The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


Tintagel Head Celtic Monastery, Cornwall

Map of Tintagel Island in Cornwall.

Map of Tintagel Island in Cornwall.

   OS Grid Reference: SX 05003 89064. On the rocky, windlashed headland of Tintagel-Head, in Corn-wall, near the ruins of Tintagel Castle which was built in c 1145, are the scant foundations of what was considered to be a Celtic monastery, dating from the beginning of the 6th century AD. This was probably a high-status Dark Age monastery with royal connections. There are also the walls of a 12th century chapel of St Julitta which is attached to the monastic buildings. It has always been assumed that the monastery here on Tintagel Head was founded in 500 AD by St Juliot, Julitta, or Julianta, a princess who hailed from south Wales, and might be one and the same as St Uletta. Tintagel Castle has long had “romantic” associations with King Arthur and Merlin the Magician. Today the monastic remains lie on Tintagel Island, which is all but cut-off from the rest of the headland where the castle ruins are situated. There is limited access from the castle to Tintagel Island through a deep chasm in the headlands via a footpath and bridge, but its very precarious and great care “should” be taken, especially if weather conditions are against you.

   The monastic site here at the south side of Tintagel Island, with its rectangular-shaped buildings all joined together, was excavated in the 1920s and 30s by C. A. Raleagh Radford (1900-1999) – at which time it was thought to be a high status Celtic monastery, but more recently a few historians have opted for the possibility that it might have been a trading centre due, perhaps, to the large amounts of pottery (known as Tintagel Pottery) found at the site, says Geoffrey Ashe ‘A Guidebook to Arthurian Britain’. Another large building (site E) that was a part of the monastery lies beneath a garden, while other little clusters of buildings (sites B.C. and F) lie to the S and SE of the main monastic site, which is known as site A. These clusters of buildings were probably the monastery’s farm and stables. By the 9th century it seems the monastery here at Tintagel was abandoned, its buildings left to go back to nature and the mists of time, but to be re-invigorated again in the 1920s by an archaeological dig! 

   There is a lot of very good field information on the Celtic monastery at Tintagel in the work ‘The Quest for Arthur’s Britain’, edited by Geoffrey Ash. It says that with regard to excavations on the island: “These excavations showed that the headland of Tintagel had been the site of an extensive Celtic monastery. Four different phases identified in one of the buildings indicated a long period of occupation. Imported pottery from the east Mediterranean established an initial date in the fifth or early sixth century. A silver penny of King Alfred (871-99)—the latest artifact antedating the castle—may represent no more than the loss by a pilgrim to a deserted oratory which was no longer the centre of a living community. Pottery of the twelfth century and later, though relatively common on this site, was never found in the layers associated with the monastery.

   “The Celtic monastery of Tintagel was bounded on the landward side by an earthen bank, now crowned by the thirteenth-century curtain, and by a broad, flat-bottomed ditch. The upper part of the existing bank is a twelfth-century heightening, but the base, some 30 feet across and 8 feet high, dates from the fifth or sixth century. Like its medieval successor, the monastic bank ran from the edge of the scarp overlooking the eastern valley to within a short  distance of the protruding boss of rock, leaving the same narrow entry. Early texts often speak of the monastic vallum, a term indicating the enclosure which fenced in the cashel or settlement occupied by the community. It seems always to have been a physical barrier, an earthen bank, a rampart of turf or a hedge. But it also had a spiritual meaning, separating the city of God from the world outside.

   “Within the enclosure the monastery consisted of groups of buildings, each with its special function. Eight such groups were located, of which six were explored and planned; the other two had been too far destroyed by the medieval castle. Two further sites were noted in folds of the cliff, and others probably await identification.

Plan of Celtic monastery at Tintagel, Cornwall.

Plan of Celtic monastery at Tintagel, Cornwall.

   “The first and largest site examined lay on the eastern edge of the plateau; it was centred on the twelfth-century chapel. The Celtic site consisted of a long range of buildings facing east on to a court which was bounded on the far side by the cliff, here forming the edge of the plateau. The range was approached from the south by a path running along the edge of the plateau; this is now reached by a modern zigzag approach rising up from the inner ward of the castle. The original way is likely to have been along the plateau, which has here been destroyed by the encroachment of the sea. At the south end of the range of buildings, a small square room thrust forward from the general line, together with the stub of a wall, suggest a gate with a lodge providing access to the court. With the court, a much-ruined stretch of walling immediately south of the later chapel is probably part of an older oratory. Beside it is the base of a square block of masonry, a tomb shrine or leacht. These tomb shrines are a normal feature in Celtic cemeteries; they housed the relics of saints or founders.

