TV presenter Jamie Theakston visited Shropshire to find out more about the county’s links to the legend of the Holy Grail.
Is the Hawkstone Cup really the Holy Grail?
A new series presented by radio and TV personality Jamie Theakston aims to find out. He spent Sunday at Hawkstone Park, in North Shropshire, looking in to the story of the Hawkstone Cup, which dates from Roman times and was rediscovered more than 80 years ago, for a new series called Forbidden Histories.
Local historian and author Graham Phillips recovered the cup in 1992 and wrote a book about it called The Search for the Grail.
He showed Mt Theakston around the park for the documentary.
According to legend, the Hawkstone Cup was brought back by Knights during the 12th century Crusades and put in the care of the FitzWarin family, the lords of Whittington Castle. Mr Phillips said: “According to many of the grail legends, the grail rests in the white castle in the white town. Whittington Castle is known locally as the white castle because of the light coloured stone it is made of and Whittington means white town in old English. It was passed through the descendants until the mid-1800s when it was held by Thomas Wright, a local historian in Shropshire.”
From there, legend says that because he had no heirs, Mr Wright, who lived in Hodnet decided to hide the cup in nearby Hawkstone Park and wrote a book full of clues for future generations to find it. The grail laid untouched inside an eagle statue in the park’s Grotto until 1920 when a local businessman decided to take the statue for his garden.
The eagle statue broke, but inside was the cup, which was then kept within the businessman’s family, until Mr Phillips went on his own search to recover the cup in the early 90s.
“I traced his decendants down to a lady who is still alive today and living in Rugby. I went up into the attic and there were all these cups and saucers in newspaper and there amongst it was this small stone cup.
“The British Museum saw it and immediately said it was Roman scent jar and dated it back to the first century AD.
“Based on the kind of stone it was made of, they also placed its origin to Palestine, so not only is it from the time of Jesus, it is also from the same place.
Bruce Burgess, who is directing and producing the series, said: “The Holy Grail is believed to be either the cup used by Jesus during the last supper or a Marian Chalice which Mary Magdalene used to catch the blood of Jesus on the cross.”
In the programme, Mr Theakston will investigate four “grail cups” that all claim to be the authentic one – the Hawkstone Cup, the Nanteos Cup in Wales, the Santo Caliz in Valencia, and the Antioch Chalice in New York City.
On Sunday, the crew filmed around the Red Castle in the grounds of Hawkstone Park, which was where a clue led to the discovery of the cup, and around the Grotto, which was where the cup was eventually found.
Mr Phillips said he hopes the series will bring new interest to Hawkstone Park’s history.
Forbidden Histories will air in September or October. The Hawkstone Cup has also featured in a documentary by Time Team, called The Real Da Vinci Code.