The Journal of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland

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Haken’s Mound, Preesall, Lancashire

Preesall War Memorial on the B5270 Lancaster Road.

Preesall War Memorial on the B5270 Lancaster Road.

   OS grid reference SD 3601 4822. This is one of those strange curiosities that do seem to crop up every so often. Haken’s Mound, also known as ‘Haakon’s Mound’ and ‘The Mount’ is, in fact, the Preesall war memorial near St Oswald’s church on the B5270 Lancaster road. The large, grassy mound always has well-tendered flowers at its entrance and up to the monument, and on top of the large mound there is a substantial memorial cross which commemorates the fallen of the two World Wars. According to ‘the’ local legend and, to some extent “myth” Haken or Haakon, an early 10th century Viking chieftain, who settled half a mile or so up the road at Hakensall in Knott-End-On-Sea, was buried inside the mound that is today known as ‘The Mount”. Whether there is any real truth in this I do not know – we will probably never know. The war memorial is located halfway between St Oswald’s church and the B5377 Stalmine turning, while the very pretty sea-side village of Knott End is half a mile in the opposite direction along Lancaster road.

   The story goes that: At some point in the early 10th century AD Haken, an invading Viking chieftain, sailed up the Wyre estuary (maybe in a longboat) and, just inland between Fleetwood and Knott End, founded a settlement at a place now called Hackensall – today the medieval Hackensall Hall on Whinny Lane (OS grid ref: SD 2874 5394) stands more or less on that site. The original hall (a defensive moated building) was built in 1190 – the building there today is of 1656; it was built by the Fleetwood family. In the 19th century the hall was greatly renovated by Sir James Bourne. According to “the” Legend, it is said from his settlement Haken laid siege to the area, pillaging and murdering, but I feel that here we have much embellishment added to the actual legend itself – and one “must” be very wary of this fact. Conversely, it may be that Haken was simply a seafaring Norseman who had come to the area and wanted to lead a quiet, unassuming life there.

The Mount at Preesall, Lancashire.

The Mount at Preesall, Lancashire.

    As to whether Haken or Haakon was still a pagan I don’t know, but I suppose it’s possible that he was a Christian, or had recently become one? After his death this Viking chieftain was buried nearby and a large mound built over his grave. Today this burial mound near St Oswald’s church, Preesall, is locally called ‘The Mount’ or ‘Haakon’s Mound’ and it still looks very impressive, made more so ‘perhaps’ by the war memorial cross standing on top. Alas, today, there are no visible signs (earthworks) of Haken’s settlement at Hackensall, only Hackensall road and Hackensall Hall are reminders. But we will never know archaeologically whether the Viking chieftain lies buried within the mound, due to the fact that it is protected as a war memorial.

    There are a few historians that have tried to link King Cnut, himself a Norseman, with Knott End with regards to the meaning of the place, but it seems that that is ‘not’ the case as most tend to agree “now” that it takes its name from a “knot”- a hillock that is located above the estuary. This knot or hillock probably refers to the golfcourse above the shoreline at Knott End, just to the north-west of Hackensall Hall. A ghostly horse (boggart) is ‘said’ to haunt the hall.

   In the delightful little book ‘The Lancashire Coastal Way And The Wyre Way’, by Ian & Krysia Brodie, we are enlightened about the possible meaning of Knott End: “The large sandbank off Knott End is called Bernard’s Wharf – reputedly after St Bernard. Many small birds, including knot and dunlin, feed here in the nutrient-rich mud. One story says Knott End derives from these birds, another that the Norse marked the channel of the Wyre with a chain of knots or cairns, the final one being the Knott End!” There is a church named for St Bernard on Hackensall Road.

   In 1926 a hoard of Roman coins was dug-up in the vicinity of Hackensall Hall, 500 to be precise, which later came to be known as the Hackensall Hoard. The coins were found beneath a stone and had been placed inside a leather bag. “Whilst the bag was originally found to contain around 500 coins, only 339 now have their whereabouts known” (Ian & Krysia Brodie, 1993). Some of the coin hoard was eventually given to The Revoe Museum in Blackpool, while more coins went to museums and galleries across the north-west of England.

   In the work ‘Romans in Lancashire’ by D. C. A. Shotter, we are told of the possibility that the mouth of the Wyre estuary, a safe and sheltered anchorage between Fleetwood and Knott End, was in use as a port in Roman times and that the great Ptolemy, who lived in the 2nd century AD, referred to it as such: “More important, however, for the present purpose is the reference in Ptolemy to the site which he names as PORTUS SETANTIORUM……this could have been the Roman name for Lancaster; alternatively, many have felt that the site has at some time been overwhelmed by the sea, and lies off the coast at the mouth of the Wyre.”


Brodie, Ian & Krysia., The Lancashire Coastal Way And The Wyre Way, Lancashire County Books, Preston, 1993.

Shotter, D. C. A., Romans in Lancashire, Dalesman Publishing Company Ltd., Clapham, Yorkshire, 1973.

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The Wirksworth Stone, St Mary’s Church, Wirksworth, Derbyshire

The Wirksworth Stone, Derbyshire (Drawing by J. Romilly Allen, c 1889).

The Wirksworth Stone, Derbyshire (Drawing by J. Romilly Allen, c 1889).

