The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


Jinny Well, Newchurch-in-Pendle, Lancashire

Jinny Well, Newchurch-in-Pendle.

Jinny Well, Newchurch-in-Pendle.

OS grid reference: SD 8238 3946. A few hundred yards down the hill from the Pendleside village of Newchurch-in-Pendle along Jinny lane, and set into the grassy bank is Jinny Well or Jennet’s Well, a sacred spring that has been here for some considerable time from when the land was first formed in geological terms. Not a great deal is known about it today, perhaps because in our modern times with clean drinking water on tap, it has been largerly forgotten, sadly. At the time of my visit the well was looking a bit overgrown. From the top of the village Pendle Hill can be seen 2 or 3 miles to the north-west, while the village of Sabden is 4 miles further to the west and Barrowford is roughly 3 miles to the east.

The well is built into the grassy bank at the side of Jinny Lane – it’s roof is formed from a thick stone-slab and a large stone basin collects the water, which is nowadays a dirty-brown colour and “certainly not” suitable for drinking, while at the other side and also above, the structure is made out of drystone walling; the spring comes out of a small grassy hillock in the field above the well. At the front there is a horrid iron grid to collect any overflowing, cascading water. Undoubtedly, at one time long-ago the well water was used by local people because of it’s purity and, maybe it had some health-giving qualities of which we know little about today.

Jinny Well, Newchurch-In-Pendle

Jinny Well, Newchurch-In-Pendle

According to local legend, the lane is haunted by the headless ghost of a woman called Jinny, Jinnet or Jennet; and she has given her name to the well and the lane, but as to when she lived around here, again, we do not know, only the legend and name remains. Maybe Jennet still uses the well for her needs in the realm where ghosts and spirits (water spirits) preside. Jennet does not appear to have been accorded the title of ‘saint’ in this case, even though she lost her head! There are a few other wells and springs in the pretty village of Newchurch-in-Pendle, in particular there is said to be a well in the garden of St Mary’s vicarage/parsonage.

Source:

Bennett, Paul., The Northern Antiquarian, 2009. http://megalithix.wordpress.com/2009/11/08/jinny-well-pendle/


Stydd Chapel, Ribchester, Lancashire

St Saviour's Chapel at Stydd, Ribchester.

St Saviour’s Chapel at Stydd, Ribchester.

OS grid reference: SD 6538 3597. About ½ a mile to the east of Ribchester village, just after the Ribchester Arms Inn, turn off the B6245 (Blackburn road) and head up Stydd Lane (past the 18th century Stydd Almshouses) which eventually becomes a dirt track, and where soon you reach the isolated and ancient little Stydd Chapel, a simple rectangular-shaped building looking a bit like a barn, dating back to the mid 12th century and dedicated to St Saviour. And how pleasant the building is, surrounded on one side by a tiny grassy enclosure which was in use as a graveyard until 1879; and some old and new farm buildings scattered around it at the back. There are a number of interesting architectural features in the building and, equally some interesting old grave-slabs. The river Ribble runs close by and Dutton is bit further along the Blackburn road, while Longridge is 2 miles to the north-west and Whalley is 4 miles due east on the A59 road via Copster Green and Billington.

In her book Lancashire Countrygoer, 1964, authoress Jessica Lofthouse says of Stydd Chapel: “Six centuries ago the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem owned an estate at The Stede, a small “monastery” complete with chapel, dormitory, refectory and cloisters. They were crusading monks, rarely at home until the last fighting men had returned from the Holy Places. In 1338 — when it was considered it no longer served any useful purpose — it was dissolved.” The earliest documented evidence is probably the deeds (undated) of the mid 12th century, then later in 1292 another, clearer more acceptable document saying that “the Knights Hospitallers of St John aquired the land from one Adam of St Saviour at Dutton”. Author Ron Freethy in his book Exploring Villages, 1985, refers to St Saviours as a “Crusader church” and goes on to say that these Hospitallers whom took a major part in the crusades over in the Holy Land also brought back ‘healing’ herbal plants and says: “for the Knights of St John were not only good fighters but skilful healers and herbalists. Many of the plants they cultivated still grow well near Styd, and a careful look around the church yard will reveal plants such as toothwort, used to cure toothache, and willow trees from which they stripped the bark to cure headache”.

