The Journal of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland

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Drumtroddan Carved Rocks, Port William, Dumfries And Galloway, Scotland

Drumtroddan Cup and Ring Marked Rocks (Photo credit: Roger W. Haworth - Geograph)

Drumtroddan Cup and Ring Marked Rocks. Photo credit: Roger W. Haworth (Geograph)

Os grid reference: NX3626 4474. Some 2 miles to the north-east of Port William, Dumfries and Galloway, are three outcrops of rocks known as Drumtroddan Carved Rocks, that are said to have been carved in the Bronze-Age. These prehistoric carvings are located 200 metres south of Drumtroddan farm to the east of the B7085. White Loch of Myrton is just to the south; one of the carved rocks is located in a wooden area close by. And a further 400 metres south-east of Drumtrodden rock carvings there’s an alignment of three prehistoric stones, one of which lies on the ground. The town of Whithorn is 6 miles east on the B7021 and Glenluce is 12 miles west on the A747.

There are said to be between 80-90 well-defined cup-and-ring carvings spread out on the three natural rock faces, the majority being tiny or small, well-prounounced cups with medium and larger concentric rings, with some linear lines (grooves) linking one to another; and there are spiral deigns and other curious (unknown) symbols. The cups have either two, three, five or six rings. Although simple in their design, these carvings are very ingenious. But some might see the carvings as graffiti, or scriblings, though they were, in fact, very carefully and accurately carved at the time – some 4,000 years ago. They remind us, perhaps, of when a stone is dropped into a pool of still water and then we get the ripple effect with circles getting bigger as they move outwards. Another rock with cups-and-rings can be seen 1.4km to the east at Gr NX3776 4438.

The authors Janet and Colin Bord in their book Mysterious Britain,1984, look to the author John Foster Forbes writing in 1939 with regard to Drumtroddan. He believed that “There is an affinity between these cups and the nature of the stars. A star is a generator and transmitter of Cosmic Energy in spiral form. These cups could be used as micro-cosmic examples of spiral-staral energies.”

400 metres to the east (Gr NX3645 4429) an alignment of three stones (fenced off), two are up-right but one, the central stone, has  fallen down. These stones were probably placed here at an earlier date than the rock carvings, but no doubt they are in some way connected. The two standing stones are around 10 foot high and there is a space of 40 feet between each stone. It is thought that a fourth stone stood on the alignment which is orientated NE to SW. The south-west stone now leans at an angle out of true vertical.


Photo copyright: Roger W. Haworth (Geograph). This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

Bord, Janet & Colin., Mysterious Britain, Paladin (Granada Publishing Ltd), London W1, 1984.

Ancient Monuments – Scotland – Illustrated Guide, Vol VI, H.M.S.O, Edinburgh, 1959.

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Hope Churchyard Cross, Derbyshire

Churchyard Cross, Hope, Derbyshire (Photo credit: Geograph)

Churchyard Cross, Hope, Derbyshire (Photo credit: Geograph)

Os grid reference: SK1721 8347. At the south-east side of the Derbyshire village of Hope stands the 14th century church of St Peter and the Hope Churchyard Cross, a late 9th century Saxon cross-shaft. There is also a medieval cross in the churchyard. The church is located on Station road at the east side of the village close by Pinder Road and, just a short distance to the east the river Noe flows into Peakshole Water. And 1 mile further east in The Hope Valley at Brough the scant earthworks of a Roman fort can be seen. The village of Castleton is 2 miles west on the A6187, Bamford is 3 miles to the north-east, and Buxton is 6 miles to the south-west on the A6 road.

