The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


Mosley Height, Mereclough, Lancashire

OS grid reference: SD 8809 3014. On the moors just to the east of Mereclough and close to the Long Causeway is the 290 foot hill known as Mosley Height. At the northern edge of the hill, close to Causeway-side Farm, stood a Bronze-Age burial mound or ring cairn. Some historians and archaeologists have gone as far as saying there was a stone circle in the same area, but they were probably referring to a small Bronze-Age stone circle that stood at Law House, further to the north, though this has now gone. A disused open-cast coal pit/quarry occupied most of the Mosley Height site, with just a few traces of the cairn at the edge of the former workings, but the quarry itself is now grassed over. The ancient site was thoroughly excavated in 1950 and, more recently in 2009-10, at which time the site yielded many grave-goods and other interesting artefacts from 3,000 BC. And at the western side of Mosley Heights, beside the Long Causeway, there is a Bronze-Age standing stone that is rather misleadingly called ‘Stump Cross’.

Mosley Height Bronze-Age Urn, Mereclough. (Photo: Burnley Central Library).

The site at Mosley Height near Mereclough was 42 feet in diameter. It was excavated in 1950 by a local archaeologist, Mr W Bennett, at which time a number of grave-goods and other artefacts were found. The reason for the archaeological dig was because the coal board were about to build an open-cast mine at the site. Among the artefacts discovered were many bone fragments, flints, a stone with markings or patterns, arrowheads, stone hammer heads and deposits of galena( lead), but probably best of all, 2 collared and inverted funery urns of the Pennine type and 1 fragmentary urn. Some coins were also found here though these were more recent in date. Four circular pits were excavated where the burials had lain, one of which was unurned. These artefacts, dating to 3,000 BC, were taken to Towneley Hall Museum at Burnley, and put on display there. It seems likely that a Bronze-Age settlement had once stood here, or close by. The nearby Long Causeway was probably being used by ancient tribes as a trackway between their settlements. In 2009-2010 another excavation was carried out by UClan but very little of any antiquity was found apart from a barbed and tanged arrowhead.

Sources:-

Barrowclough, D., Prehistoric Lancashire, History Press, Stroud, 2008.

Bennett, W., Report on Excavations near Burnley. Transactions of The Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society, 62: 202-208, 1951.

Hall, Brian., Burnley (A Short History), Burnley and District Historical Society, 1977.

Lancashire Archaeological Bulletin, Vol. 10, No. 2/3 (May & June, 1984).


The Burnley Cross, Burnley, Lancashire

OS grid reference: SD 8424 3307. Just along from St Peter’s parish church at the north-side of the old Burnley grammar school at the junction of two roads, Bank Parade and Church Street, there is a small secluded, hidden garden surrounded by a wall and railings. Here stands the so-called Burnley Cross or Paulinus Cross and, also there is a 19th century cross-base and the old stone well-head of ‘The Shorey Well’, which used to stand beside the River Brun opposite.

The Burnley Cross, Lancashire

The blackened gritstone cross is about 3 metres in height, it’s thin shaft tapering away towards the top where there is a very mutilated wheel-head. In the centre a small round boss can be seen, but sadly the arms of the cross-head are almost gone. There are some faint traces of carving on the head and also on the shaft, but these are very faint now. The base of the cross is a rectangular, chamfered stone into which the monument is well-socketed. It is thought the cross was originally erected in 1295 for the price of “9 shillings and one penny” opposite St Peter’s parish church, in the area known as ‘top o’th’ town, but in 1617 a new market cross was set-up in Godley Lane, close by Ormerod Road, while the old one was placed in it’s present position in 1880. It’s appearance is said to be similar in design to the Anglian crosses in Whalley churchyard, so this could be why it has been referred to as one of the Paulinus crosses, which would date it, perhaps, to the 11th century. And this, then, is where the confusion arises between that and the old market cross. The octagonal base of the old market cross stands in the grammar school garden. This has one step and a three-course plinth along with a large round, moulded pedestal, rather like a very, very large flower pot! But, clearly the original cross shaft would not have been the right shape for this. So, is this what was referred to as the Paulinus Cross or the Market Cross?

