The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


Te Deum Stone, Withens Gate, West Yorkshire

Te Deum Stone at Withens Gate.

OS Grid Reference: SD 9720 2300. This medieval marker or boundary stone stands close to a wall at Withens Gate, Langfield Moor, between Cragg Vale and Mankinholes on the Calderdale Way footpath above Todmorden. It has been referred to as a coffin stone, stoop stone, boundary marker and marker stone. The name Withens Cross has also be ascribed to it by some historians.

The stubby little stone is now only a few feet high – originally it was much taller but vandalism over the years has damaged it. But in 1956 it was restored to what we see today by The Hebden Bridge Local History Society. On it’s front side there is a thin incised Latin cross and below that two letters in Latin TD which are translated as being Te Deum Laudamus or ‘We praise Thee, O Lord’, whilst on the opposite face the letters BG TB, which were perhaps carved in more recent times, indicating that the stone has been in use as a boundary marker.

Originally the stone was in use as a “coffin rest”. Coffins were carried along the old packhorse route across the Pennines between Cragg Vale, Mankinholes and Lumbutts, then placed on top of the stone and prayers said for the deceased before the journey was continued to its final resting place. There are a number of similar stones in this area and eleswhere, some with quite intricate carved crosses and lettering – most of them probably dating from the 15th or 16th century.


St Trillo’s Chapel, Rhos-On-Sea, Caernarvonshire (Gwynedd)

SH8413 8113. The tiny medieval chapel-cum-baptistry of St Trillo stands just off Marine Drive, close to the promenade, at Rhos-On-Sea, some 2 miles north-west of Colwyn Bay. Also called Capel St Trillo, the tiny building stands in a quiet area beside the seashore in what has been a hallowed spot for many hundreds of years. Within the chapel is a holy well (Ffynnon Drillo) which has been a place where pilgrims have come in the hope of a miraculous cure. An earlier Celtic chapel or a hermit’s cell stood here previous to the present structure, a cell where the 6th century saint, Trillo, had once lived.

St Trillo’s Chapel, Caernarvonshire

St Trillo’s chapel is a tiny, plain stone-built roofed building measuring 11 feet by 8 feet inside with walls that are 2 foot thick and low vaulting inside. The building is so tiny that only a small number of people are allowed in at any one time, the door is also quite narrow and there is only one tiny stained-glass window which shows St Elian another local Celtic saint. But it is open every day for prayer. The holy well is located beneath the altar but it is often covered by a metal grid – though this can be removed for access to the water inside a square-shaped basin. Even today the water from the well is used for baptisms. The monks of Aberconwy abbey looked after the chapel and holy well from roughly 1283 until the dissolution in 1538 at which time the monks had relocated to Maenan in the Conwy Valley, near Llanwrst.

What we know about St Trillo is that in the 6th century AD he came to Wales from Brittany and worked as a missionary along the north Wales coast as far as Anglesey where there is another church dedicated to him at Llandrygarn. He was the son of King Ithael Hael and his brothers were called Tegai and Twrog – both saints in their own right. St Trillo lived at his humble little cell at Rhos-On-Sea between the years 570-590 AD. He was buried on the holy island of Bardsey.


St Anne’s Well, Kilmesantan, Co.Dublin

Irish grid reference: O1020 2161. The holy well is located to the east of the Upper Bohernabreen Lake (reservoir) along a path which winds through fields that are often muddy and rough some 250 yards to the north of Kilmesantan, in the Glenasmole Valley, 4 miles south of Tallaght. Originally dedicated to a Celtic bishop called St Santan or Sentan, but later re-dedicated to St Anne. Today the well is still a place of pilgrimage to many local people; it has a rough-walled granite surround and an arched roof with a large ash tree leaning over it, making it hard to find at the best of times. There also is a figurine of St Anne standing inside what looks like a caged structure, probably so that she doesn’t get nicked!

The well was always visited on St Anne’s feast-day 26th July for its curative properties; the water was known to be clear and cold coming from deep in the ground. It was regarded as a cure for soreness of the eyes and stomach aches etc – bottles of the water being taken away by pilgrims to be handed out amongst their families no doubt. The water from the well is said to run into the Upper Bohernabreen reservoir a short distance to the west.

