The Phoenix Guide to Strange England, County by County : Hookland by David Southwell

Best experienced in the PDF zine

The Withering Candle, Blagden Rise

As a guide to strange England, it is this book’s aim to tell the often occulted tales of its counties and, in the telling, hopefully inspire you to visit many of those places associated with them equipped with new eyes of wonder. However, there are occasional entries where it is the duty of this project to advise you not to travel to the site of thestory. The Withering Candle pub is one of those.

Situated on the intersection of the B3267 towards Blagden and B3256 running from Thornbarrow to Hoggen Cross, The Withering Candle stands some distance outside the village of Blagden Rise. Bleak-stoned and dishevelled, the only way of telling the small establishment from two nearby cottages are the disorder of its front garden and its wind-bullied sign. According to villagers in Blagden Rise, it is not uncommon to see potential visitors to the pub stop their cars, inspect the sign depicting a skeletal hand holding a guttering candle, look at the state of the property and drive off without ever venturing inside. This may be the best course of action.

The Withering Candle does not serve food, serves beer badly – a hard thing to achieve – and its interior gifts it with all the attraction of drinking in a diseased lung. Its once whitewashed walls are sick with the yellowing of smokers’ tar, its floors so unswept that they could probably sustain an archaeological dig. Most troubling of all is its clientele who seem to act as a chorus of abuse backing its surly landlord’s unpleasantness to any outsider trying to drink there, let alone inquiring about the artefact which gave the pub its name.

Up until the early 1900s, The Withering Candle was known as The Nag’s Rest, but that changed due to the death of one of its regular drinkers. Cyril Chumbley was a cunning man with an ill-reputation. Regarded in Blagden and its surrounding parishes as a ‘Black Lane walker’, the term Hooklanders give to those they believe are practising malicious magic, the district seems to have been generally pleased to see him pass in 1903.

While many of the extended Chumbley cunning clan ran magical extortion rackets, receiving ‘gifts’ from neighbours out of fear of being cursed, Cyril had gone further by letting it known that he owned a large ceremonial candle stolen from Weychester cathedral that he anointed with certain secret oils to give it the power of spiritual withering. Many believed if their name was inscribed in the wax with a cursed nail, when the candle was lit and burnt down to erase the inscription, they themselves would see their health and fortunes wither. Tales of the disasters that had befallen those unfortunate enough to have earned Chumbley’s ire were legion locally. Many genuinely believed they could face an early death if the wax melted too low.

Chumbley used the terror of his withering candle inspired to great financial benefit, even making a deal that he could drink in The Nag’s Rest for free during his lifetime as long as the candle was bequeathed to its landlord Lambert Garwood. When Garwood came into possession of the candle, he renamed his pub after it, put it on display and let it be known he would carve names upon it for a consideration, lighting it once a year on All Souls’ Day. This practice proved a lively earner, boosting the numbers drinking in his establishment to see if their monikers were upon it and in terms of fees paid to ensure what was scratched into the wax.

The public display and November 2nd lighting of the withering candle was continued by subsequent landlords with the only break in its burning happening between 1939-43. Rumour has it that in 1944, Edward Garwood, while on leave from the army persuade his father James to add the names of Adolf Hitler and several senior Nazis to the candle and restart the witherings. The candle was withdrawn from public display in 1962 after an attempt to steal it and police advice on rising public anger towards the Garwood family. However, it continued to be burnt at each All Soul’s Day and new names continued to be added to it on behalf of those who were willing to make a substantial payment.

When the writer of the Guide on a field trip to the pub asked to see the withering candle, the current landlord demanded £10 to view it or £500 to inscribe a name upon it for the next burning. When they gently refused, they were told: “£20 now or your name goes on the candle. It’s being lit in a fortnight.”

David Southwell is an author of several published books on true crime and conspiracies, which have been translated into a dozen languages. However, these days, he mostly writes about place.