   “On the far side of the chapel a number of graves have been discovered. The oratory with the tomb of the saint would be the primary objective of visiting pilgrims. In its immediate vicinity one would expect to find the various buildings catering for their needs. There would be a treasury containing other relics, perhaps possessions of the saint. There would also be a sacristy, where the vessels needed for the service of the oratory would be stored. A guesthouse for the refreshment of pilgrims might also be found in this area, together with rooms needed by those members of the community charged with the care both of the pilgrims and of the lay community, of which the pastoral care was the responsibility of the monastery.

   “On this basis, it may tentatively be suggested that the southern end of the range, with a large central hall and smaller rooms grouped on one side and to the back, represents the guesthouse. The central part, now appearing as a single room, has been much damaged by the later chapel. Originally it may well have been subdivided, and here, in the vicinity of the oratory, one might expect the treasury and sacristy. This would leave the smaller rooms at the north end for the needs of those members of the community whose duties were with the lay world. This range had a long history. Four distinct building phases could be recognized. Normally the phases indicated adaption, while retaining the main structure of older date. Even so, a life of some three centuries is not likely to be too long for the existence of this community, and it could well have been in being for a far longer period.”

   And what about the founder/foundress of the Celtic monastery on Tintagel Head. Who was St Juliot or Julitta? The thinking is that the founder was St Uletta (Ilid). She was, according to legend, one of the many daughters of King Brychan Brycheaniog and was the founder of the first church at Llanilid, Mid-Glamorgan, in Wales, and is commemorated there with St Curig. In c 500 AD she went with other members of her family to Cornwall. We know that she was close, spiritually, to her sister St Morwenna and her brother St Nectan. It seems, however, that in Cornwall her original name was St Juliana (Iludiana) and over time the name became Juliot and Julitta; and soon after her arrival in Cornwall she established the monastic community at Tintagel.

   But St Juliot has been much confused with an early 4th century Christian martyr called St Julitta, who was commemorated with her three-year-old son St Cyricus in the west country. Their cultus was brought to Cornwall in the Middle Ages. St Juliot, however, is perhaps the patroness of Luxulyan church, Cornwall, with a feastday on the sunday nearest 29th June, according to David Farmer ‘Oxford Dictionary Of Saints’.  In Cornwall St Juliot (Julitta) is sometimes referred to as a “martyr” due to confusion, again, with the 4th century saint of the same name. St Juliot is also commemorated at Lanteglos-by-Camelford, Cornwall, where a holy well is named for her. And St Juliot in the Valency Valley, north-east Cornwall, is named after the saint. A few historians have suggested that St Juliot was, in fact, a male saint! St Julitta’s feastday at Llanilid church in Mid Glamorgan, Wales, is given as 30th June.

Sources and related websites:

Ashe, Geoffrey,  A Guidebook to Arthurian Britain, Longman Group Limited, London, 1980.

Farmer, David, Oxford Dictionary Of Saints, Oxford University Press, 2004.

Jones, Sally, Legends of Cornwall, Bossiney Books, St Teath, Bodmin, Cornwall, 1980. 

Spencer, Ray, A Guide to the Saints Of Wales and the West Country, Llanerch Enterprises, Felinfach, Lampeter, Dyfed, 1991.

The Quest for Arthur’s Britain, (Edited by Geoffrey Ashe), Paladin Frogmore, St Albans, Herts, 1976.

Westwood, Jennifer, Gothick Cornwall, Shire Publications Ltd., Princess Risborough, Bucks, 1992.

                                                                 © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2017.


