The Devil in the Boot

Last week, on one of our rare returns to England, we decided to break our journey and re-visit a couple of our old homes. By coincidence, both happened to be former pubs.

Here’s a picture of the first, The Boot, one of the most picturesque places we ever lived. It was built in the 1600s and was packed full of exposed and meandering timbers. No floor was level, no wall was straight. And, at its centre, was a huge inglenook fireplace you could sit inside.

Its name has an unusual origin too. Back in 1290, Sir John Schorne was the rector of North Marston, a nearby village. A rector who, when he wasn’t recting, liked nothing better than to stand toe to toe with Satan. He became famous for it, and once conjured the devil into a long boot and imprisoned him there. Below is one of the many pictures commemorating the occasion.

An inscription written at the time reads: ‘Sir John Schorne, Gentleman borne, Conjured the Devil into a Boot’

Over the years a cult blossomed and, in 1478, the Pope gave Edward IV permission to move Sir John Schorne’s remains from North Marston to Windsor where it became one of Britain’s foremost pilgrimage sites.

Many pubs around Buckinghamshire took the name, ‘The Devil in the Boot.’ Over the years some of them, like ours, shortened the name to ‘The Boot.’

In the mid-80s we left The Boot and moved south to The Malt House. A much bigger former pub with 5 acres of land where we could start growing our own food. During our stay there we planted two long hedges – planting over a thousand one year-old trees. When we left, the hedges were barely four feet high. Last week they were over thirty feet high. So tall, that at first we didn’t notice them – we were looking for a couple of small hedges to see if subsequent owners had kept them or grubbed them up, not the wall of mature trees that flanked the property.

Sometimes it’s good to go home.


Chris Dolley is an English author living in France with a frightening number of animals. His novel – Resonance (Baen) – can be downloaded for free here. More information about his other work can be found on his  BVC bookshelf .

Recently released from Book View Press: French Fried true crime, animals behaving badly and other people’s misfortunes. Imagine A Year in Provence with Miss Marple and Gerald Durrell.

International Kittens of Mystery. If you like a laugh and looking at cute kitten pictures this is the book for you. It’s a  glance inside the International Kittens of Mystery – the only organisation on the planet with a plan to deal with a giant ball of wool on a collision course with Earth. Forget  Bruce Willis and his team of miners. Send for the kitties!

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The Devil in the Boot — 5 Comments

  1. You’re lucky about the landscaping. Most of the trees I planted are still alive and flourishing, but the rose hedge and native Xeriscaping flowers have been uprooted for an additional parking lot, or simply to finish a wall in stacked stone and not a thorn hedge.

    I miss having more dirt than a few pots!

  2. I’ve returned to a couple of the houses I’ve lived in as an adult and they look so ordinary, so…diminished, not the vibrant places I remember. I guess someone else has stamped their personality on the houses, it’s different from mine so I can’t recognize it.

    Have yet to venture back to the east coast long enough to find childhood homes. I’m almost afraid to.

  3. Now that I’m back in Austin, I find myself pointing out places where I used to live back in my college days when I drive visitors around to show them the city. One of them is a parking lot for the LBJ Library, but most are still around. None of them are as interesting as Chris’s old homes (or his current one, for that matter).

    I’ve been thinking about house hunting of late, and now you’ve got me thinking about finding an unconventional space again — which is, of course, harder to do than just finding a house or apartment.

  4. I find Google Maps an excellent (and often addictive) way to re-visit old homes. You can peer into your old garden, see what the neighbours have done etc. But it’s often a shock.

    The road I grew up in from the age of 9 used to be a quiet suburban road. All the houses were 3 bed detached or semi-detached properties. Now, every house in the road has a loft extension, most of the front gardens have gone – tarmacced over for car parking, the garden walls knocked down for easier access. And most of the houses are multi-occupancy – I did a little bit of extra detective work – converted into appartments for young professionals and students.