This 6 foot 6 inch sandstone cross-slab stands at the south-side of the church and is now set into a more modern square base. Said to date from the time of King Alfred, it was found in two pieces after being hidden-away in the wall of a nearby school-house until 1858, having lain there for safety since the Civil War. It is richly carved albeit a little weather-worn. All four sides have carvings in seperate panels, the best side being the east which has three panels; at the top there is knotwork, while in the middle two figures are holding up a large staff (or a cross), the lower panel having two interlaced rings surrounded by foliage. The west face is also exellent. Again there are three panels, the top shows a figure holding the cross above his shoulders, the central segmental-headed panel has two saints embracing, while the bottom one has three double concentric rings with double cords crossing ‘diagonally’ and interlinking over the rings. The north face has just two panels with snakes biting each other (top) and the bottom having four-cord plait design with interlacing; there is interlacing composed of figure of eight knots on the south face. Sadly the cross-head is long gone. Close to this is The Eccles Cross, dating from the Middle Ages.

Near the north door there is a medieval calvary on five octagonal steps with a pillar sundial on top of an eight-sided base. This base has a square-shaped hole which could have accommodated an earlier, Saxon cross, although the whole thing is more akin to a market or wayside cross? Inside the church there are two nicely carved medieval grave-slabs (in the chancel) with crosses and various symbols of outdoor life, namely hunting horns and arrows suggesting that these belonged to two officials of the Royal Forest of the Peak. These grave-slabs were made in the 13th century and came from the building prior to the present church. On the north wall there are a number of “ugly” gargoyles, reflecting our pagan past, two of which may be the horned god of the Celts, Cernunos. According to the author David Clarke in his book ‘Ghosts & Legends of the Peak District, 1991, St Peters “is the oldest recorded Christian place of worship in the northern Peak District, and in Saxon times it was the focus of one of the largest parishes in England, stretching from the Derwent woodlands in the north to Buxton, Tideswell and the Padley gorge.”

About a mile to the east at Brough, near Bradwell, in the Hope Valley are the earthworks of the Roman fort of ANAVIO. But there is little to see now apart from some low, grassy banks. Two Roman roads ran from the fort, one going to Buxton, the other to Melandra Castle near Glossop and Templeborough, near Rotherham.



Photo:  © Copyright Ashley Dace and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Sharpe, Neville. T., Crosses Of The Peak District, Landmark Publishing Limited, Ashbourne, Derbyshire, 2002.

Clarke, David., Ghosts & Legends of the Peak District, Jarrold Publishing, Norwich, 1991.

Bunting, Richard., Anglo-Saxon and Viking Derbyshire, J. H. Hall & Sons Limited, Derby, 1993.


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The Devil’s Den, Marlborough, Wiltshire

The Devil's Den, Wiltshire (Dixon-Scott)

The Devil’s Den, Wiltshire (Dixon-Scott)

Os grid reference: SU1521 6965. In a field on Fyfield Down 1 mile east of Marlborough, Wiltshire, stands the prehistoric burial chamber known as The Devil’s Den or Clatford Bottom Stone, a Neolithic monument from 5,000 years ago that is also known as a Dolmen (stone table). To reach the site head north on the footpath from the A4 (Bath Road) opposite Clatford village and near the “private” entrance to Manton House Estate, then after about 950 metres via west to the monument on Fyfield Hill which is in a little valley. They own much of the land on this side of the road, so keep to the footpath if possible. The town of Marlborough is 1 mile east on the A4, while Avebury is 2 miles to the west. Nearby, to the east stands an ancient mound which has given its name to the town of Marlborough. You may well come across some crop circles in the fields around The Devil’s Den! Don’t be surprised!

The Devil's Den, Wiltshire (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

The Devil’s Den, Wiltshire (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

The Devil’s Den burial chamber stands upon a low mound that was originally part of a long barrow – which is still visible near the south-east edge of the field in the form of a recumbant “outlier” stone; the barrow would have been 230 feet in length. So what we see here today is almost certainly a reconstruction from the early 1920s – the stones having fallen down. The large capstone now only stands on two supporting stones, the other upright lies recumbant, though there might have been another two or three stones here long ago. Originally this burial chamber would have been covered over by an earthen mound but, over time this has been either ploughed away, or eroded away by the weather. Recent evidence ‘suggests’ it might never have had an earthen covering? The large, chunky capstone is said to weigh 17 tons or more and to have at least two cup markings on it. And there is a legend concerning these cup-marks. A number of well-respected antiquarians have visited the site including the great William Stukeley in the early 1740s; he called this ancient monument a kist-vaen (cist).

