The Journal of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


Leave a comment

Rosamond’s Well, Blenheim Park, Woodstock, Oxfordshire

Fair Rosamund's Well, Blenheim (Photo Credit: Philip Halling - Geograph)

Fair Rosamund’s Well, Blenheim (Photo Credit: Philip Halling – Geograph)

Os grid reference: SP 4365 1647. At the north-side of the lake in Blenheim Park at Woodstock, Oxfordshire, is Rosamond’s Well, also known as Fair Rosamund’s Well. It takes its name from Lady Rosamond de Clifford who was to become the lover (Mistress), for her sins, of King Henry II, although probably not ‘entirely’ out of her own choosing! Fair Rosamond, it is said, was “supposedly” murdered by a very jealous Queen Eleanor in about 1175, or was she? But back in the 12th century the well was called Everswell, maybe because it was ‘never ever’ known to run dry, even in the driest spells of weather; and in the past the water had some curative properties as pilgrims were wont to come here and partake of it in bottles – in those distant times, but in fact the well has only been named after Rosamond since the 16th century. The village of Woodstock is a quarter of a mile east of the well, while Bladon is half a mile south, and the town of Long Harborough 2 miles south-west on the A4095 road.

Godstow Nunnery Ruin (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Godstow Nunnery Ruin (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Poor Rosamond was buried at Godstow nunnery, a house of Benedictine nuns dedicated to St Mary and St John the Baptist, which is now in ruins beside the river Thames, near Oxford. It was founded by the widow Edith Launceline in 1133, dissolved in 1539, and almost destroyed during the Civil War in 1645 or 46. Today the ruin acts as a pound for local farm animals. There are only fragmentary remains of the precinct wall and chapel of abbess’ lodging, according to Frank Bottomley in his book ‘The Abbey Explorer’s Guide’, 1981. The nunnery ruins are two-and-a-half miles north-west of Oxford city centre.

Today the well looks quite neat and tidy in what is a very tranquil setting close to the north bank of Blenheim Lake – in the green and wooded grounds of Blenheim Palace. The well is actually a large square-shaped pool paved all around with flat paving stones, while at the head of the pool a high, curving wall with carvings, and a square opening for the water to issue into the pool itself; the water then flowing out into the lake. Foliage and trees grow at either side of the structure, which is soon to be restored. The water is usually quite near to the top of the pool, indeed it is never known to go down by much nor to dry up when there is a prolonged spell of dry weather. Close by is Rosamond’s Bower where Lady Rosamond, daughter of Walter de Clifford, lived before her untimely death (in strange circumstances) at the age of 35 in the year 1175 – murdered, according to the legend, by Queen Eleanor after she had found out that Fair Rosamond was her husband’s concubine. However, it is said that only the king knew the route to Rosamond’s secret bower, a sort of underground labyrinth built for her by King Henry.

Fair Rosamond was buried at the Benedictine nunnery of Godstow in Oxfordshire. In the book ‘A Thames Companion’ by Prichard & Carpenter, the authors say: “On the main stream of the river, Godstow comes next with its ruined nunnery and legend of Fair Rosamond, of which Aubrey wrote (in a manuscript note inside his copy of Plot’s Natural History of Oxfordshire, now in the Bodleian Library): This Rosamond, ye fair daughter of Walter Ld. Clifford, and forced to be Concubine to K. Henry ye 2d, who builded for her at Woodstock an house or Labyrinth under the ground, much wherof at this day is to be seen as also is a goodly Bath or Well, called to this day Rosamund’s Well. In the end she was poysoned by Q. Elianor, some write, and being dead, was buried at Godstow in a house of Nonnes besides Oxford. Not long since her grave was digged, where some of her bones were found, and her Teeth so white (as ye dwellers there report) that the beholders did much wonder at them.”

Sources:

Photo Credit: © Copyright Philip Halling and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Geograph: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fair_Rosamund’s_Well,_Blenheim_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1015851.jpg

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godstow

Bord, Janet & Colin., Sacred Waters, Paladin Books, London W1, 1986.

Bottomley, Frank., The Abbey Explorer’s Guide, Kaye & Ward Ltd (The Windmill Press), Kingswood, Tadworth, Surrey. 1981.

Prichard, Mari & Carpenter, Humphrey., A Thames Companion, (2nd Edition), Oxford University Press, Oxford OX2, 1981.