It was either in 1136 or 1150 when the Knights Hospitallers arrived at Ribchester to establish their chapel and monastic hospice for pilgrims, though it seems there had already been some kind of religious building on the site at the back where Stydd Manor farm now stands, perhaps an early Christian church or, more likely a Roman temple dedicated to the god Mithras, because Archaeological excavations here in 1912 came upon another building that ‘appeared’ to pre-date the present chapel, and could well be of a 4th century date, according to local authors John & Phillip Dixon in their book Journeys Through Brigantia (Volume 9) The Ribble Valley, 1993. A stone dedicated to Mithras was discovered inside the Roman fort at Ribchester – being used as a floor tile in a Romano-British building there. Stydd Manor farm still has some stones from the hospice or monastic farm incorporated into it’s walls.

The Early English porch (south door) was added to the chapel in the 13th century and has an oak door studded with nails and covered in old graffiti, while inside the building is rather “primitive” or bare to say the least with it’s stone-flagged floor, but there are also some interesting antiquities to be seen, despite that. Inside, the south door is quite beautiful with some exceptional carvings including concave keel mouldings and capitals with Corinthian floriated designs, dating from around 1200. But best of all are the north doorway and windows. On the exterior of the late Norman north doorway (now blocked up) there is what is called dog-toothed zig-zag carving (from between 1160-1190) and two round-headed windows. The octagonal font is made of gritstone and dates from the early 1500s and is interesting because it has carvings of sheilds and sacred heraldic symbols on all it’s sides, while the oak screen is of the late 17th century; and the piscina or water stoup built into the south wall of the chancel is medieval – maybe even late Norman, and has a trefoil stone head but it’s water bowl has gone. High up in the west wall there is another blocked-up doorway – this probably once lead to a wooden gallery and linked-up with another building, now long gone.

Gravestone of St Margaret Clitheroe at Stydd Chapel.

Gravestone of St Margaret Clitheroe at Stydd Chapel.

In the sanctuary at the back of the chapel we have some large recumbant grave-slabs. The one that is badly broken at the bottom with the plain incised cross is “said” to be that of the Roman Catholic martyr St Margaret Clitheroe (1556-86) who suffered for her faith at York and was canonised as one of the English Martyrs in 1970. She could, perhaps, have been related to the Clitheroe family who lived in these parts during the 14th century, though we don’t know this with any “real” certainty, but why would the gravestone of a Yorkshire martyr be here at Stydd? At the side of this stands a coffin tomb of unknown date. The other interesting gravestone which is now broken across the middle has a lovely floriated design. Buried here beneath this stone are the Knight Sir Adam de Cliderow and his wife Lady Alice Cliderow (1350). Outside in the old graveyard there is a medieval cross-base – it’s stump having disappeared. This is said to have come from Duddel Hill on the moors a few miles to the north of Stydd. Church services are still held ‘occassionaly’ at the Stydd Chapel and visitors, rather than pilgrims, come here now to look at the building.

Sources:

Lofthouse, Jessica., Lancashire Countrygoer, Robert Hale Limited, London, 1964.

Dixon, John & Phillip., Journeys Through Brigantia (Volume Nine) The Ribble Valley, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1993.

Freethy, Ron., Exploring Villages with Ron Freethy, Countryside Publications, Brinscall, Chorley, Lancashire, 1985.

Church Guide (Booklet), The Church of St. Saviour, Stydd. 2004. (In conjunction with St Wilfrid’s Church, Ribchester).