According to local tradition “if water is poured into the hollows on the capstone, a demon will come along in the night and drink it.” But there are many legends and myths associated with the devil around these ancient sites, most of them should be taken with a pinch of salt over the left shoulder! It might be that the devil was considered the only one who could build such a monument, but we know different. In the grounds of Marlborough College (SU1836 6867) at the north-east side of the town - a stepped grassy mound is thought to be where Merlin the Magician lies buried, but infact, it is Maerl’s Mound and the town’s name is derived from this. One or two places in Wales migh also claim to have Merlin buried in their neck of the woods! It was probably, originally, a prehistoric burial mound or barrow pre-dating Merlin which in the Middle Ages had a small castle built over it. Though Maerl or Maerla could well be ‘one and the same’ as Merlin?


Romantic Britain, ed. by Tom Stephenson, Odhams Press Limited, Long Acre, London WC2, 1939.

AA Illustrated Guide To Britain, Drive Publications (Reprint), London WC1, 1982.

The Northern Antiquarian:’s_Den,marlborough,wiltshire/photos/the-devils-den-1901_47674/



Roman Bath, Westminster, London, WC2

Roman Bath, The Strand, London. (D. Mcleish)

Roman Bath, The Strand, London. (D. Mcleish)

Os grid reference TQ3085 8087. In the stone-vaulted cellar of number 5 Strand Lane off The Strand, Westminster, in a narrow alley-way close to King’s College, and next to Surrey Street, London WC2, can be found a very well-preserved Roman Bath, dating from the 2nd century AD, that is now regarded as a notable and historical reminder from the Roman city of Londinium (London), but now a curiosity of hidden-London. The bath is still in use and has been in one way or another since the late 16th or early 17th century, having been lost for hundreds of years after the Romans departed at the beginning of the 5th century AD. It seems the bath had belonged to a grand Roman villa which had stood on this site in the early days of the Roman occupation, probably the 2nd century AD, and which had stood on a raised area of land outside the city walls, overlooking the river Thames. The site is near to Charing Cross underground station and Covent Garden. The Victoria Embankment is just a short walk to the south.

The Roman Bath on the south side of the Strand is in a well-preserved condition considering its age; and is under 5 feet (1.5 metres) below street level, measuring 16 feet in length by over 6 feet in width and nearly 5 feet deep. The plunge bath as it is often called is still fed by a spring of cold water from St Clement’s Well just as it was in Roman times and, also more recently in the 17th century. Its stonework consists of bricks that are 10 inches long by 3 inches wide, all solidly packed together and water-tight. The stonework surrounding the Roman bath is very grand and it certainly looks ‘Roman’ but is it? However, the ugly iron grate-covers at the sides do not do it any justice, though they serve their modern-day purpose as inspection covers!

Roman Baths, The Strand, London (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Roman Baths, The Strand, London (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

In 1612 King James I had the Roman bath fully restored from whence it had been the property of the Earls of Essex in the late 16th century; he then continued to patronise it – as did many other royals including Anne of Denmark, his wife, and a number of royal courtiers. Then in the 18th century it was frequented by London’s wealthy and famous. In 1784 John Pinkerton the Scottish antiquarian described it as “a fine antique bath in the cellar of a house in Norfolk street in the Strand.” Norfolk Street no longer exists in name. At this time it belonged to the Earl of Arundel whose house and gardens were adjacent to the bath. In 1792 the antiquarian William Weddle Mp died suddenly after taking a plunge in the Roman bath. The famous author Charles Dickens visited the bath and then wrote about it in his book ‘David Copperfield’ recalling, perhaps, that master Copperfield had “many a cold plunge in the said bath.” The bath fell in to disuse in the late Victorian period but in the early part of the 20th century it was again restored to what we see today.

