In the Middle Ages a remarkable tomb was carved to cover the bones of an English hero. For centuries the grave spawned tales about dragons and devils, giants and winged hounds. To understand why this happened, Christopher Hadley takes us on a journey through 1,000 years of history.
Hollow Places begins with a Hertfordshire dragon-slayer named Piers Shonks but soon draws us into the company of outlaws and stonemasons, antiquaries and champions. Full of wonder and always surprising, the story takes us to the margins of the Bayeux Tapestry where strange creatures gather, to ancient woodland where hollow trees hide secrets, and to the scribbled clues about folk heroes in eighteenth-century manuscripts. Hadley leads us back shivering to a church in Georgian England to sketch the dragon on a tomb, to stand atop its tower triangulating the Elizabethan countryside, and to confront the zealous Mr Dowsing and his thugs looting brasses and smashing masonry during the Civil War. Along the way, we discover how long bones will last in a crypt and where medieval stonemasons found inspiration.
The story of Piers Shonks is the survivor of an 800-year battle between storytellers and those who would mock or silence them. It stands for all those thousands of seemingly forgotten tales that used to belong to every village. It is an adventure into the past by a talented and original new writer, and a meditation on memory and belief that underlines the importance and the power of the folk legends we used to tell and why they still matter.