The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland

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The Coronation Stone, Kingston Upon Thames, Greater London

The Coronation Stone at Kingston-Upon-Thames.

OS Grid Reference: TQ 17867 69069. On High Street, just opposite the Guild Hall, in the town centre of the south London suburb of Kingston-Upon-Thames, Greater London, is the 10th century stone monument known as ‘The Coronation Stone’ or ‘The King Stone’. Traditionally seven, or maybe eight, Anglo-Saxons kings (AD 900-1016) were crowned whilst seated upon the stone. This 3½ foot high block of grey-black sarsen stone ‘now’ stands on a grassy area of land close to the Hogsmill River, and is surrounded by ornate blue Victorian railings. The Greater London suburb of Kingston-Upon-Thames, once part of Surrey, obviously taking its name from the stone that has, from an early date, also been called the King Stone or King’s Stone. Originally it stood in the ancient Chapel of St Mary (which had fallen into ruin by 1730) and, in 1850 the Market Place, but in 1936 it was moved to its present position on the High Street; though it could be moved again in the near future to All Saints Church, a building which also has ancient origins.

Coronation Stone, Kingston-Upon-Thames (photo by Philip Halling – Geograph).

According to tradition seven Anglo Saxon kings of Wessex and Mercia were crowned on the Coronation Stone in the ancient Saxon Chapel of St Mary Magdalene which stood in the grounds of All Saints Church, Kingston-Upon-Thames, in the 10th century: Edward the Elder (8th June, 900), Aethelstan (4th Sept, 925), Edmund I (29th Nov, 939), Eadred (16th Aug, 946), Edwy also known as Eadwig (26th Jan, 956), Edward the Martyr (975), Ethelred the Unready (April 978) and, possibly Edmund Ironside (14th Apr, 1016)? However, it is known from History that a couple of these kings were ‘not’ crowned at Kingston-Upon-Thames, as was often thought. King Edgar, who is not in the list above, was crowned at Bath (959), and King Edmund II (Ironside) often thought to have been crowned at Kingston was, in fact, crowned in the ancient 7th century Saxon St Paul’s Church, London, the forerunner of the present-day St Paul’s Cathedral. The first St Paul’s church to be styled as a Cathedral was not built until 1087 AD.

The Coronation Stone, which is probably a lump of prehistoric sarsen stone, sits upon a large, modern granite base-stone which has the names running round it (in large lead letters) of the seven kings whom its thought were crowned whilst seated upon the stone – at various dates between AD 900 and 978, but in more recent times it was used as a mounting block for horses! The badge or coat of arms representing the Royal Borough of Kingston-Upon-Thames displays three salmon symbols, and can be seen at many strategic points in and around the town. 

Janet & Colin Bord (1991) say with regard to The King Stone or Coronation Stone that: “It is claimed that seven kings were crowned at this stone during the tenth century, but this is disputed in some quarters. The stone was originally located in the Saxon Chapel of St Mary, but since 1730 it has had several outdoor locations, moving in 1936 to its present site. Whatever its true history, it has now assumed a role as the relic from which the town took its name.”

And also Reader’s Digest (1977) say: “In Kingston market can be seen the stone which gave the royal borough its name. From Edward the Elder (AD 900) to Edmund Ironside (1016), English kings were crowned seated upon the stone.”

Sources & related websites:

Bord, Janet & Colin, Ancient Mysteries of Britain, Diamond Books, 1991.

Reader’s Digest, Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain, Reader’s Digest Association Limited, London, 1977.

The AA, The Illustrated Road Book Of England & Wales, The Automobile Association, London, 1961.

http//   Photo (above) of Coronation Stone is © Copyright Philip Halling and licensed for reuse under their Creative Commons Licence,_Kingston_upon_Thames;wap2

© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2018.



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Waugh’s Well, Scout Moor, Near Edenfield, Lancashire

Waugh’s Well (photo by P Smith). (Wikipedia).

OS Grid Reference: SD 8287 1957. On windswept Scout Moor between Edenfield and Cowpe in the Rossendale Valley, Lancashire, stands the Victorian memorial known as Waugh’s Well, named after the famous Rochdale-born dialect poet Edwin Waugh (1817-1890), who was the son of a shoemaker. The poet often came to stay at a farm on the moors and, very often would visit and sit beside a spring of water, at Foe Edge. In 1866 a wellhead with a carved stone-head of the poet and a gritstone wall at either side, was built to honour the man who would come to be known as the Lancashire Poet Laureate and also Lancashire’s very own “Burns”. Following his death at New Brighton the well became a place of pilgrimage for devotees of the poet, but it was here on the moor at Foe Edge that Waugh composed some of his famous dialect poems, all having a strong Lancashire feel about them. The well lies about ¼ of a mile to the east of Scout Moor High Level Reservoir on the Rossendale Way footpath. The site is probably best reached from the A680 road and the footpath going past Edenfield Cricket Club, and then eastwards onto the moor itself for a few miles towards Cowpe.

