The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


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Ancient Cross at St Lawrence’s Church, Eyam, Derbyshire

Eyam Parish Church, Derbyshire, by C. Daniel.

NGR: SK 2178 7639. At the south side of St Lawrence’s parish church at Eyam in the Peak District, Derbyshire, there is a beautifully sculptured 8 foot-high Saxon cross which is said to date from either the 8th Century or the 10th? It is also known as a Mercian Cross. Some of the design-work on the shaft and head bears some similarity to Celtic design. In the 8th Century Christian missionaries (from the north) set up the cross at Crosslow to the west of Eyam. The cross-shaft was originally a couple of feet taller than it is at present but, despite that, it is one of the best-preserved of all the Mercian crosses in the Midlands. St Lawrence’s church (site) is possibly a Saxon one and a church from that time may have stood where the present building now stands and, with that in mind, the font inside the church was thought to date from the Late Saxon period, though it would seem more likely to be 11th-12th Century Norman, and to have come from Hathersage!  The present church is a mixture of 13th to 15th Century architecture and is located in the centre of the village of Eyam on Church Street, near Eyam Hall. Eyam is 9 miles southeast of Chapel-en-le-Frith.

Eyam Cross by C. Daniel.

Clarence Daniel (1966) informs us that: It is scarcely necessary to draw attention to the Saxon Cross—the most venerable landmark in the village. For over a thousand years it has stood shelterless and bareheaded, exposed to the ravages of wind and rain, the wayside witness to an unperishable story. Perhaps this simple translation of the Gospel was being wrought out of living stone about the same time that a spark inspiration kindled the emotions of Caedmon at Whitby. Fortunately it escaped mutilation when Puritan zealots were authorised by an act of Parliament passed in 1643 to remove and destroy ‘“all crosses in an open place’”, although the top portion of the shaft has since been broken up and used for cobble stones. Until the visit of John Howard, the prison reformer, it lay almost smothered by weeds in a corner of the churchyard, but his concern for the preservation of such a valuable relic inspired its erection in a more prominent position.

“Mercia was evangelized by missionaries from Lindisfarne, or Holy Island, and the Eyam cross resembles in certain characteristics the type for which Iona is famous. Upon the head and arms, figures of angels are sculp-tured in relief; whilst the upper portion of the shaft is adorned with a representation of the Virgin and Child, beneath which a figure holding a trumpet, or bugle-horn. Below these pictorial panels in an elaborate tracery of scroll-work woven into three circles. The carving on the reverse of the shaft consists of five foliated scrolls in each of which a trefoil design is cleverly triplicated.

Neville T. Sharpe (2002) says: “To the west of Eyam there is Crosslow House and a cross once stood on the opposite side of the road at SK20677. Another possible site is the open piece of ground in the middle of the village opposite Eyam Hall where the stocks stand, which is still called ‘“The Cross.”’ Wet Withins at SK225790 on Eyam Moor, a site of pre-Christian worship, has also been put forward. The first of these three sites stands beside the road from Eyam to Foolow where one might expect to find a wayside cross, but an ornate cross like the one in the church-yard would have looked well in the centre of the village.

“The front of the head facing west has four angels holding sceptres on their shoulders; one is in a circle in the middle of the head and one on each of the arms. On the top of the front of the shaft are two enthroned figures in panels with arched tops; the lower figure is holding a horn in front of his body. The remainder of the front of the shaft below is decorated with circular interlaced work. On the opposite side of the head are four angels; the centre one holding a sceptre and the other three blowing trumpets. The whole of the back of the shaft is decorated with foliage, the stems of which form five bold spiral coils, with leaves and bunches of grapes in the centre of each, and leaves and buds filling up the spandrels at the sides. On the end of the north arm of the cross is a figure holding a book, and on the end of the south arm an angel. The north and south faces of the shaft are covered with interlaced work composed of knots. Believed by some to date from the eighth century, this cross has much in common with those at Bakewell and Bradbourne.” 

Sharp (2002) adds that: “On the south wall of Eyam Church is a sundial made by William Shore, a local stone mason in 1775. It is a source of wonder to watch visitors gaze at this sundial for a few moments before checking     its accuracy with their watches, and finding to their amazement that it is correct. The cross stands beside the path through the churchyard on the south side of the church and it was in this position prior to the restoration of the church in 1872. The shaft is 6 feet high of an octagonal cross-section and badly pitted due to the elements. It stands on a base mounted on three square stone steps. It is certainly much older than the 1656 inscribed on it. A plaque on the base reads: “AD 1897 This ancient churchyard cross was restored in loving memory of Charles Lewis Cornish Priest Vicar of this Parish 1841-46.”’ There is another cross built into the exterior west wall of the vestry which formerly was on the gable of the chancel. Could this be the original head of the cross in the churchyard?  

Daniel (1966) also adds that: “In the vestry is a Saxon font, but this is a comparatively recent acquisition from Brookfield Manor, Hathersage, where it did service in the garden as a flower bowl. The Norman font was shorn     of its antiquary interest and value by an unimaginative mason who planed away the carving from its bowl when instructed to clean it of paint. It will also be noted that there is no drain; a fact which recalls those days when the water was only blessed twice a year and was kept under lock and key regardless of its possible contamination.”     

Sources / References & Related Websites:-   

Clarence, Daniel, The Story of Eyam Plague – with a Guide to the Village, Cratcliffe, Eyam, near Sheffield, 1966, with Illustrations by the author.

Sharpe, Neville T., Landmark Collector’s Library – Crosses of the Peak District, Landmark Publishing Ltd., Ashbourne, Derbyshire, 2002.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eyam

https://megalithix.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/eyam-cross/

https://historicengland.org.uk/services-skills/education/educational-images/eyam-saxon-cross-church-street-eyam-6957

https://ancientmonuments.uk/106831-anglian-high-cross-in-st-laurences-churchyard-eyam/photos/3137#.XvUzclLsZjo

http://www.peakscan.freeuk.com/peak_district_history_.htm

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.


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Cowpe Lowe, Near Waterfoot, Rossendale, Lancashire

Possible Burial Mound on Cowpe Lowe, in Rossendale. Photo  copyright: Stephen Oldfield.

NGR:- SD 8265 2067. Recently a friend, Stephen Oldfield, has brought to my attention that there are two “possible” Bronze Age burial mounds (barrows) at the southeastern side of Cowpe Lowe, near Waterfoot, Rossendale, Lancashire. One of these mounds looks more like a long barrow – while the other a bit further along is a smaller, circular mound. There is also evidence of early human activity on the summit of Cowpe Lowe from as far back as the Mesolithic, with a number of finds coming to light in recent years, which would suggest, then, that there was a settlement on the summit of the hill.  The hill itself is 440m high (1,444 feet), and is just a couple of miles southwest of Waterfoot and overlooks the town of Rawtenstall in the Rossendale Valley. Some      of the finds from Cowpe Lowe were deposited in The Whitaker Museum, Rawtenstall. Stephen Oldfield gives directions, saying to: “Follow the fence (keeping it on your right) from the ‘nick’ between Black Hill and Cowpe Lowe and climb upwards onto Cowpe Lowe and you will pass it [the mound]. There is another smaller one further on.”  

Possible Burial Mound on Cowpe Lowe. Photo Copyright: Stephen Oldfield.

The two grassy mounds (possibly Bronze Age barrows) are situated some 280 metres along a footpath to the northeast of the OS Trig Point (SD 82349 20639) on Cowpe Lowe’s south side. These mounds do not appear on any maps and would be easily missed if you didn’t know what you were looking for because there are many quarry mounds on the hill’s summit. Nor are they mentioned by archaeologists so obviously they have not been examined or excavated and, with that being the case, nothing is known about them, despite the many finds of flints and arrow-heads on the hill’s windswept summit. But are they actually burial mounds from the prehistoric age?, or just grassed-over quarry mounds that are now long forgotten?  Stephen Oldfield says regarding the possible barrows: “these two are isolated lined-up E.W. and facing the High Point of Top Leach – and the ground where my uncles found scores of arrowheads in the 1960s.”   

References & Related Websites:-

Many thanks to Stephen Oldfield for the use of his two photos and comments etc. Thanks mate.

http://www.hill-bagging.co.uk/mountaindetails.php?qu=S&rf=16512

More info here: https://www.springhillhistory.org.uk/resources/up-to-1066/Early-settlements.pdf

http://trigpointing.uk/trig/2475

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.

 

 

 

 

 


The Tarr Steps, Exmoor National Park, Somerset, England

The Tarr Steps bridge over the River Barle, in Somerset.

NGR:- SS 86770 32113.  The Tarr Steps are an ancient Clapper Bridge that spans the river Barle in Exmoor National Park, about 4 miles northwest of Dulverton and 2½ miles south of Withypool, in Somerset. The slab-stone bridge could be prehistoric in age and date back 3,000 years to the Iron Age; however, some historians now consider the Tarr Steps to be Mediaeval in age and only dating back to the beginning of the 15th Century. The Tarr Steps slab bridge is 135 feet in length from bank to bank though Dr Sweetapple-Horlock (1928) said its length across the river was 180 feet. The stone slabs or clappers are between 6-10 foot long and the larger slabs are estimated to weigh between 1-2 tons; they lie on pillars with one or two slabs on top. Writing in 1924 Sir William Boyd Dawkins was the first to suggest prehistoric origins for the clapper bridge, or the earlier trackway over the ford, that crossed the river Barle, and its links with the Bronze Age round barrows (dating back to 2,500 BC) over to the west on Fyldon Ridge – while another trackway heads northeast from Tarr Steps bridge to the ‘Caratacus Stone’, an inscribed standing stone on Winsford Hill.

The Story of Tarr Steps by Michael Harrison (1985).

Michael Harrison (1985) says regarding the Position of Steps  The theory adduced by some writers is that it is a link track between the ridgeway over Winsford Hill (note the wam-barrows and Caratacus Stone), presumably to harbours in the Bristol Channel, with the other ridgeway over Molland Common via Anstey Barrows, White Post and over Fyldon Ridge (the present County Boundary) and on to Barnstaple. The significant point in common is that both tracks have Bronze Age Round Barrows alongside which date them around 2500 B.C., making the bridge seem comparatively modern and the ford across the river of very ancient origin.  Whether the original trackway went up the hill to the Church or whether it went up Hardway to Pennycombe Brook, which was the more direct line and not quite so steep, to White Post and the Ridgeway, must be a matter for speculation. The former route would meet the way over Hawkridge ridge coming up from the woods, where the Danesbrook joins the Barle guarded by the Iron Age earthworks of Mounsey Castle and Brewers Castle. showing that this track must have been of importance in very ancient times.  The writer apologizes for this diversion in the story of the Steps, but it must relate to the question of why the trackway was made there by the people who lived in these parts so many years ago. The answer is presumably because the river was easily fordable there, and the bridge later constructed to enable travellers to cross dryshod. 