250 yards to the south at Glassamucky is the old graveyard of Kilmesantan (O1015 2142) with a ruined church inside the square-shaped low walls. Originally the 13th century church which stands on the site of an earlier Celtic church, was dedicated to a St Santan, Sanctan or Sentan, a 5th century Celtic bishop and son of the king of Britain (Coel of Strathclyde?), according to the Book of Leinster, but who was also a missionary at Kirksantan, Isle of Man, and in north Wales at Llansannan, near Llangernyw, where he has a church dedication, and also at Llantrisant, Anglesey.

Only the south-east wall still stands, the rest of the building consists of foundation stones in a rectangular pattern among the gravestones. In more recent times the church was re-dedicated to St Anne. We know that the nave measured 16 by 36 feet, the chancel was 12 feet long and the walls a staggering 3 foot thick. Beside the gate there is a stone font, now broken at the back, that is over 2 foot high and 3 foot square, with a depth of nearly 1 foot. This was probably the font from the church and could be quite old. A crude Celtic stone cross was found in the graveyard some while back; it now resides in the National Museum of Ireland at Dublin.


Devil’s Arrows, Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire

One of the Bronze-Age arrows.

One of the Bronze-Age arrows.

OS grid reference: SE 3910 6650. The three large standing stones, part of a stone row, are located between Bar lane and Roecliffe lane to the south-west of Boroughbridge, close to the A168 and A1(M) roads. Two of the stones stand in a farmer’s field, while the third stands in the garden of a private house 110 metres to the south. They date from the early Bronze-Age over 4,000 years ago and are now heavily worn at their tops, due probably to rain running down causing grooving or fluting in the millstone grit surfaces. It is thought the stones were quarried at Knaresborough 7 miles to the south-west.

These three monoliths, also called ‘the three sisters’, are orientated north to south and stand on an almost true alignment which is 374 metres long, something that was perfected by the ancient people who lived here – the three uprights stand as a testament to the great ingenuity of their time. Another one or perhaps two stones are now lost – having quite probably been robbed away, broken up and used locally; indeed one of the stones was thought to have been used to build the 16th century bridge over the river Tutt at Aldborough.

Devil’s Arrows, North Yorkshire (picture credit Sydney Tranter).

The three surviving standing stones measure between 5.4 metres and 6.8 metres high (16-22) feet high, each weighing-in at around 20-30 tonnes and buried into the ground by upto 1.5 metres. At around 5.4 metres (16 feet high) and 6.7 metres in circumference is the northern-most of the stones, while the second, central most stone 61 metres further south is 6.7 metres high and 5.4 metres in circumference, and the third stone located on the opposite side of the lane beside a private house is 6.8 metres (22 feet) in height.

There are a number of crazy legends associated with the Devil’s Arrows, the most famous one being that the devil was shooting or throwing stone arrows from nearby Howe Hill at the Roman town of Aldborough, a few miles away but, much to his annoyance, he missed the target. Reputedly the devil shouted the warning “Borobrigg keep out o’way for Aldboro town I will bring down”. Another legend says the devil hung himself from the tallest stone. One legend had it that human sacrifices were placed on top of the pointed stones and left to die there, their blood flowing down the grooves. It is probable the stones were used as a kind of astronomical alignment or for sun-worshipping by Bronze-Age people. Many people visiting the stones today claim to be able to feel energy flowing out of the stones, this can be affected by hugging the stones, similar to hugging trees perhaps!


2 Comments

Castleshaw Roman Fort, Standedge, Greater Manchester

SD9987 0963. High on the windswept Pennine moors to the north of the A62 where Bleak Hey Nook lane intersects with Dirty lane is the area called Castle Hill, Standedge, on the borders of greater Manchester and west Yorkshire. And, located between the two reservoirs (upper and lower), are the rectangular-shaped earthworks of the Roman fort of Castleshaw, known to the Romans as RIGODUNUM – ‘the royal fort’ or ‘the king’s fort’ – the name Castleshaw is of Celtic origins. But long before the Romans settled here at Castleshaw the site was known to have been a Brigantean settlement, later becoming just a little bit of the Roman province of Brittannia.