The bath is open to the general public one day a week (by appointment) and is today maintained by The City of Westminster on behalf of the National Trust. Roman artefacts have been discovered close by including: a sarcophagus and numerous items of pottery and coins, all dating from the Roman period. In September 2011 another Roman bath was found by railway workers on the south-side of the Thames at the corner of London Bridge street. A few historians have argued that the bath only dates from the 17th century, being built as a water feature or spa-bath by the Earl of Arundel, but this is now generally considered not to be the case – and so the thinking is that the bath is indeed Roman.



Romantic Britain, edt. by Tom Stephenson, Odhams Press Limited, London, WC2, 1939.


Ysbyty Cynfyn Stone Circle, Powys, Wales

St John's Church, Ysbyty Cynfyn (Photo credit: Geograph)

St John’s Church, Ysbyty Cynfyn (Photo credit: Geograph)

Os grid reference: SN7520 7910. The little hamlet of Ysbyty Cynfyn is located in The Valley of Afon Rheidol (river Rheidol) between Devil’s Bridge and Ponterwyd in the parish of Llanbadarn Fawr, in the shadow of the great Rheidol and Plynlimon Ranges, western Powys. Its 19th century church and churchyard stand inside a prehistoric stone circle; the actual churchyard itself is partly circular which strongly suggests this is, and has been, a sacred site for thousands of years, and is often referred to by historians and antiquarians alike as Ysbyty Cynfyn Stone Circle. In the middle ages a monastic hospice run by the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem stood on the site of the present-day church, which is dedicated to St John the Baptist, though there isn’t much to see of that today – but hence we still have the place-name “Ysbyty” meaning ‘hospittum’ (hospice). The hospice cared for pilgrims making their way to St David’s. This must undoubtedly be seen as a something of a compromise between the Christian Church and the pagan world of standing stones, temples, ritual and magic – something the church had wanted to banish, but here the two ‘quietly’ came together and so, we have a church within an actual pagan stone circle, even if there’s not a great deal to see, only five stones remaining, today. Or could it be that the stones were just too big to move so the churchyard wall was built around them! Aberystwyth is 12 miles to the west on the A44 and Devil’s Bridge is 2 miles south on the A4120 road.

Churchyard at Ysbyty Cynfyn (Photo Credit Penny Mayes, Geograph)

Churchyard at Ysbyty Cynfyn, Powys.  (Photo Credit: Geograph)

Ysbyty Cynfyn church is located about 80 metres west of the A4120 road, beside Temple farm. Today only five stones remain of the former circle set on a low earthen bank that is said to date from the Bronze-Age, around 1,500 BC; however the remaining stones seem to blend in well with the churchyard wall, indeed two thin slab-stones now act as gateposts at the eastern entrance and, there is at least one recorded account that says there is a faint ‘Christianised’ carving on one of these? A large lump of quartz-stone on the top of the wall next to the gateposts looks interesting! The other two stones, also at the eastern-side, are very big in many ways both in height and girth, but whether they are in their originals positions is open to question? Two large, quite bulky standing stones fit ‘nicely’ into the wall surrounding the churchyard, while a third one stands at the back of the church (north-side) adjoining the wall and gravestones and is 3.4 metres (11 feet) high and about half as much in width; this particular stone would seem to be in its original position. Almost without a doubt there were other standing stones here long-ago, forming a proper circle, the site of what may have been, perhaps, a pagan temple used by druids for the purposes of ritual and magic. There are apparently a few ‘lost’ recumbant stones in the nearby fields – maybe these came from the stone circle?

In the little church of St John there’s a curious carved wooden font (1850) and on the wall a brass plaque in memory of local men who fell in the 2nd world war. The church dates from 1827. Over by the carpark there is a round-shaped well with a ‘warning notice’ saying: “this water is not for drinking.” Could this well have been used by the knights of St John and did it once have healing properties? To the north of the church upon the Rheidol, opposite Bryn Bras, are the remains of an old lead mine that was called Temple Mine and, 1 mile to the west close to Parson’s Bridge, at Dolgamfa, a Bronze-Age cairn circle can be seen.


