard Walk:

“There was once a farmer who had a milk-white mare.

He decided to sell it; so one day, he set off to Macclesfield Fair. As he reached Alderley Edge the horse stopped and refused to move, no matter what the farmer did. He saw an old man standing by the side of the road, holding a staff in his hand.  

The old man offered to buy the horse, but the farmer refused, thinking that he would get a better price at the market.  

The farmer went on to Macclesfield; and once at the bustling market it seemed as though the good farmer was bewitched. Although his animal was admired and commented on by all prospective buyers, not a single offer was made to purchase the horse, although he saw that lesser animals were sold quickly and for good prices. So, at the end of the day, the farmer set off for home.

On the way home, when he arrived at Alderley Edge the old man was waiting for him. This time he did agree to sell and the old man told the farmer to follow him.  

He led the farmer along many paths until they came to a big rock. He touched the rock with his staff, and the rock split open to show a pair of iron gates. The old man told the farmer not to be afraid, but to come with him. The iron gates opened, and beyond them a passage went down into the hill.         

The farmer followed the old man into the hill, leading the horse, and they came to a cavern. Inside the cavern were 140 knights in silver armour and beside all but one was a white horse. The old man said that the knights were waiting to fight the last battle of the world, and that he was to wake them when that moment came. But there was one horse missing.  

The old man took the farmer’s mare and laid it down in enchanted sleep; then he showed the farmer into another cavern, which was filled with gold and silver and precious stones. He told the farmer to take as much of the treasure as he could carry, in payment.

The wizard, as the farmer now knew him to be, led him back up the passage to the iron gates. The farmer stepped outside, and when he turned round, the wizard and the gates were gone.” 

To this day, nobody has found the gates…

Lots to Love in Alderley

We are so lucky, blessed even, in Alderley Edge to be surrounded by such stunning countryside. Here, we have lush and rolling greenery, quite distinct from the otherwise flat Cheshire Plain. The Edge itself, of which the National Trust are now custodians, is a landmark way beyond SK9. Our many historic buildings – such as moated manor, the oldest surviving manor house in Cheshire, and a world heritage site since 1959 – add yet more to the magic, myth and legend. There’s even evidence of Bronze Age copper mining, and ancient gold was discovered here. 

Wizard Wood and Well

Wizard Wood is also part of the National Trust and is associated with wizards, and witches, and all sorts of strange and mysterious goings-on. Legend has it that witches would meet there every Hallow Eve (Halloween) to perform their spells and rituals in moonlight. Even now, some brave – or foolhardy, given the edge, sinkholes and mine shafts – souls still try to spend 31st October up there. Please don’t. We’re not being precious about our edge. We just don’t want you to hurt yourself and wasted valuable emergency resources rescuing you. 

Up on the Edge, you can visit the Wizard’s Well. On it, you can see a carving of a bearded face, just above the well.

Next to this are etched the words, “Drink of this and take thy fill. For the waterfalls by wizard’s will”.

Alderley’s Own Author

Have you read the Weirdstone of Brisingamen? Shame on you if not! It’s superb, a real can’t-put-down book and it’s brilliant to spot places we know. All Alan Garner’s novels are must-reads, and, of all our many well-known locals, Alan is perhaps the first. He’s undoubtedly one of the most vocal and passionate advocates of retaining village life and character. Alan born just down the road in 1934. He grew up here in Alderley and now lives in a medieval timber-framed house near Jodrell Bank. His biography says that, while his paternal ancestors were ‘skilled and steady people’, his maternal side featured ‘gifted cranks’. Oh, how we love a gifted crank!

Alan went to school at Alderley Edge Primary School, before heading to Manchester Grammar School. He completed his National Service before going up to Magdalen College, Oxford. Alderley Edge and its mysteries and legends inspired his writing, along with his own fascination with history and archaeology. 

The Book of Alderley

The Weirdstone was published in 1960 and its follow-up, the Moon of Gomrath in 1963. Along with Elidor, these titles positioned Alan as a firm children’s (and their parents, to be honest) favourite. However, it was his fourth, ‘The Owl Service’ that brought Alan Garner into the spotlight. It won two significant literary prizes – The Guardian Award and the Carnegie Medal, and was later serialised by Granada TV

2012 saw the publication of the long-awaited third book in the Alderley series, Boneland. We won’t spoil the surprise if you’ve not read it yet (and again, if not, why not?) but, just like the others, it’s a compelling and spellbinding read.

Love Where You Live

We know our village is magical and most of us feel privileged to live somewhere so special. We all want to keep it that way. What makes Alderley Edge special for you?

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