In those days the roads were infested with scoundrels and footpads, so perhaps it was no great surprise when Milburga saw her way blocked.

Two great, ugly men armed with clubs had jumped out from the brush at the roadside and now stood there demanding all her possessions.

Now Milburga was no reckless maid, she was an abbess of the nunnery at Wenlock, and a daughter of King Merewald of Mercia. She was wise enough to know that she still had the upper hand over these wastrels, after all, she was on horseback.

Her final goal, the church at Godstoke, stood less than a quarter mile ahead. She dug her heels deep into her horse’s side and rode straight at her assailants.

The look on their faces was transformed. What was once a sneer had become wide-eyed horror. One fled right, the other to the left, before they were trampled into the mud.

Milburga galloped on, elated at the villains’ defeat, but her concentration flagged and she did not see the rock in her path that caused her horse to stumble.

The good lady was flung from her horse and landed with a sickening thud against a wayside rock, cracking her skull. Blood gushed from her wound and, quickly, she fell into a faint.

Although unconscious her divinity allowed her to raise her hand in command to her chestnut steed. The horse rose upon its hind legs and crashed its hoof down against the offending rock. Healing waters gushed from the stone to bathe the saint’s gash and, miraculously, she was well again with not so much as a scar to tell of her ordeal.

From that day on that spring has been known as St. Milburga’s Well. It is said to have great powers to bestow on the sick and ailing, and no surprise after the great event that caused its inception.

en français

L’Eau Jaillissante

A cette époque, les routes étaient infestées de brigands et de bandits de grand chemin, alors il n’était certainement guère surprenant pour Milburga de se voir bloquer le passage.

Deux hommes grands, affreux et armés de gourdins avaient d’un bond surgi des broussailles, le long de la route, et se tenaient là exigeant tous ces biens.

Mais Milburga n’était pas une femme téméraire, elle était la mère supérieure du couvent de Wenlock, et une des filles du Roi Merewald. Elle avait suffisamment de sagesse pour savoir qu’elle avait toujours la mainmise sur ces vauriens, après tout, elle était à dos de cheval.

Sa destination finale, l’église de Godstoke, se trouvait à moins de 500 mètres. Elle planta ses talons profondément dans le flanc de son cheval et galopa droit sur ses assaillants.

Le regard sur leurs visages se transforma. Ce qui était d’abord un œil méprisant s’écarquilla d’horreur. L’un pris la fuite à droite et l’autre à gauche, avant d’être piétinés dans la boue.

Milburga continua de galoper, exaltée par la défaite des brigands, mais sa concentration se relâcha et elle ne vit pas le rocher sur son chemin qui fit trébucher son cheval.

La bonne femme fut violemment désarçonnée et atterrit dans un bruit sourd et sinistre contre une pierre bordant la route, sa tête en fut fêlée. Le sang coula de sa blessure et, rapidement, elle s’évanouit.

Bien qu’inconsciente, sa divinité lui permit de lever la main pour contrôler son destrier alezan. Le cheval se leva sur ses jambes postérieures et donna des coups de sabots contre le méchant rocher. Des eaux curatives jaillirent de la pierre pour baigner l’entaille de la sainte et, miraculeusement, elle fut guérie sans même une cicatrice pour témoigner de sa mésaventure.

Depuis ce jour, cette source fut appelée St. Milburga’s Well (la Source de Ste Milburga). On dit qu’elle a de grands pouvoirs pour aider les malades et les souffrants et ce n’est pas surprenant, après le grand évènement qui provoqua son commencement.

Translation: Euro Langues Assistance & Tradufrance

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Background facts

Wenlock Priory

The first monastery at Wenlock was founded by Merewald, one of the Magonsaete Royal family, in the seventh century. He made his daughter, Milburga, the first Abbess in about 690AD. The monastery died out during the Anglo-Saxon period.

After the Norman conquest, a church was founded and soon after Earl Roger de Montgomery made the church into an Abbey and Cluniac Priory.

copyright Gordon Dickins

The Abbey became extremely rich and powerful, owning much land and holding great political power in the region.

The remains you can visit today of the Church and Chapter House date back to the 13th century. The property is administered by English Heritage who have prepared an audio-tape tour which guides you about the ruins, while telling you about the history of the Priory. Don’t miss the wonderful topiary (hedges and bushes cut into shapes of animals).

St Milburga

On 26th may 1101 St. Milburga’s remains were discovered near to the Priory by monks. They took her bones and put them in front of the High Altar of their new church. The veracity of their find is uncertain. If your church had a saintly relic, it became a place of pilgrimage which ensured its future wealth. Many visitors would come to the church and the local gentry would bestow goods and land on the church in return for the blessings of the Saint. The cult of St. Milburga grew and many stories were told of her good deeds and exploits.

