The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


Filey Roman Signal Station, Carr Naze, East Yorkshire

Information Board on Filey Brigg.

Information Board on Filey Brigg.

Os grid reference: TA 1268 8163. Close to the cliff edge at Carr Naze (Filey Brigg) at the north-eastern side of Filey and near to the Country Park is the “site of” some faint rectangular earthworks of Filey Roman Signal Station. This was the southern-most signal station of five along the Yorkshire coast, and was in use from roughly 375-410 AD; it was manned by a small garrison of soldiers, with the rocky ‘spittal’ (mooring place) below the cliffs being used as a natural harbour for Roman sailing vessels. Filey’s Roman signal station, along with the four others, would have formed a defense against attacks by sea-borne invaders from across the north sea. The beacon on top of the tower would be lit when invading ships were spotted on the horizon, acting as a warning to the other stations along the coast so that evasive action could be taken. In a recent landslip part of the earthwork (two thirds) at the eastern edge disappeared over the cliff and the rest of the site is in ever constant danger of going the same way.

Carved Roman Stones

Carved Roman Stones in Crescent Gardens, Filey.

The station would have measured 50 metres across with the tower (beacon) at the centre 30 metres high and 14 metres square; the tower being surrounded by a walled structure or courtyard with a gate at the western-side. In the mid 19th century the earthworks were quite visible as was its surrounding bank or rampart – most noticeable at the eastern-side. Upon discovery of the signal station in November 1857 excavations took place at the request of a local reverend gentleman who owned the land and, five large stone blocks were dug up – these most probably supported the first floor of the tower itself; the five stones now stand in Crescent Gardens, Filey, each one having been nicely carved on all sides and having a square aperture 6 inches wide and 3 inches deep at the top, one has a faint carving of what could be a dog chasing a deer! Also, a wall and the foundations of the signal station were discovered some 4 feet below the ground.

Carved Roman Stone in Crescent Gardens, Filey.

Carved Roman Stone in Crescent Gardens, Filey.

Further excavations took place in 1927 and again in 1993-4 by Y.A.T with help from S.A.H.S funded by English Heritage and Scarborough Council – and a number of Roman artefacts were found including bronze coins, pottery and animal bones. Undoubtedly the Roman signal station would have been an impressive sight when fired-up and enough to scare any would-be invaders long before they reached the east coast. The earthworks of a post-Roman building (perhaps a Saxon chapel) can be seen at the east side of the signal station but this is, as yet, unrecorded. A three foot high bronze statue of the god Mercury was found in the eroded cliffs by the signal station – and now resides in The Rotunda Museum, Scarborough, along with a few other Roman finds from Carr Naze. The museum also houses the famous ‘Gristhorpe Man’ which was excavated in 1834. It is the skeleton of a Bronze-Age man who had been buried inside a hollowed-out oak tree near Gristhorpe Cliffs at Cayton, Scarborough (NGR TA 0937 8323). An information board now stands on the site of the Roman signal station, close-by a World War II bomb crater.

Source:

Filey Bay Initiative Leaflet, Discover Filey, 1995. http://www.discoverfiley.org.uk

 


The Bridestones, Timbersbrook, Cheshire

The Bridestones, Cheshire

The Bridestones, Cheshire

SJ9062 6219. The ancient monument called ‘The Bridestones’ chambered tomb is located on a sandstone ridge 800 feet above sea-level 1 mile to the south-east of Timbersbrook and 3 miles east of Congleton on the Cheshire-Staffordshire border. It is referred to as a burial chamber, chambered tomb and long cairn that dates back to the middle Neolithic period 2,500-3,000 BC.

This very much damaged monument consists of a forecourt (semi-circular) in layout and two entrance stones 8-9 feet high that divide the main chamber and another with a hole called a “porthole stone”. The whole complex is now just over 100 metres in length with the cairn 11 metres in width. Originally two more cairns stood some 50 metres away but these have long since gone due probably to farming.

Over the last 200 years the monument has suffered from robbery of the stones. In the 1760s some of the stones were used for the nearby road (Dial Lane), while other stones were used in the building of Bridestones farm; other stones from the monument have ended up in Tunstall Park, Stoke-on-Trent. Sadly, stones that formed the forecourt have been taken away leaving a much smaller monument. Originally an earthen mound upto 300 feet (90m) in length running north to east covered the tomb making for a very grand burial mound. Today only one main chamber 6 metres in length remains – originally there would have been three chambers or compartments.

There is a legend that says the name ‘Bridestones’ came about because a Viking chieftain and his bride to be were buried here. But the name probably comes from ‘Briddes Stones’ or even ‘Brigante Stones’ from the ancient British tribe who inhabited the area in the 1st century AD. Today the monument is protected by fencing – with trees and shrubbery making the monument more secluded.


St Non’s Well, Caerfai, Pembrokeshire

SM7510 2437. On the windswept headland at Caerfai, 1 mile south of St David’s overlooking St Non’s Bay, is St Non’s holy well, a place of great sanctity to the Welsh people. Here, according to the Legend, in about 500 AD Non, daughter of Cynyr, prince of Pembrokeshire, gave birth to her son St David, patron St of Wales, in somewhat miraculous circumstances during a thunderstorm when she was pursued here by Sant of Ceredigion, the probable father of her child. At the moment of the birth Non leaned upon a stone into which she pressed her fingers (these marks can still be seen in one of the stones close by the well). The stone apparently split in two when it was hit by lightning. At the very moment of the child’s birth a spring of water gushed forth from the ground (St Non’s Well). But, in fact, we know that the well predates Christianity – it is a naturally formed spring that was here when the land was geologically formed. The remains of a Bronze-Age stone circle or cromlech can still be seen around the well – strong evidence that this was once a pagan site.