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Cashtal-yn-Ard, Near Glen Mona, Isle Of Man

Cashtal-yn-Ard, Isle of Man (photo by Chris Gunns (Wikipedia)

Cashtal-yn-Ard (photo by Chris Gunns – Wikipedia)

   OS Grid Reference: SC 46222 89226. The ancient burial chamber known as ‘Cashtal-yn-Ard’ stands on the edge of a hill to the northeast of Glen Mona, just to the south of Cornaa in the parish of Maughold, and close to the eastern coastline of Isle of Man. It is said to date back some 4,000 years to the New Stone Age (the Neolithic). It is quite a large megalithic structure at 130 feet in length. The name ‘Cashtal-yn-Ard is thought to mean ‘The Castle of the Heights’. However, today this megalithic burial cairn is minus its conical mound of earth and stones, but it still looks very impressive. From the A2 Laxey to Ramsey road at Glen Mona village: take the country lane towards Cornaa for 1 mile. Halfway along, and just after and opposite the entrance to Rhenab Farm on the left-hand side, walk northwest up the footpath for 180m to the southern edge of the hill – there in front of you stands the chambered burial cairn of Cashtal-yn-Ard.

   Cashtal-yn-Ard is a large, oblong shaped chambered cairn dating from the late Neolithic Age – roughly between 1,800-2,000 BC. It covers a large area some 40m (131 ft) long and 14m (46 ft) wide, and still has its outer kerb stones, forecourt, entrance and 5 burial chambers (compartments). The side stones (or slabs) of these burial chambers are angled inwards and some have jagged edges, though sadly all but one of the roof-slabs have been lost, although this long flat-slab might not be the original one. Some of the large standing stones at the entrance have been re-erected or replaced. However, its large conical mound of earth and stones, probably more stones than earth, has gone – the stones now lost to local walls and maybe farm buildings? The monument is very well-preserved and is said to be the largest of its kind in Britain.

   Here at Cashtal-yn-Ard it is thought chieftains of the New Stone Age (the Neolithic) were buried maybe with members of their close families. Indeed during excavations back in 1932-35 funerey urns and other artefacts were found. It was also excavated more recently in 1999. At the E. side there is a small grassy mound consisting of earth and stones.  The orientation of this monu-ment is said to be almost W-E. There are two more Neolithic tombs on the island – similar in size to this one.

   In the publication ‘The Ancient And Historic Monuments of the Isle of Man’, there is more information on this site. It says that this is an: “Outstanding example of a megalithic chambered cairn, of ‘Clyde-Carlingford’ type, burial place of chieftains of the New Stone Age, about 2000 B.C. A semi-circular forecourt at the western end gives access, through a ‘portal’ of two standing stones, to a burial chamber of five compartments, originally slab-roofed. Here unburnt bones, pottery and flints were found. East of the the burial chambers is a mound of earth and stones reddened and fused by heat. The whole monument, apart from the forecourt, was originally covered by a massive oblong cairn 130 feet long.”

Sources and related websites:-

Hulme, Peter J., More Rambling In The Isle Of Man, The Manx Experience, Douglas, Isle of Man, 1993.

The Ancient And Historic Monuments – of the Isle of Man, (Fourth (Revised) Edition, The Manx Museum And National Trust, Douglas, 1973.

The Viking Heritage – Isle Of Man – Millennium Of Tynwald, Shearwater Press, Douglas, Isle of Man, 1979.

                                                                                       © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2016.

St Fillan’s Holy Well And Chapel, Kilallan, Renfrewshire, Scotland

St Fillan's Holy Well at Kilallan, Renfrewshire, Scotland.

St Fillan’s Holy Well at Kilallan, Renfrewshire, Scotland.

   OS Grid Reference: NS 38401 6899. The healing well of St Fillan lies at the edge of a wooded area 140 metres to the north-east of the ruined and roofless chapel, also named for the saint, at the east-side of Kilallan Farm, near the village of Kilmacolm in the parish of Houston, Renfrewshire. And 55 metres to the south of the holy well, beside Corsliehill Road, is the famous St Fillan’s Seat, a large rock shaped as such. St Fillan or Foelan was an 8th century saint from Munster in Ireland. The little hamlet of Kilallan (meaning the cell of Fillan) with its old ruined church of St Fillan and graveyard was a holy and sacred site and also a place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages – as was the nearby holy well and rock-seat. The church was last used for services in the latter part of the 18th century. Although the church is without its roof it does still retain some interesting medieval features, and there used to be a 10th century stone here. The holy well, ruined chapel and stone seat lie just off Corsliehill Road in the vicinity of Kilallan Farm, some 2 miles to the south-east of Kilmacolm, near Houston.