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

Gregory, Donald., Wales Before 1066 – A Guide, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Llanrwst, Gwynedd, 1992.

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

Barber, Chris., Mysterious Wales, Paladin (Grafton Books), London, 1987.

Photo Credit: © Copyright Penny Mayes and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Photo Credit:© Copyright Penny Mayes and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

St James’ Church, Avebury, Wiltshire

Os grid reference: SU0991 6990. In the village of Avebury close to the manor house and just 100 metres west of the famous stone circle, stands St James’ Church, a building that is of Anglo-Saxons origins. Located on Church Walk, just north of High Street, in the centre of this charming village but, outside of the pagan stone circle. Christianity came late to Avebury - due, perhaps, to the allure of the 3 pagan stone circles standing within a sizable circular enclosure, covering 24 acres, 1,400 feet across, and nearly 1 mile in circumference which virtually surrounds the village, its grassy bank being upto 5 metres high and the ditch about 25 metres wide. The stone circles date from the late Neolithic between 2,900 to 2,500 BC. When Christianity did finally arrive here in about 1000 AD the people were ‘still very slow’ in adapting from their heathen ways to something much more profound, fulfilling and everlasting. The church houses a beautiful medieval tub font which is carved with a superb dragon, a depiction of paganism (the Devil) being stamped on and a new religion, Christianity, being heralded in. There is also a fragment of an Anglo-Saxon cross and a number of other ‘quite delightful’ architectural things to see inside the church. Avebury is 6 miles east of Marlborough on the A4 (Bath Road) and 8 miles from the town of Chippenham in the west, again on the A4 road. Stonehenge is 17 miles south, close to the A303 road, near Amesbury.

St James parish church is largely Norman although there are some earlier, Saxon features, in particular the two round-headed windows in the Saxon nave wall, while the three rather odd-looking circular, porthole windows at a higher level, are late Anglo-Saxon or perhaps early Norman? There’s also a very interesting squint hole. The church was probably added to in the 12th century. Also, there is a partly restored 15th century rood loft, but sadly the rood itself was destroyed during the atrocities of the Reformation. At the north-west corner embedded in the wall part of an Anglo-Saxon cross-shaft with carvings. The tower with its stair-turret is 15th century Perpendicular. At the south-side a superb Norman doorway which, according to the author Simon Jenkins in his delightful book ‘England’s Thousand Best Churches’, 2000, “offers a lovely composition of foliated capitals and a zigzag arch beneath an empty saint’s plinth.” But the best antiquity here is undoubtedly the 12th century tub font with its beautiful early Norman carvings. Restoration to St James’ was carried out in the 19th century.

The font dates from the early 12th century and is exquisitly carved with a Christian figure that appears to be ‘stamping out paganism’ and heralding in the new religion with “one” eternal God. A bishop or ecclesiastic wearing a “short skirt” is depicted with his crozier in one of the intersecting arches stamping on a winged serpent (dragon) with a long never-ending curling tail which, at the same time is biting his foot or cloak; this is an obvious reference to the battle between the established ‘serpent-power’ worship of the pre-Christian temple at Avebury, and the new Christianity, according to Janet & Colin Bord in their book Mysterious Britain, 1984. Quite clearly it can be seen as ‘the Devil’ getting his final come-uppance and Christianity securing its position as the true and everlasting faith. There is a second serpent with a long curling tail. The font is also adorned around the bottom with columns that have bands or cords shooting out from their tops to form the intersecting ‘domed’ arches.


Janet & Colin Bord, Mysterious Britain, Paladin (Granada Publishing Ltd)., London, 1984.

Jones, Lawrence E. & Tricker, Roy., County Guide To English Churches, Countryside Books, Newbury, Berkshire, 1992.

Darvil, Timothy., Ancient Britain, AA Publishing Division, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 1988.

