The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland

Meteora, Plain Of Thessaly, Greece

The Monastery of Meteoran, Greece (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

The Monastery of Meteoron, Greece (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Latitude: 39.726457. Longitude: 21.626565. At the north-eastern side of the Plain of Thessaly, central Greece, to the north of Kalambaka lie the monasteries of Meteora, a Christian enclave where in 950 AD Barnabas and his fellow hermits came to live in inaccessible rock-hewn caves and, later, in 1350 the first hermitage was established on Dupiani Rock by the monk, Nilos. At about the same time Greek Orthodox monks sought sanctuary here by building monasteries on top of high, rocky pinnacles over 1,000 feet up. These Christian monasteries lie to the north of the Pineios river on the edge of the Pindhos Mountain, along bending roads and winding tracks that seem to go on forever into a strange land of towering outcrops of red sandstone and conglomerate rock that have been fused together over thousands/millions of years, forming ‘strange geological formations.’ There are twenty-four lofty pinnacles, many having monasteries and churches on top that seem to mingle in with the very rocks that they sit on. The largest of the monasteries is Moni Meteoron on Platys-Lithos (The Broad Rock) at an altitude of 1,752 feet; and the name Meteora is said to mean ‘In the heavens above’ or ‘floating in the air.’ Kalambaka in the Pineios Valley is 1.5kms to the south of Meteoron and the village of Kastraki is 1km south.

There were twenty-four monasteries in all between the 14th and 16th centuries but today only six are still inhabited, two of which are convents of Orthodox nuns. The most famous and largest of these monasteries ‘The Great Meteoran’ or Theotoko Meteoritis on Broard Rock was founded sometime after 1350 by St Athanasios Koinovitis (1305-83) who had earlier travelled here from Mount Athos, in Greece. Athanasios is a Greek Orthodox saint who is honoured on 6th March as St Athanasios Meteoritis. The monastery is dedicated to the ‘Metamoposis’ or Transfiguration, and it’s church of 1388 is cross-in-square shaped, being enlarged in 1550 by the Serbian monk, Josaph. On the East Rock stands Moni-Varlaam founded in 1517 by the two brothers Theophanes and Nectarios of Ioannina on the site of a hermitage established in 1350 by the monk Barlaam. The monastery had to be restored after it suffered bomb damage in World War II. Its monastic church ‘Agion Panton’ or All Saints is a typical cross-in-square building. A couple of interesting relics were ‘reputedly’ housed here, namely the finger of St John and the shoulder blade of St Andrew, and there are lovely frescos depicting scenes from the lives of Jesus and the Virgin Mary.

The Moni-Rossanis or Russanu monastery (Russian monastery) stands on top of an inaccesible rock. It was founded in 1639 on the site of a hermitage of 1388. Now a convent, its church dedicated to St Barbara is richly decorated with well-preserved frescos that are said to date from 1566. Agios-Nikolaos Monastery (St Nicholas) opposite Dupiani Rock was founded in 1588 and enlarged (1628). A basilica-like church has lovely frescos that date from 1527. The Agia-Triada Monastery (Moni-Triada) was founded in 1438 and is dedicated to the Holy Trinity; its church was built in 1476. The monastery is quite exeptional in beauty. There are damaged frescos dating from 1692, while the Chapel of Agios-Ioannis (St John) dates from 1682 and is hewn out of the rock. It is reached by way of a narrow stone stairway which leads up from the valley below.

The rocky cliffs of Meteora (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

The rocky cliffs of Meteora (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

One of the best monasteries is probably Agios-Stefanos Nunnery. This was founded in 1312 by the Emperor Andronicus III (Palaiologus) 1328-1341. It used to have a small basilica, but the main church Agios-Charalampos (St Charalambos) was built in 1798 and has wood carvings, the Iconostasis, abbots throne, choir stalls, lecterns and Epirus carvings etc. The Chapel of St Stephan has frescos (1500), while the treasury (monastery museum) houses old icons, manuscripts, reliquaries and a skull set in silver that is said to be that of St Charalambos, an early Christian martyr (AD 198). Two other monasteries: Ypapanti and Pantokrator (Christ) are now ruined. There are several churches hidden-away on the rocky pinnacles, while others can be found in the valley below Meteora. These churches that are linked to the monasteries include: Ayia-Trias, Ayia-Pro Ilias, Ayia Analipsis and Panagia.

In the great tome ‘Strange Worlds Amazing Places,’ 1994, one passage sums up the demise of Meteora: “The eerie fascination of Meteora’s geology and the spiritual pull which the place exerts are largely responsible for its current demise as a religious centre. As Meteora increasingly becomes a museum piece which attracts thousands of tourists each year, aspiring young monks and nuns are unwilling to join the monasteries, while older devotees flee from them, to seek solitude elsewhere.”