   The holy well of St Fillan was almost certainly a pre-Christian spring that was used by the saint himself in the 8th century for baptismal purposes. It’s water flowed from beneath a rock in the ground and into a round-shaped brick and stone basin. Long ago the holy water apparently miraculously cured children of rickets when they were bathed there; pieces of cloth and rags being hung on trees beside the well as votive offerings, although this ceased at the end of the 17th century when the local priest filled the well with stones. The water was also used for baptisms in the nearby church of St Fillan, which now stands roofless beside Kilallan farm. The well gets a brief mention in Janet & Colin Bord’s work ‘Sacred Waters’.

   St Fillan’s Old Church at the east-side of Kilallan (Kilellan) Farm (NS 38268 68934) is now roofless but the walls you see here are still very sturdy and solid-looking. This building stands on the site of an older, medieval church, but there are still parts of this “older” building in the fabric of the walls. The doorway is said to date from 1635. In the churchyard wall there is a ancient baptismal font, or stoup, from the older church; and there used to be a 10th century stone standing inside the present edifice, but this seems to have been removed for safety reasons. In 1772 St Fillan’s was finally abandoned to the elemants. The British Listed Buildings site says of this: “Church ruin; roofless; walls and major part of gables remain; dated lintel “1635”. Later E gable, thick crowstepped W gable, with bipartite window at clerestory level. N wall with tomb of Fleming of Barochan family. Doorways in N and S walls. Moulded cornice to all but E. 3 doors to S blocked up. Stone stoup built into wall. Early gravestones in kirkyard.” Historic Scotland Building ID is:- no 12897. (See the link below*).

St Fillan's Seat beside Corsliehill Road, Kilallan, Renfrewshire

St Fillan’s Seat beside Corsliehill Road, Kilallan, Renfrewshire

   A little further to the south-east of the ruined chapel, beside the road and opposite the farm building, is a large flat rock of ancient origins that is locally called St Fillan’s Seat or Chair at (NS 38419 68937). Legend records that the holy man sat here and baptized the local children. We don’t, however, know a great deal about the life of the saint other than he was born in (c703) and was a monk at Cluain Moescna, Co. Westmeath, but in his youth (c717 AD) sailed from Ireland to Scotland and was accompanied by his mother, St Kentigerna, and his uncle, St Comgan. We know that Fillan buried his uncle on the Island of Iona. His father was said to have been Feriach. There are though another 14 saints called Fillan, Foelan and Faelan. At least two of these came to Scotland between the 6th and 8th century AD. This has undoubtedly led to confusion, but St Fillan of Kilallan was abbot of Glendochart, Perthshire, and died in 776 AD. His feastday is generally 9th January but sometimes 19th Jan, whereas the other St Fillan was a disciple of St Columba – probably at Pittenweem – in Fife. He died in 593 AD  and is honoured on either 20th or 25th June.

   The author Donald Attwater in his work ‘A Dictionary Of Saints’, adds more to the information but, perhaps, adds to that confusion regarding the 8th century St Fillan. He says that: “Fillan was abbot of a monastery near St Andrews; was a solitary in Perthshire, and was buried in Strathfillan, also in Perthshire.”

Sources and other related websites:-

Attwater, Donald, A Dictionary Of Saints, Burns & Oates, London, 1958.

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

MacKillop, James, Dictionary Of Celtic Mythology, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998.

The AA, Illustrated Road Book Of Scotland, The Automobile Association, London, 1963.

                                                                                       © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2016.


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Currer Woods Rock Carving, Steeton And Eastburn, West Yorkshire

Currer Woods Rock Carving, near Eastburn, West Yorkshire.

Currer Woods Rock Carving, near Eastburn, West Yorkshire.

   OS grid reference: SE 02514 43844. A very strange little rock carving almost hidden away in a secluded corner of a field at the southern edge of Currer Woods, at Steeton, west Yorkshire. This seems to be one on its own, and there don’t appear to be any other carvings at this location, although you never know. To reach the stone carving walk up the footpath on the opposite side of the B6265 road from Airedale Hospital in Steeton; the path runs south up to the western edge of Currer Woods. Or you can reach it via Redcar Lane and then Intake Lane: take that same foot-path from the stile beside the rough track; going down the slope for a while, then via off north-east along the edge of Currer Woods and through the field with rocks; the carving is in the next field along, close to the wall, in what is a secluded corner with trees over-hanging the site.