   OS grid reference: SK 2874 5394. Near to the centre of the town of Wirksworth, Derbyshire, along St Mary’s Gate stands the ancient parish church of St Mary the Virgin, and housed within is the Anglo-Saxon ‘Wirksworth Stone’, a richly carved sculptured stone with biblical scenes and figures, which is said to date from the 7th-9th century AD; and there is also a stone with a ‘rare’ example of an Anglo-Saxon lead-miner carved onto it, dating from the 8th century? The ancient parish church of St Mary, dating largerly from the 13-14th centuries, is located some 25 metres  south of the B5035 (Wirksworth Moor road) on St Mary’s Gate, close to the centre of the town. The villages of Cromford and Bonsall lie a couple of miles to the north on the B5036 road.

   The Wirksworth Stone is built into the north wall of the nave and is oblong-shaped and chunky; it measures 5 feet x 3 feet but is probably not as long as it originally was (as can be seen at the western edge) – due to damage over the centuries. This richly sculptured stone-slab, which is in fact a coffin lid [from a sarcophagus], is adorned with scenes and figures from the Bible, most of which depict the ‘Life of Christ’. There are numerous angels, apostles, disciples and members of the holy family. Yet these figures look ‘almost’ as if they had been carved yesterday! They were probably carved in 800 AD. The stone was discovered lying upside-down beneath the chancel floor, quite close to the altar, in 1820. The first church on this site was apparently founded by the Northumbrian monk and missionary, St Betti, in c 653 AD. So, could the sculptured stone be from his tomb?

   In Simon Jenkins great tome ‘England’s Thousand Best Churches’ we are ‘enthusiastically’ informed about the contents of St Mary’s church: “The contents of Wirksworth include one of the finest Saxon coffin lids extant…..its relief carving portraying eight scenes from the life of Christ. We can discern Christ washing the disciples’ feet, the Entombment and, on the lower tier, the Ascension. This lid is among the most evocative images of Dark Ages art. Its inspiration is similar to the ‘Byzantine’ carvings at Breedon (Leics) to the south. The figures could hardly be more primitive, moor aloof from the Saxon tradition, yet they radiate life.”

   The author Derek Bryce in his antiquarian book ‘Symbolism of the Celtic Cross’ says that: “In Britain there is a unique instance of the Lamb of God on a cross, on a sculptured slab in Wirksworth Church, Derbyshire.” The said ‘Lamb of God’ is depicted on a rather thick cross on the top tier of the slab – with three creatures and a human figure surrounding it.

Carving of lead miner, St Mary's, Wirksworth, Derbys.

Carving of lead miner, St Mary’s, Wirksworth, Derbys.

   Also inside St Mary’s, in the wall of the south transept, is a fragment of stone from maybe the 8th century AD, which has a carving of a lead-miner upon it. This little figure is locally called T’owd Man of Bonsall or just ‘Owd Man’ and is thought to have come from Bonsall church near Cromford in 1876 – the two Derbyshire villages lie a few miles north of Wirksworth. The area around here has always been known for its lead mines, indeed the Romans are ‘said’ to have mined the stuff. In the early 19th century lead had then become such a sellable commodity that a “moot” hall was established in Wirksworth.

   The author Frank Rodgers in his very interesting book ‘Curiosities of Derbyshire And The Peak District’ says of the ancient stones inside St Mary’s: “………other fragments of ancient carving are built into the walls, one in the south transept depicting a lead miner with his tools, a reminder that not far from the north gate of the churchyard is the Moot Hall in Chapel Lane.”


Bryce, Derek., Symbolism Of The Celtic Cross, Llanerch Enterprises, Felinfach, Lampeter, Dyfed, Wales, 1989.

Jenkins, Simon., England’s Thousand Best Churches, Penguin Books Ltd., London, 2000.

Rodgers, Frank., Curiosities of Derbyshire And The Peak District, Derbyshire Countryside Ltd., Derby, 2000. 

Romilly Allen J., Christian Symbolism in Great Britain and Ireland before the 13th Century, 1889.


Sambo’s Grave, Sunderland Point, Lancashire – An Article by Cliff Astin

Sambo's Grave, Sunderland Point, Lancashire (photo credit: Rwendland for Wikipedia)

Sambo’s Grave, Sunderland Point, Lancashire (photo credit: Rwendland for Wikipedia)

   Os grid reference: SD 4222 5594. I recently came across this interesting article by Cliff Astin in his series called ‘Digging Deeper into Graves’ which appeared in the August 1996 edition of the ‘Really Lancashire’ magazine  A Magazine for the Red Rose County. I thought that it would be good to share this on here for all to read. The well-tendered grave is located at the far western-side of Sunderland Point, close to the coast. To reach the site from Overton walk 1 mile south-west along a track crossing the northern and western edges of the Lune estuary (please check the tides) as there are deep river channels. On reaching Sunderland Point (SD 4266 5598) walk the length of the ‘Lane’. At the far western-side of the lane walk 100m south on a footpath. Here in the corner of a field lies Sambo’s Grave. Children have left flowers, painted pebbles and tiny little wooden crosses at the grave-side.

   [I would like to apologize about the name “Sambo” but it is the one that is “always” given for this site and, also for any other “offensive” words that appear here, they are not the “words” that I would have given, but they are the ones that “still” seem to crop-up in this world of ours. To me that is very sad.]

   “Sunderland Point was, for purposes of shipping, the predecessor of Glasson Dock, which in turn was superceded as the most important port in our area by Lancaster. Should you choose to visit Sunderland Point, take care to check the tide-tables before setting out in order to leave time to wander along the shoreline and to accommodate your return. On reaching the shore, walk to your left until you see a marker indicating ‘Sambo’s Grave’ – a fascinating burial spot but also a somewhat disgusting and misplaced instance of contemporary superiority and man’s inhumanity to man on the part of the local inhabitants of the day. Happily this has been tempered by later and greater understanding and kindness albeit mainly on the part of our young ones.”

