The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


Yockenthwaite Stone Circle, North Yorkshire

OS grid reference: SD 8997 7938. The Yockenthwaite stone circle stands by a footpath in a valley on the north bank of the river Wharfe, close to the hamlet of Yockenthwaite in Langstrothdale, and just west of the B6160 road. Buckden village is 4 miles to the south-east, while another hamlet, Deepdale, lies just a little to the north of the winding country road to Hawes. The circle is near to Yockenthwaite farm. Although many historians call it a stone circle it is actually a Bronze-Age ring cairn with a circle of small stones (kerbstones) that are still quite clearly defined.

The stone circle consists of 20 small stones set almost edge to edge that are roughly 3 feet high, covering a diameter of 25 feet. These stones are, infact, the kerbstones of what remains of a burial cairn or ring cairn where a prominent tribal chieftain was buried. Just outside the circle at the north-west side are a few other stones that make up an outer, concentric ring, and a few portal stones that formed the entrance. In the middle of the circle a small mound can just be made out, which would have been the site of a burial. Originally, there would have been a mound of earth covering the stones but this has long since gone. Just to the north of the circle are what could be the remains of another burial cairn.

English: Yockenthwaite Stone Circle A small (2...

Yockenthwaite Stone Circle by John Illingworth (Photo credit: Geograph)

The name Yockenthwaite is said to be of Scandinavian origins. Thwaite meaning ‘a clearing’, while Yocken could be a derivation of ‘Eogan’ of probable Irish origins – hence we get the place-name ‘Eogan’s clearing’. Thwaite is quite a common place-name is the Yorkshire Dales and also in north-eastern England giving us some idea where Norse invaders came to settle in the 9th-11th centuries.

 

Sources:-

Raistrck, Arthur., The Pennine Dales, Arrow Books, London, 1972.

Geograph/Wikipedia photo by John Illingworth. http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/549996

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


St Edward’s Church Crosses, Leek, Staffordshire

OS grid reference: SJ 9835 5662. St Edward’s parish church is located on Church Street the A523 road just to the north-west of the market-place in Leek town centre. In the churchyard stand two ancient preaching crosses from the 7th-11th centuries, one of which is called a Mercian cross, the other is of Anglo-Norse origins, while inside the church there are a number of fragmentary pieces of Anglo-Saxon stone carvings and, also the famous ‘Calvary Stone’ also known as the ‘Tree of Life Stone’, which dates from about the same period – the 10th century.

The tallest of the two churchyard crosses stands at the side of the church near the chancel door. It is 10-11 feet high and stands on a more recent stepped base, the original base being a large unhewn lump of stone with a Latin inscription. This cross has a round-shaped shaft that gradually tapers away, above a prominent collar, towards the top where the wheel-head is broken and missing. Sadly, the cross is now quite worn although some carvings can still be made out near the top of the shaft, especially on the collar, which is an interweaving pattern fashioned in the form of a flowing serpentine with it’s designwork from the Scandinavian school of carving and, above that a single long loop of thick ropework with interlacing inside that on all four faces. Below the decorated collar are three rather crude heads that are different on the north, south and east faces, but each one generally having long, flowing and curling hairstyles. There is an old saying that: “When the churchyard cross shall disappear Leek town will not last another year”. This may happen sooner rather than later as [this cross] is said to be sinking further into the ground every year.

Anglo-Norse Cross at St Edward’s Church, Leek, Staffordshire

The second churchyard cross standing close to the main entrance is 8 foot high on its modern square-shaped base. It is a restored rectangular cross-shaft of what is referred to as “the Mercian type”. The carvings on the front face are a panel of interlacing and interlocking strands. However, on the other faces what is left of any decoration is badly worn away. This cross was found broken in three sections and has had to be restored to as good as can possibly be.

Inside the 13th century church at the north-west corner of the nave is a collection of Anglo-Saxon stones, the best of which is the so-called ‘Calvary Stone’ or ‘The Staff of Life Stone’. This 10th century lump of stone shows Christ carrying his cross, or perhaps it is a figure carrying a long sword or spear with which to kill the mythical serpent, this one looking like a long worm! The head of another serpent can be seen at the bottom of the stone. The carving could, in fact, be a depiction of ‘The Tree of Life’. On the edges of this stone there is some typical Saxon knotwork. There is also a large lump of nicely decorated cross-shaft, and also two other fragments that may have come from Saxon wheel-head crosses.

Sources:-

Pickford, Doug., Staffordshire Its Magic & Mystery, Sigma Press, Wilmslow, Cheshire, 1994.

Biddulph, Elizabeth Ann., Leek’s Forgotten Centuries – It’s Ancient History Unearthed, Spellcraft Books, Leek, Staffs, 1999.