 


Leave a comment

The Sandbach Crosses, Cheshire

The Ancient Crosses, Sandbach (1886)

The Ancient Crosses, Sandbach (1886)

Os grid reference: SJ 7587 6082. In the cobbled market-place opposite the High Street at Sandbach, Cheshire, and at the back of St Mary’s church – are two tall Anglo-Saxon crosses known as The Sandbach Crosses, said to date from the 8th or 9th century, or maybe even earlier. They are in fact Mercian crosses because this area came under the jurisdiction of that kingdom during the 7th century AD, which was ruled by the pagan King Penda, and his son Paeda, who became a Christian; the crosses being ‘supposedly’ set up to commemorate the conversion to Christianity of Paeda following his business trip to the kingdom of Northumbria where he married a Christian princess called Alchfleda or Ealfleda, daughter of King Oswy. Four northern missionary priests: Adda, Betti, Cedd and Diuma accompanied the newly-married couple back to Mercia, and there the four ‘holy men’ set about spreading ‘the word of God’ in the kingdom of Mercia itself, perhaps even establishing a monastery at Sandbach, according to the Venerable Bede. They appear to have been succesful, especially when Paeda succeeded his father as king of Mercia in 655; Paeda died four years later in 659. The crosses ‘were’ said to have been set-up a few years earlier in 653 AD.

Both crosses were heavily restored after being virtually destroyed by Puritans in 1614 and then suffering the fate of being used as building material in various structures, in a well, and even as paving-stones in the town’s streets. The carved, sculptured stones that formed the two crosses were eventually very hurridly taken away to various places in Cheshire (by some eminent local notaries) – before being brought back and re-erected in the market-place at Sandbach in September 1816.

In the work of the antiquarian Miss E. Egerton ‘The Saxon Crosses – Sandbach, Cheshire – An Illustrated Description And History’, regarding the destruction of the crosses she says that: “Sir John Crewe took several pieces to Utkinton , and set them up as ornaments in his grounds. When he died they were taken to Tarporley, to the Rectory by Mr. Allen, where Mr. Cole, a distinguished Antiquarian, saw them, made drawings of them, and now they are to be seen in British Museum along with his other M.S.S. Later these stones were found to be deposited at Oulton Park, owned by Sir John Egerton. For a number of years the Crosses remained in a state of mutilation, but as Sandbach grew the inhabitants decided to have the Crosses restored and re-erected.”

But the two sculptured crosses, despite being battered about, are still “outstandingly” well-carved with scenes from the bible and notable moments from royal Mercia in the mid-7th century AD. It is thought highly likely that a third small cross once stood beside the two in the market-place, indeed the pieces of carved stone on the ground beneath St Mary’s church-tower, nearby, may have come from that ‘lost’ cross?

The taller of the two high crosses is almost 16 feet (4.8) metres high, while the smaller one is almost 11 feet (3.3) metres high, although they would originally have been taller if they had not lost their cross-heads. The carvings are in varying sized sections (panels) down each face and, although these carvings do not always quite match-up, generally they are pretty good considering what they had been through!

Sandbach Crosses (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Sandbach Crosses (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

The taller cross is made-up of eight pieces of stone, some more recent, standing upon a large base and a stepped plinth, decorated with biblical scenes in sections (panels). At the top there is a broken, round-shaped  cross-head, now only a quarter of it remains. The east face is apparently the most interesting, maybe because it deals with Christ’s crucifixion, his baptism, and also “his” transfiguration in early Christian motifs. In the centre Christ on the cross with the two Mary’s at his side, and the emblems of the four evangelists formed by the limbs of his cross, while below that Jesus in the manger, with an angel above and an ox at each side. At the top, just below the head, two mutilated figures and, below that the intruments of the passion – a hamer and pair of pincers. Toward the bottom ‘The Annunciation of the Virgin Mary’ and above her the holy ghost in the form of a dove. Below that a circle with the Virgin Mary, St Elizabeth and St John.

The west face shows Christ’s passion: near the top four figures may be the evangelists, while further down Christ is bound with a cord, with a man in front dragging him (by the cord) towards Pilate. At the centre Simon of Cyrene carries the cross, and in front of him a figure carrying a club, or a lance, and just below the middle the Angel Gabriel visits Zacharias (seated) in the temple; the bottom panel shows two dragons. The north face has ‘The Descent of the Holy Ghost’ with a long-tailing dragon; the other panels going downwards have ten Apostles in two columns, each in his own compartment but on a different level, although ‘seemingly’ able to communicate with his neighbour! And the south face is adorned with interlacing, filigree work, and vine-scrolls, and a number of animals trapped inside the scrolls – representing John the Baptist in the Wilderness.