   “About 1730 a negro boy who had been acting as a sea captain’s servant arrived at Sunderland Point in one of the ships from the West Indies. Because it took some time to unload and re-freight the vessel, this negro – they called him Sambo, I suppose nobody bothered to ask him his real name – was accommodated at one of the inns. There are no inns at Sunderland Point now but formerly there were two. His master, the sea captain, meanwhile went off to Lancaster to attend to some business affairs, whereupon the negro slave took it into his head that in this alien foreign speaking land he had been abandoned. He became so worried and depressed that he refused to take any food and in a very short time he died. Here’s where the inhumanity comes in.”

   “The “good Christians” of the parish could not tolerate the idea of a black heathen being buried in consecrated ground and so at a spot on the lonely western side close to the shore (it is now one corner of a field) sailors buried Sambo coffinless covered only with his own clothes.”

   “In 1796 (sixty years later) the reverend James Watson, the recently retired headmaster of Lancaster grammar school, was shown the burial spot. By now, Sunderland Point had become popular with visitors so James Watson collected a shilling from every willing visitor and placed on the site a monumental stone containing, in the centre on a copper plate, the following inscription:-” Here lies Poor Sambo, A Faithful  Negro who (attending his master from the West Indies), Died on his arrival at Sunderland.

   “Whenever you visit this site today you will find pathetic but loving little offerings from local children in the form of daisies, buttercups or other wild flowers in jam jars and crosses made from twigs or lolly sticks, for the local schoolchildren and other visitors have taken Sambo into their hearts. Happily in Sunderland Point today Sambo is the most remembered resident.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Full sixty Years the angry Winter’s Wave
Has thundering daſhd this bleak & barren Shore
Since Sambo‘s Head laid in this lonely Grave
Lies still & ne’er will hear their turmoil more.

Full many a Sandbird chirps upon the Sod
And many a Moonlight Elfin round him trips
Full many a Summer’s Sunbeam warms the Clod
And many a teeming Cloud upon him drips.

But still he sleeps _ till the awakening Sounds
Of the Archangel’s Trump new Life impart
Then the Great Judge his Approbation founds
Not on Man’s Color but his_Worth of Heart

James Watſon Scr.               H.Bell del. 1796


Astin, Cliff., Sambo’s Grave (article), Really Lancashire – A Magazine for the Red Rose County, Issue No. 2, August 1996, Landy Publishing, Staining, Blackpool, Lancs.

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Llangorse Lake And Crannog, Powys, Wales

Crannog on Llangorse Lake (photo credit: Pam Fray - for Geograph)

Crannog on Llangorse Lake (photo credit: Pam Fray – for Geograph)

   Os grid reference: SO 1287 2689. About 37 metres from the northern shoreline of Llangorse Lake (Llyn Safaddan), Powys, also known as “Savaddan Lake and Lake of Brycheiniog” (Bord, Janet & Colin, 1986), lies the tiny man-made island of Ynys Bwlc, which is in fact a crannog, a Dark Age island settlement, dating probably from about the beginning of the 10th century, or maybe earlier, which would have once supported a royal residence for the king of Brycheiniog. The lake is said to be the second largest natural lake in Wales, being formed at the last Ice-Age many thousands of years ago; the River Llynfi (Afon Llyfni) enters at the far south-eastern side of the lake and then, rather strangely flows out of the lake at the far northwestern side, close by the caravan park. The lake is 1 mile long and 5 miles in circumference.

    Llangorse lake and crannog can be reached on a country lane to the west of Llangorse village, heading south close to the caravan park, which brings you out at ‘The Welsh Crannog Centre’. A few miles to the south is the village of Llansantffraed while the town of Brecon lies some 4 miles to the west and, at the south-side of the lake stands the ancient church of St Gastyn at Llangasty Tal-y-Llyn. The place-name Llangorse is nowadays ‘often’ shortened to Llangors.

Llangorse Lake viewed from Mynydd Llangorse (photo credit: Velella for Wikipedia)

Llangorse Lake viewed from Mynydd Llangorse (photo credit: Velella for Wikipedia)

And the lake is also the setting for a number of myths and legends – including one that says the lake is the location for the submerged Roman city of Loventium, but in early medieval history it was known as ‘Brecenenmere’. In 1925 a 25 foot-long wooden dug-out canoe was excavated from the mud near the northern shore of the lake, and in 1990 a second dug-out boat was excavated from close by. These have been dated from between the 8th and 11th centuries AD. In the 12th century Gerald of Wales (Giraldus Cambrensis) visited the lake and made mention in his great work ‘The Journey Through Wales/The Description Of Wales’ of the abundance of fish and also how miraculous it was and, the numerous strange colours that the lake water takes on at certain times. And the lake has long been associated with fairies, very large eels, and a witch who lived beside the lake and was known to frighten-away naughty children!

   Giraldus, who was a medieval historian, claimed that birds living around the lake would only sing ‘when a rightful prince returns to rule the area’. At this time the area was ruled over by King Henry I of England. One day the king was walking along the lake’s shoreline in the presence of two Norman lords and the Welsh prince Gruffydd ap Rhys, but he noticed that all the birds were silent. He then commanded them to sing – they ignored him, but when Prince Rhys asked them to sing – they sang merrily! Near the southern shores of Llangorse lake, near Bwlc, can be found the crumbling remains of Blaenllyfni Castle, a 12th century Norman foundation.

