‘Saint’ who saved village with miracle

John Schorne
John Schorne

The miracle-working ‘saint of North Marston’ who after his death cast the devil from the boots of Henry VIII is being remembered by the village he saved.

Pious monk John Schorne arrived in North Marston in 1282 to become rector at its small stone church.

At that time the church had a meagre income of around £6 a year and with poor soil the people of the village struggled with a meagre existence.

Things got even worse when the area was struck by a terrible drought, and villagers turned to their religious leader for help.

And as the story goes, in biblical fashion John Schorne struck the ground with his staff and a spring of healing water gushed out of the ground.

News of Schrne’s miracle spread fast and soon pilgrims were flocking to North Marston to be cured by the waters.

Schorne’s well was believed to have restorative powers and many suffering from gout, which was a common ailment at the time, came to be treated.

John Spargo, of the North Marston History Society, said: “A modern analysis of the water shows that it won’t kill you, but you wouldn’t want to drink it, either.

“At that time there wasn’t any science to speak of, so people tried to cure themselves in different ways.”

Schorne’s healing waters also saved North Marston when the black death swept across the Vale in 1348.

Despite the village losing a third of its population, the boost in revenue from pilgrims coming to be healed by the water ensured its survival when many other villages struggled.

Mr Spargo said: “John Schorne’s miracle brought all these people to the village and really put it on the map.

“It was quite hard living in North Marston because the soil was very poor – the village would have been on its knees if it wasn’t for the pilgrims.

“The church’s income went from just £6 a year to around £500, which would be £2.6 million nowadays.”

John Schorne died in 1314 and was buried in front of the principal altar at North Marston Church.

And perhaps in an attempt to divert some of the pilgrims and their money to Windsor, Edward IV ordered for the rector’s remains to be moved to St George’s Chapel.

Belief in the healing properties of the water prevailed well into the Elizabethan era and the well was used by villagers as a primary source of water until the 20th century.

Long after Schorne’s death Henry VIII is known to have visited the well twice, in an attempt to cure his own gout afflictions.

As news of the well spread across the Home Counties, images of Schorne were immortalised in religious imagery.

Although he was never canonised he was known as a saint to the many pilgrims who believed in the miraculous water.

In an attempt to differentiate Schorne from other saints in their artworks, iconographers represented him pulling the devil from a boot.

In medieval times pain was often represented as an imp or devil, and gout commonly affects the feet.

This image has commonly been misinterpreted as Schorne catching the devil in a boot, and it is believed that the origin of the Jack In the Box toy lies in this story.

This year marks 700 years since Schorne’s death, and a number of events are being planned by local churches to remember him.

These include a service at St Mary’s Church, North Marston, on July 6 which will be attended by The Bishop of Oxford. And on July 14 and 15 the church will host a flower festival in honour of their patron saint.

A special anniversary booklet and badge akin to the ones bought by pilgrims are available from the North Marston village shop.

To find out more visit www.schorneteam.co.uk