One story tells of her crossing the River Corve to escape from an unwelcome suitor. After she had crossed the river the waters rose dramatically, making certain the suitor could not follow.

In another version of “And the Water gushed Forth”, Milburga was riding an ass which stumbled and fell, injuring itself. Milburga brought forward the waters to heal the beast.

It is not known when she died but records show that the nunnery survived until 874 when it was sacked by invading Danes.

St. Milburga’s Well at Stoke St. Milborough

The Godstoke of the story is now called Stoke St. Milborough, in honour of St. Milburga. It is a small village on the slopes of Brown Clee, Shropshire’s highest hill. You can still visit her well there, but I make no promises as to its healing powers.

Wenlock Edge

Wenlock Edge is a narrow unbroken wooded escarpment (a ridge with a steep slope on one side and a gentle slope on the other), along which Milburga must have travelled often. It runs from Much Wenlock to Craven Arms in the heart of south Shropshire.

The fossil-rich limestone strata were laid down about 330 million years ago as the sediment of the tropical sea that lay above. If you look carefully into the Wenlock Limestone you can find many fossil shells and corals. The Limestone has been quarried for many years as a supply of building stone for the surrounding districts.

Edge Stories

There are many stories of the Edge, two of the most famous stories are fixed to landmarks along the Edge.

The Major’s Leap (map ref. SO 592980) is said to be where major Smallman, a royalist in the English Civil War, jumped off the Edge on horseback to an almost certain death to escape his pursuers.

At Ippikin’s Rock (map ref. SO 569965) a robber Knight, Ippikin, and his ferocious gang were imprisoned in a rock fall which blocked the entrance to their cave hideaway. Beware! Lights can be seen at night coming from the cave and Ippikin lays in wait to throw inquisitive searchers to their doom.

en français

Le Prieuré de Wenlock

Le premier monastère de Wenlock fut fondé par Merewald, l’un des Magonsaete, de la famille Royale, au septième siècle. Il fit de sa fille, Milburga, la première abbesse vers l’an 690. Le monastère s’éteignit au cours de l’époque Anglo-Saxonne.

Après la conquête normande, une église fut fondée et, peu de temps après, le Comte Roger of Montgomery transforma l’église en Abbaye et Prieuré de Cluny.

copyright Gordon Dickins

L’abbaye devint extrêmement riche et puissante, elle possédait beaucoup de terres et détenait un grand pouvoir politique dans la région.

Les ruines de l’église et de la salle capitulaire, qu’on peut visiter aujourd’hui, datent du 13ème siècle. La propriété est administrée par le Patrimoine Anglais qui a conçu une visite sur cassette audio qui vous guide dans les ruines tout en vous racontant l’histoire du prieuré. Ne manquez pas la magnifique topiaire (haies et buissons taillés en formes d’animaux).

Ste Milburga

Le 26 mai 1101, les restes de Ste Milburga furent découverts près du Prieuré, par des moines. Il prirent ses ossements et les posèrent devant le grand autel de leur nouvelle église. La véracité de leur découverte est incertaine. Si votre église avait une sainte relique, elle deviendrait un lieu de pèlerinage qui assurerait sa richesse pour l’avenir. De nombreux visiteurs viendraient à l’église et la petite noblesse locale accorderait des biens et des terres à l’église en échange de la bénédiction du saint. Le culte de Ste Milburga grandit et maintes histoires furent racontées de ses bonnes actions et de ses exploits.

Une histoire raconte comment elle traversa la rivière Corve pour échapper à un poursuivant importun. Après qu’elle eut traversé la rivière, les eaux montèrent de façon spectaculaire, rendant le passage impossible au poursuivant.

Dans une autre version de ‘ L’Eau Jaillissante ‘, Milburga chevauchait un âne qui trébucha, tomba et se blessa. Milburga fit apparaître les eaux pour guérir l’animal.

On ne connaît pas la date de sa mort mais des registres montrent que le couvent subsista jusqu’en 874, lorsqu’il fut saccagé par les envahisseurs danois.

La Source de Ste Milburga à Stoke St. Milborough

La ville de Godstoke de l’histoire est maintenant appelée Stoke St. Milborough, en hommage à Ste Milburga. C’est un petit village sur les pentes de Brown Clee, la colline la plus élevée du Shropshire. On peut encore y visiter sa source, mais je ne peux faire de promesses quant à ses pouvoirs de guérison.