Tarr Steps, Somerset. Description by Clery Welch.

“Description Of Steps  Back from the wilds of Exmoor let us return to Dr. Sweetapple’s Guide and a description of the Bridge, which consists of 17 spans, the covering stones laid flat without mortar or cement of any kind, on pillars of rough stone placed directly on the river bed. The pillars are from 4ft to 6ft apart, 3ft to 4ft high and about 3ft in breadth. Most of the pillars are spanned by one stone only but some have two laid side by side and one has three. The great slabs are from 6ft to 8ft long. One is over 10ft in length, nearly a foot thick, and estimated to weigh two tons or more. One stone about the centre of the Bridge is laid crosswise and is said to mark the boundary between the Parishes of Dulverton [now Winsford] and Hawkridge. This last mentioned stone seems to have been left out in one of the later reconstructions.

The Tarr Steps (illustrated by Clery Welch).

“At each pillar a long stone is slanted lengthways, one end resting on the river bed with its higher end projecting just above the flat stones of the bridge (the present writer’s theory on this aspect of the construction is that this was to allow tree branches and other debris to slide up the sloping stones in times of flood and be washed over the flat stones rather than pile up against them and risk damage to the bridge). The sloping stones were also to break the force of the water against the pillars.  The Bridge is 180ft long according to Dr. Sweet-apple and Grinsell, but the actual length from bank to bank, is about 135ft. The discrepancy     is accounted for by the stones lying flush with the surface of the ground on the Hawkridge side, which, if included, come to approximately 180ft.  The writer discovered, during a conversation with Mr. A. Oakes, who was tenant of Tarr Farm for many years, that originally a branch of the river ran under these stones and across the present meadow leaving a large island. Dr. Sweetapple had the old channel under these stones and across the meadow, filled in to make the present much larger and more useful field.  

“Building Of The Steps  The position of the bridge was evidently carefully chosen as the pool above is one of the longest and stillest in the river, and the flow of the water would be slowed before it reached the bridge. “‘The labour of building such a bridge must have been colossal’”, says the Guide, “‘in an age when machinery was un-known and it is hardly to be wondered at that local tradition ascribes the work to the devil. As he was bringing         the stones in his apron the string broke and the large square stone thus dropped can still be seen between the holly trees on the left bank making a useful seat’”. This stone is now below the island having been carried there in the Lynmouth flood. 

“The devil seems to have been held responsible on a number of occasions on Exmoor for rocks and stones in un-usual places, but why he should have built anything so useful as a bridge remains another mystery.  In the case      of Tarr Steps he is said to have built it in one night, saying it was for his exclusive use and that he would destroy the first creature crossing it. An unfortunate car attempted it and was torn to pieces, in one account, or struck by lightning in another. This appears to have broken the spell, for a Parson then crossed in safety, exchanging com-pliments with the builder. “‘The devil called the Parson a black crow, to which the Parson replied that he was not blacker than the devil’”. 

“Name Of The Steps  The Bridge and its name is another chapter in the Guide. Signposts to the steps varied between Torr and Tarr. Dr. Sweetapple points out that Torr means a boulder or rock outcrop, never stones such as could be used for bridge building. It seems more likely to be derived from the Celtic ‘toucher’ anglicised to ‘toher’ meaning a causeway, and the word ‘Steps’ added at a later date when they had been built. The other suggestion is that it may have taken its name from the family of Tarr connected with the district for many years. L. V. Grinsell, mentioned earlier, speculates in more detail in his book. Certainly all the earlier writers on Ex-moor—Collins, the Rev. Jack Russell, and MacDermot, call it Tarr Steps. Maps made in 1782 and 1822 show the form Tar Steps.

“The Guide [Dr. Sweetapple’s] itself mentions that occasionaly, after a combination of heavy rain and melting snow, the river overflows the bridge and that fifty years ago it was rare for the water even to cover the bridge, but this was before the moors were drained and in consequence the flow of water was more constant. Also the river was wider and deeper. Since drainage grants came in with the Second World War, the run off from the uplands has been greatly accelerated and this in turn causes flash floods of greater violence and more often than in the old days, bringing down driftwood and even trees which crash into the structure with great force, breaching it on several occasions in recent times.  The unforseeable happening was the Lynmouth flood……….” 

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Harrison, Michael, The Story Of Tarr Steps, (with illustrations by Clery Welch), 1985.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarr_Steps

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1021325

More info here at:  https://www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/enjoying/tarr-steps

https://archaeology-travel.com/england/tarr-steps-exmoor

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/tarr-steps

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.


The Charing Cross (Eleanor Cross), Westminster, London E.C.2

The Charing Cross or The Eleanor Cross.

NGR: TQ 30197 80498. On the forecourt of Charing Cross Railway Station on the Strand, in Westminster, London E.C.2., is the sculptured monument known as ‘The Charing Cross’ or the ‘Eleanor Cross’ which        is a replica of the original one that stood nearby, and one of only four such crosses to remain, although the other three are originals. It was named after Queen Eleanor of Castile, the wife of King Edward I, and was erected as a memorial to her in 1291 the year after her death at Harby in Nottinghamshire at the age of 49. Queen Eleanor was buried in Westminster Abbey. However, this 70 foot (21 metre) high richly decorated monument dating from 1865 is made of granite and Portland stone. But it is said ‘not to be as good’ as the original, which was pulled down and broken up about 1647. A statue of King Charles I on horseback was erected where the original Charing Cross used to stand, near Trafalgar Square. The present Charing Cross was recently restored. Charing as a place-name is thought to be derived from ‘cerring’, an Early English word meaning “bend or turn in the road.” The monument is Grade II listed.

Arthur Mee (1949) says that: “…….in the courtyard of Charing Cross Station is the lovely Eleanor Cross, a copy of the last of that pathetic series set up by Edward the First to mark the resting-place of his Queen Eleanor on her last ride through our countryside. She came from Harby in Notts, the village where she died, and rested nine nights on the way. Three of the nine crosses remain in the country; this is a copy of the old one destroyed in 1647. It stood where Charles Stuart sits on horse-back a little way off,  and this copy of it was designed by Edward Barry and sculptured by Thomas Erpe.  The cross is seventy feet high and rises in two stages surmounted by a spire. Below are coats of heraldry, and above are eight statues of the queen with a kneeling angel at the foot on each statue. The figures are all under canopies, and four show Eleanor as a sovereign and the others as a gracious lady.”

Eleanor Cross, Charing Cross Railway Station.

Mary Fox-Davies (1910) says that: “You know, I expect, the story of these crosses: how King Edward I. brought the coffin of his dead queen, Eleanor, from Nottinghamshire to her burial-place in Westminster Abbey, and on each spot where the coffin was placed to rest during the long, weary journey the King erected one of these crosses, and the little village of Charing was the last halt on the way. The original Charing cross stood nearer to White-hall, on the spot now occupied by the statue of Charles I.; it was removed in 1647, when the copy was placed in its present position. Ten of these ”Eleanor Crosses“ were erected by King Edward, but only three now remain — one at Geddington, one at Northampton, and one at Waltham Cross.” 

Garry Hogg (1968) tells us the locations of the other Eleanor Crosses, saying the: “Eleanor Cross, Geddington, Northants, three miles north-east of Kettering. Only three of the original eleven memorial crosses erected by Queen Eleanor’s funeral cortege between Hardby, Lincolnshire, and West-minster Abbey survive today (the third is at Waltham, Essex). Eleanor Cross, Hardingstone, Northants, on the A50, one mile south of Northampton. The earliest one, carved in 1291 by John Battle.”  Please note there is an error by the author: it should read Harby, Nottinghamshire, not Hardby, Lincolnshire. 

The HE (Historic England) List No is:- 1236708. See the Link, below.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Fox-Davies, Mary, London — Shown To The Children, T. C. & E. C. Jack, Ltd., London And Edinburgh, 1910.

Hogg, Garry, Odd Aspects of England, David & Charles (Publishers) Limited., Newton Abbot, Devon, 1968.

Mee, Arthur, The King’s England — London, Hodder And Stoughton Limited, London E.C.4., 1949.

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1236708

https://lookup.london/the-eleanor-cross-of-charing-cross/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_Eleanor_Memorial_Cross

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleanor_cross

More info here: https://www.strandlines.london/2019/11/18/the-eleanor-charing-cross/

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.


St Patrick’s Well, Heysham, Lancashire

St Patrick’s Well or Church Well at Heysham, Lancashire.

NGR: SD 41093 61591.  At the corner of Main Street in Heysham, Lancashire, and just down the slope from St Peter’s Church is St Patrick’s Well (also known as Church Well). It is built into the wall at the side of the street at the bottom of the rectory garden (Glebe Garden).  However, it would seem that it has never been a holy well despite being named after the Irish patron saint, but merely ‘a spring’ that was used by the local church, St Peter’s, and its rectory.  Perhaps it should be called St Peter’s Well. The village, it would seem, needed the divine help of a great saint such as St Patrick and, after all the ruined Saxon chapel on the headland above the parish church already bore his name. Today, in the rectangular-shaped arched walled recess above two stone steps and pebble-filled basin there is a hand-operated pump contraptiuon, but whether this still pumps water is anyone’s guess – though it might do!? The present structure only dates from the early 1900s but it stands in the place of an earlier 18th Century well that had collapsed. It is Grade II listed.  Heysham is a very attractive village situated about 1¾ miles to the southwest of Morecambe on the A589.  

The ‘British Listed Buildings’ website has the following information: “Well head. Possibly C18. Well set in a roughly semi-circular recess in a rubble retaining wall, spanned by a lintel.  The kerb stone at the front of the wall is level with the top     of a second lower wall which contains a recess with two steps in front of the well.” See their website:   https://britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/101355054-st-patricks-well-lancaster-heysham-central-ward#.XqoLVlLsZjo

Eileen J. Dent (2003) says of St Patrick that: “The popular myth that St Patrick came to Heysham can be discounted by his “Confessions” written towards the end of his life:

“‘Wherefore then, even if I wished to leave them to go to Britain–and how I would have loved to visit my country and my parents and also Gaul in order to visit my brethren and to see the face of the saints of                my Lord. God knows it that I desired it, but I am bound by the Spirit, who gives evidence against me if                       I do this, telling me that I shall be guilty; and I am afraid of losing the labour which I have begun – nay,                not I but Christ the Lord who bade me come here and stay with them for the rest of my life,  if the Lord             will, and will guard me from every evil way that I may not sin before Him.”’   