Castleshaw

Castleshaw (Photo credit: The Armatura Press)

The Romans built the fort here during the Flavian period c79 AD in order to protect their newly constructed road between Chester (Deva) and York (Eboracum) from the Brigantes tribe who had held the area. Upto 50 roman auxiliary soldiers of the Spanish Cohors III Bracaraugustanorum regiment from Lusitania in northern Portugal were stationed here, the rest of the cohort were quartered at MAMUCIUM (Manchester), 10 miles away to the south-west. One wonders what these hardy Spanish soldiers thought to the often bleak weather conditions here on the Pennine moors.

The auxillary fort or ‘fortified encampment’ at Castleshaw measured 380 x 330 feet including the outer vicus, but less than that (360 feet by 300 feet) inside the defences or ramparts – the whole site covering between 2-3 acres (1-2 hectares) in total. Constructed from turf, clay and timber, it has an outer ditch measuring 5 feet wide at the rampart with an outer, smaller ditch. There were two main entrance gates at the western and eastern sides, probably double gates made from local timber and a smaller entrances at the north side; at each of the four corners of the fort there may have been watchtowers? – although only one post hole has been excavated.

A plan of Castleshaw Roman fort drawn by antiq...

A plan of Castleshaw Roman fort drawn by antiquarian Francis Bruton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 90 AD the fort was abandoned for a temporary period, but in 105 AD it was re-occupied and turned in to a fortlet. It was finally abandoned in 120 AD. The buildings inside the fort included a granary at the northern side, a barrack block at the east side, principia and praetorium in the central area and, also various storerooms or workshops at the south-west corner, while outside the fort, at the south side, the “vicus” was the civilian settlement where the families of the soldiers would have lived. There are traces of earthworks at this side and also at the north side but no proper archaeological excavations have taken place either outside the fort or, indeed, inside. I understand that Roman soldiers were not allowed to be married!


Silbury Hill, Beckhampton, Wiltshire

SU1000 6850. Silbury Hill is a man-made chalk and clay mound beside the A4 road 1 mile south-east of Beckhampton. It dates from the Neolithic period of prehistory some 4,700 years ago. This famous conical-shaped hill is 130 feet high or 40 metres and, with its wide outer circular ditch, which is most noticeable at the eastern side and quite often filled with water in wet spells of weather, it covers a total area of about 5 acres (2 hectares). The base of the hill covers 167 metres, while the flat-topped surface is about 100 feet in diameter.

The first phase of building here began in 2,500 BC followed by, perhaps, another three phases of work; thousands of local workers were employed in the construction of the mound which was built in the form of a pyramid in steps or tiers – the steps being cut sarsen stones from nearby quarries. Then these steps were filled in with more chalk and clay and then levelled off and fashioned in to what we see today, an almost circular smooth-sided mound.

Silbury Hill by William Stukeley.

Archaeological excavations have taken place at Silbury in 1776, 1849, 1968-70 but nothing of any great interest has ever been found, certainly no sign of any burials. Historians and archaeologists have mused over what the hill was used for for a long time but no one has been able to come up with anything special. It could have been used for astronomical purposes or perhaps as an ancient sundial or something else. The Romans are also likely to have used the hill as a look-out post when they were marching along their road, now the A4.

According to legend, Silbury Hill was the burial place of King Sil. He was apparently buried inside the mound wearing his gold armour and seated on top of a golden horse or, the devil had a hand in the building of the mound by tossing a shovel full of earth away while building the Wansdyke; or he was aiming at the town of Marlborough and a bit of earth dropped from his shovel in the process. There are a number of other legends but none hold much credance.

English: Avebury - Silbury Hill Looking a bit ...

Silbury Hill (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The area around the hill is quite literally covered with round barrows, earthworks, and ancient sites. Half a mile to the south-east is the West Kennett Long Barrow and the famous Avebury stone circle is only a couple of miles to the north. Together they form a sort of ancient complex, many standing on ley-lines and alignments that intersect and pass through each other, as if that’s what they were meant to do and no doubt to the ancient peoples that’s what they did. The stone Age people were well aware of  alignments, they knew a thing or two about them.