Sueno’s Stone, Forres, Moray, Scotland

1861 drawing of the stone

Sueno’s Stone 1861 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OS grid reference NJ 0465 5953. At the east side of the village of Forres before reaching the B9011 road turn left into Findhorn road and on the opposite side of the road in a field stands the famous Sueno’s Stone, a very tall class III Pictish stone/cross-slab, which since the 1990s has rather unfortunately been housed within a horrid glass, protective cage – although it is now stopping any further erosion to the beautiful Pictish carvings, so that has to be a good thing. It used to stand inside iron railings. The stone is said to weigh over 7 tonnes. According to authoress, Elizabeth Sutherland, in her delightful book The Pictish Guide, 1997, of the stone she says: “It is undoubtedly one of the finest examples of Dark Age sculpture in Europe and should not be missed”. The town of Nairn is 10 miles to the west on the A96 and the town of Elgin is 11 miles to the east also on the A96.

Sueno’s Stone (Swein’s Stone) is a ‘highly sculptured’ Old Red Sandstone pillar standing on a low, stepped base at between 21-23 feet high (6-7 meters) that is thought to commemorate a battle or battles that took place in the mid 9th century AD, according to the legend. Many of the decorative scenes depict Dark Age battles which took place in Scotland, but there are is also a strong Christian theme running through much of the ornamentation, and very beautiful it all is too. There are, however, no Pictish symbols on class III stones. The general thinking is that the battle scenes depict King Kenneth MacAlpin and his victories over the Picts circa AD 842, or could they in fact be earlier in date or, indeed, slightly more recent? We don’t even know for certain who “Sueno” was. The authors Janet & Colin Bord in their book Ancient Mysteries of Britain, 1991, suggest that “Sueno for whom it is named may have been a Norse king defeated near this spot by the Picts”. It seems ‘quite’ likely that the stone was moved to it’s current position from somewhere nearby having apparently lain buried in the ground for some considerable time; the very first reference to the stone came in the early 18th century.

English: Sueno's Stone. This is a historic sho...

Sueno’s Stone. (Photo credit: Anne Burgess, Geograph)

On the front side of the pillar there are 11 panels with ‘many’ horsemen riding into battle and numerous human characters, probably Pictish warriors, but also characters not involved in any battle but, which could possibly recall the coronation of Kenneth MacAlpin, in particular the two tall figures bending over a seated figure – now echoed by a few leading experts in the field. The best part is quite obviously the very large wheel-headed cross with it’s long shaft on a rectangular base in the centre of this face; this being the part that seems to draw our full attention and, was probably meant to do just that because it takes up most of the face; there is also the more familiar knotwork interlacing both on the shaft and on the sides.

The opposite side (back) is quite literally covered in upto 100 figures, elite warriors and horsemen all in 4 panels. The general concensus by historians on Pictish history with regard to this side of the stone is that the carvings say out loudly: ‘the Pictish kingdom is finished and the Scots are “victorious” and here to stay – make no mistake about that’. King Kenneth MacAlpin is now in charge. In panel 1 there is a row of figures holding swords and standing above eight warriors on horseback (in three rows facing left); another row of warriors in panel 2 – the middle figure wearing a kilt could be King Kenneth MacAlpin? Another row has eight figures with the two in the centre, fighting and, a third row has six severed heads with a bell and next to that six corpses without their heads, while a warrior is about to behead a seventh figure; beneath that two couples are fighting with their hands. The fourth row has more mounted warriors fighting (in three columns) and making their escape from warriors on foot.

In the third panel there are yet more warriors in pairs and, in the centre what is perhaps a bridge, tent or a broch with corpses and severed heads beneath it, while below that two pairs of figures orating the battle scene. Panel 4 shows two rows of warriors facing left with the four front figures unharmed and chained and their victors with sheilds and swords following them. The edge of the stone (right) is carved with leaves and plants and the heads of beasts linked and intertwining, while below that two human heads; the left edge shows more beasts, interlacing and men with fish tails interlaced to form figures of eight; three more heads can be seen beneath this. It is thought the stone was actually set up by the victorious Kenneth MacAlpin who had now become king of the Scots – thus ending the rule of the Picts in Scotland. The Picts now had to accept the ‘inevitable outcome’. MacAlpin died in AD 858 or 859 – having ruled as king of the Picts and, later of the Scots from circa 834 AD. He died at Forteviot in Perthshire and was buried on the Isle of Iona.