   “The tiny man-made island was first identified as a crannog in 1876 by E.N. Dumbleton”, according to Chris Barber in his work ‘More Mysterious Wales’. The almost round-shaped tree-covered crannog at the northern side of Llangorse Lake is thought to date from c890 AD. It was probably destroyed in either 911 AD or 916 AD possibly by King Alfred’s daughter Ethelflaed (Lady of the Mercians), when according to legend, they “took the king’s wife and thirty-three others prisoner” (Hughes, Wendy, 1995). However, some historians and archaeologists believe it could, in fact, be of an earlier date, maybe 7th-9th century? There is, however, some reason to suspect an Iron Age ‘crannog’ here, artificially improved with stakes as a lake-dwelling like those at Glastonbury and Meare in Somerset (Houlder, Christopher, 1978).

   According to legend a palace is said to lie beneath the waves. Long ago a ruthless princess ruled at the palace; she married a poor man from the town, but the agreement was that ‘he would bring her lots of gold’. In sheer desperation the man robbed and killed a rich merchant. When he returned to the palace with his spoils the princess immediately married him, but then shortly afterwards the murdered man’s ghost began haunting the place and, later warned the newly-married couple that their crime would be avenged, and this would fall heavily on the ninth generation of their descendants. However the princess and her husband became even more greedy and wicked – their lust for wealth being unceasing. The warning eventually came true and the palace was inundated by a deluge of water from the nearby hills which had been triggered by an earthquake – drowning both palace and town – the ninth generation of the family including the princess and her husband were killed, according to “the” legend.

   Local people claim to have seen the foundations of submerged buildings when the water-level is low in drought conditions and, they also claim to have heard the eerie sounds of church bells ringing out from below the waves in very stormy conditions when there is a heavy swell on the water.

   At the north-side of the crannog there is a sort of stone jetty which indicates where a wooden causeway once existed – linking the island to the shoreline. The artificial island measures ‘roughly’ 50m x 55m and is “set upon a base of stones and brushwood” (Figgis, N. P., 1995), and built of willow branches and reeds – with sturdy wooden piles sunk up to 7 metres down into the lake bed. It would ‘probably’ have been defended with a double row of wooden palisades. “Fragments of pottery, implements and animal bones” (Hughes, Wendy, 1995) have been found beneath the crannog during recent archaeological excavations, including the one by Time Team in 1993, and earlier in 1991 a few fragmentary metal parts from a small portable house-shaped reliquary/shrine were found during underwater excavations at the crannog; and there are also apparently traces of hut circles on the island.

Dead Men's Boats by N.P. Figgis (Atelier Productions), 1995.

Dead Men’s Boats by N.P. Figgis (Atelier Productions), 1995.

   In 1925 a 25 foot-long wooden dug-out canoe was excavated from the mud at the northern edge of the lake at (OS grid ref: roughly SO 132 269) which ‘was’ considered to be of a early medieval date, maybe 8th-11th centuries, and so a bit more recent than the lake crannog? The dug-out canoe can be seen on display in the Brecon Museum and a replica is at The Welsh Crannog Centre on the lake’s north-western shoreline, close by the crannog. And then in 1990 second similar dug-out boat was excavated from the lake near where the first had been found. But these dug-out boats have their origins in the Iron-Age. The canoe was eventually radio carbon dated to centre on 814 AD, so there is a strong possibility that the sample dates from somewhere between the years AD 754 and 874 AD, according to author N.P. Figgis.

   The dug-out canoe was excavated 1 metre down in the mud by a local man Mr Thomas Jenkins, and his sons. Author N.P. Figgis in his book ‘Dead Men’s Boats’ says: “The boat they brought ashore was a long, thin dug-out canoe. Her prow had broken off, and one side had caved in, and the stern was a step-shaped, heavy block; she was not like any modern craft”.

   Christopher Houlder in his excellent archaeological guide book: ‘Wales: An Archaeological Guide’, with regard to the dug-out canoe says that: “Though of primitive type it may be only medieval in date, used for access to the island near the N. shore for fishing and similar purposes”.

At the south-side of Llangorse Lake is the hamlet of Llangasty Tal-y-Llyn (OS grid ref: SO 1331 2613) and a mid-19th century church (on the site of an earlier medieval foundation) dedicated to St Gastyn. The churchyard looks to be almost circular in shape, indicative of a sacred site. St Gastyn was a Celtic hermit who founded the first “llan” here in the mid-5th century AD and was apparently the tutor to some of the many children of the saintly King Brychan, who ruled ‘this’ area, which became known as Brecknock (Brycheiniog).

Sources: © Copyright pam fray and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Barber, Chris., More Mysterious Wales, Paladin, London W1X, 1987.

Bord, Janet & Colin., Sacred Waters, Paladin, London W1X, 1986.

Dumbleton, E.N., On a Crannog, or Stockaded Island, in Llangorse Lake, near Brecon, Archaeologia Cambrensis, 4th series, vol 1, part 3, 1870.

Figgis, N. P., Dead Men’s Boats, Atelier Productions, Machynlleth, Wales, 1995.

Gerald of Wales., The Journey Through Wales/The Description Of Wales, Penguin Books Ltd., London WC2R, 1978.

Houlder, Christopher., Wales: An Archaeological Guide, Faber and Faber Limited, London WC1, 1978.

Hughes, Wendy., The Story of Brecknock, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Llanrwst, Gwynedd, Wales, 1995.