Close up of the Currer Woods Rock Carving, near Eastburn.

Close up of the Currer Woods Rock Carving, near Eastburn.

   This interesting little rock carving can be found on a cluster of gritstone rocks close to a wall and just out of the tree-line. It would seem that the rock upon which the carving is situated has suffered from damage by being broken off in two or three places at one end, but thankfully the carving, which consists of maybe two or three tiny cup-marks which are partially surrounded by half rings or arcs, has not been destroyed and seems to be intact. From a distance it has the appearance of a face with eyes and a nose – the nose being formed by a notch just below but whether this was part of the original carving – I don’t know. It might be part of the stone itself? Or maybe it was meant to be. It was discovered in 2009 by Paul Bennett of  ‘The Northern Antiquarian’, whilst taking shelter from heavy rain! But for the rain it might never have been spotted. (See the link below). There do not appear to be any more rock carvings here, but further to the west (220m) on the slope above Eastburn Crags there might be a few “possible” cup-markings but these look to be more recent in date, and others have probably been caused by erosion. I have not, as yet, investigated any of the large moss-covered rocks in Currer Woods itself.

Sources and other related websites:-,_West_Yorkshire

                                                                   © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2016.

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Kid Stone, Sutton Moor, West Yorkshire

Kid Stone on Sutton Moor, West Yorkshire.

Kid Stone on Sutton Moor, West Yorkshire.

   OS grid reference: SD 99632 241758. A glacial erratic rock at the east-side of Kid Stone Hill, above Long Gate, on Sutton Moor, west Yorkshire. It has been a parish boundary stone and way-marker for a long, long time although the actual boundary is ‘now’ some distance away to the south. There are “possible” faint cup-markings on the flat side of the rock, and at the other side there is a curious granite memorial stone to a local sheep farmer and a yew tree within some iron railings. The ‘Kid Stone’ might get its name from ‘a young goat’, or maybe some other localized name – similar perhaps to ‘Buck Stone’, ‘Cat Stone’ and ‘Wolf Stones’ to name but a few on the moor. To reach the stone: follow the footpath from Buckstone Lane towards Hitchin Stone, then south-east towards Quicken Stone, and then via off east across the moor onto Kid Stone Hill – the stone is in front of you. Or take the footpaths going north-west from Long Gate just above Far Slippery Ford.

Kid Stone on Sutton Moor (with yew tree).

Kid Stone on Sutton Moor (with yew tree).

Kid Stone on Sutton Moor (possible faint cup-marks)

Kid Stone on Sutton Moor (possible faint cup-marks)

   The weather-beaten glacial erratic boulder known as ‘Kid Stone’ stands on the eastern-side of Kid Stone Hill, on Sutton Moor. It stands upon the windswept moor at around 352 feet and is over 1,100 feet above sea-level. Originally this large gritstone rock marked the parish boundaries of Sutton and Newsholme, but today this boundary is a hundred yards or so further to the south. Geologically speaking the boulder was deposited here by a retreating glacier moving in south-ward direction some 12,000 years ago; this glacier is sometimes re-ferred to locally as ‘the Giant of Rombald’s Moor’ – to the north-east – as it came from there, although the boulder might have been scooped up from somewhere else along the way! The boulder is heavily worn, cracked, and has large grooves and channels running down its sides due to weather-related erosion (lots of rain). On its flat face there are a few “possible” faint cup-marks, or are these perhaps just more signs of erosion? 

   At one side of the boulder, inside some iron railings, there is a small yew tree growing and down at the base an odd/curious granite memorial stone to a local sheep farmer, Walter Rochester Airey, who died in 1994, but in what circumstances is not known. He lived at the farm back up the lane: New Bridge Farm on Buckstone Lane, Sutton-in-Craven. The memorial message on the stone says:- “In Loving Memory of Walter Rochester Airey, d 1994.”

Sources of information and related websites:-

Harnessing a Volcano by Fabricio Sarti.

Larderello, Italy (volcanic geyers & cooling towers).

Larderello in Italy.

