The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland

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Delf Hill Cairn Circle, Extwistle Moor, Lancashire

Delph Hill Cairn Circle. Photo is courtesy of Robert Smith.

NGR: SD 9006 3373. On the moors to the east of Burnley some 2 miles north-east of Wors-thorne at Hellclough Head is the prehistoric site known as Delf Hill Cairn Circle. The site can be reached best via Haggate and Cockden, then along Shay Lane, Monk Hall lane, and then by walking due south-east across Extwistle Moor to the concrete trig pillar no 2049 on Delf Hill, which is 378 feet. About 77 metres to the east of the trig point lies the low mound forming the cairn with small stones jutting out of it, close to a drystone wall. The area around Extwistle Moor abounds with tumuli, cairns and ancient earthworks,  and so it is well worth having a good look around. The Lancashire town of Burnley is 3 miles to the west and Nelson is roughly 3 miles to the north-west – as the crow flies!

Delf Hill Collared Urn [Courtesy of Donald Jay]

Delf Hill Collared Urn (Courtesy of Donald Jay)

Delph Hill Cairn Circle (close-up). Photo by Robert Smith.

The cairn circle, sometimes wrongly called a stone circle, covers an area roughly 5-6 yards in diameter with a central, small mound and ditch, while the outer low bank has 6 small stones jutting out of it, 2 of the stones are still in an up-right position.  The stones vary in size between 12 inches to 18 inches high. Originally there were 7 stones here, but, this one was probably robbed away or used in the wall nearby. At the centre of the cairn circle a cist-type burial was exca-vated with two small urns containing bones, charcoal and flints inside a small chamber or pit surrounded and topped by stone slabs. The two small funery urns were of the collared ‘Pennine type’ with faint patterning and stippling on their sides, which probably date from the Bronze-Age. Recent quarrying around the cairn circle has luckily not caused much damage, though farming methods are another kettle of fish!

In the same area there are prehistoric earthworks at Twist Castle, Beadle Hill and Swinden, and there are numerous burial sites (tumuli) on and around Extwistle Moor.


Gomme, G.L., The Gentleman’s Magazine Library-Archaeology-Part 1, Houghton & Mifflin Co., Boston, 1886.

Thanks to Robert Smith on Facebook for letting me use the two colour photos (above). These photos are copyright © Robert Smith.

Thanks also to Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian, and to Mr Donald Jay of Nelson for the use of the image.

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2013 (up-dated 2021).


St Anno’s Church, Llananno, Powys, Wales.

English: St Anno's Church, Llananno This churc...

St Anno’s Church, Llananno (Photo credit:  Ann Roberts, Geograph)

OS grid reference SO 0956 7434. Roughly half-way between Llanbadarn Fynydd and Llanbister on the busy A483 Newtown to Llandridod Wells road, in the Ithon Valley and formerly in Radnorshire, but now Powys, is the hamlet of Llananno with its little parish church of St Anno, which is situated above the eastern bank of the river Ithon. The church is a rebuilt 19th century building on the site of a medieval church and, possibly an even earlier Celtic monastic foundation. But the beauty is inside the charming little church. This is a late medieval carved wooden rood screen and loft, which is said to be the best example of its kind in the whole of Wales. Nothing much is known about St Anno, Annu, Wanno or Wonno to whom the church is dedicated, but there are one or two theories about him/her. It could also be a dedication to St Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary? The town of Rhayader is 10 miles to the south-west and Newtown is 14 miles to the north of Llananno.

Llananno Rood Screen (Engraving by Whitman & Bass Collections) 1874.

Llananno Rood Screen (Engraving by Whitman & Bass Collections) 1874.