Beneath The Waves – An Article by Paul Harris

Ptolemy Cosmographia (Wikipedia)

Ptolemy Cosmographia (Wikipedia)

   Looking through some of my old ‘Prediction’ magazines I came across a fascinating historical article by Paul Harris. This article appeared in the June 1995 edition of the magazine and is all about the sunken lands, lost cities, kingdoms and islands (one of which has ‘perhaps’ given rise to the famous legend and, perhaps myth of Atlantis) which are reputed to lie around the coastline of the British Isles. I thought that other people might like to read this and so here it is “quoted” in full. The author says:

   “The coastline of Britain is constantly under attack from the sea with vast tracts of land having been lost over the centuries while medieval ports find themselves stranded inland by the action of longshore drift and estuarine silting. With this ever-changing scenario it is not surprising that many tales are told of one-time kingdoms, cities and islands now lost beneath the waves.”

   “One of the most extensive of these ‘lost lands’ would seem to be that reputed to lie under Cardigan Bay, Wales. Known as Cantrer Gwaelod, or Bottom Cantred, this land was said to be 40 miles in length, 20 in breadth, containing 16 cities and protected from the sea by a series of dykes.”

   “According to a tale told in the Welsh Triads, a dyke-keeper, being drunk, left open some sluice gates which inevitably led to the overwhelming of Cantre Gwaelod by the sea. It is now said that church bells can be heard tolling mournfully from their undersea locations at certain times and that, at low tide when the water is clear, buildings can be seen beneath the shallow sea.”

   “The Triads date the flood as ‘the time of Ambrosius.’ Since Ambrosius was the Celtic leader between about 460AD and 480AD, the flood must have occurred then. So what evidence exists to support the local belief and the Triad story?

   “Well, firstly, there are long pebble ridges that stretch out to sea here. They look like abandoned sea defences and are often assumed so to be. Also, there are megalithic remains in the shallower parts of Cardigan Bay.”

Submerged Forest Ceredigion Coast (photo credit: Richerman for Wikipedia)

Submerged Forest Ceredigion Coast (photo credit: Richerman for Wikipedia)

   “Indisputably then, there were islands off this coast during the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods that have since been submerged, thus leaving the megalithic structures beneath the sea and indicating that the sea level has risen since then. Also, there are fossil remains of forests that must have existed in the warm period after the end of the last Ice Age. These are now only exposed at low tide.”

   “This raising of the sea level, though, affected the whole of Britain, not just Cardigan Bay, and certainly occurred prior to the ‘time of Ambrosius.’ It seems, therefore, that the indications of former land, now submerged, may have given rise to the legend of Cantrer Gwaelod, not the other way round. The Triads story may refer to the flooding of a small island elsewhere. Indeed, it bears an uncanny resemblance to the story of the island of Ker Is which, according to Celtic sources, sank off Brittany during the 6th century.”

   “So what of the sea defences? These apparently are natural formations. Indeed, it was not even suggested that they were submerged sea walls until the 17th century, according to folklore researcher and author, Jennifer Westwood.”


Land's End (Looking West) Photo Credit: Carcharoth (Commons) for Wikipedia

Land’s End (Looking West) Photo Credit: Carcharoth (Commons) for Wikipedia

   “Evidence is much stronger, however, for the fabled lost land of Lyonesse, no doubt the best known of our legendary sunken kingdoms. Its capital, the City of Lions, is said to have existed in the area of the Seven Stones, which lie seven miles west of Land’s End.”

   “Lyonesse itself supposedly extended from the Cornish peninsula to the Scilly Isles, contained many towns and villages and a total of 140 churches. The lost land also has a place in Arthurian legend; but did it ever exist?”

   “Certainly the Scilly Isles themselves were one island as recently as the period of the Roman occupation, there being reliable descriptions of the Silvram insulam or Scilly Isle in 240AD and by Suplicius Severus in about 400AD. Furthermore, the islands themselves show signs of inundation since the pre-Roman Iron Age, there being huts and walls from this period still visible in the shallow waters between the islands. This, with the Roman reports mentioned above and the Arthurian legend of Lyonesse, strongly suggest the existence of a lost land here at least into the 5th century.”

   “Perhaps the flood described in the Welsh Triads sank Lyonesse, too? Or did all these Celtic legends arise from just one event? Whatever, the timing of this particular submergence seems fairly clear. As for the depth of the submergence, investigations during the 1950s and 1960s put this as 14ft since the Iron Age.”

   “This is enough to link some of the Scillies together, particularly with the aid of sea defenses, but not enough to allow the area from the Scillies to Land’s End to be above sea level in its entirety, though parts such as the Seven Stones reef would be. To allow the whole of the legendary land of Lyonesse to be above sea level would require a drop of 60ft in ocean depth. The last time that this was the case was toward the end of the last Ice Age, some 9,000-10,000 years ago, perhaps stretching back into prehistory.”

East Coast                                                                                                                                                                                                

Plan Of Goodwin Sandbank (photo credit: Claus Ableiter for Wikipedia)

Plan Of Goodwin Sandbank (photo credit: Claus Ableiter for Wikipedia)

   “Moving around the coast to Kent, we come to the Straits of Dover and off the coast near Deal lie the Goodwin Sands, grave for upwards of 50,000 mariners over the centuries. At  low tide the sands can be exposed to such an extent that it is possible to land on them.”

    “Named after Earl Goodwin, the sands were once the island of Lomea, so tradition tells us. Apparently the Earl neglected to maintain the island’s sea defences and, in the ‘Martinmas Storm’ of 1099, it was overwhelmed and never reclaimed.”

    “Core samples taken from the Sands  show that the ‘island’ is basically only a sand bar  with a bedrock of chalk much deeper than sea level. However, in the past, the rivers Stour and Wantsum emptied much more silt into the sea near here, possibly leading to the sustenance of a much more pronounced sandbank than exists today. If this is so, there may be a basis to the legends.”