The old stone well-head is all that remains of ‘The Shorey Well’. This was originally located on the bank of the River Brun opposite the old grammar school, and was the main source of clean drinking water for the northern side of Burnley. It could be reached along Shorey Bank, or by crossing over some stepping stones placed in the bed of the river by way of Dawson Square. But, when water pipes were brought in to use in the late 19th century there was no need for the old well; it’s stone surround was taken away and placed here in the little garden beside the grammar school.

The Shorey Well (remains of), Burnley.


Clach-a-Charra, Onich, Inverness-shire, Scotland

OS grid reference: NN 0262 6135. Onich is a small village in Kilmallie parish overlooking the north-eastern side of Loch Linnhe, a few miles west of Ballachulish, on the main A82 road to Fort William, in the Western Highlands region. Clach-a-Charra (Stone of Charra) is an odd-shaped prehistoric standing stone (menhir) standing in a farmer’s field a short distance to the north-west of Onich pier. It stands on private land just a little to the south of oak cottage and the A82 road, so permission to view the stone will have to obtained at the cottage.

This strange looking stone which seems to change it’s shape when viewed from different angles, from being thin to rather stocky, stands at 7 feet tall and is said to date from the Bronze-Age, more than 2,000BC. It has two naturally-formed round holes, but how these were made in the first place is open to question? They may have been made by the weather wearing away vulnerable parts of the stone or, are they, perhaps, connected with some local fertility rituals that took place here long-ago. The stone has suffered some damage over time due to it being used as an animal scratching post!

One well-told legend says that stone is associated with the two sons of Cummin (Commyn), clan chief of Inverlochy, who were murdered here back in the middle ages. So could the two holes in the stone be a sort of reminder about the deaths of these two young men, who knows. Probably just a coincidence.

Clach-n-Charra, Onich, Western Highlands


Caldey Island, Pembrokeshire, Wales

OS grid reference: SS 1417 9664. The holy island of Caldey (Ynys Pyr) lies about 2 miles south of Giltar Point, Tenby, across the strait known as Caldey Sound. The island has been called ‘A Cradle of Celtic Christianity’ since it’s foundation in c540 AD. Caldey is thought to be named after a Viking chieftain called Caldeye. The island is one and a half miles long and one mile wide. A celtic monastery was in existance here from the early 6th century, then in 1113 Cistercian monks founded a priory here but they were dependant on the abbey of St Dogmaels and this foundation, in it’s inhospitable position along with funding problems, meant that it was always in a poor state of repair and existance. But it did survive, in one way or another, until the dissolution in 1536. More recently, in 1923 Cistercian (Trappist) monks from Chimay in Belgium settled on the island and today they remain a major part of a thriving monastic community. There are three churches on the island, one of which, the old priory church (St Illtud’s) houses a 6th century stone ‘The Caldey Stone’ which has an Ogham inscription along with a Latin inscription and crosses.

The first abbot of Caldey was St Pyr (Piro), but was he the founder? According to legend, Pyr got drunk one night and fell into the monastery well through drinking to much homemade wine, or beer! He was succeeded as abbot by St Samson (c550) who had travelled here from Llanilltud Fawr, south Glamorgan, the monastic college of St Illtud. However, it seems Samson did not stay long on Caldey because he failed to improve the bad habits of the monks. St Samson travelled to Ireland. The thinking is that it was St Illtud who then succeeded St Samson as abbot, but there is uncertainty because St Dubricius may have been here at about the same time. There are three churches on Caldey Island: St David’s, the old priory church (St Illtud’s) and the Abbey Church. St Illtud’s is a 13th century foundation that is famous for it’s leaning tower and 50 foot high spire and, inside, it’s floor and walls are made of black pebbles from the shoreline, and a stained-glass window shows St Illtud as a knight of King Arthur’s court.