St Non’s Holy Well, Pembrokeshire

The well has an 18th century plain-vaulted stone hood above it which replaced an earlier medieval well-housing. Today the well is used mainly as a wishing well but pilgrims still come here, as they have for hundreds of years, in the hope of a miraculous cure for many diseases and ailments were apparently cured here by the water – such diverse things like child-bearing and eye complaints. Reputedly the water in the well ebbs and flows with the tides. Behind the well is a shrine with a statue of St Non? inside a stone niche. The well-kept shrine is often adorned with flowers put here by Catholics who visit the nearby retreat centre and modern chapel dedicated to St Non.

A short distance to the south-west stands a ruined medieval chapel. Leaning up against the south-west facing wall is a 7th century stone with an incised Latin ring cross. Originally this stone was embedded into the eastern wall. The chapel went out of use following the Reformation and may have been in use as a house at some point. An archaeological dig inside the ruin found roofing tiles, pottery, stone coffins and a medieval brass with the figure of a priest engraved onto it.

 


St Celynnin’s Well, Llangelynnin, Gwynedd.

OS grid reference: SH 75145 73714. The isolated little church of Llangelynnin stands at over 900 feet above sea-level on the moors above the Conwy Valley, 2 miles west of Henryd and 3 miles south of Conwy. At the south-west corner of the lonely, bare churchyard and almost hidden under a tree, is St Celynnin’s holy well (Ffynnon Gelynnin).

Long ago sickly children were immersed in the water of the well in the hope of a miraculous cure. Items of the child’s clothing were placed into the water to help the cure along. The square-shaped well is surrounded by a walled enclosure with stone benches but the roof of what was once the bathhouse has long gone. The water was used for baptismal purposes in the ancient church, though whether this still happens today I don’t know as the church is only used during the summer months, and pilgrims do not frequent the place as often as they did in times gone by.

The place is very peaceful. A solitary place indeed for a hermit saint to come to live back in the 6th century AD. St.Celynnin was the son of prince Helig ab Glanawg. He came as a missionary to Wales from Brittany along with his brother St.Rhychwyn (who lived as a hermit further down the valley at Llanrhyhwyn). The little church here at Llangelynnin dates from 1350 but an earlier building stood on the site – perhaps the one founded by St.Celynnin himself. The remains of an ancient hut circle can be seen in the churchyard.

 


The Linton Stone, Linton-in-Craven, North Yorkshire

The Linton Stone, North Yorkshire

The Linton Stone, North Yorkshire

SE0042 6317. Standing in a field just opposite St Michael & All Angels church at Linton near Grassington is a 6 foot high boulder. The limestone boulder is round-shaped and covered in large holes or pockmarks along with grooves caused by erosion over thousands of years. In the same field there are other recumbant stones though these are much smaller in size. And built into a wall not far from the banks of the river Wharfe, there are three smaller limestone boulders. The largest of these is obviously a glacial erratic that was deposited here by the retreating ice flows some 11,000-13,000 years ago at the last Ice-Age.

It could be that the boulder and whats left of these other stones originally formed a pagan stone circle; these stones being moved in to position in prehistoric times by a tribe of ancient people living beside the river. The boulder and the other scattered stones form an alignment, but many have been robbed away by local farmers. Near the entrance to St Michael’s church on church road stands the stump of an Anglo-Saxon cross which means the site was Christianised at some point between the 7th-9th century AD.

 


The Great Stone Of Stretford, Gorse Hill, Manchester.

The Great Stone of Stretford

The Great Stone of Stretford

SJ8041 9553. At the lodge entrance to Gorse Hill Park on the Chester road (A56), Stretford, stands the curious ‘Great Stone’. The rectangular-shaped stone, made of millstone grit, is 3 feet high, 5 feet wide and 2 feet deep and the two large holes (slots) in the top are roughly 7 inches deep. Locally called the plague stone it is, in fact, a glacial erratic boulder that was originally deposited at Great Stone Road close by at the last Ice Age – perhaps up to 13,000 years ago.

According to legend and local folklore the holes in the top of the stone were filled with vinegar or holy water, perhaps vinegar in one hole and holy water in the other. Coins given by plague victims were placed in the vinegar to steralise them; the holy water  hopefully cured the victim of the disease. Legend says that the stone was thrown by a Saxon giant called Tarquin who lived in the castle at ‘Castlefield’ in Manchester – the holes being for his finger and thumb. He was apparently killed in a local battle by Sir Lancelot. But other theories suggest that the stone is the base of a Saxon cross or a mile stone for the Roman road leading to their fort at Northwich (Condate).


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The Great Stone, Downham, Lancashire.

The Great Stone, Downham

The Great Stone, Downham

SD7820 4440. Embeded beneath the wall surrounding Downham Hall just by the main entrance on Chatburn road is a flat, round-shaped stone which, according to legend, marks the grave of two Roman soldiers who were killed by the Brigantes in the late 1st century AD? However, the stone originally came from the fields opposite and had lay (in situ) on or close to the Roman road to Ribchester – the course of which traverses Downham Common.

Apparently the Lord of the Manor had the stone placed under his wall for protection and that’s where it has lain for a hundred years or more. If you look closely at the stone you will see tiny pea-shaped stones (pebbles) embedded into the stone, which is a type of conglomerate. In the fields nearby, lumps of agger are sometimes found – the Romans used this to build their roads.

Some local historians are of the opinion that the round-shaped stone or boulder may have been the base of an ancient cross or, perhaps part of a Roman milestone. But the story that two Roman soldiers are buried beneath seems to have prevailed down the centuries, and it’s a pretty good story – so why spoil it!