    “What is factual beyond doubt, however, is the constant erosion  of this coast by the sea to a quite spectacular degree. The Isle of Sheppey, on the North Kent coast, is eroding at an alarming rate. On the north coast of the island is the town of Minster. During the Middle Ages this was situated in the centre of the island! Further north, all along the coast of East Anglia, lonely, windswept clifftops overlook dark, choppy seas where once human activity took place and spectral church bells supposedly toll.”


Ruin of All Saints Church, Dunwich, 1904 postcard (Wikipedia)

Ruin of All Saints Church, Dunwich, 1904 postcard (Wikipedia)

   “One ‘lost city’ here is very well documented: Dunwich, on the Suffolk coast between Southwold and Sizewell. It was once a prosperous port situated on the River Blyth and became the capital of Saxon East Anglia reaching its peak during medieval times. But in January 1326 disaster struck. In one night three churches and over 400 houses were swept away in a great storm and one million tons of shingle and sand banked up across the harbor mouth, cutting off the River Blyth and diverting it northwards.”

   “Dunwich died, its trade killed by this sudden lack of a harbour. The population declined as merchants moved away and its sea defences were neglected. By the mid 17th century the market place was awash and house after house, street after street, fell over the crumbling cliffs into the advancing sea. Now, all that remains is a church, a ruined priory, a pub and a few houses.”


Map of Doggerland c8,000 BCE (photo credit: Max Naylor for Wikipedia)

Map of Doggerland c8,000 BCE (photo credit: Max Naylor for Wikipedia)

   “Travelling north eastwards across the North Sea brings us to the vicinity of the Dogger Bank, today the shallowest part of the sea between Britain and Scandinavia but at one time a large, populated island. Evidence for this has been found in the form of Mesolithic implements found in the material dredged from the Dogger Bank. The period during which a large island existed here would have been towards the close of the last Ice Age when the sea level was some 60-70ft lower than at present. However, there is a belief that a large island called Atland existed here until 2193BC when it was overwhelmed by tidal waves caused by volcanic activity.”

   “Atland is described in a mysterious book that appeared in London in 1876 called the Oera Linda Book and subtitled ‘from a manuscript of the 13th century.’ The original was in the Frisian language and told of Atland and its inhabitants, the disaster that overwhelmed them and the subsequent history of the survivors who, it is said, carried civilization across the world to, among other places, Egypt, Crete and Greece and were said to be the ancestors of the Celtic races.”

   “Experts thought the book a forgery dating back to about the 1730s. Certainly this is a distinct possibility, especially as some of the contents do not seem credible. For instance, the survivors of Atland did not found the civilization in Egypt; this was already well advanced by 2193BC. Also, why were only the Mediterranean countries settled by Atland survivors and not Britain, France and Holland which were much nearer? Furthermore, there has been no volcanic activity for many millions of years.”


Athanasius Kircher's Atlantis Map (Mundus Subterraneus 1669) Wikipedia

Athanasius Kircher’s Atlantis Map (Mundus Subterraneus 1669) Wikipedia

   “None of this, however, prevented Robert Scrutton publishing the contents of the Oera Linda book in 1977 in his The Other Atlantis. Naturally parallels are drawn with Plato’s Atlantis which is thought to be the same place – after all the name is surely too similar to be coincidence? Maybe so but it is  equally likely to indicate a deliberate attempt to emulate the Atlantis account.”

   “Nevertheless, Scrutton draws attention to traditions of a major catastrophe of a flood-like nature in the northern hemisphere in times past, recorded in the Welsh Triads and, as we have seen earlier, there may be a basis of fact in those accounts.”

   “What is certain is that today’s sea level is higher than it was in the past and is still rising. Also, large tracts of land have been lost to the sea and, no doubt, given rise to many legendary stories around our coasts.”

   “What is also clear is that such disasters can happen at any time; the devastating East Coast floods of 1953 and 1978 are evidence of this. What has been may be again.”

[If you have found the above article interesting and would like to find out more about this particular topic, then please read the book ‘Lost Cities And Sunken Lands’ by Nigel Pennick, published by Capall Bann, 1997].


Harris, Paul., ‘Beneath The Waves’ (article in Prediction magazine), June 1995, Volume 61, Number 6, Croydon, Surrey.



The Saxon Shore Forts Of South-East England And East Anglia

Map of The Saxon Shore Forts (Wikipedia)

Map of The Saxon Shore Forts (Wikipedia)

   There were originally 10 or possibly even 11 ‘Saxon Shore Forts’ (Litus Saxonicum) commanded by an officer with the title of ‘Comes litoris Saxonica per Britanniam’ or ‘Count of the Saxon Shore’. Most were built in the late third century though others have an earlier origin. Richborough incorporates older buildings, as does Reculver. Dover was already a militarised site. Nine are referred to in the Notitia Dignitatum, a military text from the late 4th early 5th century. A 10th fort may have existed at Walton Castle, near Felixstowe, but this has now been lost to the sea.

   The forts are all similar in that they are located near sea harbours or river estuaries, suggesting that their purpose was to prevent sea-borne invaders getting inland. Each could support a substantial garrison either infantry or sailors. All are of a similar structure – massive walls with bastions for mounting ballistae and surrounding ditches and, ramparts for extra protection.

    A parallel defence system contemporary with the Saxon Shore Forts the Litus Saxonicum exists on the other side of the Channel from Mardyck near Calais to the estuary of the Garonne. However this system is not as close knit with five of these forts not on navigable rivers. Rather the issue here seems to be the defence of key positions rather then a shoreline.

