Each country seems to have its legend about a great leader who will arise from his sleep and save his country again when it really needs him.

Owen Glendower lies asleep in the vale of Gwent, in a cave called Ogof y Ddinas. In Ireland Gearoidh Iarla waits in a cave under the Rath of Mullaghmast, and other countries cling to similar hopes regarding Charlemagne, Holger Danske, Barbarosa and Don Sebastian.

In England, no fewer than three saviours lie waiting for one hour of peril. The Duke of Monmouth – who judging by his performances alive, doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence. King Harold and inevitably King Arthur.

Somewhat confusingly, King Arthur lies in at least 3 different places. In Cornwall, in the Eilden Hills and underneath Alderley Edge in Cheshire. Here, in a honeycomb of caves beneath the broodingly dominant hill, he and his knights and horses sleep, watched over by a wizard last seen, by conjecture, somewhere around about 1696.

A farmer was on his way to Macclesfield to sell a horse, when he was approached by a strange old man who offered to buy it. When the farmer refused the old man told him he would not sell it at market and they would meet again that night to complete the deal. Much to the farmers surprise, for it was a fine horse, no one bought it. And on his way home he was again approached by the old man and was told to follow him. The farmer followed him patiently if nervously, and the old man took him past Seven Firs, past Stormy Point and past Saddle Boll, finally stopping against the blank rock face, he struck it with his staff and a vast door appeared. The two of them entered and the old man instructed the farmer to take what payments he wanted from the gold lying in the piles about the cave. Before he left he had a chance to see the bodies of King Arthur and his Knights together with their charges, as they lay in suspended animation. Neither the old man nor the door in the rock face was ever seen again.

This story was apparently first told, at least in traceable form, by a Parson Shrigley , who was curate of Alderley Edge in 1753 and died in 1776 . He dated the appearance of the old man , presumably the indestructible wizard Merlin, at about 80 years before his time which would , as I’ve said put the episode somewhere about 1696.

There is also naturally a Wizard of Edge inn

See the excellent song below by the Cheshire songwriter Peter Coe – called The Wizard of Alderley Edge. Or click on the title for the audio version.

The Wizard of Alderley Edge
Written by Pete Coe
  1. From Mobberley on a bright Morning,
    On a snow-white pure-bred mare,
    A farmer rode to Macclesfield
    To sell her at the fair.
    Over Alderley Edge he took his path
    Where the day is endless night,
    The farmer stopped in a shroud of mist
    For a man all dressed in white.
    From Macclesfield to Mobberley
    If you have wares to sell,
    Don’t leave the path at the Wizard’s Inn
    Or drink at the Wizard’s well.

  2. “Well met!” said the man as he stood in the path,
    “Won’t you sell to me your mare?”
    The farmer said “She’s not for sale
    ’til I get to Macclesfield fair.”
    “Well you can stay all day at the fare,
    No bidding you will hear.
    I’ll await your return to this very same place
    As the evening it draws near.”
    From Macclesfield to Mobberley
    If you have wares to sell,
    Don’t leave the path at the Wizard’s Inn
    Or drink at the Wizard’s well.

  3. The farmer he was a puzzled man,
    As he rode into Macclesfield town,
    For admiring glances all that day
    Would never fill his purse with crowns.
    So he returned a bitted man,
    As the sun fell in the sky,
    And just as he said that morn,
    The wizard did draw nigh.
    From Macclesfield to Mobberley
    If you have wares to sell,
    Don’t leave the path at the Wizard’s Inn
    Or drink at the Wizard’s well.
  4. “Now you must sell to me your mare
    For silver and bright gold.”
    And he led the farmer and his mare
    Down a passdage dark and cold.
    He led them through some iron gates
    And to a great rock wall.
    Like moles they went, nigh double-bent
    ’til they came to the sleeper’s hall.
    From Macclesfield to Mobberley
    If you have wares to sell,
    Don’t leave the path at the Wizard’s Inn
    Or drink at the Wizard’s well.

  5. With fear this farmer wide did gaze
    And loudly did he moan,
    For full dressed knights each with a mount,
    Except for one alone.
    “These are King Arthur’s gallant men,
    Who await on England’s need.
    So fill your purse and leave your mare
    And leave the edge with speed.”
    From Macclesfield to Mobberley
    If you have wares to sell,
    Don’t leave the path at the Wizard’s Inn
    Or drink at the Wizard’s well.

  6. This farmer returned a very rich man,
    Though his story caused him pain.
    For those who would search for the iron gates
    Did search the Edge in vain.
    But some do say that old Nell Beck
    Did find the iron gate
    And some do say she stricken was
    With the March Hare as her mate.
    From Macclesfield to Mobberley
    If you have wares to sell,
    Don’t leave the path at the Wizard’s Inn
    Or drink at the Wizard’s well.