In 1876-77 the church was rebuilt and the interior restored to what we see today – stonework from the older church being incorporated into the newer Victorian-style building. The famous carved rood screen and loft was taken out and completely restored by craftsmen. In 1880 it was returned to the church and put back exactley as before, but more beautiful than ever with all the intricate wood carvings looking as though they had just been carved. Historians originally thought the screen had come from Abbey Cwmhir at its dissolution in 1536 but, in fact, it was made in about 1500 by the Newtown school of woodcarvers, and so it is Late Gothic in style and had survived the Reformation.

The screen is richly carved with vines and fruits, including pomegranates, oak leaves and acorns, trees, plant stem foliage and berries; the fine tracery work is also beautifully and delicately carved. There are also two scaly, serpent-like animals – having a Greek mythological look about them. The rood loft, above, (sometimes called a gallery) has a long line of canopied niches containing carved figures. Christ is in the middle, while at either side there are apostles, saints and angels. More recently further work was carried out on the rood screen, a process which was finally completed in 1960.

Also of interest in the church is the medieval holy water stoup beside the door for the use of parishioners to dip their fingers in when entering the church, the medieval piscina (for the washing of sacred vessels) on the wall near the altar, and the carved pews with bench ends are from the 17th century; the font is of the 15th century. The churchyard is rectilinear in shape but appears to be built over and on an earlier curved enclosure, which still shows at the north and south sides, suggesting that the site is an ancient one dating back to before the Norman Conquest. All in all a very nice place to visit, if only to walk around the churchyard or sit in the church itself where peace and quiet can be found and, to be astounded by the lovely carved, late medieval rood screen. What a delight!

The dedication of the church to Anno (Annu), an 8th century saint with a feast-day in some calendars on 20th May, is somewhat uncertain, but he could be one and the same as St Wanno or Wonno, whom has a second dedication at Newborough, Anglesey, and to be identical with St Wonno or Gwynno of Wonastow, near Monmouth, who died in 629 AD and is recorded as being a Celtic missionary in Cornwall under the name of St Winwaloe at the village of Gunwalloe and, to have eventually become an abbot in Brittany, but this is by no means a certainty because “his” feast-day falls on 3rd of March. We may never really know.


St Anno's Church, Llananno

Zaluckyj, Sarah & John., The Celtic Christian Sites of the central and southern Marches, Logaston Press, Herefordshire, 2006.

Gregory, Donald., Country Churchyards In Wales, Gwasg Garreg Gwalch, Llanrwst, Gwynedd, Wales, 1991.

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

Whitman & Bass., (Collections), Historical & Archaeological Relating to Montgomeryshire and its borders, Vol VII, p 61, Powys Land Club. 1874.


St Warna’s Well, St Agnes, Scilly Isles

OS grid reference SV 8804 0077. Above the rock-strewn shoreline of St Warna’s Cove at the south-western side of St Agnes, Scilly Isles, and tucked away beside a coastal trail and field enclosure at the far north-eastern edge of Wingletang Down, is St Warna’s Well. It is almost certainly a natural spring that was Christianized by the presence of St Warna back in the so-called Dark Ages – the 5th or 6th century AD, although nothing much is known about him or her, I’m sorry to say.

St Warna’s Well, Scilly Isles (by F. Gibson).

The well is situated under a little grassy mound and a few steps go down into the dark, stone-lined chamber, while its roof is a slab of stone and its outer sides, especially at one side, are constructed of larger lumps of flat stones. In days gone by pins were thrown into the well and a wish made in order that a ship would be steered away from treacherous rocks, or on the other hand, a bent pin (or several bent pins) thrown into the water and wishes made ‘for a ship to be guided onto the rocks and wrecked so that the booty could be plundered by the locals’. Once washed ashore the booty was regarded as ‘belonging to the islanders’. St Warna is patron saint of shipwrecks, oddly enough! But despite that, the well was visited by pilgrims hoping to obtain some miraculous cure for certain ailments – for its waters were long regarded as being curative.

