In my last post, I referred to Pomparles Bridge as ‘legendary’ — and so it is. But while that Pomparles Bridge was in the same location, give or take, as the present-day bridge, they are not the same thing. The visitor, misty-eyed and semi-delirious from the effects of Arthurian tales, nerves tingling with the notion of sighting the Lady of the Lake, will be crushingly disappointed with the reality.
Glastonbury Tor shifted from prehistory into the kind of history we now called legend when Caradoc of Llancarfan, a Welsh monk, published his Vita Glidae (‘Life of Gildas’) in the early twelfth century.
The Saxon princess-abbess-saint Frideswide was not the founder of Oxford: there was certainly a settlement at the confluence of the Cherwell and the Thames well before her time. But she has a claim to be one of the founders of the idea of Oxford, the notion of the city as a nexus of learning, religion, and occasional miracles.
In the region of Oxfordshire there are great stones disposed as if by the hand of man. But at what time, or by what people, or for what memorial or significance this was done is not known. However that place is called Rollendrich by the local people. (Historia Brittonum, 9th century)
Meanwhile at Camelot King Arthur held a feast at Easter: but before the knights of his court would be seated at the long table in the hall, a great strife broke out between them as to where they should sit – for they counted it a greater honour to be near the head of the table than near the foot. ‘We shall amend this at Pentecost,’ said Merlin when he heard of the quarrel. ‘On that day I will set a table here in the hall which shall be the centre of the glory of Logres, a table whose fame shall live while the world endures.’ […] They came at last to the banqueting hall, and there Merlin awaited them, standing before a great round table of wood and stone which filled it almost from side to side. ‘Hail, King and Queen of Logres!’ cried Merlin. ’Your places wait you at the table, and seats also for one hundred and fifty knights – the Knights of the Round Table. Upon every siege – for so …
The visitor information board at the twin chalk ponds of Silent Pool and Sherbourne Pond states: ‘There are many thoughts on how Silent Pool got its name and one of them is the legend of Emma, a woodcutter’s daughter who is said to have been bathing in the clear water when she was disturbed by a lecherous horseman.