Twitter:      Hookland     Repton

The Phoenix Guide to Strange England, County by County : Hookland by David Southwell

Best experienced in the PDF zine

The Faery Fort, Sidley Hill, Blagden Bridge

Confusingly for visitors to Hookland, the county boasts four locations known to those who live near them as ‘the Faery Fort’. While the Faery Fortress of Summer Hill and the Faery Fort of Scar Hill regularly grace tourist brochures and occasionally even cross the place propaganda threshold to become postcards, Blagden Bridge’s Faery Fort is largely neglected. This may be because it is one of England’s smallest stone
circles, measuring just 15-feet in diameter. It may also be because it on the feral edges of Barrowcross or its ill reputation for high strangeness that extends from the thin memory of folklore right into the latter half of the 20th century.

Surrounded by the ancient birch copse crown of Sidley Hill, the Faery Fort, also known as the Seven Maids or Seven Hostages, is a late Bronze Age hengiform embankment measuring some 40-feet across. Sitting within the levelled centre is a complete seven-stone circle. Mapped by moss, each of the sandstones is around four-feet high. Outside the embankment, flanking the entrance cut into the earth are portal two stones eight-feet heigh known as ‘The Gatemen’ or ‘Greenkin Guards’ who give an impression of implacable nightclub bouncers, all thin-mouthed silence and scrutiny.

Almost too archetypal in appearance, a child’s dream of how a ring of faery stones should look, the Faery Fort repays the aching climb up the Sidley Hill with a peculiar prettiness that not everyone responds to. When Hookland artist Katherine Giddings was asked why she never painted it as part of her Long Lithic sequence of works, she replied: “It’s too damn twee. I’d be worried that Walt Disney would sue me for some infringement of his turgid films.” Other artists including noted photographer Paul Watson have talked of it being a poor subject, writing: ‘It feels stage-managed, a piece of landscape set-dressing. A doll-house scale thing trying to contain something inexpressibly dwarfing to humanity.’ *

Belying its tranquil appearance, local lore has the Faery Fort as a site of entrenched enmity, sealed by blood and loss. Traditional tales have the earth embankment as the remains of a Faery soldiers’ camp. It is said a party of knights from the Summer Court were sent into our world to retrieve either an errant elfin noble or a treasure stolen from the Queen of Faery herself. Needing a secure base, they spoke polite magics to the soil of Sidley Hill and it carved itself into its current shape. The seven stones of the circle are said to be maidens taken from surrounding villages as hostages to ensure people co-operated with their quest. When the villages came together and sent a war-party to retrieve the kidnapped women, several of the faery warriors were slain. The remaining knights were forced to flee back to their land, but before they left by jumping into the flames of the camp’s fire, they took revenge on their foes. They claimed the hill as forever faery, left two of their party behind to guard it and turned them and the maids into stone. A spring at the bottom of Sidley Hill, known as Mother Tears, is said to be a sympathetic
response from the land to the weeping of those whose daughters had been petrified.

Largely disregarded as having any historical veracity by most modern academics, several Hookland antiquarians, including Richard Moore and Edward Bliss, put forward the theory that the folklore of the Faery Fort recorded an actual historical conflict between Bronze Age tribes. C.L. Nolan was kinder to the idea, writing: ‘Folklore is often the long memory of the land. Its tales may be outlandish, but they are rarely hollow. We may not be able to say what or when, but something happened to scar the site, to make it a taboo that echoes to this day in mother’s forbidding their children to venture within it.’ * *

It is interesting to note that recent work on the site undertaken by the Radiation Laboratory at Mordant College, seemed to confirm one detail of local lore when it suggested that the remains of organic material burnt in the middle of stones dated to between 900-700 BCE.

The sinister nature of the site in local eyes was perpetuated in 1921 when a 10-year old Molly Lovell from Blagden went missing while disobeying her mother and playing at the Faery Fort. Despite extensive searching, poor Molly was never seen again. A decade later, visiting walkers discovered the decayed remains of human adult forearm within the circle. The origins of the grisly find were never fuller ascertained, though the theory adopted by detectives investigating at the time was that the arm had been dropped by foxes who dug it from a shallow grave – despite the fact no such burial site could be found within a five-mile radius of Sidley Hill.

A reporter for the Hookland Messenger recorded at the time: ‘Tavern talk in Blagden has taken an atavistic turn with murmurings of trade with elves, blood curses and who among them might be guilty of some resentful witchery.’