Nick Howorth writing in a magazine article (1996) says of Waugh’s Well that: “The well, originally a spring, was converted into a memorial to Waugh in 1866. This was an extraordinary tribute to a man who was not only still in mid-career at the time, but who had only been famous as a writer of Lancashire dialect songs and poems for 10 years. His fame grew to the extent that by the time he died in 1890 he was variously called “”The Laureate of Lancashire”” or “”The Burns of Lanca-shire””, although he never achieved an international reputation. The well was rebuilt in 1966 and shows a bronze figurehead of Waugh  with his dates, 1817-1890. His connection with the spring on Scout Moor was that he often stayed with friends living at Fo Edge Farm near the well, finding the solitude good for composing songs and poems.

The name ‘Waugh’ is variously pronounced in Lancashire to rhyme with ‘draw’, ‘laugh’ or cough,…..but today ‘Waw’ is more usual. Edwin was born in 1817 in a cottage at the foot of Toad Lane, Rochdale, the second son of a prosperous clog-maker. All was well until his father died of a fever aged 37 when Edwin was nine years old. Years of penury followed but Edwin’s mother, Mary, held the family together. She was a devout Methodist, intelligent, and a good singer. By being careful, she kept Edwin at school until he was 12. She then educated him at home herself, fostering in him the seeds of artistic talent.”

Howorth goes on to say that: “His early career was a struggle against poverty. He was apprenticed to a Rochdale printer, Thomas Holden, when aged 14. This gave him opportunities to read widely although he was often ‘ticked off’ for reading during the shop hours. He also met local literary figures and politicians. Waugh held strong Liberal views but his boss was a Tory; they did not get on well. Between the ages of 20 and 30, Waugh worked in London and the south of England as a printer, but in 1844 he returned to Rochdale to work at Holden’s. They fell out over politics and Waugh left in 1847. In that year he abruptly married Mary Ann Hill, but although he loved her deeply, their natures were so far apart that the marriage was a disaster.

Edwin Waugh.

“For the next five years Waugh worked for the Lancashire Public School Association whose aim was to make a good quality primary education available to poor children. Waugh worked in Manchester, which he hated, but he met many of the city’s literary and intellectual leaders and talked literature, education and politics with other struggling writers. He was beginning to get articles and poems published in Manchester. He worked partime as a journeyman printer, earning money by printing copies of  “Tim Bobbin” (John Collier’s masterpiece of 1746). In 1855 he borrowed £120 and published his first volume of essays, “”Sketches of Lancashire Life and Localities””. Then in June 1856 came the big breakthrough when “”Come Whoam to thi Childer an’ Me,”” was published in the Manchester Examiner, bringing him national prominence. The poem was republished as a penny card, earning him £5 for 5,000 cards.

“His reputation was made and he never looked back. His first collection of poems and Lancashire songs followed in 1859. A few of the titles give the flavor: “”God bless these poor folk!””, “”while takin’ a wift o’ my pipe”” and “”Aw’ve worn my bits o’ shoon away.””

“Apart from courtship and family life, his great love was nature. Many of his essays described excursions far beyond the Lancashire moors, such as Scotland and Ireland. Essays were often published as pamphlets selling for 6d or 1s, eg ‘Over Sands to the Lakes’, ‘Seaside Lakes and Mountains of Cumberland’, ‘Norbreck: A Sketch of the Lancashire Coast’ cost 1d.

“Waugh’s third area of composition was poetry in standard English. A few titles are: ‘The Moorland Flowers’, ‘Keen Blows the North Wind’, ‘God Bless Thee, Old England’ and ‘The Wanderer’s Hymn’. Subjects like these no doubt reflected the tastes of Victorian England.”

Nick Howorth (1996) also adds that: “Another important Waugh activity for many years was giving public readings of his works, rather like his contemporary, Charles Dickens. Although these did not pay very well, they kept his name in the public eye. His big, open, friendly face and soft Lancashire accent made him a popular performer. He did not dress up for these public performances, was always an unkempt figure with big boots, thick tweeds and a heavy walking stick. This emphasized his humble origins to his audiences. In 1869, he read in public almost fortnightly in town halls all over the midlands and the north.