    From the north we have Brancaster (Branodunum) OS grid ref: TF 7821 4404 located between Burnham Market and Hunstanton, covering 6 ½ acres of standard trapezoidal shape, and with walls 9 foot thick of which nothing now remains above ground.

Mid-19th Century Illustration of Burgh Castle (Wikipedia).

Mid-19th Century Illustration of Burgh Castle (Wikipedia).

   Then Burgh Castle (possibly Gariannonum) OS grid ref: TG 4745 0461 is now well back from the sea with walls 11 foot in width and in places still 15 foot in height enclosing 5 acres. Three sides of the walls remain. Six bastions appear to have been added at a later date after the fort was constructed.

    Further south in Essex lies Bradwell (OS grid ref: TM 0313 0810) on the Blackwater Estuary (possibly Othona) with sections of 3 walls originally surviving, one with a bastion.

    On the Watsum River in Kent lies Reculver (Regullium) OS grid ref: TR 2274 6930 which was once on a broad waterway between the Isle of Thanet and the coast, but now sadly eroded by the sea. The walls of this fort were 8 feet thick surrounding an enclosure of standard Roman shape and protected by a ditch and earth rampart. Much has been lost to the sea. Also of note at Reculver are the ruins of a church founded about AD 669 by Egbert, King of Kent. There was a nave 37 feet long and a chancel with an apse. The towers, which remain, were added in the 12th Century.

Richborough Roman/Saxon Fort (photo credit: Midnightblueowl for Wikipedia).

Richborough Roman/Saxon Fort (photo credit: Midnightblueowl -Wikipedia).

   Richborough (Rutupiae) beside the river Stour at (OS grid ref: TR 3245 6018) has perhaps the most imposing remains, and the longest history. It is possible that this is where the Romans landed in AD43 under the command of Aulus Plautius. Defensive ditches have been found enclosing a large area. And 40 years later a marble monument in the form of a triumphal arch 82 feet tall with a façade of Italian granite was erected ‘possibly’ to commem-orate the event. The foundations remain. There is also evidence of occupation in the 2nd Century, when it seems to have been a civilian settlement with temples, an amphitheatre and a mansio (hotel). A fort with earth ramparts with triple ditches remains of which are extent dates from the second half of the third century with a stone walled fort of standard Roman shape and bastions replacing it soon after. At this time also the monument was converted into a look-out post. Finds from archaeological digs are housed in the site museum.

    Dover (Dubris) OS grid ref: TR 3193 4133 lies buried under the modern town (Queen Street) and is more famous for its Pharos (lighthouse) explored elsewhere on this web site. The Fort dates from the 2nd Century – being reused later as part of the ‘Saxon Shore’ defence.

    Lympne (Portus Lemanis) lies on Romney Marsh (on private land) OS grid ref: TR 1170 3420 and is marked by a few walls tilted at odd angles and, an east gate. The fort appears ho have been constructed as an irregular pentagon rather than of the usual trapezoidal shape.

Pevensey Castle Roman Walls (photo credit: Mortimer - for Wikipedia).

Pevensey Castle Roman Walls (photo credit: MortimerCat – for Wikipedia).

   Pevensey (Anderida) OS grid ref: TQ 6388 0504 lies at the mouth of the River Ashbourne in Sussex. Excavations here have shown evidence of wooden buildings. Pevensey is unusual in that the walls defer from the usual square plan into an irregular oval enclosing some 10 acres. The 12-foot thick walls initially look Medieval, but are in fact largely Roman. Bastions were placed at intervals around the wall and still look very imposing today. Not only did the Normans reuse the castle building, a keep on the south eastern side, but it was again reused in the second world war; a pair of machine gun posts can be seen as can a ‘pillbox’ on top of one of the bastions.

    Porchester (Portus Adurni) in Hampshire. On Verne Hill overlooking Portland Harbour OS grid ref: SU 6242 0452, completes the group. Of a square shape the walls have gates on the west and east and a defensive ditch surrounding them. There were originally 20 bastions and 14 survive. Archaeological evidence shows that a high status Anglo Saxon residence was established later within the walls. Again the building seems to have impressed the Normans. They resurfaced the walls and built a keep in the northwest corner. Other buildings followed in the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries. In the Southwest corner there is also a large church – part of an Augustan Priory built in 1133.

    For most of the 19th and 20th Centuries two theories held sway over the reasons for the development of the Saxon Shore defences. The first was that they were there to control an existing settlement of Saxon migrants (there is some evidence of Saxon settlers in the archaeological records), the second to prevent Saxon marauders from plundering that part of the coast. Whilst this was probably the case with the second half of the 4th Century, it was not really the case with the 3rd Century, and archaeological evidence (coins) now suggests they were built in the late 3rd Century when the Saxons were presenting as troublesome pirates rather then invaders intent on plunder. It is more likely that they were established by the Gallic Emperor Cariusus – mentioned elsewhere on this website. It has also been suggested the forts were established to protect the supply of goods back and forth from and to the continent. All four theories may have merit at different times during the 3rd and 4th Centuries.

Antoninianus Carausius Coin (photo credit: Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. - for Wikipedia).

Antoninianus Carausius Coin c 290 AD (photo credit: Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. – for Wikipedia).