A sense of menacing oddity has clung to the Faery up to more recent times. In 1968, Arthur and Vera Tiniswood from Surrey were touring Hookland on their annual holiday with their teenage daughter Cynthia. Approaching Sidley Hill around noon, they decided to pull over their Bristol 407 and have a picnic lunch. While Arthur snoozed off sandwiches and tea, Vera gave permission for Cynthia to climb to the summit.

Initially delighted to reach the top and find the earthwork and circle hidden behind the trees, Cynthia’s mood soon turned to one of unease. Speaking to Strange Days Journal a decade later, she remembered: ‘It had been August’s full heat on the climb up and at first I liked the shade of the copse, seeing down on all the countryside below. I shouted out: “I’m the Queen of the Castle! You’re the dirty rascals!” When I entered in the circle itself, I began to feel chilly. Looking up the sky had become overcast and I decided I better get back to my parents before any rain started.

“When I tried to walk between the gap in the bank, I felt a spasm inside. Not just a muscle twitch, but something deep inside me. I found myself involuntarily turned around and walking back into the middle of the Maidens. I stopped and tried to walk out through the gap again, but the same thing happened. After several tries, I was panicking and so decided to try and climb over the bank. As I got to top of it, I felt an electric shock. It was as if there was a glass wall or some other an invisible barrier around it I began to walk around the bank, trying to feel for some gap on it, but I couldn’t find any way out at all.

“Even though it had only seemed like a few minutes, darkness had fallen. I will admit I was now hysterical. At one point I could hear voices calling my name, torches and lanterns moving amongst the trees on the other side of the barrier. I tried shouting to them, but they never seemed to hear me. Eventually I cried myself to sleep.”

Despite police and volunteer search teams scouring Sidley Hill for 48 hours and having entered the Faery Fort several times, Cynthia Tiniswood was found asleep in the middle of the Maidens nearly a full three days after she had disappeared when her mother had waved her off. Despite pressure from both the constabulary and her parents, Cynthia insisted her account of her missing days was entirely truthful. When the compiler for this Guide contacted her more than a decade later, she still held to her original telling of events at the Faery Fort.

“I know what happened, I just don’t know what it was or what it meant. I also know that you’d never get me up there again. There are some places we just aren’t meant to visit, places where the land takes trespass personally.”

* Ghost Currents, (Avalonia Press 1973)

* * C.L. Nolan On … Collected Radio Talks, (Horlick & Ward, 1938)

David Southwell is an author of several published books on true crime and conspiracies, which have been translated into a dozen languages. However, these days, he mostly writes about place.

Twitter:      Hookland     Repton

The Phoenix Guide to Strange England, County by County: Hookland by David Southwell

Best experienced in the PDF zine

The Entombed Toad, Lower Constantine

Many Hookland pubs have bars with windows in their fronts or tops for gleeful display of some local curiosity. While the grisliness of objects behind glass at The Witch’s Hand at Ludbury and The Sorrow Rope at Crowford have earned them some infamy, those hostelry counters containing the strange rather than sinister are often overlooked. This is certainly the case with The Entombed Toad.

Originally a pub catering for quarrymen at the nearby Mutland Pit until it closed in 1921, The Entombed Toad is long, one-storey stone building on the northern edge of Lower Constantine. With its weather-withered sign and low-profile, it is easy to drive through the village and miss the establishment entirely. This would be a shame, for though it serves only Midwood ales, Half-Jack Half-Jenny (a locally produced perry) and assorted apple brandies, it is welcoming to visitors – which is more than can be said for many pubs in this guide. It also takes a relaxed approach to letting drinkers eat sandwiches or food obtained elsewhere on the premises. In fact, the landlord will direct those wanting a snack to Penny Bakery a few hundred yards down the road, recommending their dead-men’s arms and herb and cheese scones.

Displayed under the window cut into the oak bar top is the item from the which the pub takes its name – an entombed toad. Closer inspection offers you the grey, mummified flesh of a Bufo bufo surrounded by a curved depression in large piece of local limestone. However, it is far from a common toad for it is said to one of several found encased in stone at Mutland Pit in 1856. What makes the story of the entombed dead amphibian story even more strange, is the claim that when the rock holding them was cracked open, not all of them were dead.

