There have been a number of variations on the Godshill Legend. However, they all revolve around the same set of happenings over the space of a few days back in the seventh century when the largely Saxon inhabitants of the Isle of Wight were converted to the Christian faith.
The local inhabitants now needed a christian place of worship to attend. The only location at that time was the pagan site set on the top of the small hill where the church now stands. The village elders decided to build a chapel to God in a field below the site that had been used in pagan times.
It was a big community project and all the village helped to mark out the foundations on the chosen site. They built using small and large local stones gathered from wherever they could find them. At the end of the first day everyone was exhausted and went home to bed and they probably all slept very soundly.
When they returned to the building site early the following morning they discovered that everything in the field had disappeared. After a local search, they discovered everything, the stones, all of the markers and lines and all of their tools and ropes had been moved to the top of the hill. What’s more, everything was laid out at the top of the hill exactly as had been left in the field below the previous evening.
So, the day’s work was to be the moving of everything from the top of the hill back to the field below. So, after another day’s exhausting work they were back to where they were the evening before. They thought no more of it and set off home for a good night’s sleep.
You can imagine their astonishment the next morning when they found that exactly the same had happened again. Everything had been moved and laid out perfectly once more on top of the hill. They were determined the church should be in their chosen location at the bottom of the hill and again moved everything back and then continued the building work. At the end of the day, the village elders decided to post watchmen around the church to watch over the building works.
At midnight, in the dark, the watchmen started to hear rumbling sounds. They couldn’t believe their eyes. They saw the giant stones sway from side to side slowly, as if awakening. The smaller stones then started jumping and rolling up the hill, leapfrogging over each other and the various obstacles in the way. The larger stones moved slowly, swaying and rolling. Not only the stones, but marker pegs, ropes, shovels and anything related to the building of the church, flew up the hill with them. At the top of the hill, marker pegs were hammered into the layout of the church with mallets that swung themselves, and string tied itself to the pegs to form the guide for the church building layout.
After the village elders had heard what had happened, they decreed that the church would be built on the top of the hill, and that from that time on, in honour of the miracle that had happened there, the village would be named “God’s Hill”. The field below the hill where they had initially tried to build their church was from then on known as “Devil’s Acre”.