Ravenscar Roman Signal Station, East Yorkshire

OS grid reference: NZ 9811 0188. The village of Ravenscar is to be found on the east Yorkshire coast, some 10 miles north of Scarborough, and 1 mile north of Staintondale. 700 feet above the seashore on the stepped, grassy headland stands the Raven Hall Country House Hotel on Raven Hall road. The building is said to have been built over, or on the site of, a Roman signal station and a fort or, more likely a fortlet? There is some uncertainty about this. The nearest recorded Roman fort is at Leaso Rigg, some 9 miles to the west. Also of interest near the Hotel is the Peak Alum Works, which is now a site of great archaeological interest.

The signal station here at Ravenscar was one of a chain of warning beacons that stretched along the Yorkshire coast from the Humber estuary to Teesdale. They were probably built in c370 AD at a time when the north of England was being invaded from Scotland by Pictish tribes, and from across the north sea by Saxons. These beacons could be fired-up at short notice to warn Roman garrisons further along the coast of impending raids by invaders from both land and sea.

As was the case with the other signal stations, the one upon the headland above Ravenscar was built of stone and timber and would have had a large square-shaped tower with a beacon on top; a small courtyard would have run around the building, surrounded by high walls with look-out towers at angles along these walls and a ditch on the outside. A block-house for a small garrison of soldiers would have stood at the side or was attached to the signal station. Sometimes a fortlet was built along-side, which may have been what happened here. There is a rectangular earthwork in the garden of the hotel beside the cliff-edge – part of which at the extreme eastern-side has now gone over the edge. In the middle of this a square-shaped feature with low walls, recently excavated, would have been the beacon tower. This is probably all that now remains of the former signal station, the fortlet would have been where the hotel now stands. By about 405 AD the signal stations along the coast had been abandoned as Roman troops were recalled to Gaul, the people of Britain being left to look after themselves. In the 9th century the building was destroyed by Viking invaders.

A piece of stone from the foundations of the signal station was unearthed in 1774 when the original Raven Hall was being built (the hotel is now built on the site of the hall). This is now on display in Whitby museum. A latin inscription on the flat rectangular stone recalls the building of the tower and fort from the ground by Justinianus, the praepositus (Governor of the province) and Vindicianus, the magister (Prefect). The Latin inscription in full is: IVSTINIANUSPP VINDICIANVS MASBIERIVRR MCASIRVMEFC ACO.

Sources:-

de la Bedoyere, Guy., The Finds Of Roman Britain, Batsford, London, 1989.

Mead, Harry., A Prospect Of The North York Moors, Hutton Press, Beverley, East Yorkshire, 2000.

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


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Brocklesby Park Mausoleum, Great Limber, Lincolnshire

OS grid reference: TA1332 0890. The mausoleum stands in the grounds and woodlands of Brocklesby Park (south side) close to Brigg road and high street at Great Limber. The following is from ‘A Description of The Mausoleum in Brocklesby Park, Lincolnshire, by T.Espin, Boston, 1808′.

Mausoleum in Brocklesby Park, Lincolnshire

   “This sepulchral monument was erected by the presernt Lord Yarborough, to perpetuate the memory of his much lamented and amiable consort, who in the prime of life was seperated from him and from the world, by a malignant fever of the brain”.

It is situate in his lordship’s park near the village of Limber* upon a commanding eminence the site of an ancient tumulus, evidently a place of Roman sepulture; the various urns full of burnt earth, bones and ashes, together with a variety of rings, combs, and perforated beads discovered on laying the foundations, fully justify such an opinion; it may therefore with great propriety be observed, that this elegant classic building stands majestically elevated on classic ground”.

*At Limber is a very good inn, near which Lord Yarborough has built a lodge where keys are kept to accommodate strangers who wish to see the building.

It was built from the designs of James Wyatt, esq. and completed under his direction in 1794. Its form is that of a Grecian temple of the peripteral kind; the colonnade consists of twelve fluted doric columns, which stand upon a rusticated basement about fifty-two feet diameter, these support a bold entablature, the frize of which is highly enriched with festoons of roses, sun-flowers and poppies, suspended from the horns of that appropriate doric ornament the bull’s skull over each column and tied upin two intervening places by bunches of ribbons; from the top of this entablature rises a very fine open balustrade. The external body of the temple is nearly forty feet diameter, is surrounded by four niches, in each of which stands a sarcophagus, this part rises to a small height above the balustrade, where it is covered with a dome, the commencement of which is stone, the upper part copper, with a circular curb of stone-work surrounding an aperture at the summit, through which descends the light necessary for the interior of the chapel”.

The basement part contains the cemetary, a most excellent piece of white brick-work, formed into compartments and recesses for depositing coffins: in the this apartment lie the remains of Mrs. Pelham, together with her father and mother the late Mr. and Mrs. Aufere, Mr. Pelham, great uncle to the present Lord Yarborough, and Francis Anderson, esq. his lordship’s father”.

