a fat Friar outwitted the Devil
who flew off with his church
The old town
of Over has long since disappeared from prominence, having been
incorporated for several centuries into Winsford. The historian
and traveller, William Webb remarked in the 17th century that ‘Ouver
standeth of the east end of Delamere Forest, not far from the River
From the 13th century, Over was a town under the jurisdiction of
Vale Royal Abbey and the story goes that Over Church was literally
snatched from under the noses of the monks, by the Devil!
It appears that the Devil, who had a special spite against the Abbey,
tore the church from its foundations and flew off with it in his
The affrighted monks alternately prayed and cursed, but failed to
stop him. Suddenly, out pealed the Abbey bells and the Devil, always
scared by holy music, dropped his burden.
The abbot and his monks, fearing the utter destruction of their
beloved building, loudly called upon St Chad, to whom the church
was dedicated, and in answer it floated earthward, guided by the
angels, ‘light as the breeze-borne thistledown, as soft as
a flake of snow’, and landed safely on the spot where it now
stands, a mile from its former site!
The Devil obviously spent a good deal of time tricking and tempting
the good folk from around the precincts of Vale Royal Abbey into
wicked ways. However, the proverbial shoe was on the other foot
when he ran into a Franciscan friar who was taking a rest by the
old stone cross at Marton.
Rather like Friar Tuck of Robin Hood legend, Friar Francis liked
food and wine... in the largest quantities possible. He was just
tucking into his bread and cheese, and thinking about the salmon
in the River Weaver, when a voice called out:
‘How’s your appetite?’
It was the Devil and he wanted the friar’s soul.
‘Promise me whatever I want and it’s yours,’ responded
‘Done,’ said the Devil.
So Father Francis listed his three wishes. He wanted good food and
wine for the rest of his life and, secondly, perfect health and
good company. The Devil agreed. ‘Now what’s your third
‘One dozen hay bands picked by yourself from Marton Sands
and nowhere else,’ said the wily friar who knew that hardly
a blade of grass ever grew in the sandy terrain.
The upshot was that Friar Francis lived a life of contentment with
an ever widening girth to prove it. He did not sell his soul and
to this day the Devil is still searching for his hay bands.
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