The smaller cross is largerly a 19th century reconstruction, its broken Maltese-style head may have come from a third small cross. It is made up of many panels in which there are numerous creatures and human figures. The north face depicts Paeda’s journey to the north. At the top two dragons with their tongues interlinked, below that two rows of compartments or rooms with a figure inside (walking), some carrying dagers in their hands. While the south face shows more figures, these ones quite well-carved and clear, in arched compartments and holding staves, while at the bottom two angels are looking upwards.

The Royal House Of Mercia.

The Royal House Of Mercia.

The east face consists of five diamond-shaped compartments. At the top a bull (meaning strength) with its head inclined backwards, while below that a human figure inside the diamond-shape with his hands ‘going’ into his sides, maybe representing King Penda, and above and below the king’s noblemen. In the centre of the cross Alchflaeda, princess of Northumbria, with her two attendants. At the bottom King Paeda of Mercia in a diamond-shape with two noblemen. The west face is damaged at the top, but the lower section is very good. Here we have the conversion to Christianity of Paeda with a dove coming to rest on his shoulder, while below him in arches are his many followers, and at the bottom two angels looking up.

Sources:

Anderton, Bill., Guide To Ancient Britain, Foulsham, Slough, Berkshire, 1991.

Burgess, Rodger., Cheshire – Secrets from the Past, Sigma Leisure, Wilmslow, Cheshire, 2000.

Egerton, E, Miss., The Saxon Crosses – Sandbach, Cheshire – An Illustrated Description And History (2nd Edition), Chester, 1934. (Reprinted by: The Rotary Club of Sandbach, December 1986).

English Heritage: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/sandbach-crosses/history-and-research/

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandbach_Crosses

 

 

 


The Calderstones, Allerton, Merseyside

The Calderstones (Photo Credit: Sue Adair (Geograph)

The Calderstones  (Photo Credit: Sue Adair (Geograph)

Os grid reference: SJ 4052 8757. Inside the palm house of the Calderstones Park Botanical Gardens at Allerton, Merseyside (originally in the county of Lancashire), stand 6 prehistoric megaliths known as The Calderstones, or the Caldwaye Stones, which are said to have come from a burial mound in the Allerton area back in the 1840s, although there is a record of them as far back as 1568 when they were being used as boundary markers and, at that time there were only three of them on view; the other three stones were excavated in the mid-19th century. These stones are thought to have ‘once circled’ the low mound which apparently had a burial chamber, or possibly a passage-grave at its centre. They are of interest, also, because they have carvings (rock-art) on them. The six standing stones, as they have always been referred to, were eventually brought to the Palm House in Calderstones Park, having stood near the entrance on Calderstones road (A562) and, opposite the aptly-named Druids Cross road. Liverpool city centre is 1 mile to the east.

The Calderstones, Allerton (1824)

The Calderstones, Allerton (1824)

The six stones range in height between 3-8 feet and probably date from the Bronze-Age. They are made of a hard sandstone. Of great interest are the carvings on them, there are a number of cup-and-ring marks on each one as well as spirals, and some other carvings that are more uncertain. When the mound at Allerton was excavated clay urns containing cremated bones and other artefacts were found, according to Mr W.A.Herdman in his work ‘A Contribution To The History of The Calder Stones near Liverpool’ (1896), adding credence to the probability that this was a burial chamber or passage-grave, but it could well have been a cairn circle due to the very fact that ‘these’ six megaliths had been discovered here; the stones would have almost certainly surrounded the chamber within the low burial mound (tumulus).

In 1845 the six Calder Stones were re-erected at the entrance to the park, and in 1864 they were examined by Sir James Simpson who declared them to be ‘part of a stone circle'; it was Sir James who identified the cup-marks and spirals and also wrote about them in 1865-7. In 1964 the stones were re-housed inside the Palm House (also called the Harthill Greenhouses), and here they stand as a fitting tribute to the antiquarians who discovered them back in the Victorian age.