“This was St Patrick’s reply to his fellow bishops who had criticised him for remaining in Ireland and not evangelizing abroad.”

Ken Fields (1987) tells us that: “A saint whose name has become linked with holy wells is the patron of Ireland, Saint Patrick. Little is known about his early life before he rose to become the great missionary, but we have a tradition that an important episode in his youth occurred on the north-west coast.

St Patrick’s Well at Heysham, Lancashire (b/w photo view).

“Patrick was born about AD385 of noble stock at a place named Banavem Taberniae, which some people say is the village of Bewcastle near Carlisle. The story of his capture by pirates while still a boy, and his imprisonment in Ireland is well docu-mented. Just how he managed to escape by sea and was subsequently ship-wrecked is less well known and his landing place is not documented at all.  Some historians claim it was Gaul, but others disagree, pointing to what is now part of the Lancashire coast as a likely spot.  It is at a point close to lovely Hey-sham Village that the young Patrick is said to have landed; a stony bank visible only at low water is still known as St Patrick’s Skier. The ruin of an ancient chapel on the cliff edge marks the spot where he came ashore and alongside are some unusual graves hewn out of the rock.  Now empty these probably once held the bodies of monks.  After his landing at Heysham, the weary saint began the long journey home on foot.  The route he took can still be followed on a map, for many of his stopping places recall his name. At Hest Bank, a few miles north of Heysham lies the first St. Patrick’s Well, a place where the holy man stopped to drink. Near the small town of Milnthorpe lies Preston Patrick, and the magnificent valley of Patterdale in the heart of Lakeland was originally St. Patrick’s Dale.  Patterdale church is dedicated to the saint,  and on the road to nearby Glenridding is yet another St. Patrick’s Well. The village of Bampton near Haweswater, has a pub named St. Patrick’s Well, and its Anglican church is one of only ten in all England dedicated to the saint. North of Maryport, lies the town of Aspatria, which is said to be yet another settlement derived from his name. Thus it is possible to travel northwards from Heysham, following in the saint’s footsteps through some of our most attractive countryside. Here is a link with a journey that took place sixteen centuries ago.”  

There used to be another well in Heysham which was called Sainty Well or Saintly Well, but this was capped and covered over in recent times. This second ‘holy well’ is now on private land half-way along St Mary’s Road, Heysham. See History of Heysham website Link: http://www.sandhak.co.uk/html/history_of_heysham.html

Sources / References & Related Websites:

‘British Listed Buildings’ website Link:  https://britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/101355054-st-patricks-well-lancaster-heysham-central-ward#.XqoLVlLsZjo

Dent, Eileen J., Heysham − a History, The Rector and Parochial Church Council of St Peter’s Church, Heysham, and Heysham Heritage Association, 2003.

Fields, Ken, The Mysterious North, Countryside Publications, 1987.

‘History of Heysham’ website Link:  http://www.sandhak.co.uk/html/history_of_heysham.html

https://megalithix.wordpress.com/2010/04/29/st-patricks-well-heysham/

https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=48439

https://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=41448#aRt

http://www.heyshamheritage.org.uk/html/visiting_heysham.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heysham

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.


St Ebba’s Chapel, Ebb’s Nook, Beadnell, Northumberland

St Ebba’s Chapel near Beadnell (looking west). Photo Credit: Anne T.

NGR: NU 23964 28707.  The grassed-over scanty remains of St Ebba’s Chapel are situated on a narrow promontory known as Ebb’s Nook (Snook), which juts out into the North Sea, on the opposite side of Beadnell Harbour, near Seahouses. Northumberland. These grassy humps and lumps are all that remains of a 12th or 13th century chapel named after St Ebba or Æbba, a Northumbrian princess who died in 683 AD. There are also some earthworks surrounding the ruined chapel (E side) which are said to be those of a small pre-Conquest monastery possibly founded by St Æbba, the step-daughter of King Æthelfrith of Bernicia, who is ‘one and the same’ as St Abb, abbess of a monastery at Coldingham, near Eyemouth, on the East Berwickshire coast. She was also the sister of St Oswald, King and Martyr (d 642).

The chapel site can be reached by going through Beadnell village (north end): going (south) along Harbour Road and then Marl-borough Road. At the south end where the road bends to the southwest take the footpath (south) for a short while between the buildings, and then (east) along the promontory (Beadnell Point), with Little Rock in the distance; the chapel ruins are about half-way along this narrow, grassy promontory.

Nigel & Mary Kerr (1982) tell us that: “The situation of the small ruined chapel at Ebb’s Nook is all-important. It stands bleakly beside the North Sea, looking up the forlorn and storm-swept coast of Northumbria, and we may well wonder at the piety and faith which made men choose this of all places to build a chapel. There can be few more powerful examples of the juxtaposition of the spiritual and elemental than this small outpost of Christianity.

“The ruins of the chapel, originally a simple two-roomed structure of nave and chancel which was later extended by a western annexe, were uncovered in 1853. There is no certain date for the building, but the place name recording its associations with St Ebba, stepdaughter of Ethelfrith, king of Northumbria, suggests a site of ancient usage.

The first view of St Ebba’s Chapel near Beadnell. Photo credit: Anne T.

“St Ebba, whose feast day is 25th August, fled from Northumbria to Scotland when Edwin invaded the kingdom in 616. She later became a nun and was famed for her wisdom. She reputedly secured the release of St Wilfrid one occasion by telling Ecgfrith, the king who had imprisoned him, that his wife’s illness was a divine punishment for depriving the saint of his freedom: he was speedily released! Later, however, St Ebba was criticized for relaxed state of her community of nuns at Ely. Particular attention was drawn to the nuns’ weaving of fine clothes with which they sought to attract attentions of ‘strange men’. Despite this temporary lapse from grace, Ebba’s reputation for holiness continued after her death, and she was especially venerated during the 12th century in the north of England and south Scotland following the discovery of her relics.

“Perhaps, therefore, the little chapel on Ebb’s Nook is of the 12th century, and was constructed when her cult underwent a revival. But in lieu of direct evidence to the contrary, we will follow the confident assertion of the 19th-century excavators that this was the site of a chapel dedicated to her during the halcyon days of Northumbria in the 7th century.”

Northumberland National Park Guide (1990) tells us that:  “The small pile of grass-covered rubble near the point is the re-mains of Ebba’s Chapel, a 13th century structure excavated in 1853 after being buried for many years. Ebba was the sister of King Oswald; she may have been responsible for the building of a small chapel on this site in the 7th century. The stones and debris of the chapel have been colonised by thrift and scurvy-grass.”

St Ebba’s Chapel (north doorway and wall). Photo credit:  Anne T.

David Hugh Farmer (1982) has much more on St Ebba or Ebbe, saying she was: “first abbess of Coldingham (Berwickshire). Daughter of Ethelfrith, king of Northumbria, she fled to Scotland on his death in 616, when Edwin conquered Northumbria. Later she became a nun at Cold-ingham and subsequently abbess of this double monastery. In 672 Etheldreda was separated from her husband, King Egfrith, with the counsel of Wilfrid, and became a nun under Ebbe (who was her aunt) before founding her own monastery at Ely. In 681 Egfrith visited Cold-ingham with his second wife Ermenburga, who was then seized with some kind of sudden illness. Ebba, now famous for wisdom, interpreted this as a punishment for the imprisonment of Wilfrid, disobedience to Roman decisions in his favour, and the theft of his relics and reli-quaries by Ermenburga. Egfrith released Wilfrid; Ermenburga restored the relics and soon recovered.

“Not long afterwards, the aged Ebbe was warned by the priest Adomnan of the relaxed state of her community. The nuns were said to spend their time weaving fine clothes, to adorn themselves like brides or to attract the attention of strange men, while both monks and nuns alike neglected vigils and prayers. In spite of Adomnan’s threat of divine punishment, the community mended its ways only for a little while. A few years after Ebbe’s death, the monastery was burnt down (686). These failures of Ebbe’s community did not destroy her reputation for holiness. Her name was given to Ebchester and to St Abb’s Head, where the remains of a fort possibly indicate the site of her monastery. Interest revived in her during the 12th century, following the discovery of her relics in the late 11th. At this time, according to an account attributed to Reginald of Durham, she was known from York to Lanark. Calendar evidence for her feast comes from Durham, Aberdeen, and Winch-combe, while Durham and Coldingham shared her relics.  She is also the titular of a church and street in Oxford.  The present church at Coldingham (part of the priory founded by Durham) is more than a mile away from Ebbe’s monastery. Feast 25th August.”   

The 19th Century parish church in the centre of Beadnell village is also dedicated to the local saint, Ebba. There are three late 18th Century (restored) limekilns at Beadnell Harbour (east side).

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Photos (above) are the © copyright of Anne T. Many thanks Anne for your help and kindness. Please see the Link:  https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=50082&m_distance=0.0

Farmer, David Hugh, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1982.

Kerr, Nigel & Mary, A Guide to Anglo-Saxon Sites, Granada Publishing Limited, St Alban’s, Hearts, 1982.

Northumberland National Park, Walks on the Northumberland Coast, Northumberland County Council National Park and Countryside Department, Eastburn, South Park, Hexham, 1990.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%86bbe_of_Coldingham

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beadnell

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1008563

https://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=8230

https://www.channel4.com/programmes/time-team/articles/series-19/st-ebbas-chapel-by-the-sea/453

More info here:  https://www.scribd.com/document/239530531/Time-Team-St-Ebba-s-Chapel-Beadell

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.

 


The Long Stoop, Yeadon, West Yorkshire

Photo credit, see below.

NGR: SE 22127 41831. At the side of the roundabout on the very edge of the Leeds-Bradford Airport at Yeadon, west Yorkshire, stands a rather curious gritstone pillar that looks rather out-of-place being located where it is, but it has, in fact, been moved in order to facilitate its predicament of being in the way of an airport runway extension; the most recent move being in the early 1980s.  This tall, roughly-hewn stoop stone is actually a boundary stone or guide stone whose base is all that remains of the original stoop from the early part of the 19th Century, which had, at that time, stood at Coney Lodge Farm about a ¼ of a mile to the northeast, but was apparently destroyed by lightning. The ‘Long Stoop’ Stone stands beside what looks to be a mounting block! on the verge of the A658 roundabout at the junction of Victoria Avenue (Harrogate Road) and Warren House Lane at the northwestern perifery of the Leeds & Bradford Airport complex, just to the east of Yeadon.

