William Daphney

Brixton Deverill


William Daphney, a shepherd from Brixton Deverill became something of a local legend when he was appointed by King George III to be “The King’s Shepherd”.

King George had visited Longleat and asked Mr Davis of Horningsham to find him a local shepherd. Mr Davis recommended William Daphney, and soon he had moved to London to tend for the royal flock.

It started off well – The King and General Goldsworthy had frequent conversations with the Shepherd, with whose simple manners, acuteness, and dialect, they were frequently entertained. Unfortunately, this was short-lived, as Daphney was found stealing sheep.

Daphney, expecting a harsh punishment, was surprised to discover that the King had shown leniency. King George reasoned that it was the bad influence of the villains in the neighbourhood who had corrupted him, and that if he were still in the Deverills, he would be harmlessly tending his sheep.

In response to the act  of forgiveness, Daphney vowed to serve the King: “I will never cease to serve such a master. I can no longer do it with my crook, but I can with a musket”. He joined the army, and his destitute wife was transferred to be given to a better life.

My favourite version of this story is in A Story of Stourton and Other Wiltshire Tales, Told in Verse (Page 33) – Sir William Gurney Benham · 1883.

It’s quite a long poem but certainly worth the read!




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