Sources:

Photo credit:  Sue Adair (Geograph) © Copyright Sue Adair and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Geograph: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/401915

Fields, Kenneth., Lancashire Magic & Mystery, Sigma Leisure, Wilmslow, Cheshire, 1998.

Herdman, W.A., “A Contibution To The History of The Calderstones, near Liverpool”, Proceedings & Transactions of the Liverpool Biological Society, volume 11, 1896.

Simpson, James., “On the cup-cuttings and ring-cuttings on the Calderstones, near Liverpool”, Proceedings & Transactions of the Liverpool Biological Society, Volume 17, 1865.

Please see Paul Bennett’s very interesting, enthusiastic and in-depth site-page on The Northern Antiquarian: http://megalithix.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/calderstones/


Long Stone Of Punchestown, Naas, Co. Kildare, Southern Ireland

Long Stone Of Punchestown.

Long Stone Of Punchestown.

Irish grid reference: N 9171 1656. This very impressive Bronze-Age standing stone known as Long Stone Of Punchestown, or Punchestown Standing Stone, one of the finest examples of its kind, according to ‘Nicholson’s Guide To Ireland,’ stands surrounded by a wooden fence in a field just outside the perifery of Punchestown racecourse, just to the east of Craddockstown road, and south of the town of Naas, in County Kildare. However the monument is not that easy to reach. It is almost certainly the tallest standing stone in Ireland and is similar to some of the standing stones that are to be found in Brittany. In 1931 it fell over but it was re-erected 3 years later and, at the same time a burial cist was found at its base. There are several other standing stones in this area but none of them are as tall as this particular one. The town of Naas is 1 mile to the north, Blessington is 3 miles to the south-east on the R410 road, Kildare is 7 miles to the west on the M7, while the city of Dublin is 5 miles north-east on the N81 and N82 roads.

Today the granite standing stone of Punchestown is only 5.7 metres high (19.6 feet) having originally being a massive 7.1 metres high (23 feet); its circumference at its square-shaped base is 11 feet, but this gradually gets less as the stone tapers away to its shaped-needle point at the top. However beneath the ground the stone is said to be dug in by several feet. In 1931 the stone fell over but was re-erected in 1934 by less than 3 feet because it was considered to be unsafe due to the extra height. Whilst it was being re-erected a cist-type grave was discovered at the base, although no human bones or grave-goods were found. It is said to weigh over 9 tonnes. There are another seven tall standing stones in County Kildare, two of which can each be found respectively:- just along the road at Craddockstown West, and at Furness, near Naas, stands The Forenaghts Great Stone, although neither of these can really rival The Longstone of Punchestown

According to legend, the stone was hurled by the mythical Irish giant Finn MacCumhaill at his wife, who just so happened to be in Punchestown at the time, from the Hill of Allen to the north-east, or from the Hill of Tara, in County Meath, but as was always the case, he missed her! Another legend tells us that a local big-wig Viscount Allen wanted the stone for his mansion garden some 14 miles away, so he had a number oxen made ready and yoked-up for the effort, but they could only pull it out so far, making it lean at a precarious angle; he eventually gave up and left the stone where it had stood for thousands of years. Apparently the Welsh cleric and historian, Gerald of Wales, made mention of the standing stone when he toured southern Ireland in the 12th century.

Sources:

Nicholson – Guide To Ireland, Robert Nicholson Publications Limited, London W1, 1983.

Reader’s Digest Illustrated Guide To Ireland, (First Edition), The Reader’s Digest Association Limited, London W1X, 1992.

http://www.megalithicireland.com/Punchestown%20Longstone.htm

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=135

 

 

 

 


Drombeg Stone Circle, Glandore, Co. Cork, Southern Ireland

Drombeg Stone Circle, Glandore, Co. Cork (Photo credit: Aaro Koskinen, WIkipedia).

Drombeg Stone Circle, Glandore, Co. Cork (Photo credit: Aaro Koskinen, WIkipedia).