The original ‘Long Stoop’ Stone which had stood for a few hundred years at Coney Lodge Farm, near Yeadon, was destroyed by lightning around 1836 after which a replacement stoop was erected a ¼ of a mile to the west on the Harrogate Road turnpike     at Crown Point (east side of Yeadon), but in 1983 it was moved once again a short distance to the side of the A658 roundabout when an extension to the airport’s runway was being built. It is a boundary or guide stone and is a tallish, rough-hewn gritstone pillar with a flat top, and is set into a base stone from the original old stoop; but it has been blackened by the chimney smoke from nearby Bradford and Leeds which occurred during the Industrial Revolution. Today, however, it is probably something of an oddity or curiosity to the people in their cars going round the roundabout. See the very excellent ‘Aireborough Historical Society’s’ website, below, for further historical information and old photos.

Sources / References & Related Websites:

Photo by Patrick John Leonard. Thanks mate.

https://www.aireboroughhistoricalsociety.co.uk/yeadon/long-stoop-1900.aspx

https://www.aireboroughhistoricalsociety.co.uk/yeadon/long-stoop-1979.aspx

http://www.leodis.net/display.aspx?resourceIdentifier=20041019_84974307

https://www.geocaching.com/geocache/GC6C6DJ_yeadon-stoop?guid=228e1a7c-5db9-47c4-8ed8-0113448d5e09

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yeadon,_West_Yorkshire

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.


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Ancient Cross St Oswald’s Church, Guiseley, West Yorkshire

Photo credit (see below).

NGR: SE 19415 42151. The 13th to 15th Century parish church of St Oswald King & Martyr on Church Street, Guiseley, West Yorkshire, houses a 9th Century Anglo-Danish cross-shaft with some heavily worn carved decoration on its two faces, although the head, or rather a cross-arm, is obviously from another cross, and    one other fragment. This carved cross-arm shows a strange serpent-like creature which is Danish in design, while the shaft itself has the more typical Saxon cord-work interlacing and is perhaps earlier than the head. The sides of the shaft are now very eroded. There was a church here in the early 12th Century and perhaps even one before that? There is some fine Norman architecture in the south doorway and arcade, and Early English south transept, while the N tower and arcade are 15th Century Perpendicular. St Oswald’s church, which is Grade 1 listed, was extended and modified in the early 20th Century. St Oswald’s Parish Church is located on Church Street, just south of Queensway, at the northeastern side of the west Yorkshire town.

Photo: (see below).

At the west end of the church nave stands a rather blackened and worn cross-shaft set into a chunky stone base, and on top another fragment which is a carved cross-arm from somewhere else, and which together stand at almost 6 feet high; but the arm is obviously from another cross – the main part of that would now seem to be lost. The cross-shaft itself is made-up of fragments of carved stonework from the Anglo Saxon period, which, had earlier been found inside the church where it had been in use as a door lintel,  but did it originally stand out in the churchyard?  The front face, as it stands, has intricate cord-work interlacing formed into a sort of trellis – or, according to W. G. Collingwood, “a scimitile trellis”, and nice cord-work scrolls – although those at the top of the trellis are smaller; or are they spirals? Collingwood said there was a sword through the centre of the trellis. Above that (lower cross-arm) a smaller section of curving cord-work interlacing which is better than that below, and what is probably a line of knots? There is now very worn flat mouldings on the edges. See The Corpus of Anglo Saxon Stone Sculpture’ website, below.

The cross-arm (top) shows a dragon-headed serpent eating its tail. This is probably the ‘Midgard Serpent’ and likely to be 10th Century and Danish. Beneath the serpent is a half circle or archway. The opposite side (against the wall, and not visible) has a panel with similar carvings to the front, but damaged. There is a moulding on the left-hand side (edge). The cross-arm (top) shows a possible animal carving that is damaged. See ‘guiseleywithesholt’ website, below. Also see ‘The Corpus of Anglo Saxon Stone Sculpture’ website, below.

John & Caitlin Matthews (1988) say:Midgard Serpent (N) Also called Jormundgand. The monstrous son of Loki and Angrboda. He grew until his body encircled the earth and he could capture his own tail. Placed in the sea by Odin, he writhed so as to cause tempests. He will only be destroyed by Ragnorok, according to Crossley Holland (1980).  Please         note: (N) Norse.

Robert A Carter (1976) tells us St Oswald’s was: “Extensively restored in the second half of last century and much enlarged in 1910 by Sir Charles Nicholson. Nevertheless it retains Norman and Early English work. The pulpit and a pew in the south chapel with the initials of Sir Walter Calverley on the door are seventeenth century but most of the other Jacobean style woodwork is by Nicholson. Good woodcarving, including the rood beam erected in 1921, by the Italian artist Gulielimo Tosi. Fragments of Anglo Saxon sculpture. Two literary associations: Patrick Bronte married Maria Bramwell here in 1812 and this was the parish church of many ancestors of the American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.”    

Also of interest in the church below the arch (at the side of the entrance) can be found a large stone bearing a consecration cross; there were originally seven of these tiny crosses.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Photos are by Patrick John Leonard. Many thanks Patrick.

Carter, Robert A., A visitor’s guide to Yorkshire Churches, Watmoughs Limited, Idle, Bradford, West Yorkshire, 1976.

Matthews, John & Caitlin, The Aquarian Guide To British And Irish Mythology, The Aquarian Press (Thorsons), Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, 1988.

http://www.ascorpus.ac.uk/catvol8.php?pageNum_urls=91

More info here:  http://guiseleywithesholt.org.uk/our-churches/st-oswalds-church-guiseley/the-guiseley-cross/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Oswald%27s_Church,_Guiseley

https://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/YKS/WRY/Guiseley/PhotoFrames/GuiseleyStOswald

https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=16750

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.

 

  


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Chichen Itza, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, South America

Stepped pyramid of El  Castillo at Chichen Itza. Photo credit: James Stephen Strickland.

‘Temple of the Warriors’ at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, before all the trees were cleared away.

Latitude 20.684285. Longitude -88.567783. In the north of the Yu-catan Peninsula, Mexico, South America, lie the ancient ruins of the Mayan city of ‘Chichen Itza’ (meaning “at the mouth of the well of the Itza”), which is located in Tinúm Municipality (Yucatan State) some 38 kilometers (24 miles) to the west of Valladolid on the 180 road – just to the southeast of the village of Piste. This remarkable, and quite mysterious site, is a large complex of Mayan temples, halls, strange beast sculptures, human-figure statues (there is a reclining stone figure of Chac Mool at the Temple of the Warriors), and also carved walls, and, in the centre of the court-yard is the stepped pyramid of ‘El Castillo’ (also called the ‘Temple of Kukulkan’). The ruined buildings and temples are thought to date from the Pre-Columbian period 550 AD to 1250 AD and to span three historical Mayan periods: Late Classic, Terminal Classic and Post Classic. Today, this much-visited archaeological site, covering four-square miles, comes under the guardian-ship of ‘The National Institute of Anthropology and History’. Chichen Itza was by far the largest of all the Mayan cities. There are antiquities displayed from Chichen Itza in the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City.

Wonders Of The World (1930) says of Chichen Itza: “The city, as it stands to-day, consists of a group of six stone buildings which are more or less intact, and the remains of numerous other stone structures in various states of ruin. All authorities agree that these buildings were the palaces of chiefs and officials, temples for the worship of the Maya gods and religious establishments for the housing of the priestly castes, the abodes of the poorer classes being palm-leaf huts, which have long since disappeared, but which in all probability were built in the same manner as the natives erect them to-day. 

Temple of the Warriors at Chichen Itza, before the restoration work had taken place.

Stepped Pyramid of El Castillo at Chichen Itza. Photo Credit: James Stephen Strickland.

“The Eyes of Jade: The building which is the most magnificent is, to give it its Spanish name, El Castillo. This is a truncated pyramid faced with solid slabs of stone with a building on top. From the ground-level to the top of the building it is over one hundred feet high, while the base lines of the pyramid are round about two hundred feet each. The four sides all but face the four cardinal points, and on each of them is a gigantic stairway leading to the summit. The main entrance to this building is on the northern side, looking towards the sacrificial pool.  The doorway, which has now partly fallen, still bearing traces of its former magnificence.  It is twenty feet wide and the lintel was supported by two pillars carved in the pattern of snakes and ending at their bases with enormous, open-mouthed, flattened heads of these reptiles, the now empty eye-sockets being at one time filled with eyes of polished jade.                                                        

A carved stone serpent (snake). Photo: James Stephen Strickland.

The stone carved animal heads.

“The building was erected for the purpose of a temple, and inside the doorway is the Maya Holy of Holies which was used only for the per-formance of the most sacred rites.  Whether the ghastly sacrificial acts celebrated on the pyramids of Mexico, in honour of the God of War and the Sun Diety, were enacted in this temple is not known, but it would seem probable that those flattened heads of serpents on the platform of the pyramid  served another purpose than that of  an ornamental base for the door-pillars.  If it was a fact that human sacrifices similar to those performed in Mexico were practiced in Yucatan, then it was on the flattened heads of these serpents that the ceremony of tearing the palpitating heart out of the human sacrificial victim’s body was performed by the Maya priests, and the body, scarcely lifeless, was rolled down the side of the pyramid to be sacramentally eaten by the hundreds of worshippers congregated on the plain below.

El Castillo (Temple of Kukulkan). Photo: James Stephen Strickland.

“Home of the Rain God: From the northern base of El Castillo a forest path, showing traces here and there of the remains of a cemented roadway, leads to one of the grimmest pools in the world. It is one of the wells, or cenotes, from which Chichen takes its name. An enormous circular basin, two hundred feet in diameter, its sides drop sheer and perpendicular over one hundred feet to its limestone basin. As you stand adventurously on the brink and, clutching the branch of a tree for safety, gaze over its precipitous edge into the black water seventy feet below, you do not wonder that the ancient Maya saw in its sepia depths the home of their Rain God. In a report sent to Madrid from Yucatan, in 1579, the sacrificial ceremony of throwing human victims into the cenote to appease the wrath of the Rain God in times of drought was described, but for centuries there was nothing to verify this tale. In 1906 the dredging of the bottom of the cenote was commenced, and several human skulls and bones were brought to the surface. On closer examination these human remains proved without exception to be those of females of immature age, and this confirmed once and for all the truth of the early Spanish report.