Werneth Low and Hangingbank, Greater Manchester

SJ9709 9315. Werneth Low is a hill 279 metres high located just west of Uplands farm near Hyde in Tameside, Greater Manchester. It was the site of an Iron-Age settlement or enclosure on the south-west facing side of the hill, dating from the 1st century BC. A flint knife and a stone mace were excavated here. The Brigantes tribe who held the territory just before the Roman army arrived would have come here to the hill to celebrate both the winter and summer soltices. And what a wonderful sight that must have been!

Werneth Low near Hyde, Greater Manchester, on ...

Werneth Low near Hyde, Greater Manchester (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SJ9647 9352. Some 2 miles to the north-east of Werneth Low is another ancient settlement or farmstead called ‘Hangingbank’ just south of the A660. It is a low hill covering 3 acres that was inhabited from the middle to late Bronze-Age through to the Iron-Age. A number of Bronze-Age artefacts were found at the site. The earthworks at Hangingbank consist of a double-ditched enclosure with numerous crop-marks indicating where ancient field boundaries were. There may have been a Roman camp here in the 1st-2nd century AD as a shard of pottery was dug up from one of the ditches and a post hole was excavated. The course of the Roman road from Melandra Castle to Astbury supposedly crossed the site. Today a modern-day war memorial stands in the centre of the earthworks of the prehistoric settlement.


St Oran’s Well, Colonsay, Western Highlands

St Oran's Well, Colonsay, Western Highlands

St Oran’s Well, Colonsay, Western Highlands

NR3922 9669. Near the north-western coast of Colonsay Island in the Western Highlands, in some pretty gardens belonging to Colonsay House, is the holy well of St Oran, known also as Tobar Oran. The well is on private land. Apparently the Irish saint, Oran or Odhran, who was the brother of St Columba and a follower of that great saint had a cell here at some point in the mid 6th century AD. He died on the Island of Iona where a chapel is still dedicated to him. Today the well is little more than a rectangular-shaped hole in the ground with some foundation stones around the edges, but it still has water flowing into it which, long ago, was regarded as miraculous with pilgrims coming here for curative purposes. And even today the well of Tobar Oran is still visited by pilgrims from far and wide.

Close by the well is a curious-shaped little cross that may date from the 7th-8th century AD. It measures 17 inches (0.37 metres) in height by 13 inches (0.33 metres) across and is made out of  local quarried stone with various carvings including what could be the face of Christ at the top; the bottom of the stone tapers away forming the shape of a fishe’s tale. The cross has very small arms three-quarters of the way up with spiral patterns. This type of decoration is quite prevalent in Ireland – so could this little stone have been carved by St Oran himself in the true Irish tradition.

Originally the stone stood at the nearby ancient Chapel of Ruisg Buidhe but it was moved to its present site in recent times – this is why the little cross is often called ‘The Ruisg Stone’ or sometimes ‘The Buidhe Stone’. The ancient chapel at Ruisg Buidhe perhaps taking its name from another saint from Ireland, St Buithe?


Arbor Low, Middleton, Derbyshire

SK1603 6355. To the east of the A515 Buxton road and along a rough track at Gib Hill farm, near Middleton, is the 3,000-4,000 BC Neolithic henge monument known as Arbor Low. It is actually a stone circle although the stones here are recumbant and some are now broken. In all there are 50 limestone blocks situated upon a plateau on a high, oval-shaped bank 2 metres high. Within that, at the centre, seven more recumbant stones lie in what is referred to as “the cove”. The stones from a nearby quarry measure from 1.6 metres to 2.1 metres in length and, the largest of these is said to weigh 10 tons.

There are two causewayed openings in the outer bank and silted up ditch at the north-western and south-eastern sides which are probably portals (entrances), and a lower bank and ditch runs from the henge to Gib Hill farm to where there was perhaps the beginnings of a second henge? And attached to the south-eastern portal there is a round cairn of Bronze-Age date, this was excavated in 1845 when funery items were found in the cist; and at Gib Hill 320 metres to the west of the henge another Bronze-Age burial mound can be seen from which funery remains were excavated. During archaeological excavations back in 1901 a number of artefacts were excavated from the cove within the stone circle – an antler pick, oxen teeth, flints, scrapers and an arrowhead.

Arbor Low, Derbyshire.