Irish grid reference: W 2468 1185. Drombeg Stone Circle (An Drom Beag) is a very attractive ancient monument set in an equally lovely landscape, close to the south coast of County Cork. Originally known as ‘The Druid’s Altar’, the circle is located on a hillside, just west of Cregg Lane, near the minor road (R597) almost two miles east of Glandore in the townland of Drumbeg, south of Reanascreena. Although a few of the circle’s stones have now disappeared it is still a reasonably well-preserved monument, which is said to date from the Bronze-Age (2,000-3,000 BC). 40 metres to the west there are a couple of hut circles, a causeway, and a prehistoric settlement with a cooking area (fulach Fiadh) that ‘may’ have continued to be in use at least up until the 5th century AD? The winter soltice can be viewed from the Drombeg circle, indeed there is a very good alignment here. Reanascreena is 6 miles due north, Rosscarberry is 4 miles east, and Skibbereen is 10 miles to the west.

The Drombeg circle covers an area of around 9 metres (30 feet) and, there are 13 stones made of a hard sandstone standing in what is an almost perfect circle; originally there were 17 stones. Two of the stones very sadly went missing and so small boulders were placed into their socket holes. The heights of the stones varies ‘roughly’ between 1 foot 6 inches high to just over 7 feet. The two axial (portal stones) at the west-side are a little over 7 foot high, while the recumbant axis stone (the altar) at the southwest side is 6 feet 3 inches long and has two oval-shaped cup-marks, one having a concentric ring surrounding it. This particular stone has a levelled top which is slightly bevelled, making the surface angled down towards the interior of the circle, and is held in place with wedging stones, according to the 2000 edition of the booklet ‘The Stone Circles of Cork & Kerry’ by Jack Roberts. From this stone the rays of the setting sun fall at the winter soltice (Eyres & Kerrigan ‘ Ireland – Landmarks, Landscapes & Hidden Treasures’ 2008). Originally there was a burial pit in the centre of the circle, but this is now covered-over with chippings and gravel, just as it was originally. The axial orientation or azimuth of this circle is recorded as being: 228 degrees and near to 225.50 (Roberts ‘The Stone Circles of Cork & Kerry’).

An Archaeological excavation by Prof. E.M. Fahy in the late 1950s examined the construction methods of the circle in some detail, but a more interesting find was a burial pit at the centre of the circle. The author Jack Roberts in his work ‘The Stone Circles of Cork & Kerry’ says: “A burial pit was found near the centre of the circle which contained a broken pot and some cremated bone. Other burial pits in and around the circle were found to contain strange mixtures of broken stone and pottery all as carefully deposited as the human burial in the circle. These curious burials were found at other circles excavated in the area and it appears to be a characteristic of the rites attached to the circles. The interior of the circle was originally paved with small flat pebbles and appears to have been kept clear of growth for some considerable period after construction and Fahy remarked upon the careful tidiness of the site, a factor which accentuated the sanctity of the site.” There may have been a single standing stone at the centre of the circle, but by the turn of the century this had disappeared.

The author Jack Roberts ‘The Stone Circles of Cork & Kerry’  referring to the winter solitice alignment at Drombeg says: “It is possible that a deeply etched mark on the north-side Entrance Stone is the marker for such observations and the stamped earth at the Entrance also contributes to the possibility that this is a position that the observer would have stood to make the annual observations.

40 metres to the west stands an ancient settlement that could date from the Iron-Age, if not earlier, but the most interesting aspect to this site is the classic “cooking place” known as a (filuch fiadh). There are two hut circles that are interconnected, and a stone trough with what would originally have been a well, all being linked together by a stone causeway. Water collected from the well and, also food stuffs including meat, would have been boiled and cooked with heated stones in the trough. The causeway would have enabled the ancient people to come to this site over rough, boggy ground. This cooking area and settlement as we said earlier may have been in use during the Iron-Age and, perhaps up until the more recent Celtic period (the Dark Ages).

Sources:

Photo Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drombeg_stone_circle

Roberts, Jack., The Stone Circles of Cork & Kerry,  Bandia Publishing, Drumfin, Co. Sligo, Ireland, 2000.

Eyres, Kevin & Kerrigan, Michael., Ireland – Landmarks, Landscapes & Hidden Treasures, Flame Tree Publishing, Fulham, London, United Kingdom, 2008.

Reader’s Digest, Illustrated Guide To Ireland, (First Edition), The Reader’s Digest Association Limited, London, 1992.