“To the south-west, one hundred and thirty yards from El Castillo, is what is now known as the Tennis Court. Running north and south are two parallel walls twenty-five feet high, thirty feet thick, two hundred and seventy-four feet long and one hundred and twenty feet apart. The court was used for a ball game of which the ancient Maya were very fond. It was played by teams whose object it was to get a ball made of rubber through a hole in a stone disc jutting out from the upper part of the wall. 

Chichen Itza ‘Wall of the Skulls’. Photo: James Stephen Strickland.

“The Mayas at Play: One of these big stone discs, measuring all but an inch of four feet in diameter, pierced through its eleven and a half inches of thickness with a hole one foot seven inches in diameter, is still in position. The Spanish historian tells us that the ball was bounced from the hips of the players through the ring, and the winning team had the right to take as their prize all the clothes of the spectators. At each end of the court stand the remains of a small temple, and on the eastern wall at the southern end is a building called the Temple of the Tigers, which gets its name from an elaborately carved frieze design of these animals around the wall coping. On the walls of the interior of this building are the most remarkable Maya paintings that have so far been discovered. They depict the scenes of everyday life as it was lived by the Mayas before the coming of the Spaniards, in greens, reds, blues, and yellows. The designs are crude and out of proportion, but much can be gleaned of the life of the past inhabitants of Chichen.

The Nuns House (Casa de las Monjas) at Chichen Itza, Yucatan.

El Caracol or ‘The Observatory’ at Chichen Itza, in Yucatan.

Workers without Tools:  To the south of El Castillo stands a ruined building, known as the Caracol, from a ‘“winding staircase”’ by which the top is reached from the interior. The building is turret-shaped and stands on two terraces one above the other, the lower one measuring two hundred and twenty feet by one hundred and fifty feet. The top of the building was about sixty feet from the ground-level and on it was originally an observation platform, which was, it is believed, used for the study of the heavens and was possibly connected with sun and star worship. Only a short distance from the Caracol is another building which is a fine example of Mayan architecture. It is known as the Casa de las Monjas (‘“Nuns’ House”’), probably on account of its having been set apart for the housing of that body of young maidens who were known to have performed special services in the temples, and whose ultimate fate was in all probability the cenote. It has well withstood the elements for four centuries, and given a good idea of Maya architectural ornamentation.

“The other buildings standing to-day at Chichen Itza are: the Akad-zib (‘“House of Mysterious Writing”’), which gets its name from a series of Mayan hieroglyphics over the doorway; the Chichanchob (‘“Red House”’), in allusion to the remarkable, possibly symbolic, decorations on the interior walls, which take the form of a hand painted in red, which design is, curiously enough, found also in parts of Asia; and a small building close against the Casa de las Monjas.”

There is an article (1952) in the book ‘Gods, Graves, And Scholars’ by Ceram, recalling the expedition to Chichen Itza of Edward Herbert Thompson, the American explorer. The following is a part of that article, in which we are told that: “A full moon was shining down on the jungle. Accompanied only by an Indian guide, the American explorer and archaeologist Edward Herbert Thompson—fifteen hundred years after the Mayas had left their cities and made a break for the country farther north—was riding through the New Empire that they had built for themselves, which had collapsed after the arrival of the Spaniards. He was searching for Chichén Itzá, the largest, most beautiful, mightiest, and most splendid of all Mayan cities. Horses and men had been suffering intense hardships on the trail. Thompson’s head sagged on his breast from fatigue, and each time his horse stumbled he all but fell out of the saddle. Suddenly his guide shouted to him. Thompson woke up with a start. He looked ahead and saw a fairyland.

“Above the dark tree-tops rose a mound, high and steep, and on top of the mound was a temple, bathed in cool moonlight. In the hush of the night it towered over the tree-tops like the Panthenon of some Mayan acropolis. The Indian guide dismounted, unsaddled his horse, and rolled out his blanket for the night’s sleep. Thompson could not tear his fascinated gaze from the great structure………Steep stairs overgrown with grass and bushes, and in part fallen into ruins, led from the base of the mound up to the temple. Thompson was acquainted with this architectural form, which was obviously some kind of pyramid. He was familiar, too, with the function of pyramids as known in Egypt. But this Mayan version was not a tomb, like the pyramids of Gizeh. Externally it rather brought to mind a ziggurat, but to much greater degree than the Babylonian ziggurats it seemed to serve mostly as a stony back providing support for the enormous stairs rising higher and higher, towards the gods of the sun and moon.

“Thompson climbed up the steps. He looked at the ornamentation, the rich reliefs. From the top, almost 96 feet above the jungle, he surveyed the scene. He counted a dozen scattered buildings, half-hidden in shadow, often revealed by nothing more than a gleam of moonlight on stone. This, then, was Chichén-Itzá. From its original status as advance outpost at the beginning of the great trek to the north, it had grown into a shining metropolis, the heart of the New Empire. Again and again during the next few days Thompson climbed on to the old ruins. ‘“I stood upon the roof of this temple one morning,”’ he writes, ‘“just as the first rays of the sun reddened the distant horizon. The morning stillness was profound…..Then the great round sun came up, flaming splendidly, and instantly the whole world sang and hummed. The birds in the trees and the insects on the ground sang a grand Te Deum. Nature herself taught primal man to be a sun-worshipper and man in his heart of hearts still follows the ancient teaching.”’

Sacred Well of Sacrifice or (Cenote) at Chichen Itza, which was dredged by E. H. Thompson.

Ceram (1952) adds that: “In one respect at least, Edward Herbert Thompson was very much the Schliemann of Yucatan, for when he pushed forward to Chichén-Itzá he was staking everything on a book that no one but himself took at all seriously. Schliemann himself could not have acted more credulously. Thompson also brings Layard to mind, for like Layard, who set out on his first expedition with only £60 in his purse and one companion to guide him, he plunged into the depths of the jungle with the most meager backing. And when he ran into difficulties that would have cowed any other man, he reacted with all of Petrie’s stub-bornness. We have seen that when the world was excited by Stephens’s first discoveries, the question was hotly debated whether the Mayas were the descendants of the people of the lost Atlantis, one of the lost tribes of Israel, an offshoot of the primordial American Indian stock, or what not. As a budding archaeologist, Thompson defended the Atlantean theory of Mayan descent in an article published in 1879 in a popular periodical. This was one of his very first ventures into print. The special problem of origins slipped into the background of his critical consciousness, however, when he actually went to Yucatán in 1885. At this time he was twenty-five years old, the youngest man in the American consular service. Once on the spot, he had no time for theory. It was an instinct rather than a considered judgment that drew Thompson to Yucatán. He took a long chance on the validity of Diego de Landa’s reports. In one of the volumes written by the archbishop he discovered the story of the Sacred Well, the cenote of Chichén-Itzá. Basing his account on old Mayan stories, de Landa described how, in times of drought or disaster, processions of priests and common people went to the Sacred Well of Sacrifice to propitiate the angry gods who lived in the depths. The marchers brought offerings with them to appease the diety, including beautiful maidens and captive warrior youths. After solemn ceremonies the maidens, de Landa said, were cast into the well, which was so deep that no victim ever rose to the surface.

“But there was to be more to de Landa’s story.  It was a custom, he said,  to throw in rich offerings after the sacrificial victims—household utensils, ornaments, gold. Thompson had read that ‘“if this land once contained gold, the largest part of it must be in the Well.”’ Generally this description had been dismissed as a quaint old tale with a great deal of rhetorical flourish and little factual basis. But Thompson accepted it as gospel truth, and he was determined to prove the validity of his belief. When he looked down on the Way to the Well of Sacrifice from the pyramid platform, little did he know what toil was to be his before arriving at the goal.” 

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

All the coloured photos are by James Stephen Strickland. Many thanks James. 

Ceram C. W., Gods, Graves, And Scholars — The Story of Archaeology, Victor Gollancz Limited in association with Sidgwick And Jackson Limited, London, 1952.

Wonders Of The World (forward by Sir Philip Gibbs, K.B.E.,) Odhams Press & Hutchinson & Co. (Publishers) Ltd., London, 1930.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chichen_Itza

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chacmool

https://www.visitmexico.com/en/main-destinations/yucatan/chichen-itza

https://www.chichenitza.com/

http://www.haciendachichen.com/ruins.htm

More info here: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/06/science/chichen-itza-mexico-mayan.html

http://museu.ms/museum/details/16762/national-museum-of-anthropology

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/world-heritage/chichen-itza/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.

 

 

 


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Cup-And-Ring Stone in Museum Gardens, York, North Yorkshire

Photo: See below.

NGR: SE 5996 5209. In the Yorkshire Museum Gardens, on Museum Street, at York, North Yorkshire, there’s a very nice cup-and-ring marked stone with well-defined carvings (petroglyphs) that date from the Bronze Age. There were originally two carved stones here, but the other one has been lost; the other stones alongside (which people sit on) are not of any real interest. This rectangular block/slab of stone stands beneath a tree at the side of one of the main footpaths at the southwest side of the Yorkshire Museum. There are at least six small cups and a number of concentric circles, and one connecting groove carved on this rough hewn slab of stone. However, there is much uncertainty as to just where the stone came from. Some think it came from a larger block of rock on the north York Moors, to the north of Whitby, while another thinks that it came from the Ravenscar area on the east Yorkshire coast. Could it have come from a cist grave on the moors? And why, and how, did it come to be in the museum gardens at York? At least a couple of these questions cannot really be answered with any great certainty.

Having probably been hewn from a larger rock-face somewhere above Robin Hood’s Bay, or from the Ravenscar area, on the East Yorkshire coast in the late 19th Century – the stone was presented to the York Philosophical Society, who in turn in I would imagine, gave it to the Yorkshire Museum. But the carving should really be undercover inside the museum. There are six small cup-markings with several concentric rings around each of them, and the middle carving, which has four rings, has a groove running to the edge of another ring (where there is a break in the stone) and then out to the edge of the stone itself,  and there looks to be another ‘possible’ (shorter) groove running from a cup-mark and then out to the edge.  So, all-in-all, this is a very interesting panel of rock-art. The stone is also numbered ROB2A in Chappell & Brown’s ‘Prehistoric Rock Art in the North York Moors’ 2005 (PRANYM), according to the excellent website: stone circles.org.uk. See their website link, below.