We do not know whether the blocks of stone ever stood upright or were they just propped up in  fairly shallow holes, although no trace of any holes have been found, so the mystery of Arbor Low must remain. The henge site here at Arbor Low was a place where pagan and tribalistic rituals were carried out by prehistoric settlers who lived close by. One can well imagine that. There are said to be up to 50 ley-lines intersecting or passing through the henge, something the ancient people who dwelt in the area would have been well aware of with regard to alignments and the energies of the earth.


Some Inscribed Stones In Wales

SH3346 7066. Inscribed stone in use as window lintel in a barn (now in an outbuilding) of Penseri farm, Trecastell, Lanfaelog, Anglesey. It is a rectangular shaped slab-stone with a Latin inscription on its face in memory of MAILISI – ‘From the grave of Mailisus’. On the left edge an Ogham inscription recalling the same person. The stone is thought to date from the 5th or 6th century AD.

SO0730 1310. Pillar-stone at Cwm Criban, Pontsticill, Powys. This stone has a worn Latin inscription in memory of MAQI – ‘Son of Maqi’ on its face and an Ogham inscription on its left edge to the same person MAQIDECEDA. It probably dates from the 5th-6th century AD and measures 1.6 metres x 0.3 metres, and was discovered in 1694.

SH4820 4554. Located in Llystyngwyn farmyard, Brynkir, Dolbenmaen, Gwynedd. A slabstone measuring 1.2 x 1.9 metres from the 6th century AD. There is a Latin inscription in three lines to the memory of ICORIFILIVS POTENTI NI – ‘Icorix son of Potentinus. On the right edge an Ogham inscription  to the same person ICORIGAS or ICORIX.

SN4229 5772. In St David’s church at Llanarth, Cardiganshire, a cross-inscribed stone 1.4 metres high, dating from the 5th-6th century AD. An incised Latin cross (9th-10th century?) on the face of the stone, while on the shaft a Latin inscription to GURHI RST or GURHIRT. On the left edge a dubious Ogham inscription in memory of TRENALUGOS a Romano-British person. Gurhirt could have been an Irish chieftain from the 6th century AD?

SH5343 3784. In St Michael’s church at Treflys, near Morfa Bychan, Gwynedd, a pillar-stone 1.3 metres high from the 6th century AD. The stone has a chi-rho cross and a Latin inscription on its face to IACONVSF IL IV SMINI IACIT which is translated as ‘Jaconus, son of Minus lies here’. An Ogham inscription on the left edge as been damaged and is not readable now.

SN4560 3990. At St Michael’s church, Llanvihangel-Ar-Arth, near Newcastle Emlyn, Carmarthenshire. In the vestry a stone has a Romano-British inscription HIC JACET ULCANUS FILIUS SENOMACILI or ‘Here lies the stone of Ulcagnus, son of Senomaglus’, dating from the 5th-6th century AD.

SO1804 9238. A stone built into the buttress (south wall) of St Michael’s church at Llanvihangel-Cum-Du near Crickhowel, Powys. This stone had been used as a stepping stone over a brook. An inscription (now worn) recalls CATACUS -‘Catacus, son of Tegernacus’, of the 6th century AD. Another stone, 3 foot long, forms a windowsill in the chancel. One side has a ring cross of the 6th-8th century AD and also, a rather worn Latin inscription.

SH4550 6071. Three stones in the abandoned St Baglan’s church half a mile NW of Llanfaglan, near Caernarfon, Gwynedd. Windowsill has an inscribed gravestone of the 5th century AD in memory of a Romano-Britain LOVER NUS FILI or LAVERNUS FILI ANATEMORI -‘Stone of Anatemori, son of Lovernius’. A second stone acting as a window lintel has a Celtic cross and a third stone also has an incised cross, both probably dating from the 10th century AD.

SN2282 1115. In Llandawke church near Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, a thin slab-stone of the 5th-6th century AD. The stone has an Ogham inscription on its edge and a Latin inscription recalling HIC JACET BARIVEND VENDVBARI which translated is ‘Here lies Barrivend, son of Vendubari. The Ogham inscription also includes the word MAQI – Son of ?

SJ0342 0976. In St Erfyl’s church at Llanerfyl, Powys, a gravestone with a Latin inscription of the Romano-British period 5th-6th century AD in memory of:- HIC IN TUMULO IACIT ROSTEECE FILI PATERNINI ANI XIII IN PACE which when translated is ‘Here in the tomb lies Rustica, daughter of Paterninus, Aged 13 in peace’. The stone originally stood in the churchyard.