“The following is an account of the remarkable industrial and commercial uses to which Italian engineers have succeeded in putting the volcanic forces which exist in the sub-soil of certain parts of Italy, together with some of the grotesque mishaps which were brought about by the applica-tion of volcanic power to domestic purposes.

    “If you could be heated, laundried, lighted, bathed, and have your cooking done, without any trouble, and all for next door to nothing; if into the bargain you could raise spring cabbages for a mere trifle, and new potatoes all the year round, not to speak of obtaining all the motive and hydraulic power you required, you would probably wish to move into a neighbourhood where such desirable conditions prevailed.

    “As a matter of fact, there is a place where all this—and a great deal more exists, but it is situated in a somewhat inaccessible part of Italy, rather too far off, under existing conditions, to catch the Tube to the City, or the Elevated Railroad to Broadway.

Larderello, Italy, (volcanic steam geyser).

Larderello, Italy, (volcanic steam geyser).

   “The district of Pisa, in Tuscany, is largerly of volcanic origins. In some parts of the province, and more especially in the neighbourhood of the little town of Larderello, the boiling  springs which exist in the subsoil issue to the surface in the form of numerous and powerful “gushers” or “geysers” of hot  vapour or steam. These gushers, or jets of steam, are known locally as “saffioni,” and the evaporated steam finds its way into a large number of small pools or “lagoni.” Though these jets of steam issuing through fissures in the granite, must have existed for many thousands of years, it was not  until about a hundred years ago that they were discovered to contain a substance of great commercial value. Some scientists visiting the pools, or “lagoni,” found out  that the waters contained, in a state of dissolution, a very considerable quantity of boracic acid. It was soon discovered that the boracic acid came from the jets of steam issuing from the soil near by, and, provided means could be invented to evaporate the waters of the “lagoni,” the boracic acid would fetch a good price.

   “Boracic acid was discovered in 1702, but as it has never been found possible to synthesize the product with a view to its artificial manufacture, chemists are dependent upon natural sources for its supply. Until comparatively recent times, boracic acid was in great request as an antiseptic, but has now been replaced by other and more powerful substances. Boracic acid continues, however, to be in great demand, both in its crude form and in the form of the various boraxes derived from it, for soldering, enameling, glazing, and dyeing purposes. It is likewise used in the manufacture of soap, and even as a substitute for that useful article.

   “Most of the boracic acid in use to-day comes from Italy, especially from the Pisa district. Recently, huge deposits have been located in Asia Minor, but the war has prevented the development of these deposits for industrial purposes.

   “The “saffioni” found around about Larderello are saturated with the acid, which, as the steam evaporates into the pools, settles at the bottom of the “lagoni.” It is supposed that the streams of hot steam passing at great pressure, and at a high temperature, through the underground fissures of the rock, act as a dissolvent upon the tourmaline in the granite, and separate the acid from the boron, carrying it automatically along to the surface.

   “The first attempts made to evaporate the waters of the “lagoni,” so as to secure the acid, were very primitive. Ovens were bored around the pools. These ovens were filled with wood, and kept alight until the waters had evaporated. This was a long and tedious process, and by the time the boracic acid was secured it proved so costly as scarcely to pay for production.

Larderello, Italy (a captured volcanic steam jet).

Larderello, Italy (a captured volcanic steam jet).

   “Other and more modern processes were afterwards tried, but none of them proved satisfactory until an Italian engineer hit upon the very simple idea of utilizing the “saffioni,” or steam jets themselves, as the heating power for the evaporization of the acid-laden waters. The natural pools into which the jets of steam projected the acid they contained were abandoned altogether, and around the aperture of each “saffioni” or jet of hot vapour, as it issued from the soil, there were built small reservoirs of rough masonry jointed with clay.These were filled with water from the pools, and the action of the hot vapour churning the water soon brought it almost to boiling-point. At the end of twenty-four hours it was found that the water contained about one and a half per cent. of acid. By means of a wooden pipe the water was conveyed into a second reservoir built round a second “saffioni,” where it was further enriched by acid. After being transferred into half-a-dozen different reservoirs built round different jets, the water was sent into a decanting tub or basin, where it deposited the earthy impurities held in suspense.

