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A lost village and a Roman soldier
A recent theory has suggested that stories of villages drowned by long ago floods and legends of church bells that toll eerily under lakes and meres, may be ancient memories deeply embedded in the human psyche from the time during the Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age period when the melting glaciers of the last Ice Age caused parts of our coastlands to be inundated by the sea.
Be this as it may, there are lots of places about which such stories are told, and they include several in Shropshire and the Welsh borderlands. One such Salopian story concerns Bomere Pool just south of Shrewsbury and near Condover, and there is a little detail buried in this tale which makes it even more intriguing.
It seems that long ago there was a village where the waters of Bomere Pool now lap. According to one story a farmer from the doomed village insisted upon cutting his corn on a Sunday, and whole village was made to pay for this infringement of the tenth Commandment by being sunk beneath the waters.
A second tale tells how the people of the place had given themselves over to godless and riotous living so much so that one year when Christmas Eve came round they all refused to go to church and celebrate the festival and as a result the waters rose and the village, and everyone in it, was drowned. It used to be said that from time to time the houses and other buildings of the village were to be glimpsed deep beneath the surface, and some people claimed to have heard voices and especially the cries of children emanating from the depths. And of course, the church bells, they say, toll still in the watery world of Bomere Pool.
The ‘little detail’ alluded to earlier concerns a Roman soldier who apparently tried in vain to bring the errant villagers back to faith. His laudable attempts failed, and sadly among those drowned was a young lady with whom he was greatly in love. Taking a boat he rowed round and round the lake in the hope of plucking her from the waters, but not only was his quest in vain, in his anguished search the boat capsized and he too was drowned.
And why is this interesting? Well, how do the Romans come into the story? Is it simply, for some reason, a very garbled version of the story of St Alban who tried to save a Christian priest from the Roman authorities in the city of Verulanium, modern St Albans? Or has it to do with a folk memory of concerning the Roman road which apparently passed not far away from Bomere Pool?
Anyway, it is said that the hapless Roman suitor still haunts the lake and its environs as he searches on for his lost love.
Perhaps you will not be surprised to hear that there are more secrets in Bomere Pool than drowned villages and spectral Roman soldiers. It is said for instance that its waters conceal a huge fish which, not content with its monstrous size, also wears a sword and scabbard at its side. The sword, so it is said, once belonged to Wild Edric and only when his rightful heir appears will the fish surrender the weapon.
Meanwhile, for reasons known only to itself, the mighty Piscean from time to time rings a bell in the pool and, so it is said, this bell is heard more often than those in the drowned church tower. Naturally enough there have been several attempts to catch the great fish. Once, when netted it drew the sword and simply cut itself free and plunged back into the fathomless depths. When, on another occasion it was enmeshed in links of iron, the monster was landed, but then escaped in such a fashion as seems to have so terrified its would-be captors for no other attempt has ever been made.