Above this basement is the chapel ascended from the north by a spacious flight of steps. In a rectangular compartment above the door is the following inscription:   

                                                            TO THE MEMORY OF 

                                                                      SOPHIA

                                                    THE WIFE OF C. A. PELHAM,* 

                                                                   WHO DIED 

                                                       JAN. XXV. MDCCLXXXVI  

                                                                AGED XXXIII 

*Mrs. Pelham died previously to Mr. Pelham obtaining his peerage.  

   The first object  on opening the door, which cannot fail to affect the mind of sensibility, is the statue of Mrs. Pelham standing in the centre of the chapel on a cylindrical pedestal of whilte marble; the right hand supports a robe most exquisitely managed, the left arm resting on the trunk of a tree, sustains the head; the dress throughout is chaste and consistent, the drapery finely executed, the attitude strikingly graceful, the countenance placid and serene, and the whole may justly be considered a first rate production from the fascinating chissel of Nollekens”.

The chapel is divided into four compartments by eight fluted corinthian columns of Derbyshire marble; that on the north contains the door; in that opposite is an elegant cenotaph to the memory of Sir William Pelham of Brocklesby, who distinguished himself at the siege of Leith and in defence of Havre de grace; in 1579 he was appointed lord justice of Ireland with the authority of lord deputy; on his return to England, he was made lieutenant general of the ordinance, and accompanied the earl of Leicester as field marshal to the low countries in 1585; after performing signal service to his country, he died at Flushing in 1587. The tomb consists of a plain marble base sustaining a double pyramid, before which stands a large sarcophagus with a colossean female statue sitting thereon, holding a stork; the emblem of filial piety. The family arms are supported by a weeping Hymen with his torch inverted”.

In that recess on the east, stands a monument composed of a plain marble basement supporting a pyramidical slab and sarcophagus, on which lies a very large female figure resting on the left arm; in the other hand is a medallion on which is represented the bust of Charles Pelham, esq. of Brocklesby, who died in February, 1763, aged 84″.

The remaining compartment is occupied by the monument of Francis Anderson, esq.* of Manby, who died on October, 1758, aged 47. On a basement similar to the last, and in front of a like pyramid, stands a fluted sarcophagus, on which sit two naked boys supporting the family arms; that on the right thoughtful and pensive, that on the left cheerful, holding in his right hand the endless serpent with a butterfly walking around, an emblem of the soul traversing eternity”.

*Father to Lord Yarborough, but the estate came to his lordship from the above C. Pelham, esq., his uncle.

The fine proportioned columns which seperate these recesses, support a bold entablature crowned with a highly decorative dome; the bottom part of stone is divided into enriched compartments, the upper part is stained glass executed by Eginton in a masterly style; the design exhibits numerous cherubim floating among clouds in seeming adoration to the supreme, allegorically represented by expanding rays from the centre: this happy and interesting finish, obstructs all glaring light from above, and diffuses a gloomy shade overy every part below, which inspires the mind with reverential awe”.

Throughout the whole of this beautiful fabric, Mr. Wyatt has displayed great skill in Grecian architecture, and has united solidity of workmanship with chastity of design; it is calculated to brave many a winter’s blast, and will long continue a fine memorial of that gentleman’s classic taste”.

From the colonnade the prospects are commanding and varied, but those towards the north, or north-east, the most picturesque; the middle ground is composed of a variety of forest scenery, and a sweep of the Humber forms the boundary of sight”.

The trees immediately encompassing this repository of mortality have been too recently planted to envelop it in solitude, and give that solemnity of appearance so necessary to be connected with places of this description; however the plantations have been judiciously laid out, and in the course of a few revolving years will unquestionably assume that character at present so devoutly to be wished”.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         


The Oakwood Stone, St John Lee, Northumbria

OS grid reference: NY9361 6582. The Oakwood Stone is a prehistoric lump of stone that has cup-and-ring markings. It can be found inside the church of St John in the hamlet of St John Lee at Acomb on the north side of the A69, 1 mile north of Hexham. It is a stone of great antiquity that dates back to the Neolithic Age some 2,000-4,000 years BC, and what a very nice bit of rock-art it is.  Also, the early 19th century church houses a Roman altar. The present day church is dedicated to St John of Beverley, a hermit who became bishop of Hexham and, later York, and stands on the site of several previous churches – the first was built back in the 10th century AD. St John founded a Saxon monastery on the site of the church in the late 7th century AD. The ruins of St John’s hermitage and oratory stand at the bank of the church.