Waugh was an important figure in Lancashire’s literary history because he popularized dialect poetry and made it a valid part of English literature. Before Waugh, Lancashire dialect was difficult to follow, because it contained so many obscure words and spellings. Tim Bobbin, dating from 1746, is the best example of the “”old dialect”’. Readers have to refer con-stantly to the author’s glossary. Waugh simplified and standardized how Lancashire dialect should be written down, and  it has hardly changed since then.

“George Milner (1889) in an essay setting out his views “”on dialect as a vehicle for poetry”” in his collection of Waugh’s poems and songs showed that dialect can express feelings with a simplicity and directness not so easily achieved in Standard English.”

Poets Memorial

At the western edge of Broadfield Park, Rochdale, overlooking the Esplanade there is a very fine four-sided monument commemorating Edwin Waugh and three other local poets. This monument is called ‘The Lancashire Dialect Writers Memorial’. It was designed by Edward Sykes and erected on the land above the Esplanade in 1900. The pedestal is made of red granite and is topped by an obelisk. The four local poets are: Edwin Waugh (d. 1890), Oliver Ormerod (d. 1879), Margaret Lahee (d. 1895) and John Clegg (d. 1895). This fine memorial is inscribed with various poems and information regarding each writer, with their carved heads. A bit further along the path is a statue of John Bright (1811-1889 the Liberal MP for Manchester. Bright was a reformer and campaigner for the repeal of The Corn Laws (1839). In St Chad’s churchyard, Sparrow Hill, is the grave of Tim Bobbin alias John Collier (1708-1786), the satirical dialect poet who frequented the inns of Rochdale. His grave, with its now worn epitaph, is behind iron railings; but ‘the’ grave has become a place of pilgrimage for devotees of his life and works.

Sources/References and related websites:-

Nick Howorth, ‘Edwin Waugh – a man of ink, and his well’, Really Lancashire – A Magazine for the Red Rose County, Landy Publishing, Staining, Blackpool, Issue No. 2, August 1996.

© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2018.

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Winckley Lowes II, Near Hurst Green, Lancashire

Map of Winckley Lowes, Bronze Age barrows, Lancashire.

OS Grid Reference: SD 70843 37313. In a farmer’s field 1 mile to the south-east of Hurst Green, Lancashire, is a large tree-clad mound (bowl barrow) which is called Winckley Lowes II or Loe Hill. This particular mound has only recently been identified as a Bronze Age burial site. It lies some 200m to the southeast of a smaller burial mound (tumulus) called Winckley Lowes I. Both sites are located in fields opposite the River Ribble. In the Summer and Autumn the local farmer grows tall maze crops here and so the two burial mounds are difficult to see and, as they are on private land, they can not really be reached. The Winckley Lowes II mound was examined by local antiquarians in the early and late 19th century, but no University-based excavations have, as yet, taken place here. At least two footpaths heading south-eastwards from the B6242 road between Hurst Green and Great Mitton, near the bridges, are the best bet to reach the site; then follow The Ribble Way running east beside the river to the former boathouse (now a private house). The tree-clad mound of Winckley Lowes II lies across the fields 140m to the northeast of this building. 

It’s not a good idea, however, to visit the mounds when the maze crops are growing tall. When the crops have been cut back in the Autumn it is possible to see both mounds from the footpath beside the river Ribble, or from either of the two metal gates at either side of the boathouse; and if you do go further into the fields to get a closer view it is probably best to walk along the edges of the fields when ‘they’ have been ploughed. 

The grassy mound, bowl barrow or round barrow, has trees growing from its sides and summit. It is about 6m (20 feet) high and has dimensions of approx. 42 x 38 metres (137 ft x 124 ft). It has the look of being a naturally-formed hillock or knoll that was formed many thousands of years ago. 

The late John Dixon (1993) says of this site that: “The second, larger, mound is known as Loe Hill and has only recently been declared man-made. No major excavation work has been carried out on the mound and its purpose remains uncertain. Some suppose that it was built after the Battle of Billington in A.D. 798; towards the close of the 8th century the Anglo-British kingdom of Northumbria was fraught with internal conflict.”

