The Kingsclere Bed Bug – Kingsclere, England - Atlas Obscura

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The Kingsclere Bed Bug

Saint Mary's Kingsclere
Kingsclere, England

After a night ravaged by bedbugs, it's said King John ordered the creation of this weathervane.  


In the Hampshire village of Kingsclere, an unusual legend surrounds a curious decoration upon the village’s church, a weather-vane in the shape of a hissing bed bug.

According to the story, during the early 13th-century, King John was caught in a thick fog after a day of hunting. Unable to return from whence they came, the King and his party stayed overnight in Kingsclere. Some tales say they chose to rest in a nearby inn, others claim they stayed with local monks. Wherever it may have been, the king’s sleep is said to have been troubled throughout the night by bedbugs.  

John was so upset, he insisted an ironic dedication to bed bugs be erected on the village’s church tower to commemorate his uncomfortable experience. As striking as the weather-vane may sound, it’s ornate legs and tail, six small crosses, allow the bug to blend into the Norman church.

Some dismiss this legend, believing the vane depicts a tortoise signifying patient progress. Although the idea of it being a tortoise is a stretch of the imagination seeing as the creature has six legs. It being a bed bug would also be surprising, as bed bugs were very uncommon in England until the 17th-century. 

St Mary’s in Kingsclere isn’t the only church sporting a mysterious pest. St Luke’s Church in London’s Old Street is home to a vane believed to represent a louse. This vermin vane was destroyed in the Blitz of 1940, and when the vicar sought to replace it, experts at the Guildhall Museum informed him they believed the vane was actually a dragon. Although this has not stopped some from referring to the church as “lousy St Luke’s.” It could also indicate that the Kingsclere Bed Bug may be more myth.

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