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The Flaming Gibbet of Galley Hill

The Flaming Gibbet of Galley Hill - origins

Why are there so many black dog stories?

Body in Cage
  • The black dog collected the souls of criminals
  • Black Dog legends are common all over the world. One of the reasons may be that mankind and dogs have lived and worked closely together for thousands of years.

    The dog has shared our fires at night, guarded our homes and worked for us during the day, herding or hunting. In many myths, dogs also carry out these duties at the edges, between worlds. The idea of a dog collecting the souls of wicked people is also common in myths, and may have come from the use of dogs for hunting in early times.

    You find Black Dog myths in Siberia, North America and all over Asia. Greek mythology also tells of the dog Cerberus, with three heads, which watches the entrance to the underworld. The origins of the Black Dog legends in England have been lost in the mists of time. But they might have begun with the Saxons or Vikings. Their god Odin had a dreadful hound and they brought their tales and beliefs to England. In the poem 'Baldrs Draumar' there is mention of the hellhound:

    Up rose Odin, the ancient gautr,
    and on Sleipnir laid the saddle.
    Downward he rode to Nifhel;
    he met a hound that came from Hel.

    The black dogs are also known as Black Shuck. The name Shuck seems to go back to Anglo-Saxon times; it comes from 'scucca' (meaning demon). The idea of a devil dog may have come from this.

    Is there any truth in the Story?

    Galley Hill and Gibbet
  • The Gibbet
  • It is well known that a 'gibbet' (gallows) stood on Galley Hill until the late 18th century.

    Galley Hill was also a place where public executions took place and has been linked with witchcraft and magic over the years.

    At one time, the place was also used to bury local witches who were hanged during the persecution of the 16th and 17th centuries. In the 1960's, while they were digging in the burial mounds, a deer's skull was found. A dice had been placed on it with the six face up; this makes it look as if magic and 'rituals' were used at the site in the past.

    Why did the myth become linked to Galley Hill?

    Galley hill and lightening
  • Galley Hill - a site with a grim history
  • It is not surprising that Galley Hill has a Black Dog legend. Black dogs are often linked with old burial grounds (or barrows), churchyards, stiles and roads. The site of Galley Hill has an ancient burial mound at the top and was near a well-used track between London and the North.

    This place has a history of evil. It was known for witchcraft and hangings and this might have been how the myth began. There may well have been a storm one night and the gibbet may have been struck by lightning: because it stood on the top of the hill, it would have been one of the highest points and so would attract lightning. The idea of the dog collecting the souls of wicked men may have been added, to put off people who might be thinking of doing wrong.

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