2 Comments

St Tudclud’s Church, Penmachno, Conwy (Bwrdeistref Sirol), North Wales

The Carausius Stone, Penmachno, Gwynedd

The Carausius Stone, Penmachno, Gwynedd

Os grid reference: SH 7899 5059. In the village of Penmachno, Conwy, stands St Tudclud’s Church, a rather unassuming Victorian building which houses a collection of Romano-British memorial stones. But these stones are now known to be of great historical importance with regard to Wales at the end of Roman occupation (the early 5th century AD). One of these stones recalls Carausius, a young Irishman who migrated to Wales and proclaimed himself emperor of the Celtic west, the other stone is in memory of the cousin of a magistrate, perhaps the first-known person with the title of a court official. The church is located on Llewelyn street, and is dedicated to the little-known Celtic saint, Tudclud, also known as Tyddud. A Roman camp stood close to where the church is – now alas little more than a few grassy earthworks in a field. The village lies 3 miles to the south-west of the A5 road, 4 miles south of the Conwy Valley and Bettws-y-Coed, 8 miles east of Pentrefoelas, and 12 miles north-east of Ffestiniog.

In the church of St Tudclud there are five very interesting inscribed memorial stones which date from the late 5th to early 6th century. In particular two of these stones, one recalling Carausius, and the other in memory of Cantiorix are of very specific historic importance. The Carausius Stone is a flat-shaped grave-cover inscribed in Latin to the memory of CARAUSIUS HICIACIT INHOCCON GERIESLA PIDUM or ‘Here lies Carausius in this heap of stones.’ Also inscribed on this stone are the Greek letters “X” and “P” the first two letters of the word Christ (Christos), which here form a four-rayed cross known as a Chi-Rho monagram. Legend tells us that Carausius, also known as Crair or Caron, was the hero of the Britons during the 3rd century AD. He proclaimed ‘himself’ King and Emperor of the Celtic west, and stood up to the might of the Roman army who, in turn, regarded him as ‘something of an annoyance.’ A church was dedicated to him at Tregaron, Gwynedd, because he was regarded as a saint in this part of the Celtic fringe.

The Cantiorix Stone, Penmachno, Gwynedd

The Cantiorix Stone, Penmachno, Gwynedd

Another interesting stone has a Latin inscription (on both faces) recalling Cantiorix the cousin of Maglos. It reads: CANTIORI HIC IACIT VENEDOTTI CIVES FUIT CONSOBRENAS MAGLI MAGISTRATI or ‘Cantiorix lies here, a citizen of Gwynedd, and cousin of Maglos the magistrate,’ The Magistrate Stone was found at Beddau Gwyr Ardudwy near Ffestiniog. It is thought to be the only known example of a person being linked to that of a court official and almost certainly dates from the 5th century. A third stone has the inscription ORIA HIC IACIT which simply means: ‘Oria lies here,’ while a fourth stone reads: FILI AVITORI INTEMPORE IUSTINI CONSULIS or ‘The son of Avitorus in the time of Justinus the Consul,’ which perhaps relates to a consul of Constantinople in the year 540? A large, square-shaped stone has two letters “L” and “R” carved onto it. A couple of these stones were found in the fabric of the church when it was being rebuilt in 1856, but they may originally have come from the nearby Roman camp. The font is thought to be 12th century.

A sixth gravestone is of the 13th century and commemorates prince Iorwerth ab Owain Gwynedd (Iorwerth Drwyndwn), who died in 1174 and was the eldest son of Owain, King of Gwynedd. And another slightly more recent slab-stone, maybe from the 8th century, has only an inscribed cross upon it. The patron saint of this church is Tudclud, or Tyddud, a 6th century monk who was said to have been the son of Seithenyn, King of Cantref-y-Gwaelod (the Lowland Hundred), the drowned kingdom off the Cardigan coast. Not much is known about him other than he founded a monastery here at Penmachno and was the brother of St Arwystyl, who was a monk at Bangor Fawr, and St Collen of Llangollen. There is a legend that says King Seithenyn was so drunk one night that he forgot to close the sea-gates and, by the morning his kingdom had been completely ‘lost to the sea,’ according to Nigel Pennick in his very interesting book ‘Lost Cities And Sunken Lands’ 1997.

Sources:

Barber, Chris., More Mysterious Wales, Paladin Books, London, 1987.

Gregory, Donald., Country Churchyards In Wales, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Llanrwst, Wales, 1991.

Gregory, Donald., Wales – Land Of Mystery And Magic, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Llanrwst, Wales, 1999.

Holder, Christopher., Wales: An Archaeological Guide, Faber & Faber, London. 1978.