Source / References & Related Websites:-

Photo is courtesy of Patrick John Leonard. Many thanks Patrick.

http://www.stone-circles.org.uk/stone/yorkmuseum.htm  

https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=16935  

https://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/7246/york_museum_gardens.html    

http://secretyork.com/tag/neolithic/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.

 


The Washington Family Coat-of-Arms Stone at St Oswald’s Church, Warton, Lancashire

Washington coat of arms, Warton Church by Karl & Ali (Geograph).

NGR: SD 49819 72316. On Main Street at the southwest side of Warton village, near Lancaster, Lanca-shire, is the 14th Century church of St Oswald, and housed inside is a heavily-worn stone plaque or shield which used to show the Washington family’s Coat-of-Arms; this very worn stone has become a place of pilgrimage for visiting American tourists. The stone was originally on the outer (west) wall of the church-tower, but because of the vulnerability to the carving from weather-related erosion in 1955 it had to be placed on the tower wall inside the church, and now has a glass cover over it. This, then, (the) Washington Family Coat-of-Arms is generally believed to be the source of the ‘Stars and Stripes’ emblem of the United States flag. Robert de Washington was (of a branch of the Washingtons of County Durham) and he settled in Westmorland in the late 15th Century, and later owned land at Warton.  It was from this branch of the Washington family that George Washington was descended.  Robert de Washington of Warton was a generous benefactor to the village church and also had the stone plaque   or shield placed on the exterior tower wall. 

Washington shield at Warton Church, Lancs.

Sydney Moorhouse (1958) says that: “Here, on the outside of the western wall of the fifteenth century tower is a stone shield greatly worn by the weather, displaying the armorial bearings of the Washington family — “Arg. 2 bars, Gul, 3 mullions of the 2nd, with crescent for difference” which according to Lucus, the Warton historian of the early eighteenth century, ‘“is a plain indication that this family, ancient and yet creditable in the town, where the Rev. Laurence Washington has a good estate, have been largerly contributory towards the building of this fabric”’. It is generally believed that this coat of arms was the source of the Stars and Stripes emblem of the United States.

“The Washingtons originated from a small village named Wessington, in County Durham, and even to-day there are Old Washington and Washington marked on the maps of that county. A branch of the family settled in Westmorland and eventually came into the possession of lands around Kendal and in the vicinity of Warton. It was from the branch that George Washington was descended.

“Towards the end of the fifteenth century, one Robert de Washington, according to Mr. T. Pape’s excellent little publi-   cation on ‘“George Washington’s Ancestors and Their Memorials in England”’, held the lordship of Tewitfield in the    Manor of Warton by Knights Service and fivepence yearly instead of doing his duty at Lancaster. This same man owned fifteen burgages in Warton and ‘“in all probability the Washington Coat of Arms carved in stone on the outer western wall of Warton Church tower was a record of this Robert Washington’s generosity in the building of a Church”’.

Moorhouse goes on to say that: “It was the grandson of this Robert Washington who married a member of the Kitson family, who had large estates in Northamptonshire, and his son Laurence left Warton in the reign of Henry VIII for Northamp-tonshire and later settled at Sulgrave Manor. These were the ancestors of the illustrious George. Need I continue the story? I do so to show that the line of ancestry is unbroken and quote from a description of Sulgrave in ‘“English Country Houses”’ by Ralph Dutton and Angus Holden:

‘“Laurence Washington died in 1584 and was buried in the parish church. He was succeeded by his son       Robert, who in 1610 sold the Manor to his nephew, Laurence Makepeace.  It was in 1657, during the Commonwealth, that John Washington, great-grandson of Robert, sailed to America and settled at           Bridges Creek, Virginia, where the famous great-grandson, George Washington, was born in 1732.”’

“Although the main branch gravitated to Northamptonshire, some Washingtons remained in Warton until just over a century ago. Lucas refers to one in his History. The last was Thomas, who was vicar from 1799 to 1823 and is buried there. 

Maxwell Fraser (Miss) writing in 1939, says: “There is a closer link with America at Warton, about a mile from Carnforth which, although not actually in the Lake District, is within easy reach of Grange, either across the sands, or by the road round the head of the estuary. There was a branch of the Washington family settled at Warton centuries ago, and the arms of Robert Washington were carved on the tower of Warton church, where they are now protected from the ravages of weather and tourists by a sheet of glass. Lawrence Washington left Warton in the reign of Henry VIII for Northampton, and later settled at Sulgrave, but a branch of the family remained at Warton, and Thomas, the last of the Warton Washingtons, was vicar from 1799 to 1823 and is buried there.”

Miss Fraser adds that in St Martin’s church at Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria: “………every American visitor is attracted by the stained-glass panels in the east window (top) which show the arms of the Washington family.” This would be the crest/shield of George Washington, who became the 1st President of the United States of America in 1789, and whose ancestor one John Washington of Warton, had it placed here in the 15th Century.

And, finally, Pevsner (1979) tells us more about Warton church, saying: “St Oswald. The oldest evidence is early C14: the S chapel Sedilia (pre-1300?), the s arcade, if it represents original evidence (it is C19), and a S aisle window. Perp W tower, chancel, and N arcade . — In one PEW set-in shields — from older bench ends? — TWO BENCH ENDS, dated 1571 and 1612, are in the vestry.* — FONT. The base is typical of 1661, its date in the one elementary geometrical pattern. Also dated 1661 the lead interior, and this has much finer, indeed very delicate, patterns. — PLATE. Unmarked Chalice; Paten of 1716 by S.L.; Flagon inscribed 1802.”

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Fraser, Maxwell (Miss), Companion Into Lakeland, Methuen & Co. Ltd., London, (Second Edition) 1939.

Moorhouse, Sydney, Twenty Miles around Morecambe Bay — a Guide To Local Beauty Spots & How To Reach Them, The Morecambe Bay Printers Ltd., (Fourth Edition) 1958.

Pevsner, Nikolaus, The Buildings of England — North Lancashire, Penguin Books Ltd., Harmondsworth, Middlesex, (Reprint) 1979.

Photo (top) by Karl & Ali: https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/4555166

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warton,_Lancaster

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coat_of_arms_of_the_Washington_family

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Washington

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_the_United_States

https://www.lancashirelife.co.uk/out-about/places/the-george-washington-connection-to-the-north-lancashire-village-of-warton-1-2370404

More info here: https://bitaboutbritain.com/imagine-if-george-washington-had-been-lancastrian/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.

 


Lexden Burial Mound (Tumulus), Near Colchester, Essex

Old Map of Colchester and Lexden Areas with Tumulus & Celtic town.

NGR: TL 97537 24712. In the back gardens of a row of houses on Fitzwalter Road at Lexden, 1 mile southwest of Colchester town centre, in Essex, is an ancient barrow (tumulus) with trees growing out of it. The area where the mound is located was originally called Lexden Park. It was con-sidered by historians and antiquarians to date from the late Iron Age period of pre-history and, probably constructed just before, or at, the Roman occupation of 43 AD. Traditionally, it has also been thought that the mound was where the British prince, Cunobelinus, was buried, although whether there is any truth in that remains to be seen. Colchester was originally called Camulo-dunum after Cunobelinus, King of the Catuvellauni. To the north of the tumulus is the site of a Celtic cemetery and, further to the northeast at Sheepen Farm the site of the Celtic town, which would have been inhabited in the time of Cunobelinus. When the tumulus was excavated in 1924 many artefacts were dis-covered, some of which were bronze. The 4-5 foot high barrow with its outer ditch is at the far south-western end of Fitzwalter Road (Handford Place), just before St Clare Road.

Benham’s (1946) tells of the site, saying: “The Lexden Tumulus is a burial mound situated in what was formerly Lexden Park, and was excavated in 1924. It has long been a local landmark, in fact Dr. William Stukeley (1687-1765) had noted it in 1758 as ‘“Prasutagus’s grave,”’ a fanciful and unfounded ascription. Morant, though not mentioning the mound in his History of Colchester, left a plan of it with manuscript notes. The Rev. Henry Jenkins (c.1860) called it a ‘”Beacon,”‘ regarding it perhaps as a mount or mound in the vicinity so described in Speed’s Map of Essex (1610). Roman remains were found in the mound in 1860 (an amphora and pottery). Though surrounded (at some distance) by a circular ditch the mound itself was ovoid in shape.”      

Lexden Burial Mound (Tumulus) bronze artefacts.

Benham’s goes on to say that: “The excavation in 1924 indicated that the mound was the burial place of some noted personage, probably before the Roman Conquest in A.D. 43. The objects discovered included : (1) fragments of burnt human bones; (2) fragmentary pottery, described as ‘“pre-Flavian,”’ or, at latest, of the first half of the first century; (3) masses of iron, of which several portions are apparently parts of a litter; (4) iron chain-mail (many fragments); (5) a bronze table about 13 in. long by 9¾ in. broad and about 3¼ in. high, standing on four small ball-footed legs, and adorned with pendent scroll-work (it is thought that this table may have been the base of a standard lamp); (6) bronze pedestal about 3½ in. square and 2 in. high; (7) small bronze foot, sandalled (part of a figure of which the remainder was not found); (8) bronze figure of Cupid, holding a bird, found near the pedestal; (9) neck and head of a bronze griffin originally the attachment (or handle) for a bowl; (10) a small bronze bull, lying down; (11) a small bronze boar (tusked); (12) other bronze objects and fragments, bosses (with traces of red enamel), large numbers of bronze studs of various sizes, some of which are supposed to have decorated harness, a bronze palstave (an implement or weapon devised  to fit in to a wooden handle, dating from the late Bronze Age, already at least 900 years old at the time of burial), etc.; (13) remains of leather clothing, with a buckle; (14) fragments of horn; (15) remains of fine gold tissue; (16) many trefoil-shaped silver ornaments, remains of silver buckles and silver studs; (17) silver medallion with head of  Augustus (Gaius Octavius, 65 B.C.—A.D. 14) said to be identical with that on denarii issued 17 B.C., cut out from an actual coin and soldered on a silver disc, enclosed in moulded silver frame. It is inferred that this must have been the burial of a personage of importance, and it has even been supposed that it may have been the funeral mound of Cunobelinus, the British King. The absence of all coins of Cunobelinus is significant.”       

Benham’s adds more, saying that: “Colchester has claims to be the oldest recorded town in Great Britain. It occupies the site of the British Camulodunum, the ‘“fort of Camulos,”’ the Celtic war god, and the “‘royal seat”’ or capital of the British King Kunobellinos, according to the historian Dio Cassius. The coins of Cunobelinus, with their legends CAMV for Camulodunum and CVNO for Cunobelinus, found in hundreds in Colchester, are substantial evidence in conformation of this statement.

