Legends of the Three Shires

A collection of myths and legends from Cheshire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire

Acton Church and the Devil

The Bluestone

The Bluestone, a glacial erratic that lies in a field about a kilometre north of Acton Church.


In a field near Acton church lies a boulder called the Bluestone (which also gives its name to the farm in whose land it lies). The story goes that when the church was being built, the Devil, who was sitting on Peckforton Hills, threw a rock at it in an attempt to destroy it. He missed, and the result, the Bluestone, lies in the field to this day.


Half a mile north of the Church is a little hamlet called Bluestone, named from an erratic block in a field. This strange rock naturally caused wonder to those who had no knowledge of glacial action, but thought they knew a good deal about satanic objection to churches. So some one thought that the devil, watching the monks raising the pile from his rocky outlook somewhere on the Peckforton Hills, picked up a rock and hurled it at the workers. It fell short, and he was baffled, just as he was in his efforts to stop the erection of other ecclesiastical buildings. A similar erratic block near Saughall was called Bluestones, or Blaystons, and I think gave origin to the modern name Parkstone, standing near the limit of the ancient Shotwick Park.

Alfred Coward, Cheshire Traditions and History, Methuen & Co, London, 1932, pp 161–2

The Devil was a very real person in the Middle Ages. He and his subordinate demons worked unceasingly to entrap the souls of men by artifice and delusion. He was the master and teacher of witches and his hand was seen, not only in sin, but in such unexpected manifestations as lycanthropy, hysteria and scientific experiments—or, indeed, in anything of which the Church and public opinion happened to disapprove. Prayer and the sound of church bells were potent weapons against him, and consequently, the building of new churches was distasteful to him. The presence of a large, single rock in a field near Bluestone is due to his bad marksmanship. He flung it at the men who were building Acton Church, but it fell short by half a mile.

Christina Hole, Traditions and Customs of Cheshire, Williams and Norgate, London, 1937, pp 190–192

There is hardly a part of Cheshire in which the Devil has not been up to one or other of his tricks, but is seems that it was against church-builders and churchmen that he was the most active. When Acton Church was going up, in a pet he threw a big stone at the builders. It fell short and still remains, a testimony to his bad shooting.

Frederick Grice, Folk Tales of the West Midlands, Thomas Nelson, Edinburgh, 1952, p 43

Bluestone, 1831 Bry, ‘dark-coloured stone’, from ME blew ‘blue’, and stān, cf. Gloverstone.

Professor John McNeal Dodgson, The Place-Names of Cheshire Part III, Cambridge University Press, 1971, p 145


The Bluestone may still be seen in a field opposite the farmhouse that bears its name. Why it became called the Bluestone is unclear, given that it doesn’t seem to be especially blue in colour, but John McNeal Dodgson, in The Place-Names of Cheshire, seems to accept it as a general term for a dark-coloured stone; he compares it with a similarly described stone at Gloverstone in Chester.

The legend is one of many in England about churches that were the victims of target practice by various supernatural entities – invariably ones who were not very accurate.