Pennick, Nigel., Lost Cities And Sunken Lands, (Revised & Updated 2nd Edition), Capall Bann Publishing, Chieveley, Berks, 1997.

The Quest for Arthur’s Britain, edited by Geoffrey Ash, Paladin Books, St Albans, Herts, 1976.

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=16831


1 Comment

St Winifred’s Well, Woolston, Shropshire

St Winifred's Well at Woolston (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

St Winifred’s Well at Woolston (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Os grid reference: SJ 3225 2435. In the centre of the little village of Woolston, Shropshire, a few miles east of the Welsh border, is St Winifred’s Well, which rather curiously flows out from beneath a wooden building. This cottage was apparently once in use as the local court-house! The well has been a place of pilgrimage since the 12th century when the saint’s relics were rested here on their way to Shrewsbury Abbey, although it has never been as famous as the other St Winifred’s well at Holywell, Flintshire, but like that one this well was also built with the endowments of Lady Margaret Beaufort in the early 1500s. It was said to have had miraculous healing qualities. The place-name Woolston is derived from Walla-ton and Wella-ton with the ‘s’ added later, which both include the well in early reference, and probably meaning ‘well/spring beside a farmstead.’ The Welsh border is 4 miles to the west, Oswestry 4 miles north, and Shrewsbury 9 miles south on the A5 road.

The holy well of St Winifred at Woolston seems to have been a place of pilgrimage and healing since the year 1138 when the saint’s relics were being brought by monks from Gwytherin in north Wales to Shrewsbury abbey where they were placed with those of her uncle, St Beuno. But Woolston seems to have become known due to the number of pilgrims being healed there after the saint’s relics were rested on their journey to Shrewsbury, though the spring was almost certainly there long before that; and so could it have had another dedication before the arrival of St Winifred! The half-timbered building which the well flows from beneath is said to date from the 16th-17th century and may have replaced an earlier chapel, according to Janet & Colin Bord in their book ‘Sacred Waters’ 1985. The authors go on to say: “Through the gate a path soon reaches the well cottage, and the well itself and the pool into which it flows are behind the cottage. The various stone troughs through which the water flows could be dammed up to form bathing pools.

‘Source – The Holy Wells Journal’ Autumn 1994 has some interesting information on this well in its section called ‘The Other St Winifred’s Wells’. It says this is: “a rare example of a well covered by a secular building, in this case a half-timbered cottage originally used as a court-house. The present sixteenth or seventeenth-century building may have succeeded a chapel…. the well itself and the pool into which it flows are seen behind the cottage.” The Journal goes on to say: “that the house replaced a medieval well-chapel is in fact far from certain; and even the patronage of St Winifred is atested only from the early 19th century.” And it says: “Woolston Well, dedicated, according to Hulbert’s History of Salop (1838) to St Winifred. Some have sought to explain this dedication (now locally forgotten) by supposing that the relics of St Winifred may have rested here on their way from Gwytherin in North Wales to Shrewsbury Abbey, in the twelfth century; but it is easily accounted for by the fact that certain small stones spotted with indelible red marks singularly resembling bloodstains are occasionally found in the water, which have obviously led to the former localizing here of the legend of the well which sprang up on the site of St.Winifred’s decapitation.” However, it is now known that these red spots on stones is a type of algae – the very same algae can be seen at Winifred’s other well at Holywell, Flintshire.

The water of the well at Woolston is known to have had the power to heal broken bones and cure bruises and wounds, among other things, much like at Holywell. Of course, most of us know the “Legend” about St Winifred being beheaded by a local chieftain called Caradog at Treffynnon, having refused his advances to her. But she was healed by her uncle, St Beuno, afterwhich she became abbess of a convent at Gwytherin in north Wales. When she died in 650 AD her body was placed inside a church at that place; and in the Middle Ages her feast-day was held on 3rd November.

Sources:

Bord, Janet & Colin., Sacred Waters, Paladin Books, London, 1986.

Hulbert, Charles., The History And Description Of The County of Salop, 1837-8.

Hulse, Tristan-Gray & Fry, Roy., Source – The Holy Wells Journal., Vol 1, Cefn, St Asaph, Autumn 1994.

Spencer, Ray., A Guide to the Saints Of Wales and the West Country, Llanerch Enterprises, Felinfach, Lampeter, 1990.

Photo Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woolston,_north_Shropshire

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 104 other followers