The Caldey Stone, Pembrokeshire. (After Macalister)

In the sanctuary of the old priory church, also called St Illtud’s, there is a 1.7 metre high 6th century Ogham inscribed stone known as The Caldey Stone. At the top right and left edges are incomplete notched inscriptions in memory of MAGLIA DUBRACUNAS – the servant of Dubricius or Dubracunas, the son of. The Latin inscription, carved in the 9th century, is on the front face and is taken to be ET SINGNOCR CRUSIN ILLAM FINGSI ROGO OMNIBU AMMULANTIBUS IBI EXORENT PRO ANIMAE CATUOCONI – ‘And by the sign of the cross which I have provided upon that stone, I ask all who walk there that they pray for the soul of Catuocunus’. Cutuocunus is probably to be identified with Cadwgan. Also, the stone has four Latin-style crosses on all four sides. St David’s is a small church close to the lily pond and seashore. The walls are 3 foot thick, a fact which could mean the building is of Celtic origins, but more likely it is a medieval foundation. There are wood carvings depicting the Oberammergau passion plays in Bavaria. Finally, the Abbey Church was built in the Romanesque style with local, Caldey limestone. There are some nice statues in here of St Bernard of Clairvaux, Our Lady, St Illtyd and St Aelred, abbot of Rievaulx in Yorkshire. The choir-stalls date from the 15th century and are made of oak. Clearly, this church is still in use as a monastery church with a cloister-like surround and refectory and kitchen to the west, while on the opposite sides, dormitories and abbey office buildings.

On the cliffs to the south of the abbey is a 12th century watchtower that is now used as a chapel by the monks. At the north-eastern side of the island near Den Point are Nanna’s Cave, Potters Cave, Ogof-yr-Ychen and Ogof-yr-Benlog caves where prehistoric artefacts have been excavated. Human and animal bones have been found from as far back as the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic ages right up to more recent, post Roman times.


Holy Cross Church, Ramsbury, Wiltshire

OS grid reference: SU 2738 7159. Holy Cross Church is located near the high street in the centre of the village of Ramsbury – off the A419 Hungerford to Swinden road, halfway between Marlborough and Hungerford – on the north bank of the river Kennet. Hungerford is 4 miles to the south-east, while Marlborough is 4 miles to the south-west. The 13th-14th century limestone church stands on the site of an Anglo-Saxon settlement from around 900 AD at which time, or later, the first church was given “minster” status and a bishopric created in 909 AD. Housed in the church are parts of two Saxon preaching crosses, two Saxon coffin lids and some other, later, medieval stones.

Lower face of the Ramsbury cross

At the western end of the north aisle there are several Anglo-Saxon and medieval artefacts. Three large stone fragments make up part of a 9th-11th century cross-shaft that is locally referred to as ‘the great cross of Ramsbury’. These ancient fragments have now been reconstructed as best as can be. On the front face is a rather “friendly” looking serpent that is coiled-up in a lengthwise position and, strangely enough, it appears to be biting its own body, whilst in between and around it there is some very nice interlacing in the form of long, interweaving plant stems or tendrils. This is said to be of Anglo/Danish origins and of the Ringerike-style of carving, something that was popular in Wessex at this particular time in history. The sides and the top section of the cross have knot-work and circles or wheels. On the opposite side there is more interlacing and another creature. And there are some fragments of a second Anglo-Saxon cross-shaft. These artefacts were discovered built into the south wall during restoration to the church back in 1891.

There are also two rather fine “coped” coffin lids from the 9th-10th century AD, one of which has a carving of a bishop, the other shows foliation in the form of scrolls and pointed stems or barbs. This style of workmanship is thought to be similar to that often seen on hog-back tombs from the north of England, and again of Danish/Viking origins. Also, part of a medieval stone-slab with a stepped cross (in relief) and other cross fragment from the 13th century.


Kilnaboy, Co Clare, Southern Ireland

Irish grid reference: R 2713 9158. The monastic site of Kilnaboy is situated right beside the R476 Kilfenora road, some 2 miles to the north of Corofin. Lake Inchiquin (Lough Inchiquin) is 1 mile to the south. Kilnaboy churchyard is a famous monastic site that dates back to 540 AD, when St Inghine Baoith founded a convent here. In the 12th century a church was built on that site. Part of a round tower can still be seen as well as a Tau cross. But, most interesting of all the artefacts here is what, I myself, would call vulgar though others might disagree? It is the sheela-na-gig figure over the door of the church. And what a sight it is too, but nice all the same. The place-name Kilnaboy means ‘Cell of Baoith’ or ‘Church of the daughter of Baoith’.