An account written by the Hookland naturalist and antiquarian Rev. Valentine Darrow at the time details their supposed discovery. According to Darrow:

‘I went to the quarry where rumours of marvels are in common circulation and with permission of the owner Mr. Mutland, spoke to his workers. I found them solid men without hint of mendacity. They tell of striking a large piece of limestone and finding inside a grouping of fist-sized oval-shaped cells with no communication with each other. In this ancient prison or crypt, were several toads. While most were dead, six of them began to react to their sudden freedom, moving from corpse-like stillness to a curious crawling within but a few minutes.

While the preserved Bufo bufo were harvested for talismans and lately, the selling to interested collectors of such curios, their resurrected companions escaped into the higher part of the surrounding area. The part of the rock they were found in was 15 feet below the surface and of the sort that is much filled with ancient shells and other marine substances. I was unable to purchase one of the entombed creatures as tales of such Lazarus Toads are not unheard of in the county and as such, are much prized by certain cunning folk and the overly superstitious.’ *

* The Nature Notes of Valentine Darrow, (Richard & Horlick 1931)

David Southwell is an author of several published books on true crime and conspiracies, which have been translated into a dozen languages. However, these days, he mostly writes about place.

Twitter:      Hookland     Repton

Radio Free Hookland 23rd December 1973

Hookland art by Maria Strutz

Hookland created by David Southwell

Radio Free Hookland : December 23rd 1973
by The Ephemeral Man

“There are a lot of radio freaks in Hookland. Dial twisting to tape number stations. Following rumours of dead frequencies where signals bleeding from lost pasts or futures might come through. Even dark station junkies who claim the dead are in shortwave static. – #MattAdams, 1980”

On Tuesday November 13th 1973, Morris “Mojo” Johnson was admitted to Weychester General hospital, to be diagnosed with and treated for Legionnaires’ disease. Johnson made a full recovery and was back on the air at Radio Free Hookland from the 3rd January 1974, but that meant that in all there were 51 nights of the “Mojo’s Graveyard Shift” slot that had to be filled. Broadcast engineer Thomas Giles was tasked with picking archived Graveyard Shift episodes to re-run. Listeners were treated to many classic sessions including one by Tumulus, two by Broken Minds (one when the band had just changed its name to The Rabble), and no less than six strange happenings by Dave Padbury and his band Phase Generators (who would later become Phase Count).

However, on 23rd December, Thomas decided to air something different. An amateur radio enthusiast, his pride and joy was a R1155 radio receiver used in an Avro Lancaster Bomber during the second world war, which he had kitted out in the back of his 1968 Ford Transit Custom Mk1 Camper van. He often roamed Hookland for sweet spots where various strange transmissions might be picked up, favouring coastal areas or the Straker Hills. The recording Giles played that night was a confusion of static, music, report, fiction, and lifestyle.

The station received a large volume of complaints from confused listeners who demanded to know what they had been subjected to. Many thought it an elaborate hoax – the broadcast seemed to include sounds from the past, present, and future – whilst others believed there to be important information encoded in the broadcast, perhaps transmitted by alien or transdimensional beings. Several listeners reported “uncanny” feelings during and after listening.  When questioned by the Hookland Messenger, Thomas Giles gave a statement insisting that the broadcast was a direct recording of a continuous transmission picked up on his R1155 radio receiver and had not been doctored in any way other than to overlay periodic “Radio Free Hookland” audio idents throughout for airing.

The broadcast was never repeated, and Giles kept the original recording (and, apparently, many others like it) to himself until his sudden demise in an unfortunate home inferno in 1975. However, several cassette recordings were made on the night of the broadcast, and it is through the preservation of one of these that I am able to present the recording in its entirety to you now.

00:00:07 – Re-enchantment audio ident by Lee Williams
00:01:18 – The King Tide by Dark Leaves
00:07:53 – Emily Banting by Phil Hine
00:09:53 – Walking in the Sun by Tumulus
00:16:55 – Vibrations on Sea II by Bellprover
00:25:04 – Bounce audio ident by Richard Andrews
00:29:24 – The Queen of Owls by Maria Strutz
00:30:11 – Goodnight Goliath by Richard Andrews
00:33:39 – Circuit Variations • Hookland Winter by l.m.n.s. / Nathan Downs
00:47:42 – Other Half audio ident by Richard Andrews
00:50:59 – Chapel by Andy Aquarius
01:02:40 – Emily Banting by Phil Hine
01:03:23 – Tommy Dodd by Richard Andrews
01:09:54 – Crawling in the Moorland by Tumulus
01:15:29 – Incidental Music from episode 4 of the 1971 Hookland Associated Television
children’s TV series ‘Beyond The Barrow’ by Wesley Wakefield
01:19:07 – Emily Banting by Phil Hine
01:20:01 – RFH1/Machine audio idents by Richard Andrews