Mr Dixon adds that: “It is also possible to see the mound as a Bronze Age earthen bowl-barrow; consequently, one could put the barrow into the wider pattern of Bronze Age settlement in the area. Its close proximity to Winckley Lowe might indicate that the site had some ritual significance. Given the lack of dateable remains the site must remain the subject of speculation.”

Author Ron Freethy (1988) further adds to that uncertainty and says that: “Billington has its roots way back in Saxon times; the important battle of Billangahoh was fought there in 798 AD. The tumuli found close to the spot are said to be the burial mounds but no bones or artefacts have yet come to light. The name of Billington was mentioned in Domesday as was nearby Langho with its ancient church, repaired in 1684 using stones from the ruins of Whalley Abbey.”

The site entry for Winkley Lowes II mound (in the parish of Aighton, Bailey and Chaigley) in ‘Lancashire Archaeological Bulletin’ (1984) says:- “(b) Excavated by Whitaker in 1815. The whole, as far the investigation proceeded, was made up of large water gravel, mixed with exceedingly tough marle, of which there is a bed by the river side. The labour and expense of removing such materials was found so great, that we were compelled to desist before we had arrived at the centre, so that unfortunately nothing was found. Also excavated by Fr. Luck (from Stoneyhurst College. See link, below), September, 1894. Trench 10 feet wide from south-east to centre in four steps. Found earlier excavators’ trench with mussel shells, potsherds, clay pipes and two coins of 1806 (? Whitaker, but why not coins of 1815?). Combination of slate-coloured clay and ice-striated limestone convinced excavator that mound is natural.”  

John Dixon (1993) adds further to the above sites saying that: “A third mound once stood across the river at Brockhall Eases. During the summer of 1836 Thomas Hubbersty, the farmer at Brockhall, was removing a large mound of earth when he discovered a stone-lined cist. This was said to contain human bones and the rusty remains of some spearheads of iron. The whole crumbled to dust on exposure to air. Given that the spearheads were made of iron, one is tempted to describe it as a 1st millennium B.C. burial.”

Sources/references and related websites:-

Dixon, John & Phillip, Journeys Through Brigantia (Volume Nine) The Ribble Valley, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1993.

Freethy, Ron, The River Ribble, Terence Dalton Limited, Lavenham, Suffolk, 1988.

Lancashire Archeological Bulletin, Vol. 10 No. 2/3, May & July 1984.

© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2018.




The Maiden Stone, Chapel Of Garioch, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

The Maiden Stone, Chapel of Garioch.

OS Grid Reference: NJ 70378 24714. About 1 mile to the northwest of the village called Chapel of Garioch, near Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, there is a very tall carved stone slab known as The Maiden Stone or The Drumdurno Stone, which has Pictish symbols on one side and a Christian cross on the other. This carved stone, standing beside a country road, is thought to date from the 8th or 9th century AD, and was probably carved at the time when the Picts of eastern Scotland were being Christianized. There are one or two Legends about a confrontation that took place here between a local maiden and the devil and, this seems to be where the name ‘Maiden Stone’ originates. As it is located near Drumdurno farm the stone gets its other name from that local place-name. Chapel of Garioch is 4 miles northwest of Inverurie and just off the A96. To reach the monument head to Chapel of Garioch village and, at the old post office, follow the minor road northwest for ½ a mile. The stone stands beside the road on the opposite side of the woodland, just before the entrance to Crowmallie House.

This tall Class II Pictish symbol stone and cross-slab is highly decorated although some of the carvings are now quite faint due to weathering. It is 10 foot high (3.2m) and is made of a pinkish-red granite. A triangular chunk or notch of stone is missing from the monument at one side about three-quarters of the way up and maybe some of the carvings too. The carving of a man with outstretched arms on the front of the stone may be a depiction of Christ; the carving of a ringed cross also on the front face would suggest that the Picts of eastern Scotland were Christianized at the time that this carving was made – perhaps in the early 8th century AD?

The Maiden Stone by Alexander inkson-Mccon-nochie (1890).

Elizabeth Sutherland (1997) gives her description of the stone and its carvings: “Front: divided into five panels: (1) above a cross find a man with arms outstretched and fish monsters with spiral tails on either side of him; (2) a ringed cross with round hollow armpits with all ornamentation defaced; in (3) and (4) no trace of sculpture remains; (5) spiral and knot-work decoration. Back: four panels reading from the top: (1) several defaced beasts; (2) a notched rectangle & Z-rod. A triangular section has been broken off the stone between these top two panels on the right following a natural crack in the granite; (3) a Pictish beast and (4) a mirror & double-edged comb. Both sides: decorated with very worn interlace. Comment: The Maiden Stone is one of the few Class II cross-slabs to be found in Aberdeenshire and may belong to the second half of the 9th century, thus post-dating the reign of Kenneth Mac Alpin. Political changes in the south may have had little immediate effect on the artistic traditions of the Picts here.”