“Cunobelinus is the Cymbeline of Shakespeare, though beyond the name the poet borrowed nothing of his story—either legendary or historical. Cunobelinus resigned from about 5 B.C. till his death about A.D. 43. He is described on his coins as son of Tasciovanus, whose coinage is also plentiful, and who was perhaps descended from Cassivellaunus (Caswallon), who resisted Julius Cæsar’s invasion of Britain in the year 54 B.C. Cassivellaunus made terms with the Romans and continued to reign after there departure. He is reputed to have seized Camulodunum about 50 B.C., taking it from Man-dubratius, who was restored to his sovereignty by Julius Cæsar. These latter details, however, cannot be accepted as authentic.

“The Celtic settlement was discovered to be a large area of wattle-and-daub huts, dotted over the hill now occupied by Sheepen Farm, from the river marshes on the north up to the plateau towards the south, very much in the manner of native ‘“kraals”’ in Africa. Great quantities of pottery were found, as well as moulds for the striking of Cunobeline’s coins. The pottery included native (British) ware and Roman ware imported from the Rhineland, N. and S. Gaul, and Italy. Brooches and bronze objects and coins were also discovered. The coins were mainly of Cunobelinus, but one of his predecessor, Tasciovanus, was unhearthed. Over 50 Roman coins were found, ranging up to Claudius (A.D. 41—54). The evidence showed that the Celtic site had been occupied by the Roman soldiers for many months, or even a few years, before the Roman Colony had been established to the S.E., thus changing the position of the town to that which it now occupies on the hill adjoining.

“The Celtic cemeteries were on the south side of the main settlement, many burials having been found in the Lexden Park area. Several lines of massive earthworks, including Gryme’s Dyke, protected Camulodunum on the west, running from the river Colne in the north to the Roman river in the south, thus cutting off the peninsula formed by those two rivers.”

Hawks (1975) regarding Colchester, says: “The town stands, as it were, at the junction of British history with prehistory. Cunobelin or Cymbeline, who united south-east Britain into a single powerful kingdom during the early years of our era, established his capital here in about 10 A.D. He chose a slope above the Colne just to the south-west of the present town at a place where now there is little for the visitor to see beyond a huge notice by which the Corporation have obligingly announced that this is the site of Camulodunum, capital of King Cymbeline. The outer dykes defending the settlement —comparable to those we have seen at Chichester and St. Albans……are still visible within the area of Lexden Park. These long lines of bank and ditch are typical of Belgic military ideas in contrast with the enclosed hill-fort of their immediate predecessors. The faint remains of the scattered city of Camulodunum are now under fields, houses and roads on the outskirts of Colchester. Excavation showed that Cunobelin, and after him, no doubt, his ill-fated sons ruled there until the time of the Roman conquest.” 

Darvill (1988) telling of the inhabitants of Camulodunum, says: “The Lexden Tumulus………contained the burial of one of their leaders, possibly King Addedomaros. Accompanying the cremation were many ritually broken objects including fine tableware, wine amphorae and jewellery. Following the Roman Conquest, Camulodunum became an important colonia for retired Roman army veterans.”

Priestley (1976) tells us Colchester is: “One of the earliest Roman towns to be founded in Britain. Colchester has a great deal to show the visitor. In days before the Roman conquest, Cunobelinus (Cymbeline) King of the Catuvellauni ruled the whole of SE England from his capital here. It was situated on flat land to the W and NW of the modern town and defended by an elaborate system of earthworks and dykes between 2 and 3 miles (3.2 and 8 km) distant from the town. Traces of these may still be seen and followed with the aid of an Ordnance Survey map.”

There is a second tumulus, though this one is not so well known, 665m to the northwest of the Lexden burial mound, on a grassy area in the middle of a modern housing estate (Marlowe Way) at NG: TL 96877 24882. This tumulus, known as ‘The Mount’, probably dates from around the same time as the one at Fitzwalter Road, Lexden.

Sources / References & Related Websites: 

Benham’s, Benham’s Colchester — a history and guide, Benham And Company Limited, Colchester, 1946.

Darvill, Timothy, AA Glovebox Guide — Ancient Britain, The Publishing Division of The Automobile Association, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 1988.

Hawkes, Jacquetta, A Guide To The Prehistoric And Roman Monuments In England And Wales, Cardinal (Sphere Books Ltd), London, 1975.

Priestley, Harold, The Observer’s Book of Ancient & Roman Britain, Frederick Warne & Co Ltd., London, England, 1976.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lexden

https://colchesterheritage.co.uk/monument/mcc1356

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1019967

https://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=MEX34083&resourceID=1001

https://megalithix.wordpress.com/2009/12/20/lexden-tumulus/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.


Ditchley Roman Villa, Near Charlbury, Oxfordshire

A typical Roman villa in England, although Ditchley was smaller.*

NGR: SP 39932 20104. In a field about ½ a mile southeast of Ditchley Park, near Charlbury, Oxfordshire, are the visible earthworks of a Roman villa. This grassy, rectangular-shaped earthwork is to be found just to the east of a wooded area (Harry’s Plantation) in the location known as Watts Wells Field – northeast of Lodge Farm. Although it has always been called “Roman villa” more than likely it was a Roman farmstead, which had a boundary ditch (dyke) enclosing it and an entrance at the south side; but because it was still inhabited into the 5th century AD, ‘Romano-British’ farmstead seems more appropriate. The rectangular earthwork is said to be 330 x 300m. Nearby are remains of a Roman bath-house, ancient field system and Grim’s Dyke, and 1½ miles south is the Roman road (Akeman Street). 1½ miles northeast of Charlbury at the B4437 (Woodstock Road) take the lane north to Lodge Farm, then follow the footpath northeast and then east to the next field – the villa (site) is in this field, just a little to the south of the footpath.

The Wikipedia website has the following: “It was a collonaded house with outbuildings, threshing floors, and a granary with capacity for the produce of about 1,000 acres (400 ha) of arable land. It was surrounded by a rectangular ditch 360 yards (330 m) by 330 yards (300 m). The site is less than 2 miles (3.2 km) north of the course of Akeman Street Roman road and is one of a number of Roman villas and Romano-British farmsteads that have been identified in the area, apparently associated with the territory bounded by Grim’s Ditch. The villa site was identified by aerial archaeology in 1934 and excavated in 1935. It was found to have been first settled in about AD 70 with a set of timber-framed buildings, which were replaced in stone in the 2nd Century. In about AD 200 a fire severely damaged the stone buildings and the site was abandoned. The site was reoccupied early in the 4th century, and occupation on a more modest scale than before continued until the end of that century.” (See the link, below).

Ground plan of Ditchley Roman Villa, Oxfordshire (after Oxoniensia vol.i,p.28).

Richmond (1963) tells us that: “At Ditchley (Oxfordshire), the timber posts which formed the first version of the earliest house plainly indicate the simplest kind of structural beginning, comparable with the now rare but once common timber arcades of Norman domestic architecture, of which carpentry made a delightful thing. The first stone-built Ditchley house differed little from Lockleys or Park Street, and it is probable that only a loft-like first floor was provided, if at all. But about the turn of the first century A.D. there were added a new stone-built veranda and projecting end rooms which gave to the establishment both privacy and a new elegance. There was now room for re-creation and entertainment in what had been previously a workaday farm, wherein the whole house had lived together. Socially speaking, the new plan divided the household and accentuated the position of master and mistress. In Britain this type of house became widespread, and it brought the new province into touch with the mainstream of contemporary West-European domestic archi-tecture. For in Gaul or the Rhineland the design was generally common, and went with a sizeable farm. And so it was in Britain, for on the basis of its granary accommodation the Ditchley villa has been related to an estate of five hundred acres. This supplies, then, a kind of yardstick, however rough, by which the size and standing of different kinds of villas can be gauged. Even allowing for the fact that, on the ancient system of crop-rotation, one-third of the arable lay fallow each year, it becomes clear; that by this standard the numerous  bigger villas must have been related to very substantial estates indeed. Not enough is known about the social organization of such larger estates to say whether they were run by slaves or by crofter-labourers. But where a resident staff of labourers appears, their accommodation nearly always takes the form of a barn-dwelling, frequently ranged on one side of a farmyard or court. This structure, convenient for so many purposes, is planned with nave and aisles divided by timber columns. As in Friesian farm-houses today, the nave served for stores, tools, and livestock, while the aisles or the whole of one end of the building were partitioned to house the workers. In the form of a subsidiary building essential to the working of a farm this type of house was so general, even in the largest establishments, that its prototype has been sought in the pre-Roman days. But no proof of such antecedents has yet appeared, and it may well be that this type is borrowed from the Italian villa rustica. There are some villas also in which this type of house is the only domestic accommodation present, as for examples Clanville (Hampshire) or Denton (Lincolnshire). These represent either small tenant farms or bailiff-run establishments, where the distinction between tenant or supervisor and workers was less sharply defined. Some, as at Castlefield (Hampshire), are so primitive in their arrangements that any distinction seems out of the question.”

Hawkes (1975) with Roman villas in general, says: “These range in size and dignity from large “country houses” to quite modest farm-houses. They were most numerous and prosperous in the Home Counties, but frequent enough right across southern England, with noticeable concentrations in Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and the Cotswolds. The most elaborate villas were built round a courtyard; others had a main block with wings, very many consisted only of a single block with rooms opening on to an arcaded corridor. Their remains often include foundations of brick or stone walls, mosaic floors, small column bases, hypocaust columns from the central-heating system, and, of course, the usual Roman litter of bricks, tiles and potsherds. The buildings seem often to have been enclosed with an outer boundary ditch or wall, and the estates attached to them must sometimes have been extensive.” 

The Wikipedia websites also tells us that: “Some time before the villa was discovered, a hoard of 1,176 bronze Roman coins was found between Box Wood and Out Wood, about 600 yards (550 m) to 700 yards (640 m) northeast of the villa site. The coins range in date from about AD 270 onwards and seem to have been buried in a ceramic pot about AD 395, towards the end of the Roman occupation. The hoard was transferred to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford in 1935.

Grim’s Ditch, which passes through the present park and estate, is an ancient boundary believed to have been constructed during the Roman occupation of Britain in about the 1st century AD. The toponym ‘Ditchley’ is derived from a compound of two English words, meaning the woodland clearing (“-ley”) on Grim’s Ditch.” (See the Wikipedia Link, below).