Download (incl. full liner notes PDF)

The Ephemeral Man


Lee Williams

Lee recommends these folklore and magick-related roleplaying games: 
(pretty much Hookland/Repton in game form)

Patrick Aston

I’m Patrick Aston and also Dark Leaves. Dark Leaves is a solo project creating alternative folk songs of the land and sea where I live, on the West Cornwall coast. I’m married to Sharon who’s an incredible photographer. We have 2 grown up children; our son is working in the music business, having just finished a degree in Music Business last year, and our daughter is at Uni doing a medical degree.

My music is earthy and atmospheric but also quite dark and on the alternative side of folk. I combine acoustic guitar playing with electronic and drone influenced soundscapes and hypnotic beats to make Dark Leaves.

My song writing inspiration comes primarily from being here at home in Cornwall. The sense of place I feel here is above all else and created by many memories, feelings, and emotive bonds. The folklore of Cornwall’s seas, woods, moors, hills and pagan seasonal festivals is an endless source. Another source of inspiration comes from the wonderful ‘Hookland’ twitter account. There are 2 songs on my new album that are 100% inspired by Hookland; ‘The King Tide’ and ‘The Queen of Owls’. The very lovely David Southwell (Pah! He would say), who discovered Hookland, co-wrote the lyrics of ‘The King Tide’ with me, via a fantastic poem he sent. Hookland is really the only reason I have Twitter. Hookland is always close by, just an altered memory away. It’s just around the corner of the lane or just over the hedge when I’m out walking the dogs at night. It’s in the fields, in the powerlines, in the cliffs and under the sea…


Phil Hine

Phil Hine is an occult author and independent researcher. His latest obsessions can be read at He currently has 4 books in print, available direct from the publisher:…



By the time of the Starfall Free Festival in 1972, Tumulus were already no more. Founder member Gordon Stranger was in the midst of his odyssey in the wilderness and would not form Kraut-sludge chancers Bogquake for another year.

Tumulus had formed in the heady summer of 1969, essentially the group consisted of guitarist and singer; Stranger, multi-instrumentalist; Pat ‘Flowers’ Bouquet and a rolling cast of hangers on and camp-followers drawn from the hazy depths of the Hookland underground. Although Stranger made great efforts to align himself with the enigmatic Pylon People, many think this was as much posturing as a true commitment to The Hum.

In April of 1971, with his typical disregard for the consequences, Stranger poured all his savings into a day’s studio time at Ashcourt’s Fractal Sunrise Studios. Gathering their instruments and whoever was around Stranger and Bouquet recorded these two acid folk/spaghetti western homages to the Hum and to the folklore of Hookland. ‘Walking in the Sun’ and ‘Crawling in the Moorland’ were both based around the 50Hz mains hum that pervaded the ramshackle studios and, rather than try to irradicate it, the group used it as an underlying drone on both tracks.

At the end of the day the group emerged believing that they had tapped into both the Hum and the zeitgeist but it was not to be. Despite shopping the tapes around every label in the county, Stranger was unable to find anyone willing to press the single. It was eventually released as a 7” in Germany in the mid-1980s, but by then Stranger had already vanished again and the rest of the group had faded into family life and relative normality.

It is not known if any of the twenty-five 7” singles survive but Gordon’s son, Gary, recently unearthed the originally masters whilst searching his father’s archive in preparation for the Null shows he played in 2016 and here they are. The last and only document of Tumulus.



 Bellprover is an electronic music project from musician/producer/DJ and curator of The Sonik Youth Club Douglas E. Powell. Over the past 2 years Bellprover has become Douglas’s main musical focus and direction. Placing to one side his band The Rising Spirit, acoustic guitar and notebook of lyrical ideas in favour of the Korg Monologue Monophonic Analogue Synthesizer and collection of vintage effects pedals.