Author Joyce Miller (2000) has a slightly different view of the stone carvings. She says that: “At the head of the front of the stone, a man stands with arms outstretched, holding a sea-monster in each hand. Below this group is a ringed cross, with traces of interlaced decoration at either side. At the foot of the cross there appears to have been a large and intricately patterned disc, with triangular knots filling out the external corners. The back of the stone is less weathered and shows several beasts of various descriptions in the top panel; below is a large notched rectangle and z-rod; below that is a fine Pictish beast; and at the bottom is a mirror and double-sided comb.”

The site entry for Maiden Stone (HMSO 1959), says this is: “The most famous of the Early Christian monuments in Aber-deenshire, this stone is associated with several weird legends formerly current in the Garioch. On one side it displays a richly ornamented Celtic cross and other decoration in the same style, and on the other side are Pictish symbols.”

Miller (2000) also tells of a story about the stone. She says that: “One story concerning the origin of the stone is that a daughter of the Lord of Balquhain made a bet with the devil that she could bake bread before he could build a road to the summit of the high hill of Bennachie. The devil won the bet, of course, and when the woman fled she was turned into the stone, either by the devil or to prevent her going to hell.”  Another story/legend tells that the maiden married a stranger who turned out to be the devil and that he finished the road and claimed the forfeit. The maiden ran from the devil and prayed to be saved. The legend finishes by saying that God turned her to stone, and the notch in the stone is where the devil grasped her shoulder as she tried to run away, according to Wikipedia.

Sources and related websites:

 H. M. S. O.,  Ancient Monuments – Scotland, (Volume VI),  H. M. Stationary Office, Edinburgh, 1959.

Jackson, Anthony, The Pictish Trail, The Orkney Press Ltd., St Ola, Kirkwall, Orkney, 1989.

Miller, Joyce, Myth and Magic – Scotland’s Ancient Beliefs & Sacred Places, Goblinshead, Musselburgh, Scotland, 2000.

Sutherland, Elizabeth, The Pictish Guide, Birlinn Limited, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1997.

© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2018. 

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The Sagranus Stone, St Dogmael’s, Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro), Wales

The Sagranus Stone at St Dogmael’s.

OS Grid Reference: SN 16404 45914. In the mid-19th century parish church of St Thomas the Apostle in the village of St Dogmael’s (Llandudoch), Pembrokeshire, is The Sagranus Stone, a 5th century pillar-stone which is inscribed with both Ogham and Latin inscriptions to the memory of Sagranus, son of Cunotamus. There are some other Early Medieval stones in this church though these would be called cross-slabs rather than inscribed stones. Close by the church are the ruins of the 12th century St Mary’s abbey of the French Tironesian religious order but, a long time before that, there was a Celtic ‘clas-type’ monastery here in the 5th century which had been established by St Dogmael, a Welsh monk who was born in the local area. This early Christian monastery was, however, destroyed by the invading Danes in 987 AD. The village of St Dogmael’s, also called Llandudoch, lies 1 mile southwest of Cardigan (over the river Teifi) and 3 miles northwest of Cilgerran. St Thomas’ parish church is located on Church Street and the abbey ruins are next to the church. 

Sagranus Stone.

The Sagranus Stone stands in the west end of the nave of St Thomas’ parish church and it has for some time now been recognized by scholars of Early Christian inscribed stones as being of great importance. It is a 7 feet high dolerite pillar-stone and is thought to date from the late 5th or early 6th century AD, that being the immediate years following the Roman retreat from Wales. This ancient stone probably came from the original cell (llan) of the Celtic monastery. There are two holes in the slab which means that in the past it was used as a gate post, and it may even have been in use as a sort of stepping stone over a stream; maybe this caused the stone to be broken into two pieces. But as a bilingual inscribed stone with its Ogham cipher inscription of notches or strokes on its edges and the Latin (Roman) inscription on its face – it’s safety is now assured. Back in 1848 the strokes on the ancient pillar-stone enabled scholars and historians to de-cipher (interpret) the Ogham alphabet. Ogham was the early Goidelic/Gaelic) language of Ireland. Both inscriptions, once they are translated, read as the same. 

