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King's Head Passage

History of the Shut

This passage shares its name with the King's Head Inn.

But did the name originate from the many coins the landlord hoped would pour over the bar, the death of Charles I, or was a head the only part of a king that visited the inn?


Who helped Amy create the story

Amy was ably assisted by members of Shrewsbury's Visual Arts Network in coming up with the plot for this story.

The Visual Arts Network (VAN) are responsible for Shrewsbury Visual Arts Festival which takes place during the first two weeks of August.

Works go on display in public premises throughout the town, together with artists opening their studios and other eye opening events.

VAN - the team photo
The Story Of King's Head Passage

Jerusalem, the holy city, was won and for many the crusades were over. Men, women and children flocked to Jerusalem on Pilgrimage. However, the Moslems still controlled Palestine, the highways were unprotected and the unarmed pilgrims made easy pickings.

A small band of the crusaders saw what was happening and bonded themselves together to form an order of warrior monks who would protect the pilgrims. They were given buildings on Mount Moriah, thought to be the stables of the Temple of Solomon and so they called themselves the Knights Templar.

The order grew, becoming more and more successful outside the building. Inside however, they were also growing, digging down beneath the Holy Temple, searching the catacombs below.

For many years there had been rumours of sacred relics which had been buried beneath the temple. And indeed they found six holy treasures including the head of King Solomon, so holy that it was perfectly preserved, the skin still soft and the hair silky.

But Jurasalem was still not safe. There was a meeting of the Knights Templar and they decided to disperse the relics throughout Christian lands to ensure their safety.

But where could they hide such treasures? They thought and debated, but no one had the answer. At last it grew late and they decided they would resolve the matter the next day.

That night one of the Knights had a dream. He dreamed that he woke to find his room bathed in light, a silver figure standing beside his bed.

"Bring them to me", the figure cried, and the knight woke up.

He told the others about his dream the next day.

"Of course" crowed one, "St. Alkmund, the temple protector! He has six churches back in England. We will take a relic to each of his churches and he will guard them for us."

Six of the most proven knights set off the next day and journeyed over land and sea until they finally arrived on the shores of England.

They made their way inland into the heart of England. One by one the knights peeled away from the main party until the knight carrying King Solomon's head was left alone heading towards Shrewsbury.

All went well until he arrived in Shrewsbury. The knight made his way over the Welsh Bridge a couple of hours after dark. After the his long journey he needed sleep, food and not least a bath, so instead of heading straight for the church, he found an inn, intending to make his way to St. Alkmund's first thing in the morning.

However, as he ate his meal, he listened to the conversation going on around him and all the strange things happening in the town. He called the landlord over to confirm and explain.

"I'm afraid it's all true. Strange things are happening, a black bull raging through the town, bowling over those who are trying to go to church, bricks falling from buildings almost landing on people's heads, strange inhuman laughter after dark. It's as if the Devil himself were walking the streets."

What was the knight to do? Shrewsbury was sounding less and less the type of place suitable for consecrating with such a holy relic, but if he didn't take the head to the church here, then where would he take it?

After much tossing and turning he finally fell asleep, but not for long.

In the middle of the night he woke to find his room bathed with a soft silver glow. It appeared to be coming from the bag that held King Solomon's Head. Cautiously the knight climbed out of bed and over to the bag. He pulled out the head and the eyes snapped open and looked at the knight.

The knight almost dropped the head. His eyes widened and he gulped a deep breath. Then the mouth of the head opened and began to speak.

"This is where I am destined to be. What better place could I be than to protect a town from the Devil. For I believe the Devil himself is loose in Shrewsbury, but he is not difficult to beat. He's as vain as a peacock, as greedy as an alchemist and stupid enough to believe that he's clever. You must challenge him to a competition tomorrow - a riddle competition."

"B..b..but I'm no good at riddles" stuttered the knight.

"Ah, but I am", said the head.

And so they made their plans. The knight spent the next day wandering up and down the streets of Shrewsbury, dreading the coming of night. Eventually the sun began to sink in the west. The knight plucked up his courage and found a quiet dark alleyway. He took a deep breath and addressed the night.

"Lord Lucifer, I challenge you to a battle of wits!"

"Oh really?" The knight turned around to find himself face to face with a slim, elegant man, twirling his moustache and looking him over with coal-black, soul-less eyes.

careful someone may be watching!

"Er..yes. I challenge you to a riddle dual. If I win, you will have to leave Shrewsbury forever, but if you win, you can have m..m..my soul."

The Devil's eyes gleamed at the mention of the knight's soul. The Devil never could resist a gamble.

"Very well, I will go first", said the Devil and his eyes glittered.

"What man loves more than life,
Fears more than death or mortal strife.
The poor possess, the rich require.
A contented man desires
The miser spends, the spendthrift saves
And all men carry to their graves."

The knight fell to the ground, his head in his hands and the Devil smiled. But the knight pulled the bag containing King Solomon's head close to him and whispered into it.

"Tell me the answer."

"Don't you know it?"

"No, tell me the answer."

"But it's easy."

"TELL ME THE ANSWER!"

The head relented. The knight stood up, faced the Devil and said,

"The answer is nothing."

"Very well, it looks as though we have a competition on our hands!"

It was the knight's turn to ask a riddle:

"He'll speak to you from beyond the grave
Innocent souls of Shrewsbury to save
Saintly and wise, but not canonised
He will guard the river gate
Drawing the Devil into stalemate"

The Devil thought about it. He thought a bit longer. His complexion slowly grew even redder than usual. Steam began to escape in wisps from his ears and his eyes began to bulge until he at last turned to the knight.

"There Is No Such Person!"

"Oh, but there is", smiled the knight as he brought King Solomon's head out of the bag.

Solomon's eyes snapped open and bored into those of the Devil's.

The Devil began to howl as a wind sprang into life, swirling around the Devil, matching his howls and bearing him up, up into the air until at last his howls disappeared into the distance.

The knight and King Solomon watched as the Devil was borne over the river, into Wales and at last faded out of view between the Welsh mountains - and that's where some say that he remained.

The knight dug down into the ground near the river, facing towards the Welsh Bridge. He gently lifted the head into the hole, facing towards the river and Wales and packed the soil over the top.

Since that time the passage overhead has been called the King's Head Passage and the Inn followed in suit.

The road that led into town from the Welsh bridge was named Mardol, the Devil's Limit, for as long as Solomon's head rests in Shrewsbury, keeping his watch and guarding the gate, the Devil will never again be able to cross the bridge or enter into Shrewsbury.

copyright Amy Douglas 2001

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