Sources:

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

Bord, Janet & Colin., Ancient Mysteries of Britain, Diamond Books (Harper Collins Publishers Ltd), 1991.

Jackson, Anthony., The Pictish Trail, The Orkney Press Ltd., St Ola, Kirkwall, Orkney, 1989.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sueno%27s_Stone

http://www.britroyals.com/scots.asp?id=kenneth1

http://www.ancient-scotland.co.uk/site.php?a=141


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Druid’s Altar, Clooncoe, Co. Leitrim, Southern Ireland

Druid's Altar at Clooncoe, Co. Leitrim, Ireland (Photo credit: Wikimedia)

Druid’s Altar at Clooncoe, Co. Leitrim, Ireland (Photo credit: Wikipedia).

Irish grid reference approx N1046 9305. In the wooded grounds of Lough Rynn Castle, a 19th century building that is now a luxury hotel in 10,000 acres of land, stands a prehistoric monument. At the place called Druid’s Hill in the far south of the castle grounds between Lough Errew and Lough Rynn, south County Leitrim, there is a curious prehistoric antiquity shaped like a chair or a table, locally called the Druid’s Altar (Cloch an Draoi) or Clooncoe Cist. Unfortunately, this megalithic monument, sometimes referred to as a cist-grave, cromlech or dolmen, has been hidden away and perhaps rather forgotten due to it’s location on private land. It is situated beside a pathway beneath trees not far from the south-western shore of the small round-shaped Lough Errew (Erril) and close to the eastern shoreline of the much larger Lough Rynn and, the elongated Lough Clooncoe is just to the south, while the village of Mohill is two and a half miles to the north on the R202 road.

This solitary megalithic tomb known as The Druid’s Altar or Clooncoe Cist is an odd-shaped antiquity, dating from the Bronze-Age, roughly 2,000 to 3,000 BC; and certainly it does resemble a ‘table and chair’. The very large ‘recumbant’ capstone, if that is what it is, is 1.8 metres (5 feet 9 inches) in width and may originally have stood upright, although we don’t know this for certain. Beneath this horizontal slab there are some smaller, low stones which support the structure and, beneath these there is a small stone chamber (cist) also spelt as ‘kist’, which would have perhaps held the remains of a tribal chieftain from prehistory. At the east side another massive slab stands almost up-right though it leans slightly outwards. This stone measures 2.2 metres (7 foot 2 inches) high, 1.3 metres (3 feet 8 inches) across and about 0.30 metres (nearly 1 foot) in depth; the top of the stone is curved or rounded and could well be a “grave marker”, according to author Paul Swift in his work The Lakes of Ireland, now being published in the famous Ireland’s Own magazine. Or could the standing stone be the doorway to the tomb?

There is no real evidence to say that the druids ever used this megalithic structure as an altar for their religious rituals – that is merely myth and legend that has no substance in reality. Or does it? The Celtic term for this monument is “cromlech” meaning “crooked stone” usually a single chambered megalithic structure, whereas Dolmen (Dolmain) is the term for a portal tomb, grave or quoit – also a single chambered tomb; this name tends to be more prevelent in France, Spain and in other countries, even as far away as India. The term “dolmen” could be the same as “tolmen”, a hole stone or holed-entrance stone.

Sources:

Swift, Paul., The Lakes of Ireland, Ireland’s Own no. 5,421 November 29th, 2013, Ireland’s Own, Rowe Street, Wexford, Ireland.

http://www.megalithomania.com/show/site/754/clooncoe_kist.htm

http://www.irishmegaliths.org.uk/leitrim.htm