HMSO/DoE (1975) says that: “1 Rough pillar stone of the early sixth century……. On the face is an inscription in two lines of Roman capitals, running downwards: SAGRANI FILI CVNOTAMI. On the dexter edge is an inscription in Ogham characters, which reads:  SAGRAGNI MAQI CVNATAMI. Both indicate that the stone was set up to mark the grave of the local chieftain, Sagranus, the son of Cunotamus. Ogham is a cipher, in which strokes arranged in relation to a vertical stem—in this case the angle of the stone—are used to represent the letters of the Latin alphabet. The system, which was evolved in Ireland, is found on a number of early inscriptions in Wales where it is generally employed, as here, with a Latin transliteration.” 

HMSO/DoE also give details of the other pre-Romanesque stones in the church: “2 Part of headstone now in the parish church near the south door. On the face is slightly incised Maltese cross in a circle. Small headstones of this type were in common use from the ninth to the eleventh century; this example is early in the series. 3 Base of a tall stone pillar now standing reversed near the pulpit in the parish church. On the face is incised the lower arm of a cross with a swollen foot enclosing spirals and a basal knob; the out-turned lines at the broken upper edge of the pillar indicate the beginning of the cross. Pillars of this type with incised crosses were set up for commemorative purposes in the cemetery and in other parts of Celtic monasteries. The elaborate cross is probably not earlier than the ninth century. 4 Part of the cover slab of a grave, originally some 6ft by 14in by 11in thick. On the upper surface is a Maltese cross in a circle with a long shaft and swollen foot enclosing spirals and a basal knob. Rather later than number 3; probably eleventh century.” There are several other Medieval stones but they are located in the abbey precinct outside. 

Donald Gregory (1991) adds that: “Between the south door of the church and the north entrance to the abbey ruins should be noted a very old yew, which is so large that it has had a three feet high brick wall built to contain it.” 

The abbey of St Mary was founded in 1115 by Robert Fitz Martin, Lord of Cemais, as a daughter house of the Abbey of Tiron in France, on the site of a Celtic (clas) monastery. However, the Celtic monastery was destroyed by the invading Vikings in 987 AD. The monks of St Mary’s were members of the Tironesian Order, founded at Tiron between Chartres and Le Mans (1114) by St Bernard of Abbeville (1046-1117). The order of Tiron followed closely the Benedictine Rule and, in accordance with that, the monks at St Mary’s led a simple and austere life much influenced by the self-disciplined austerity of St Benedict. St Mary’s had dependencies at Caldey and Pill in Wales. In 1536 the abbey was dissolved but the church and conventual buildings remained intact with some reconstruction taking place; and then it was put into parochial (parish) use, while the rest of the monastic buildings were allowed to fall into a ruinous state. The 14th century doorway of the abbey church retains its carved flower ornamentation. In the north transept there are Medieval carvings on corbels which depict Christ’s apostles, the eagle of St John the Evangelist and St Michael. Later, in 1848 a new church, dedicated to St Thomas the Apostle, was built from the stone of the old abbey. 

Not that much is actually known about St Dogmael, Dogfael, Dogwell or Toel, who has given his name to this Pembrokeshire village, apart from that he was a native of Ceredigion (Cardigan) just across the river Teifi. He was the son of King Ithel ab Ceredig ab Cunedda Wledig. Apparently he gained his monastic training in Ireland, but came back to settle on the Isle of Anglesey – where Llandogwel church is dedicated to him. Then, later he sailed down the Cardigan coast and established a monastery inland at what became St Dogmael’s (Llandudoch) near the river Teifi. Another church is named after him at St Dogwells, Pembrokeshire, but it seems he died in Brittany about 505 AD, where he goes under the name of St Toel. He is titular saint of the church of Pommerit Jaudy in the diocese of Trequier, Brittany. David Hugh Farmer (1982) says that: “It is likely, but not certain, that he moved to Brittany where a St. Dogmeel or Toel has had a considerable cultus, and is invoked to help children to learn to walk.” His feast day is celebrated on 14th June.

Sources and related websites:-

Bottomley, Frank, The Abbey Explorer’s Guide, Kaye & Ward Ltd., London, 1981. 

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

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

H.M.S.O./DoE, St Dogmael’s Abbey, C. A. Ralegh Radford, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1975.

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

© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2018.

Donaghmore High Cross, Co. Down, Northern Ireland

The Donagh-more High Cross.

