Knocking Knoll

A little to the east of Pegsdon Common Farm, in the parish of Shillington, is Knocking Knoll, sometimes called Money Knoll, the remains of a barrow. Today it looks like a large bowl-barrow, because it has been cut in two by ploughing. It is actually all that is left of a Neolithic long barrow, opened in 1856 though there is no record of the excavator’s findings.

According to local tradition, it is so called because it is hollow and an old man can be heard inside it knocking to be let out. In a version current in 1894 given in the Hertfordshire Illustrated Review, it is a British chieftain who is buried in the knoll and he is knocking on his treasure chest to make sure it is still there. The Hertfordshire folklorist W. B. Gerish heard from a Mr Aylott that it was a ‘warrior in armour’ knocking on the chest. Three distinct and loud knocks were to be heard at certain times apparently issuing from the mound. Mr Aylott said ‘that he had met with a person who avers that he heard the knockings in question’.

Both versions of the story combine the common idea that there is treasure in every barrow (often there really was until treasure seekers or later archaeologists removed it) with a fanciful explanation of the name (actually from an old Celtic word surviving in Welsh as cnycyn, ‘bump, hillock’). The name itself, of course, is onomatopoeic – it sounds like knocking.



Haunted England : The Penguin Book of Ghosts – Written by Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson
Copyright © Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson 2005, 2008