The Pusey Horn
Legend has it that the local, Saxon, inhabitants of Uffington Castle travelled the intervening 6 miles to raid Cherbury Camp, where King Canute and his invading army were encamped. However, a young shepherd boy spotted them and blew his horn as a warning to the Danes. They are said to have consequently prevailed in the subsequent battle, which took place at the crossroads half-way between Charney Bassett and Buckland. The area became known as Gainfield as a result. The shepherd boy was rewarded for his vigilance with a commission in the King’s Army and all the land within the sound of his horn around Pusey. King Canute had the instrument inscribed and otherwise embellished and returned it to William as proof of his gift.
However true or otherwise this local legend may be, the horn, known as the Pusey Horn, is now housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum. ‘The Pusey horn’, is a ox horn with silver-gilt mounts. Only a few silver-mounted horns survive. They were intended for ceremonial drinking, or display. This one is inscribed, ‘I kynge knowde (Cnut) gave Wyllyam Pecote (Pusey, mistranscribed) thys horne to holde by thy land’.
There was also once an inn in Charney Bassett, called the Horn Inn. It was closed during the Second World War.
By tradition, the manor of Pusey was given to William by King Cnut (more commonly known as Canute c. 995– 12 November 1035) as a reward for a warning of an impending attack. The horn was delivered with the letter of tenure. `Cornage’, or transfer of land by service of a horn, was customary in Anglo-Saxon England. It remained in the Pusey family until it was presented to the Museum in 1938 by Lucy Violet Bouverie-Pusey, widow of Philip Bouverie-Pusey in memory of her husband.
The old manor of Pusey, within a couple of miles to the south-east, like Buckland, has given way to a Georgian structure of plainer design by the same architect. The family of Pusey held their lands by horn service, a tenure granted at the eleventh century by Canute the Dane, who is said to have had a Palace at Cherbury Camp, about a mile to the east of Pusey, and, says tradition, thus rewarded an officer in his army for discovering some Saxon ambuscade. The male line of the Puseys failed in the time of Queen Anne with Charles Pusey. His sister Jane, the heiress, married a Mr. Allen, of Temple Guiting (mentioned in an earlier chapter), and the historic horn was located in the Manor House there until the Allens gave up residence. Mrs. Allen’s son John, who took the name of Pusey, leaving no issue, the relic descended to his nephew (the son of his wife’s brother), Philip Bouverie, who also assumed the name of Pusey, and from him the horn and tenure have descended to the present owner. The horn is not kept in the house, but in the strong-room of a bank in London. Upon the band of silver which with little legs like the front-paws of a toy-terrier supports this curiosity is this inscription : —
” King Knoude geve Uyllyam Pewse thys home to holde by thy lond.” The lettering of the inscription, however, belongs to a much later date than the eleventh century, so though the horn is doubtless the original, the mounting is unmistakably a renovation.
These ” horn-blow lands ” are to be found in several other places: at Borstall in Buckinghamshire, and Horton and Manningham in Yorkshire, for instance, the horns of which are also in existence. The ancient ” Esturmy horn,” which is still treasured at the seat of the Bruces, Tottenham House, in Wiltshire, is no less remarkable among such relics of ancient tenures.