Irish Grid Reference: J 10443 34964. In an isolated and lonely spot beside Donaghmore Road, just east of the A1 (Dublin to Belfast Road), is the Early Christian Ecclesiastical site of Donaghmore (Domnach Mor) Moy Cova, and a churchyard beside the 19th century St Patrick’s Church, which belongs to the Church of Ireland. But here also stands the highly sculptured 10th century Donaghmore High Cross with its distinctive ringed cross-head. The place-name Donaghmore means ‘The Great Church’. Here in the 5th century AD St Patrick is thought to have established a church. This quite isolated little churchyard is located some 5 miles north of Newry and 6 miles south of Banbridge in Co. Down, Northern Ireland. To reach the site head north out of Newry for 5 miles on several country roads: Downshire, Belfast, Corcreechy and Aughnacavan, but keeping to the east of the A1 (Belfast road). On reaching a junction of four roads go right onto Donaghmore Road – where on your right you will soon see St Patrick’s Church and the Donaghmore Cross.

The Donaghmore High Cross or St Mac Erc’s Cross is a highly sculptured granite ring-head cross which is 10 feet high and is thought to date from the 9th or 10th century AD. It has a thick sturdy shaft and stands on a base of two steps. The ring-head probably came from another similar cross. It was re-erected at the S. side of St Patrick’s Church in 1891, but probably not in its original position. Depicted on the cross are several Biblical characters and scenes, and also panels with figures and decorative interlacing. Biblical characters and scenes on (W. Face) are: Noah’s Ark, Adam & Eve and Moses & David. The cross-head (W. Face) shows Christ’s crucifixion. He has long outstretched arms. At each side of Christ there are figures maybe of Stephaton and Longinus, two thieves and soldiers. An angel around Christ’s head. The (N. Face) depicts David & Goliath and interlacing. An angel on the cross-head. The (E. Face) has David or The Judgment of Solomon (David plays his lyre for Saul). Also figures, Moses smites water from the rock, David with the head of Goliath, David slaying the lion, The Last Judgment and St Paul with a bird or beast. S. Face has David and Solomon holding a child or other up-side down and St Paul or maybe St Anthony in the Desert.

St Patrick’s (Church of Ireland) church at Donaghmore is a 19th century building that replaced earlier Medieval churches and, before those, a church that was founded by St Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, in the 5th century. St Mac Erc, who was the brother of St Mochaoi (Mochua) and a disciple of St Patrick, probably became the first bishop of Donaghmore. His feast day is celebrated on 6th July. St Mochaoi founded the monastery of Nendrum on Mahee Island, Co. Down. He died in c497. Legend says that St Patrick converted the local chieftain to Christianity here at Donaghmore, and in thanks ‘he’ built his church beside the fort (rath) from where the chieftain ruled his people. There is a blocked-up souterrain (underground passage) in the churchyard; this may have originally been connected to the fort. The church itself stands on the mound which was part of the fort. There are also some faint earthworks in a field on the opposite side of the road over to the west of the churchyard at (J 1012 3496).

Sources and related websites:

Connolly, Greenwood, Hawkins & Wallis, Ireland – The Rough Guide, Rough Guides Ltd., London, 1999.

Fisher, Graham & Pennington, John, Historic Britain, Odhams Books, Feltham, Middlesex, 1953.,_County_Down

© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2018.

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Moone High Cross, Co. Kildare, Southern Ireland

Moone High Cross (East Face)

Irish Grid Reference: S 78911 92693. About ½ a mile northwest of Moone village, on Belan Avenue, Co. Kildare, Southern Ireland, is a 5th century monastic site with the lavishly sculptured ‘Moone High Cross’, a 9th century richly carved granite monument with numerous scenes depicted from the Bible. It is said to be the second tallest high cross in Ireland. There is a second cross but this only survives in parts. Also here are the ruins of a 13th century abbey church (which now houses the cross). A monastery or abbey was probably founded here after 431 by St Palladius (d c460), and in the 6th century this was named after St Columba. The ruined church stands over the foundations of ‘this’ early Celtic monastery. The little village of Moon, in the Valley of the river Barrow, is 3 miles south of Ballitore and ½ a mile south of Timolin, close to the R558 road. At the post office in Moone take the road opposite going northwest crossing over the R448, then shortly after go onto Belan Avenue, crossing over the river Greese, and then follow the lane until you reach the farm and old mill: the high cross is on the opposite side of these buildings at the west side.