   Carausius reigned from 286 to 293. According to the 4th Century writer Eutropius Carausius was of Belgic origin, had joined the fleet and had rapidly risen through the ranks bringing him to the attention of the Tetrarch – the two emperors and their two assistant Caesars who ruled the Roman world. He was put in charge of dealing with the Saxon Pirates but allegations were made against him that he had been allowing the Saxons to continue their piratical activities apprehending them and seizing their loot for himself. Recalled and fearing the worst he set himself up as Emperor in Northern Gaul and Britain. This theory suggests the forts were built by Carausius to defend his territory against the might of Rome. But the Tetrarch’s resources were stretched and Cariusius was tolerated instead. In 293 the Tetrarchy recovered Northern Gaul weakening Carausius’ position and leading to his assassinated by his Chief Minister, Allectus. Constantius Chlorus took his time but recovered Britain for the Empire in 296/7; Allectus being defeated and killed near Farnham.

    Archaeological evidence shows that during the 4th Century the forts continued in use probably supplanted with a series of signal-stations, which could have provided warnings of incursions, using fire and smoke. When Rome withdrew from Britain at the beginning of the 5th Century the forts fell into disrepair. Internal buildings were mainly of wood so they disintegrated leaving just the walls as a reminder of what had been. 700 years later the walls were still standing and some of the forts were requisitioned by the Normans as defensive positions, as status symbols and, as accommodation for the elite of the new invaders.

Sources: Cottrell, Leonard., ‘The Roman Forts of the Saxon Shore’, HMSO, 1964.

Weyland The Smith – An Article by David McGrory

Volundr (Weyland the Smith) - an illustration. (Wikipedia)

Volundr (Weyland the Smith) – an illustration. (Wikipedia)

   Looking through some of my old ‘Prediction’ magazines I came across an excellent historical article by David McGrory. This article appeared in the June 1995 edition of the magazine and is all about the mythical Norse god Weyland the Smith, also known as Volundr. I thought that other people might like to read this and so here it is “quoted” in full.  The author says:

   “By an ancient ridgeway that passes through the Uffington White Horse, Oxfordshire, a Neolithic long barrow constructed at least 5,ooo years ago stands amid a circle of trees. The barrow with its large entry stones is known as Wayland’s Smithy, taking its name from the Teutonic demi-god, Weyland the Smith, also called Volund, for the first Saxons to see the mound thought it had been constructed by a god or giant”.

  “According to legend, anyone who passed this barrow with a horse that needed shoeing need only leave a silver coin then retreat; on his return, the coin would be gone and the horse shod. Similar tales are to be found in ancient Greek mythology concerning the classical smith god, Vulcan”.

Wayland Smith Long Barrow (photo credit: Msemmett for Wikipedia).

Wayland Smithy Long Barrow entrance (photo credit: Msemmett for Wikipedia).

   “Because the ‘smithy’ lay on the boundary of two Saxon estates it is the only ancient monument to be named on an Anglo-Saxon charter; dating to before the Norman Conquest, the conveyance charter referrs to the barrow as ‘Welandes Smiththan'”.

  “Teutonic beliefs brought here by the invading Saxons during the 5th century inform us that Weland was the youngest of three sons fathered by the demi-god Wade. As a child Weland was entrusted into the hands of dwarves who lived amid the metals in the mountains and taught him the magical art of the smith, thus he became skilled in forging, making weapons and jewellery”.

  “In his Iceland homeland Weyland spent much of his time out hunting with his two brothers. The three finally settled in a place called Ulfda where, one day, they saw three beautiful Valkyrier (nymphs) swimming naked in a lake, their ‘elf garments’ left lying on the shore. The brothers seized the magical clothes and the women who they took to be their wives”.

  “All lived contentedly together for eight years, then the Valkyrier became bored with domesticity and one day fled with the brothers were out hunting . Discovering their loss, two of the brothers went in pursuit, leaving Weland behind tending his forge. Anticipating the wives’ return, Weland wrought three golden rings which he strung on a willow wand”.

  “One day, while Weland was out hunting, King Niduth of Sweden who was searching for a smith entered Weland’s empty hut, saw the golden rings and took one for his daughter, Baudvild. Weland returned that night and, while roasting a piece of bear meat, noticed that one of the rings was missing. This caused him great joy as he imagined that his wife had returned, so sat awaiting her arrival and soon feel asleep”.

  “But instead of his wife, King Niduth returned, had Weland seized and carried to the palace. Then, by the Queen’s command, Weland was hamstrung, placed on a small island and compelled to work for his royal couple. Not surprisingly, Weland sought revenge and a suitable opportunity soon arose”.

  “King Niduth’s two greedy sons approached Weland demanding to see the tresure and were told it was kept at his forge (Wayland’s Smithy, Oxfordshire, was probably raided for treasure early in its history). Having seen the treasure, Weland told the brothers that if they returned the following morning he would give it to them”.

  “So they returned the next day and as they entered Weland slammed the door shut, decapitated them with one blow and buried their bodies. But the skulls he fashioned into silver-plated goblets for the King’s table; from their eyes he produced gems for the Queen; and the princess received a pearl necklace made from their teeth. Weland took further revenge on the princess who he raped when she came to him secretly to have repaired the golden ring given her by her father. As a result of this unwilling union a daughter was born who would herself become part of a later Teutonic mythology”.

  “Weland then escaped his island prison by taking flight, using a pair of magical wings he had wrought in metal. He landed on the palace wall, called the King and Queen forth and told them of the terrible fate of their two sons and the violation of their daughter. His revenge complete, Weland took to the air and was never seen on Earth again”.

  “His new role, apparently, was to act as armourer to the gods and our ancestors believed that Weland kept a doorway open into their world at Wayland’s Smithy; certainly there is some evidence of worship at this site”.


McGrory, David., ‘Weyland The Smith’ (article in Prediction magazine), June 1995 Volume 61 Number 6, Croydon, Surrey.


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