The village of Sherston is situated in the Northwest corner of Wiltshire, five miles to the west of Malmesbury and 5 miles south west of Tetbury.

The first mention of Sherston or Scorranstone is found when Ethelred, Earldorman held a ‘Gumot’ at Gloucester in 896 AD. The Romans almost certainly occupied the settlement much earlier as remains of ancient Roman earthworks have been found. Also traces of a large Roman villa built in approximately 350AD have been excavated in a field on the outskirts of the village. The Fosse Way being two miles away, and remains of a Military station at nearby Easton Grey suggests that Sherston was of great importance during the Romano British period.

Records of early life in Sherston are very scarce, and so history and legend intermingle, as with the story of the local hero John Rattlebone. In the midsummer of 1016 the Danish King Canute came with a great army. The Saxons were led by King Eadmund Ironside, and by his side the Captain of the local militia, John of Sherston, given the surname Rattlebone possibly because of the lusty blows he dealt with his Broad sword.

The battle lasted two long days in the fields surrounding the village. Eventually Canute broke camp and retreated back to London. John had received a mortal wound to his side, but to enable him to carry on fighting he clenched a stone tile to the wound. The Rattlebone Inn is named in his honour.

In 1511 a great fire destroyed most of the village, until this time it had been a thriving small market town. As one passes through the village, few would imagine the wealth of history, which lies behind these old stonewalls. Remains of 14th century fireplaces, underground tunnels zig zagging across the main street and the most obvious the Church of the Holy Cross.

Originally built on the site of an earlier Saxon Church, nothing now remains of this except the weather beaten stone figure, which stands outside the porch. For local people this is an effigy of our hero John Rattlebone clutching a stone to his wound, but for others it is of a Clerical figure holding a Bible.

The present Church was built between 1160-1170 and is of the Norman style. The corbel heads, one on the west wall is of Henry III and the other his Queen, Eleanor. On the south side the head is thought to be Richard, Earl of Cornwall, Henry’s brother. On the south arch west the head is of Simon de Montfort, the founder of our parliament. On the north arch the head is of Ela, Countess of Salisbury, and prioress of Lacock Abbey.

Other interesting buildings in the village include the Church House on the North side of the High Street, originally built in 1511 with later additions being added in 1849. On May 31 1635 Richard Clarke, Shoemaker of Sherston being drunk at the Church house told Henry Larrum that he would either hang himself or drown himself after partaking of the Church House Ale brewed during the Ale Feast to raise funds for the Church. The next day he was found hanging from a tree, this was recorded as a miserable effect of carnal liberties and profain meetings on ye Lord’s Day.

Another interesting building is further up the High Street The Balcony House, reputed to be the oldest house in Sherston, surviving the great fire of 1511. The original house was built in the 14th century with further rebuilding being carried out in the 17th century.

Queen Anne is said to have stayed in this house in 1705 whilst on her way to take the waters at Bath. In the cellars are the bricked up tunnels which supposedly run from the Cliff, under the High Street and across to the site of the old Rectory behind the present school and then back to the Church.

Written by Cilla Liddington