The high cross, also called St Columba’s Cross, stands inside the ruined 13th century abbey church which now has a glass roof over it. It is a 5.3 metre (over 17 foot) high granite cross of three sections with a long slender shaft that tapers away. The wheel-head, which might be of a later date, shows Christ crucified but this has suffered some damage. There are 51 sculptured panels on all four sides, each having richly carved decoration depicting numerous scenes and characters from the Bible, and also Celtic symbolism including animals, mythical and magical creatures and other figures, but also other decorative work. The cross is thought to date from the 8th or 9th century AD. In 1835 and 1893 sections of the cross were excavated from the church-yard and then re-erected, and more recently placed for protection against the elements in the ruined medieval church.

West Face

The S. face shows The Temptation of St Anthony while below that four mythical serpents (snakes) are fighting with two open-mouthed lions or horses. Above those: SS Anthony and Peter and a raven bringing food. The N. face shows: The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, The Flight into Egypt, SS Paul & Anthony in the Desert and The Three Children in the Fiery Furnace. The E. face has a large panel at its base showing the twelve Apostles, each having a square-shaped body, stubby legs and feet and pear-shaped heads; they all appear to have a slightly different facial expression! Above that: Christ being crucified (he has long outstretched arms), angels, a lozenge shape (diamond) and a whirligig (an object seen to be whirling or spinning around). The W. face shows: Daniel in the Lions’ Den (he is surrounded by seven hungry, open-mouthed lions), The Sacrifice of Isaac, Adam and Eve (with apple trees); also monsters interlinked with heads, and Christ and a Dolphin (above). 

There is also part of a holed cross in the church. This only has a short section of its shaft left and three sections of its wheel-head remaining; but the carvings on this cross are very similar and equally as good as those on the high cross. The carvings on this cross are: mythical and magical creatures, spirals, swirls, intertwining foliage, knotwork and interlacing. Although the 13th century church is ruined it still possesses ‘antae’ (projecting walls) at its gable ends, according to Nicholson’s Guide (1983).

Katharine Scherman (1981) says of the Moone High Cross that it is: “The most attractive of the Barrow crosses is the one at Moone, which, though the representations are no less naïve than those at Castledermot and other Barrow localities, has an entirely original and ingratiating charm. The cross is unusual in its shape, its tall slenderness accentuated by a long, tapered base. On the shaft are panels containing graceful, active and nearly recognizable quadrupeds. The Bible tales, scenes of spirited imagery, are on the four sides of the base. They include Adam and Eve—two small fat people framed by arches of apples; Daniel in the Lion’s Den—a figure in a square garment, like a paper doll, in a frame of seven openmouthed lions, four down one side from his ear to the hem of his dress, three down the other; the Twelve Apostles—twelve identical square men with pear-shaped heads and circle eyes, looking like three rows of cookies; the Miracle of the Loaves and the Fishes—five loaves, two fishes and two eels all by themselves in a pure and simple design.

“Homage is paid to those early anchorites St. Anthony and St. Paul, patrons of the monastic life. One panel shows their meeting in the desert: seated facing each other on straight-backed chairs, they break bread together. Another depicts St. Anthony—the rectangular saint beset by two rectangular visions , one with the head of an animal, the other of a bird. The panel below these two religious ones has an unscriptural scene of animals with the heads of horses and the bodies of serpents locked in an inextricable coil of combat; unlike the squared representations of humans, the artist carved his animals in sinuous curves. All the scenes are executed with a kind of childlike artfulness so that they fit exactly into their frames: the animals arch into the corners; the humans have round heads (the males’ are elongated by their short oval beards into teardrop shapes) and rectilinear torsos to fill the squares, and all their feet are turned side-ways, like those on Egyptian friezes. 

Scherman adds that: “In fact the art is clearly reminiscent of that of ancient Egypt: the artist was concerned with depicting what he saw intellectually with his mind’s eye rather than in reproducing in a naturalistic stylethe shapes seen by the visual eye alone. The stonework lacks the formalized skill of the Egyptians’ art, but it has an individualistic freshness deriving from the sculptor’s unregimented imagination, a luxury never permitted to the intensively trained Pharaonic artists.”

Sources and related websites:-

Nicholson’s Guides, Guide To Ireland, Robert Nicholson Publications Limited, London, 1983.

Reader’s Digest, Illustrated Guide To Ireland, The Reader’s Digest Association Limited, London, 1992. 

Scherman, Katharine, The Flowering of Ireland, Victor Gollancz Ltd., London, 1981.

© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2018.