St Edith’s Well, Kemsing, Kent

Os grid ref: TQ5547 5868. St Edith’s Well can be found close to the High Street in Kemsing, Kent, 3 miles from Sevenoaks. Built into a wall at the side of the street there is a plaque with an inscription, and in the garden behind is the famous holy well of St Edith of Kemsing, a 10th century Saxon nun. She was, according to legend, the illegitimate daughter of King Edgar and Queen Wulfthryth. The restored and nicely-kept well has a rather odd-shaped walled structure surrounding it and a metal grill covering the water. Some steps descend down into the well which, it was claimed, had miraculous healing powers; indeed soreness and irritation of the eyes has been cured here and the well has been a place of pilgrimage since medieval times.

St Edith's Well, Kemsing On junction of St Edi...

St Edith’s Well, Kemsing, Kent (Photo credit: David Anstiss (Geograph)

On the wall plaque at the front of the well the inscription reads:- “St Edith of Kemsing AD 961-984. This well lay within the precincts of the convent where St Edith, daughter of King Edgar passed her childhood, and hallowed by her presence its waters became a source of healing”. The town’s signboard shows Edith as a young girl leaning over her well.

There is, however, some uncertainty about St Edith’s life. It seems she spent her childhood in a convent in Kemsing, but when she was older she was sent to a convent at Wilton where she remained until her death in 984 AD. She always refused to become the abbess of Wilton, or any other religious house, leaving the position at Wilton (c978) to her mother, Wulfthryth, instead. Edith would not even consider becoming queen upon her mother’s death, even though she was put under great pressure.

We know that a number of miracles were wrought by her great holiness, but austerity and devotion to God was always at the forefront of her time as a nun. She was also known for her charities to the poor and for her love of wild animals. After her death at the fairly young age of 23 miracles occured at her tomb and a shrine was set up in Kemsing to which pilgrimages were established, with her well a focus of healing. Her feast-day is held on 16th September and a procession still takes place in the town on that day.

References:

Photo by David Anstiss:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:St_Edith%27s_Well,_Kemsing_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1256275.jpg

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

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2012 (up-dated 2019).

 

 


Hilbre Island, Dee Estuary, Wirral Peninsula

SJ1855 8781. About 1 mile off the very north-western tip of the Wirral Peninsula, in the Dee estuary, and 2 miles from West Kirby is the small island of Hilbre – it is one of three islands here but the other two, Eye Islands, are even tinier than Hilbre. The island is just under 12 acres long. In medieval times it was called St Hildeburgh’s Island after a female saint who may have founded a monastic church on the island in the 7th century AD. She is perhaps one and the same as St Edburga of Mercia, daughter of the pagan king, Penda? Hilbre became a place of pilgrimage in the 13th and 14th centuries. A church is still dedicated to St Hildeburgh at Hoylake, Wirral Peninsula.

Hilbre Cross 1000 AD [Image copyright S.Craggs]

In about 1080 AD a cell and church for Benedictine monks was established on the island as a dependancy of Chester; this probably acted as a chapel of ease to Chircheb (West Kirby). At the dissolution of the monasteries two monks were allowed to remain on the island, the last monk leaving in 1550. Apparently the monks kept a beacon lit during the nightime to aide sea-going vessels in the Dee estuary from colliding with dangerous rocks.

In 1926 archaeological excavations on the island discovered artefacts from the Neolithic Age, the Bronze-Age and the Roman period. Roman artefacts found included pottery and beads. The Romans may have had a signal station here to protect their fort at Deva (Chester). Earlier, in the 19th century a sandstone cross-head from 1000 AD, a gravestone and a cross-slab in the wall of a stable were found – the gravestone cover may have come from the monks graveyard. A rock-cut grave was also found. At the western-side of the island is the famous or, perhaps, infamous ‘Lady’s Cave’, but there are other caves in the cliffs.