Sources / References & Related websites:

Hawkes, Jacquetta, A Guide To The Prehistoric And Roman Monuments In England And Wales, Cardinal (Sphere Books Ltd), London, 1975.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ditchley

*Liversidge, Joan, Then And There Series—Roman Britain, Longman, Green And Co. Ltd., London & Harlow, 1969.

Richmond, I. A., The Pelican History Of England—Roman Britain, Penguin Books Ltd., Harmondsworth, Middlesex, 1963. 

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1009420

https://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=334570

https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/oxon/vol1/pp306-324

https://www2.rgzm.de/transformation/unitedKingdom/villas/VillaeLandscapes.htm

More information here Ashmolean Museum

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.

 


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The Multangular Roman Tower And Defensive Walls at York, North Yorkshire

The Multangular Roman Tower, Eboracum (York)

NGR: SE 60012 52072. At the east side of York city centre, just off Museum Street (A1036), and in the Yorkshire Museum’s gardens (at the north side) overlooking the River Ouse is the famous ‘Multangular Tower’, a defensive structure (with 10 sides or angles) belonging to the western corner of the Roman fort of Eburacum or Eboracum, which was built around the year 300 AD during the reign of Constantius I (Chlorus). The lower section of the tower with its nice, neat stonework is the Roman part whereas the top section with the larger stonework and arrow slits is 13th century. It is certainly the finest, and the best preserved, of all the Roman defensive structures in the city; and also there is a well-preserved 76 foot section of Roman wall (early 3rd century and still 17 feet in height, but without its parapet) running northeastwards from the Multangular Tower through the museum gardens toward Bootham Bar; along this section of wall there is the stump of an interval tower. Access to the York-shire Museum Gardens (close by Lendal Bridge) is from either Museum Street or Marygate. Also look out for the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey and St Leonard’s Hospital.

The Wikipedia website gives the following: “A low plinth or skirt extends out from the lowest course. It stands almost 30 feet (9.1 m) tall, has an external diameter of 48.5 feet (14.8 m) at the base and 46 feet (14 m) above the skirt. Length of each side varies from 7.5 feet (2.3 m) to 11 feet (3.4 m) on the inner face. The tower projects beyond the curtain wall to a distance of 36.75 feet (11.20 m). The foundations are concrete, atop which the tower extends having a rubble and mortar core between faced courses of small magnesian blocks. At 15 feet (4.6 m) a scarcement reduces the thickness of the wall from 5 feet (1.5 m) to 3.25 feet (0.99 m), which continues for a further 4 feet (1.2 m) before being capped by 11 feet (3.4 m) of 13th century masonry in which arrowslits can be seen”, according to Wikipedia. (See the Link, below).

Herman Ramm (1979) says that in: “About AD 300: The defenses were again rebuilt except for the section from the south-east to the north-east gates which includes the east corner. The new wall was similar to the old except that the facing was bonded to the core by a tile band and had a tile cornice. This can still be seen at the west angle where there is also the stump of a great projecting tower, the Multangular Tower, matched by another (not now visible) at the south angle. Along the south-west side, facing the Ouse, were six only slightly less imposing interval towers and a great gritstone gatehouse.

“The reasons for these changes are not always certain……but “is often said to be the result of another similar disaster, but the new architectural frontspiece added to the river front of the fortress suggests that it had attained a new dignity, probably that of becoming the seat of the new Dux Britanniarum, commander of the land forces of all Britain.

Herman Ramm goes on to say that: “Inside the fortress timber buildings have been found, for example near St. William’s College and off Blake Street, which must relate to the timber defences. The headquarters building was first built in stone in the early 2nd century (Trajan-Hadrian), but its next reconstruction in the early fourth century was Constantinian rather than Constantian. It was not demolished until the ninth century.”

Tom Garlick (1988) tells us that: “In the early 4th century the fortress was again strengthened by Constantius Chlorus following the troubles of 296. The river façade was now equipped with two fine polygonal angle towers, six close set interval towers and a new impressive towered gateway. These alterations made York one of the strongest defended and imposing fortresses of the Roman Empire. The south-west corner tower — the ten sided Multangular tower faced in small ashlar blocks — still survives in the Museum Gardens. Once fronted by ditches, its upper storey held powerful catapult artillery.

“Constantius I died at York and his son Constantine was proclaimed Emperor there. In the administrative reorganization of the 4th century, York became the headquarters of the Duke of Britain, a new military cavalry commander. In the third and fourth centuries Whitby jet was manufactured into rings, pins, necklaces and portrait medallions in the town and mar-keted in the Rhineland. By the late Empire there were Christian churches in the colonia and a bishop of York attended the church council in Arles in France in 314. The legionary garrison was evacuated in the late 4th century but town life seems to have continued into sub-Roman times and the Dark Ages.”

The Multangular Roman Tower at York (photo).

Mr Garlick adds more, saying that: “Today the fortress area, canabae and colonia lie buried beneath the modern city. The main lines of the camp’s streets are still preserved in Stonegate and Petergate, and the Minster stands over the Roman headquarters. Visitors can still inspect sections of the Roman defences. The Multangular tower is the finest survival, together with 35 feet of adjacent wall surviving to a height of 13 feet. Inside, the position of barracks is known, as is a bath house under the Mail Coach Inn in St. Sampson’s Square and the legionary head-quarters crosshall under the Minster. Modern buildings cover the canabae and the site of the presumed amphitheatre. No traces survive above ground of the colonia but its street plans and some of its buildings are known from excavation and chance finds. The cemeteries were extensive and lined the town’s approach roads. Visitors should establish the line of the Roman fortress and town walls as compared with the later medi-eval city walls and visit exposed Roman defences. The Yorkshire Museum contains an extensive collection of inscriptions and finds from the city which throw interesting light on the history of Eboracum and its inhabitants during the four centuries of Roman rule. In 1971 the city celebrated the 1,900 anniversary of its founding by Cerialis.” 

Richmond (1963) tells us: “At Eburacum (York) literature similarly records a shrine of Bellona, the Goddess of War, and there is a noble head of Constantine* as Caesar or newly-proclaimed Emperor.” *The head of Constantine can be seen in    The Yorkshire Museum.

Richmond goes on to tells us about jet, saying that: “Solinus describes British jet with interest, as a substance heated with water but quenched with oil and magnetic when rubbed. These paradoxical qualities endowed jet with almost magical esteem, and it became a favourite material for ornamental jewellery, much of which was manufactured at Eburacum (York). Hair-pins, spindles, finger-rings, and bracelets were made in great variety, some bracelets and many necklaces being ingeniously articulated in minute component pieces. Elaborately carved pendents and medallions, including family groups executed to order, and teddy-bears, represent either profitable lines of production.”

Sources / References & Related Websites:

Garlick, Tom, A Dalesman White Rose Guide — Roman Yorkshire, The Dalesman Publishing Company Ltd., Clapham, 1978.

Ramm, Herman, Roman York From A.D. 71, Yorkshire Architectural and York Archaeological Society, York, 1979.

Richmond, I. A., The Pelican History Of England — Roman Britain, Penguin Books Ltd., Harmondsworth, Middlesex, 1963.

The AA, The Illustrated Road Book Of England & Wales, The Automobile Association, London, 1962.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/York_city_walls#Multangular_Tower

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/York_Museum_Gardens

Check out this website: https://yorkcivictrust.co.uk/heritage/civic-trust-plaques/roman-fortress/

http://www.historyofyork.org.uk/themes/roman-empire-governed-from-york/the-multangular-tower

https://historicengland.org.uk/services-skills/education/educational-images/multangular-tower-and-wall-museum-gardens-7913

http://secretyork.com/multangular-tower/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.

 

 

 

 

 


Wavertree (site of destroyed tumulus) in Liverpool, Merseyside

Collared cremation urns from destroyed tumulus at Wavertree. (After Ecroyd Smith) 1868.

NGR: SJ 391 893. In July 1867 while digging at the place then called Victoria Park in Wavertree, Liverpool, Merseyside, workmen in the process of building two new houses came across at least eight ancient burial urns in a tumulus or cemetery; however, they destroyed at least six of these without due care and attention, and only two were dug up and still in a reasonable state of preservation, and so they were given over to the guardianship of Liverpool museum for further safe-keeping. These collared funery urns, and a few other fragments, were later examined and found to date from the Bronze Age. However, the workmen who discovered the urns had at the same time “destroyed” the grave (tumulus) in which the urns had lay. The site where this destruction took place is today semi-detached housing on North Drive, Wavertree, a suburb of Liverpool, but, there are no signs whatsoever of a tumulus or mound, if there ever had been one, which contained the funery urns. North Drive is 2 miles east of Liverpool City Centre, at the north side of High Street (B5178), and just to the east of Wavertree Playground (known locally as the Mystery).

Wavertree Bronze-Age Collared Urns (After J. A. Picton) 1868.

The site entry (No 56) in the ‘Lancashire Archaeological Bulletin’ (1984) gives the following information as: “Parish: Liverpool. Site Name: Wavertree. N.G.R. SJ 391 893. Primary Reference: Smith 1868 Picton 1868. Eight urns found in building operations 1867. Six destroyed. No. 1. 13″ high; 11″ greatest width; 9″ diam at mouth. Inverted on sandstone. Contents sand wood bone ashes, charcoal, clean calcined bone & two worked flints. Nearby a light-coloured  flint arrowhead, two scrapers and a core. No. 2. 6¾” high; 6″ broad; 5½” diam at mouth. Upright, mouth covered by a flag. Cont. ashes, sand, bone frags. These two went to Liverpool Museum.  Illustrations from Picton 1868, Plate I. These are at different scales the right urn being No. 1 above. Better illustrations accompany Smith 1868 where this urn is called No. 6 and the left urn is called No. 7. The first six found (and destroyed by workmen) were numbered 1-5 and 5A.”   

Further to that the following is given: “Picton, J. A. (1868) Prehistoric Remains in Lancashire. Arch. Camb. 314 (1868) 206-208.  Smith, H. E. (1868) An Ancient British Cemetery at Wavertree. HSLC 20 (1868) 131-146.” 

Sources / References & Related Websites:

Barrowclough, David A., Prehistoric Lancashire, The History Press Ltd., Cheltenham, 2008.

Edwards, Margaret & Ben, Lancashire Archaeological Bulletin, Vol. 10 No. 2/3 May & July, 1984. Preston, Lancashire.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wavertree

http://wavsoc.awardspace.info/dhw/page46.html

https://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/mol/visit/galleries/history/burial-urn.aspx

https://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/mol/collections/

Further local history: https://historic-liverpool.co.uk/wavertree/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.