Wenlock Edge (La Haie de Wenlock)

Wenlock Edge est un étroit escarpement continu et boisé (une crête avec un versant escarpé sur un côté et une pente douce sur l’autre), le long duquel Milburga a dû passer souvent. Il s’étend de Much Wenlock à Craven Arms, dans le cœur du sud du Shropshire.

La couche calcaire riche en fossiles fut constituée il y a environ 330 millions d’années, lorsque le sédiment de la mer tropicale s’y déposa. Si vous regardez attentivement l’intérieur du calcaire de Wenlock, vous pouvez y trouver de nombreux coquillages et coraux fossiles. Le calcaire fut exploité pendant de nombreuses années et fournissait des pierres de construction aux régions environnantes.

Histoires de la Haie

Il existe de nombreuses histoires de la Haie, deux des histoires les plus connues ont lieu à Landmarks, le long de la Haie.

On dit que le Major’s Leap (Le Saut du Major) (carte réf. SO 592980) est l’endroit où le Major Smallman, un royaliste pendant la Guerre Civile anglaise, a sauté de la Haie à dos de cheval vers une mort presque certaine, afin d’échapper à ses poursuivants.

A l’Ippikin’s Rock (Le Rocher d’Ippikin) (carte réf. SO 569965) un chevalier voleur, Ippikin, et sa bande féroce étaient emprisonnés dans une chute de rochers qui bloquait l’entrée de leur cachette dans la grotte. Prenez garde! La nuit, on peut voir des lumières provenant de la grotte et Ippikin y gît et attend de précipiter les visiteurs curieux vers leur perte.

Translation: Euro Langues Assistance & Tradufrance

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Key Stage 2 Activities

Stories In The Glass

Many churches have stained glass windows which tell the stories of saints. Why not use a paint package on your computer to design a window for St. Milburga.

If you like you could turn this into a longer term activity by making your own “stained-glass” window using coloured celophane and tape or using acrylic sheet and felt pens. Then show it off in your window. For more details on this challenge click here.

Here’s me fitting one we made with markers on acrylic with black card surrounds

What A Journey

Godstoke was only twelve miles from Milburga’s nunnery at Much Wenlock. It would have taken Milburga, on her horse, about four hours to get there. How long would the journey take today in a car travelling at an average of 40 miles per hour.

a. 20 minutes
b. 18 minutes
c. 16 minutes
d. 10 minutes

How far can you travel from your home in four hours?

The solutions to these and the other puzzles on this post are to be found by clicking + at Answers to Activities at the foot of this post.

Springs and Spas on the map

On Ordnance Survey Pathfinder maps springs are shown by the symbol “Spr” printed in blue. Look at your local Pathfinder map to see if you can find any springs nearby.

Springs and spas were very important to the Romans. They bathed in the waters and threw offerings and messages to their gods into them. They built big towns around them like Bath and Buxton.

Look in a road atlas or map on the internet and see if you can find these spa towns:

a. 10 letters, beginning with C, just North East of Gloucester.
b. 9 letters, beginning with D, North North East of Worcester
c. 3 words, initials R L S, about 6 miles South of Coventry.

Variations on A Theme

There are many different tellings of this story about St. Milburga. Nobody knows which one, if any, is true.

Can you think of another way the saint could have escaped from the robbers? Compare ideas. Which one do you think is most likely to have happened?

Pressure Makes Water Go Further

I don’t mean I’ve found the answer to water shortages, but water pressure can make water travel longer distances. Try this experiment…

  1. Take an empty plastic lemonade bottle and make small holes (about 3mm in diameter) at 5cm intervals up one side.
  2. Place sticky tape over the holes and fill the bottle with water.
  3. Put the bottle into a big tray to catch the water.
  4. Take off the tape piece by piece and measure the length of where each jet of water lands away from the bottle.

Wondrous Love

Time For A Song….. Look at the lyric of this old sacred song and listen to the music file. See if you can sing along.

See lyric…

Wondrous Love

What wondrous love is this? O my soul, O my soul.
What wondrous love is this? O my soul.
What wondrous love is this? That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down
When I was sinking down, sinking down.
When I was sinking down, beneath God’s righteous crown
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul, for my soul
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul.

To God and to the lamb, I will sing, I will sing
To God and to the lamb, I will sing.
To God and to the lamb, who is the great I AM
While millions join the team I will sing, I will sing.
While millions join the team I will sing.

What wondrous love is this? O my soul, O my soul.
What wondrous love is this? O my soul.
What wondrous love is this? That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

Answers to Activities

What a Journey

b. 18 minutes

160 miles if you travel at an average speed of 40 miles per hour.

Spa Towns on the map

a. Cheltenham Spa

b. Droitwich Spa

c. Royal Leamington Spa

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