According to legend, St Warna, a female saint sailed from the south coast of Ireland to the Scilly Isles in a coracle made of wicker and covered in hides; another legend has it that she sailed across the sea in a wicker basket! However she, or he, sailed here, St Warna lived beside the well and imparted her/his holiness to the place. I don’t know whether there was ever a chapel on this site, but it’s possible there once was long ago. We know next to nothing with regard to St Warna – could she have been one of the many followers of St Bridget of Kildare in Ireland, or if a “he” maybe a follower of St Patrick? We just don’t know, unfortunately. There have also been very “tentative” efforts to link the saint with a Celtic goddess of the sea. Anything’s possible, I suppose. One suggestion being that St Warna was a female saint of the 2nd-3rd century AD.

F. Gibson says that: “This bay is steeped in legend. Tradition tells us that Santa Warna came from Ireland in a wicker boat covered with hides and landed in this bay. A holy well marks the spot. The inhabitants used to show their devotion and gratitude to the saint by visiting the well on the day following the twelth day, performing superstitious ceremonies, which of course were followed by the customary feastings and rejoicing. By the glory of nature Santa Warna herself is carved in rock. She is best seen from the southern side of Little Porth Askin cove.”


Gibson, F, Visitors companion to the Isles Of Scilly, (no publisher and no date).

Saint Warna's Well

Colquhoun, I., The Myth of Santa Warna (The Glass) No 1 , Summer, Unpaginated.

Guide to the Natural History of Scilly – Nature Trails and their habitat, St Ives, Cornwall, England.

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2013 (up-dated 2019).


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St Orland’s Stone, Cossans, Angus, Scotland

English: St Orlands Stone. Details of the symb...

(Photo: Wallace Shackleton Wikipedia)

OS grid ref: NO 4008 5002. Roughly half-way between Kirriemuir and Forfar in a farmer’s field near the ruined Cossans farm stands the 8th century Pictish symbol stone known as St Orland’s Stone, but also called Cossans Stone and Glamis Manse No 3. Now fenced off the stone looks rather forlorn on the borderline of two fields, but originally a chapel stood on this site that was associated with the un-known Pictish saint called Orland, and also a number of cist-type graves from the Dark Ages or earlier were excavated here in 1855. The stone may have marked the burial place of St Orland himself? Originally the stone and chapel would have stood on a raised area of land surrounded by marshland. Today the stone is more or less in the middle of nowhere!

There are a number of footpaths and tracks heading off from the A928 and A926 roads towards the stone, but by following the path of the disused railway line from the A928 for just over a mile to the hamlet of Cossans is just as good because you can see the monument in the field to the east. Glamis is 2 miles to the south-west, whilst the town of Forfar is 4½ miles to the east along the A94.

The red sandstone slab is a Pictish Class II monument and stands to a height of 7 feet 10 inches high by 2 foot 4 inches wide, but it has had to be clamped around it’s edges by iron bars that look rather unsightly, though if that’s what it takes rather than the monument collapsing, so be it, because there are some large cracks and a small hole in the stone at the edge. It is sculptured on both sides with some extraordinary Early Christian carvings and Pictish symbols, dating probably from about the 8th century AD. The stone slab is one of four Pictish antiquities that make up the Glamis Manse collection; two others (Nos 1 & 2) being within half a mile of Glamis village, the other stone (No 4) being in the Meffan Institute at Forfar.

The front face has a well-sculptured ringed-cross (in high relief) that runs from top to bottom with faint interlacing (in low relief) formed by spirals and other strange pattern-work in and around the cross, while the reverse side has a hunting scene with men riding on horses, six men in a boat, other human figures, two hounds, serpents, and two animals (bulls) attacking each other at the bottom. In the boat at the far right is what could be Christ with his four evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The two serpents with fish-like tails take up much of the reverse side – their jaws holding what could be a human head? Also, the well-known Pictish symbols of crescent and V-rod and double disc and Z-rod.


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

Childe, Gordon, V., Ancient Monuments Vol VI SCOTLAND Illustrated Guide, H.M.S.O., Edinburgh, 1959.