   “From the decanting basin the water is sent into special evaporators. These evaporators consist of long wide sheets of un-dulated lead, two hundred and fifty feet in length and eight feet wide, turned up at each side. These leaden sheets are placed on an incline, and the acid-charged waters trickle slowly over the wavy sheets of lead, which are heated by hot steampipes passing underneath. As the acid-charged water trickles over the hot, wavy, leaden plates it evaporates under the action of the heat, and deposits the boracic acid.

The Town of Larderello, Italy, with its volcanic steam geysers.

The Town of Larderello, Italy, with its volcanic steam geysers.

   “The hot steam is derived directly from the natural vapour underground, but instead of utilizing the ordinary “saffioni,” or vapour-jets, for the purposes, it was considered preferable to make separate artesian borings to a distance of one-hundred feet or so underground. The steam was tapped with such force, that unless special precautions had been taken beforehand the rush of subterranean vapour would have caused a serious accident. Indeed, the artesian borings brought up steam-jets with a pressure of no less than nine atmospheres at a speed of one-hundred and seventy-five yards to the second, and at the great heat, in some borings, of one-hundred and ninety degrees Centigrade or six-hundred and forty degrees Fahrenheit.

   “The discovery that such vast subterranean power lay at the disposal of the engineers soon led to the installation of powerful dynamos. It was first found necessary to purify the stream of its gaseous matters, for otherwise the machinery would have quickly become corroded.

   “Within a few years the engineers had tapped, by short artesian borings, quite a number of “hydro-volcanic” power-jets. A single one of these, the “Ponta Anna” bore, produces two-thousand three-hundred horse-power, whilst another, the “Venella” bore, produces one-thousand two-hundred and sixty horse-power. 

Interior of the Larderello power house.

Interior of the Larderello power house.

   “The power-houses were soon supplying hydro-volcanic energy to a considerable number of factories, and in what was formerly a deserted district there sprang up the town of Larderello. Not only so, but there ensued the natural desire to turn this volcanic power to domestic use, and some of the engineers and factory managers had their dwellings fitted up with piping, so as to get heat in winter and fuel for cooking, for the heat is sufficiently great to bake a joint in an oven in half an hour. It is, however, dangerous to “monkey about” with the subterranean forces of Nature, and early experiences were accompanied by a number of accidents and mishaps.

   “One of the factory engineers, whose house had been fitted with the hydro-volcanic heating apparatus, was aroused in the middle of a heavy sleep by a roaring sound like a locomotive blowing off steam. He turned on the electric light—which was also supplied by the dynamos worked by volcanic power—to discover a geyser of boiling water bubbling up in the middle of his bedroom and filling the room with steam. He had just time to jump out of bed and make his way out into the street in his dressing-gown, when the geyser assumed gigantic proportions and burst with a roar through the roof of the house, soon reducing the entire building to pulp. It seems that, in some way, the control cap of one of the main tubes, as the steam issued from the bore, had become partially unscrewed, with the result that the full force of the bore had found its way into the engineer’s house and burst the hot-water piping under the floor of his bedroom.

   “It took several hours before the geyser could be got under control.

   “On another occasion an Italian cook, on returning from market and entering her kitchen, was horrified and amazed to discover the whole of her pots and pans on the long kitchen range jumping about as though bewitched. The range was heated by steam radiators from one of the volcanic bores, and the metal of the radiators was of an undulating wavy form. Owing to a sudden increase in the subterranean velocity of the steam jet from the bore, the steam had ruptured the control cocks and had come throbbing through the heaters in jerks, imparting a gyratory movement to every one of the kitchen utensils on the range.

   “One morning, too, a stout factory manager had such a fright, whilst in his bath, that he resolved never again to take any baths the water of which was supplied by hydro-volcanic process. The bath was fitted with a hot and cold douche apparatus which, instead of descending from the roof over the bath, came from an aperture in the bottom of the bath-tub, in the form of an “ascending” douche, as it is called.

   “On that particular occasion the main geyser from one of the bores had suddenly taken on a “spurt” of two or three minutes, causing the hot water in the main pipe to rush with increased velocity, and rupturing the control tap. The water, in the form of a hot and cold mixed “douche,” suddenly shot up from below the bath with such tremendous force as to rupture the rivets and send the man taking his bath three or four feet into the air before he could recover himself. Happily the mixture of cold with hot water prevented what might have been a serious accident.

