Of Dragons and Legends

Dragon slaying

The Legend of the Bisterne Dragon lives on over the centuries. It was slain by Sir Maurice Berkeley in the latter half of the 15th century. Here is an account drawn from the records at Berkeley Castle, clearly referring to both Bisterne and its lair at the hilltop Burley Beacon near Burley Street:

Sir Moris Barkley the sonne of Sir John Barkley, of Beverston, beinge a man of great strength and courage, in his tyme there was bread in Hampshire neere Bistherne a devouring Dragon, who doing much mischief upon men and cattell and could not be destroyed but spoiled many in attempting it, making his den neere unto a Beacon. This Sir Moris Barkley armed himself and encountered with it and at length overcam and killed it but died himself soone after. This is the common saying even to this day in those parts of Hampshire, and the better to approve the same his children and posterity even to this present do beare for their creast a Dragon standing before a burning beacon. Wch seemeth the rather more credible because Sir Morice Barkley did beare the Miter with this authentick seale of his armes as is heare underneath one of his owen deedes exprest bearing date ye 10 of Henry 6. An Dni 1431

Many visitors to Bisterne are misled into thinking that the dragon was slain near Dragon Lane. This narrow track was named after the Green Dragon Inn, which is now the pair of cottages situated where Dragon Lane meets the main B3347 road.

The actual location of the battle with the dragon was in Dragon Field, as it is still called, near Lower Bisterne Farm.


Warm western sun on the Hound over the Manor doorway bearing the Berkeley arms

The hounds that helped Sir Maurice kill the dragon are immortalised above the wings of Bisterne Manor: they were called Grim and Holdfast. Here you can see one of the hounds above the Berkeley arms carved into the stone over the Manor door.