Anderton, Bill., Guide To Ancient Britain, W. Foulsham & Co Ltd., London, 1991.

Ashe, Geoffrey., Mythology Of The British Isles, Methuen, London, 1993.

Click on for images of the church

Click on for images of the church

Gavrinis Tumulus, Gulf of Morbihan, Brittany, France

Entrance to Gavrinus Cairn (Photo Copyright: Wikipedia)

Entrance to Gavrinus Cairn (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Latitude 47, 571835 Longitude -2,898588. In the Gulf of Morbihan 1 mile south of Larmor-Baden in the Bretagne-Morbihan region of Brittany is Gavrinus Island (Ile de Gavrinis) with, what is considered, a world-famous prehistoric burial mound called Gavrinis Tumulus. The burial chamber at the south-side of the island is ‘variously’ referred to as a tumulis or cairn, dating back to the Neolithic 5,000 to 6,000 years. It is said by those historians that are proficient in this type of ancient monument to be the best preserved passage-grave in Brittany, and maybe Europe, if not the world, though there are other “equally good” burial mounds in Europe, one in particular being Newgrange in Southern Ireland. Gavrinis means Isle of Goats. To reach the island of Gavrinis you need to get a boat from the embarking point in the port of Larmor-Baden, but it’s only a short trip of 10 minutes! The town of Vannes is some 12 miles to the north-east on the D136 and D101 roads.

Gavrinis Decorated Stones (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Gavrinis Decorated Stones (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

The great mound of Gavrinis measures 23 feet in height (7 metres) and is 328 feet in circumference (100 metres). The diameter of the mound is between 50 and 60 metres (164 feet to 196 feet). It was built around 3,500 BC and was made of earth and large stones that are piled on to the top of the burial mound. Deep inside the mound a gallery (passage) 43 feet long is covered over by stones - with 50 slabs, 23 of these are supporting slabs on top of which there are 9 capstones or tables, leading to a square-shaped burial chamber. The stone supports are richly adorned with beautiful carvings, including pattern-work, symbolism, animals and what could be a human figure – also zigzag decoration, lozenge shapes, abstract circles, axes, arcs, and snake-lines. Undoutedly, this was a funery tomb for some high-ranking person, maybe a chieftain or a king; the ceiling above is made of a large (single) stone-slab measuring 12 feet (4 metres) long by 9 feet (3 metres) wide and weighing upto 17 tons, which rests upon 8 more stone supports standing in a rectangle. The entrance (portal) is built with large slabs, two at the sides and one at the top, while the sides (faces) of the mound are stepped or tiered with thousands of large lumps of stone, not to disimilar perhaps to the pyramids at Giza in Egypt! There are some ‘spectacular’ panoramic views to be had from the tumulus of Gavrinis of the Gulf of Morbihan and the surrounding areas for many miles around, in every direction!

Gavrinis was discovered back in 1832 and excavations began in 1835. In more recent years, the 1960s through to the 1980s there have been further excavations and, in recent years (2011) the decorated stone slabs from inside the chamber have been ‘thoroughly’ researched. A few miles to the south is the tiny island of Er Lanic and two stone circles (together) in the form of a figure-eight – half of the circle now being submerged in the sea. To the north of Gavrinis Island, near Auray, stands the burial chamber or tumulus of Er Grah and, near that close to Locmariquer is Les Table des Marchand. The renowned archaeologist and writer, Aubrey Burl, visited Gavrinis and ‘seems’ to have been “very enthusiastic” about what he had seen of the cairn. Burl was later to describe this and other ancient monuments in his book ‘Megalithic Brittany,’ 1988. Burl said of Gavrinis “It is for its art that Gavrinis is famous.”


Michelin Tourist Guide ‘Brittany’, Michelin Tyres Plc, London, 1983.

Insight Guides ‘Brittany’, Ed: Brian Bell, (First Edition) APA Publications (HK) Limited, 1994.

Burl, Aubrey., Megaliths of Brittany, Thames & Hudson, London, 1985.


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