   “The municipal laundry, in which all the hot water is supplied from the bores, is another luxury due to the existence of hydro or thermo-volcanic power. Before the scientific system of controlling the steam at the output of the bores was brought to its present state of perfection, it not infrequently happened that a sudden wave  of “power” would play havoc with the machinery which supplied the hot water to the laundry. On one occasion all the “laundry” of the town of Larderello was sent flying in all directions, and there being a high wind blowing at the time – many of the articles were recovered in the plain several miles away. All these little mishaps no longer occur, so perfectly are the main thermic-power bores now under control. 

   “The Larderello “saffioni” are invaluable to the local market gardeners, who are so able to regulate the heat of their hot-houses as to produce fruit and vegetables in abundance all the year round.

   “The Larderello vapour jets and the intelligent industrial use to which they have been put by Italian engineers have attracted the attention  of scientists to the immense possibilities that lie in the systematic and rational utilization of the hidden subterranean forces of Nature.”

Source of information:-

Sarti, Fabricio, The article ‘Harnessing a Volcano’ was published in ‘The Wide World Magazine – An illustrated Monthly Of True Narrative’, Vol. XLII – October 1918 To March 1919. George Newnes Ltd., Southampton St., Strand, London.

                                                                  © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2016.


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Doubler Stones, Addingham High Moor, West Yorkshire

Doubler Stones on Addingham High Moor, west Yorkshire.

Doubler Stones on Addingham High Moor, west Yorkshire.

   OS Grid Reference: SE07230 46525. On the windswept Addingham High Moor, west Yorkshire, there stands the heavily weather-worn rocks known as ‘Doubler Stones’ – part of an outcrop of grit and sandstone rocks; their enigmatic rock-shapes being something of a great curiousity to moorland walkers down the years. These strange, weathered stones lie at the south-western edge of Rombald’s Moor. At least one of the Doubler Stones has cup-and-ring carvings, and a few other rocks here and further up the hill might have “possible” faint cup-marks. To reach the stones from the town of Silsden: take the Bolton Road going north-east, then east along Brown Bank Lane, then take Light Bank Lane over the moor to the south-east. Just after White Crag House: take the concrete track up to the gate, then walk along here to the house on the left. Take one of two footpaths north for a short while to Doubler Stones. 

Ghostly shaped Doubler Stones in west Yorkshire.

Ghostly shaped Doubler Stones in west Yorkshire.

   These strange-shaped rocks are part of an outcrop of gritstone and sandstone rocks that stand like weather-worn sentinels watching over the moorland. They have taken on the shape of giant mushrooms or salt and pepper pots, but here they are locally called ‘Doubler Stones’ but whether this is because there are two of them – is not certain. It’s more likely that the name “Doubler” is derived from saucer or dish-shaped stones and this is indeed what they are; the tops of the stones are gritstone rocks that are now eroded and saucer-shaped, while the lower parts are made of very soft Sandstone, and this is why the middle sections have eroded down quite severly and become, over thousands of years, like ‘thin waistlines’ or bottle-neck shapes. One of the Doubler Stones has what looks to be a cluster of tiny cup-marks and a few other “possible” cups with rings and interlinking channels or grooves. A few other rocks here might have faint cup-marks – although these could be geological features. Another outcrop of rocks just up the moor to the east is also of interest as there are a few more “possible” cup-markings on the larger rocks.

One of the Doubler Stones on Addingham High Moor.

One of the Doubler Stones on Addingham High Moor.

   The author Paul Bennett in his renowned work ‘The Old Stones of Elmet’, gives his account of Doubler Stones: “One of the stones is a giant earth-fast mushroom, eight feet tall, whose upper surface is covered in a number of cup-markings. Ten yards away at the small crag we find the second Doubler Stone, atop of which are two large ‘bowls’ and perhaps some faint cup-markings, but these are debatable.” Bennett goes on to say that: “Nicholas Size (1934) described the stones to be haunted. It is very likely that this site would have possessed the spirits of some ancestral being, hero or other diety in ancient times. Ritual magickians have used the Doubler Stones to great effect. Amidst a decidedly yin landscape, the Doublers intrude with a potent yang quality. A brilliant site and well worth visiting!”

Sources and other related websites:-

Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann Publishing, Milverton, Somerset, 2001.

                                                                          © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2016.