I have always had a fascination with electronic soundscapes, metronomic rhythms and weird sound effects, so after a series of collaborations and the release of the 2018 Seatman & Powell, Broken Folk EP (KS Audio/Belbury) featuring myself, Keith Seatman and Jim Jupp (Belbury Poly/Ghost Box Records) and the 2019 Keith Seatman LP Time To Dream But Never Seen (Castles in Space), where I contributed a series of poems to accompany Keith’s soundtrack. I began to start composing my own music as Bellprover.

During the first UK lockdown (2020) I had no live shows to play so I concentrated my time on putting together a home studio and started working on some ideas that eventually became to six tracks now available via Bandcamp.

I use mostly use analogue recording techniques, layering live multiple synths tracks and sound effects over basic drum machine patterns and looped sequences. I’ve never used a computer to record, mix or edit, I’ve never really needed or wanted to. I’m comfortable using my cutting edge early 90’s technology.

The track I have selected for you to play is Vibration On-Sea. A track inspired and influenced growing up a teenager and young adult in the UK seaport city of Portsmouth. Let’s take shelter from this South Westerly gale in one of the many dilapidated Victorian wind shelters along the promenade at Southsea where the ghosts of a long forgotten imagined Victorian opulence mingle with the smell of urine, salt spray and pealing layers of lead paint. Sit a while, behold the view. On a clear day you can just about make out the Isle of Wight. Did you know, they set fire to South Parade Pier whilst filming Tommy. You always tell me that when we sit here. Do I? I’m so sorry.

Download tracks by BELLPROVER at

Richard Andrews

“When he’s not leading a SEN Forest School, Richard Andrews researches local history, folklore, legends and landscape on a protracted, trickster-tormented psychogeographical quest.”


Maria Strutz

Maria Strutz is an artist, printmaker, sculptor and translator. Frequently communing with the Queen of Owls in Hookland. Some of her work can be found at her shop:


Nathan Downs

The Hookland pieces came about quite naturally initially, I had been learning how to “make” music last year in lockdown. I’ve always been a fan of ambient music and have known David for a few years now;  I absolutely love what he has created with the county of Hookland, and wanted to add something once I’d gotten the hang of mixing etc. I’m not a musician, producer (it’s strictly amateur night!) but it’s a nice distraction to go and make some sounds and a means of keeping myself from too much inertia..

Born in Staffordshire, studied art and lived in Edinburgh for most of my adult life, moved to Liverpool a few years ago. I gave up painting and exhibiting full time in 2003, by the time my second child was born and had to take up more economically rewarding employment as most of us have to 🙂 somehow I found myself in advertising/magazine publishing and worked for many years with airlines, which meant a serious amount of travel and a lot of constant motion. I have lived and worked in Amsterdam, Mexico, Thailand, Singapore, Gozo (off and on since 2015) and have been really so lucky in all areas of my life, a long lasting marriage, two wonderful children and some very old and close friendships.

I had a number of motorcycle accidents over the years (turns out I’m not Steve McQueen!) and the last one seriously damaged discs in my neck and spine, which has meant reduced movement in my right arm and my ability to paint and draw as well as I used to, I trained in sculpture and I’ve been mulling over, rough sketching ideas for some site specific installations here in Liverpool, and the Hookland sound pieces are probably going to figure as an integral part of that.

Hookland Soundscapes (Mediafire download)


Andy Aquarius

My name is Andy. I’m a multi-instrumentalist and singer with German and Croatian roots. I’m performing on a self-built Celtic Harp (Andy Aquarius), record ambient music (Ozbolt) and play in a psychedelic rock band (Swan Valley Heights). I sometimes do film scores and appear in other bands and projects on different instruments. I have an email newsletter titled ‘The Aquarian Herald’ that I send out every 2-3 months or so and you should definitely sign up:, I’m giving updates on my creative work but also add plenty of tips & tricks on how to survive the New Age.

Wesley Wakefield

Wesley Wakefield, was the in-house composer for many of Hookland Associated Television’s (H.A.T.) programmes. His compositions often blended traditional acoustic instruments with early monophonic synths and were noted for their repetitive minimalism. He had famously applied for a position at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1962, but was turned down for being ‘too folky’, a lost opportunity he resented and bitterly complained about until his untimely death by electrocution while working in his home studio.