English: Cup and ring stone in St John Lee church

The Oakwood Stone in St John Lee church (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The 1 foot high lump of stone just inside the baptistry door is curved at the top and rounded at the edges, but the bottom part is obviously broken away and missing, so could there have been a few more cup-and-ring carvings? It was accidently ploughed-up from a field beside a clump of trees at Oakwood farm on the Oakwood road just north of St John Lee. Historians believe that it once formed part of a capstone or grave cover from a burial cairn (cist) that stood on a ridge of land; there are other ancient mounds and cairns in the same area. There are five cup-and-ring carvings, four of these are small, but the fifth is much larger and has five concentric rings. It is thought to date from the Neolithic period or the beginning of the Bronze-Age, perhaps? So that could make the stone upto 6,000 years old.

Also in the church at the right-hand side of the baptistry door there is a Roman altar stone that has been used as a font for Christian baptisms. The altar may have come from a Roman fort beside Hadrians Wall, a few miles to the north.

The Oakwood Stone, St John Lee, Northumbria


Mayburgh Henge, Eamont Bridge, Cumbria

OS grid reference: NY 5192 2847. The Mayburgh Henge monument is, in fact, a former Neolithic stone circle that is located beside the M6 motorway and the B5320 road, close to the river Eamont at Eamont Bridge, Yanwath, about half a mile south of Penrith. And a little to the east is a second henge-type monument called King Arthur’s Round Table. So, here we have two ancient monuments for the price of one!

The raised bank or mound with trees dotted around it is 4-5 metres high in places and is formed from cobbled stones that came from the bed of the river. Within the raised, circular bank there is a flat plateau that is about half a hectare or 110 metres in dimensions. At the centre stands a single standing stone (menhir) that is 2.7 metres high; but originally there were others stones here making up a circle, of sorts. Four more stones stood around the centre and another 2 or possibly 4 more stones were located by the entrance portal at the eastern-side. Certainly in the middle ages the stone circle was largerly intact, however by the early 18th century some of the stones had been robbed-away and in the Victorian age only one remained. The henge has been dated to the Late Neolithic period around 2,000 BC.

To the east of Mayburgh is another Late Neolithic site known as King Arthur’s Round Table. This is also a henge monument that has a circular, raised earthwork enclosed within a ditch, though the difference being that the raised bank is just outside the ditch. The henge is roughly 91 metres in diameter. There are two entrance portals here that are 18 metres across. A low mound at the centre is said to be recent in date, perhaps due to disturbances and excavations that occured here in the Victorian period. Although the henge is called King Arthur’s Round Table, because that is what it looks like, there is no real reason to think the mythical king ever visited the place.

David Berry

King Arthur’s Round Table. (Photo Credit: David Berry (Wikipedia)

The course of a long forgotten Roman road from Manchester via Ribchester originally ran just to the west of the two prehistoric henge monuments, but sadly the motorway and railway line were built over that – the M6 more or less following the course of the Roman road north to Carlisle (Luguulium). There was a Roman fort just west of Eamont Bridge at Brougham or the Latin name Brocauum. So the Romans may well have looked on with a degree of awe at the site of these two raised sites, in particular the stone circle of the Mayburgh henge that would, at that time, have looked really quite grand.

Sources:-

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Arthur%27s_Round_Table


Parc y Meirw, Llanychaer, Pembrokeshire, Wales

English: Parc y Meirw stone One of the orthost...

Parc y Meirw stone row (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SM9941 3591. Standing beside the B4313 Fishguard road half a mile to the west of Trellwyn hamlet and 2 miles north-east of Llanychaer village, there are some standing stones known as Parc y Meirw. Originally the stones formed what was once part of a stone row (prehistoric alignment), but today only about seven remain out of a possible 160. The stones are difficult to find because some are in use as gateposts, while others are almost hidden in the hedge as they form the banking at the side of the road, and a few more stand just beside the field known by it’s ancient name “Field of the Dead”.

What is left of a once quite spectacular row of up to 160 standing stones, also known as orthostats or megaliths, dating from the Bronze-Age, lie scattered about at the roadside and are easily overlooked. Two quite large stones stand in the banking at the roadside, while others close by have fallen over and one or two others have, sadly, been made into gateposts. They range in height from between six foot and 9 foot high, with the tallest 12 foot high. An eighth stone is now missing, probably robbed-away to the local area and built into a wall somewhere close by. The field opposite is called Parc y Meirw “the field of the dead” and is thought to be where a Dark Age battle took place and where many warriors died, or according to some, they were turned into standing stones – a row of stone warriors, perhaps; the stones being placed here to commemorate those that fell in some bloody battle back in the mists of time. But in theory the stones pre-date the Dark Ages by thousands of years. There are another two standing stones further along the road in the direction of Trellwyn, most likely the end of the stone row.

Parc y Meirw Stone Row, Pembrokeshire, Wales. (Richard Colt Hoare, 1809).