St Beuno’s Church, Culbone, Somerset

SS8320 4735. Hidden away in a wooded valley or combe along the winding South-West Coast Path 2 miles west of Porlock is the smallest parish church in England, if not in Britain, at the secluded, tiny hamlet of Culbone (Kil Beun or Kil Benn). It’s lovely little church is dedicated to the 7th century Welsh saint, Beuno. The church can only seat about 30 people at any one time, and even that’s a tight squeeze! The original name was Kitnor – meaning ‘hillslope frequented by kites’.

Culbone Church The smallest complete medieval ...

Culbone Church The smallest complete medieval English church in frequent use (10.7m x 3.7m). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The chancel measures 13 feet by 10 feet and the 15th century re-roofed nave 21 feet by 12 feet – a total length of 35 feet altogether. Its walls are 2 foot thick. St Beuno’s church site dates back from before the Norman conquest though the present building is 12th century. There is a nice 13th century porch and a very fine Saxon two-light window, cut from a single block of stone, with a carved face of a leopard set in low relief. The font is probably 11th century but its pedestal is Victorian. In the north wall there is a lepers’ squint hole. Outside in the churchyard stands a preaching cross with a 15th century base. Despite being hidden away the church at Culbone is still a place of pilgrimage for many visitors – they are seemingly not deterred by the 2 mile trek.

On Culbone Hill 2 miles to the south-west (on private land) stands the 1 metre high ‘Culbone Stone’ once part of a stone row that stood close by. Carved on the stone is an incised wheel-cross that dates from the 7th-9th century AD, the stone itself being of pre-historic origins. St Beuno probably preached at this stone when he lived for a while in the valley before starting his missionary work in mid and north Wales, or could the church here at Culbone be dedicated to a St Coulban of Brittany?


St Kennara’s Cross, Kirkinner, Galloway

NX4241 5119. Just off the main street (A746 Whithorn road) in Kirkinner 3 miles south of Wigtown stands the parish church of St Kennera (Cinnera). The 19th century church stands on the site of a 13th-14th century foundation and perhaps an even earlier monastic cell where lived the 4th century hermitess, St Kennera. Inside the church stands a 4 foot high cross-slab dating from the 10th century AD. Carved on the stone there is a Celtic style disc-headed cross. The stone slab had apparently stood at the western side of the church for some time before being brought into the church for safety.

In the 4th century St Kennara left Scotland to become a missionary in the Rhineland. She was educated along with St Ursula and St Regulus (Rule) – later becoming a follower of St Ursula. According to the well-told legend Ursula was murdered with 11,000 holy hand-maidens at Cologne (c383 AD) by the Huns and Kennara was one of these martyred maidens. The legend goes on to say that the saint was strangled with a towel or napkin and her body buried in a stable that belonged to the pagan king of the Huns – his horse then refused to enter the stable  while her holy body lie there. St Kennara’s feast-day is usually held on 29th October.


Paviland Cave, Gower Peninsula, West Glamorgan

SS4373 8588. In the limestone cliffs high above the rocky shoreline at the south-western side of the Gower Peninsula 1 mile south-east of Middleton is the now largerly inaccessible Paviland Cave or ‘Goat’s Hole’ which has been eroded away by the power of the sea over many, many thousands of years. The cave is some 1o metres deep and 7 metres wide. In 1823 archaeological excavations were carried out here by Revd William Buckland of Oxford University and, more recently in 1912, by L.W.Dillwyn and a Miss Talbot of Penrice castle, Gower.

Bones of ‘The Red Lady Of Paviland’.

In the 1823 excavations a headless skeleton (thought to be from the Roman period) of a female was discovered which was covered in red ochre – thus we got the name ‘the red lady of Paviland’. With the skeleton various grave goods and decorative items were found including a mamouth’s skull, sea-shell necklaces, ivory, antler and bones. After laboratory investigations the female skeleton was, in fact, found to be that of a well-built male aged about 25 of the Cro-Magnon race of the Palaeolithic people of France; the radio carbon dating gave a time period of 24,000 years BC. In the more recent excavations some 4,000 flints, animal teeth, necklaces, stone needles and ivory bracelets were discovered. These artefacts were deposited in Swansea museum and The National Museum of Cardiff, while the red lady skeleton was given to the University Museum of Oxford.

They were also signs that Paviland cave was inhabited in the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods and, perhaps in more recent times by the Romans?