The roofless church dates from the 12th century but in the 16th century another church was built over that, but it is probable that a much earlier foundation stood on the site. On the gable end wall, at the western end, is the so-called ‘Lorraine Cross’, a double-armed or double-branched medieval cross. Over the doorway, the famous sheela-na-gig stares down at you in all its vulgarity. This is probably a pagan diety of the old religion. She displays her over-sized genitalia as a sign of fertility. The sheela is thought to be the cow goddess, Boand, who was also goddess of the river Boyne. St Inghine Baoith, the founding abbess of Kilnaboy monastery in the 6th century, takes her name from this old fertility goddess but, as was usually the case, the early Celtic (British) church very quickly turned her into a Christian saint. A similar thing happened to St Bridget of Kildare.

A tau-cross shaped like a letter “T” used to stand on nearby Roughan Hill but for the sake of safety it was taken to The Clare Heritage Centre at Corofin. This strange-shaped cross is 4 foot high and, on each arm two human heads are carved. Maybe they were ecclesiastics or biblical characters? The cross probably marked the local boundaries. The ruined, roofless church is fairly plain in structure. There are a number of niches in the walls that may have once contained religious statues or other relics. Not much of the round tower survives today, just the bottom section of its foundations.

On the north-eastern shore of nearby Lough Inchiquin there is a holy well, Toberinneenboy, which is one of two wells dedicated to St Inghine Baoith of Kilnaboy, also known as St Innywee. Her feast-day is still celebrated (locally) on 6th May.

 


Tocca’s Stone, Tockholes, Lancashire

OS grid reference: SD 6584 2302. A couple of miles north-west of Darwen is the village of Tockholes. Winter Hill and it’s famous transmitter is a few more miles east of here. Down Chapels Lane is the church of St Stephen, and in the churchyard can be found a curious-shaped stone on a large base. This is Tocca’s Stone or ‘The Toches Stone’. The monument is not more than 4 foot high now because the top section, which could have been a cross-head, was lost to the local area. It is said to have been erected in the late 7th century AD as a preaching cross by Tocca, a Saxon chieftain – Tockholes ‘Tocca’s hollow’ takes it’s name from him. Most probably the area was ruled by some post-Roman, pagan tribe who were Christianized by wandering missionaries like St Paulinus and St Wilfred. The church of St Stephen is a modern building that replaced an earlier Victorian church. Almost certainly there was a medieval church on this site, perhaps even a much earlier Saxon building. The churchyard has a rare outdoor pulpit, dating from the early 1900s, and some old stone arches from an earlier church.

The Toches Stone, Lancashire

The stone, now alas minus its cross-head stands forgotten in many senses, but long ago it was used by local people because of it’s magical healing powers. People came here to touch the round-shaped stone at the side of the old cross shaft. They believed that if they did this some sort of cure, be it magical or divine, would be bestowed upon them. This is probably why the rounded stone is now so smooth. On the large square stone below the cross stump there is a Victorian inscription that states that the cross was set-up on the parish boundary in AD 684 along with some other details of the history. Two local gentleman apparently donated the oblong shaped-stone and re-erected the cross, but they were said to have quarrelled about the cost of the stone and where it should stand, etc.

About 3 miles south of Tockholes is a 17th century wellhouse in the grounds of Hollinshead Hall. The well, however, is much older in date. On the carved arch inside the building there is an old inscription and a carved lion’s heads over a large basin. The water that once issued from the lion’s mouth was said to have had healing properties. However, today the wellhouse is abandoned and rather forgotten. It is a long time since Catholic pilgrims visited this place of sanctity; one can only peer through the windows into the dark, crumbling building.

Tocca’s Stone, Tockholes, Lancashire