Up until last century anyone wishing to visit the monasteries of Meteora had to endure climbing up a precarious rope-ladder, but nowadays it is somewhat easier as there is a pulley system (a net-and-rope device) with a sort of seat to sit on while a monk operating a windless from a gantry above, hauls you up over a thousand feet!


Photos Wikipedia:

Strange Worlds Amazing Places, The Reader’s Digest Association Limited, London W1, 1994.

Book of Natural Wonders, The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc, New York & Montreal, 1980.

Gouvoussis C., Greece, Editions K. Gouvoussis, Athens, Greece, 1970.

Mary’s House, Mount Koressos, Turkey

House of Virgin Mary. (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

House of Virgin Mary (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Latitude: 37.912344. Longitude: 27.332818. On the eastern slopes of Mount Koressos (Bulbul Dagi) four and a half miles south of Selcuk and the ancient, classical ruins of Efes (Ephesus) is Mary’s House, the place where the Blessed Virgin Mary came to live after the crucifixion of her son, Jesus. Today there is a Marian shrine here at Meryen Ana Evi and it is a place of ‘devout’ pilgrimage. About half a mile to the north on Meryen Ane Kilisesi road are the Byzantine ruins of The Church of the Virgin Mary (The Council Church), where it’s possible Mary also lived for a short time. The site is reached from the D550 heading south out of Selcuk from the Magnesia Gate, then by turning west onto the Meryem Ane Yolu road for another 4 miles up onto the wooded slopes of Mount Koressos and, the Church of the Virgin Mary and a little further on stands the much venerated Christian site called the House of the Virgin Mary. Here also is St Mary’s Well which is said to have healing properties. According to ‘the Legend’ and documentary evidence: Mary lived a ‘secluded’ life here for several years after accompanying St John from Jerusalem to Ephesus; she is said to have died at Meryen Ane, aged 64? St Paul also lived for a time in Ephesus. The Turkish coast lies 6 miles further to the west.

The foundations of this building [Mary’s House] were discovered in the late 19th century after much painstaking work after the recordings (revelations) of a German nun, Blessed Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824), were revealed. She apparently had a vision of the Virgin Mary who informed her of the whereabouts of her home near Ephesus. Catherine recorded what Our Lady had told her in a book called ‘The Life of the Virgin Mary,’ which had been written in French. In 1891 a Lazarist priest and president of Izmir college decided to see if the location and validity of Mary’s house (as given in the nun’s revelations) held any real, accurate credence. Archaeologists searched the mountainside south of Ephesus for many years, but eventually they discovered foundations at Panayir Dagi on the slopes of Mount Bulbul, also called Mount Koressos. They first discovered a round-shaped cistern, an arched wall, and what may have been a pool but better still two clay sarcophagi were found, each containing a skeleton and burial gifts as well as two Roman coins, one of Constantine and the other of Justinian.

Later, other foundations including some walls were excavated close by, and it was these that lead to the final discovery, Mary’s House. A date was arrived at somewhere between the 6th-7th centuries AD, but the discovery of pieces of coal and stonework gave a date of 1st century AD. A church-like building with a dome and cross-shaped plan was eventually built over these scant foundations, the old and new walls were marked with a red line so as to show which were the old 1st century walls.

Statue of Virgin Mary (Photo Copyright: Wikipedia)

Statue of Virgin Mary (Photo Copyright: Wikipedia)

The author Selahattin Erdemgil in his book ‘Ephesus’ says: “An entrance with door-like niches on both sides, leads into a vaulted vestibule whence one enters the hall with an open apse. The statue of the Virgin Mary found in the apse, had been placed there about one hundred years ago. Since the grey area in front of the apse is different from the rest of the marble paved floor, it must have been the location of the hearth”. Erdemgil goes on to say “The small room in the south is known as the bedroom and there is an apsidal niche in its eastern wall.” Inscriptions on the wall are interpretations from the Koran relating to the Virgin Mary; Muslim people revere her and often come to pray in the little room. Outside, to the west a holy water fountain and St Mary’s Well which has long been able to cure the sick. A beautiful statue of the Virgin Mary stands on a rock-base in the garden and, there is a Wall of Supplication. In recent times two popes have visited the shrine and proclaimed it as a place of Catholic pilgrimage. On The Feast of the Assumption 15th August pilgrims from all over the world visit the House of Mary in coach loads.


Photos Wikipedia:

Erdemgil, Selahattin., Ephesus, Net Tourist Yayinlar A.S, Istanbul, Turkey, 1986.

Gumus, Dogan., Ancient Ephesus, DO-GU Yayinlari, Istanbul, 1996.

Michael’s Guide, Turkey, Series ed. Michael Shicor, Inbal Travel Information Ltd., Tel Aviv, Israel, 1990.

Ayres Rock, Northern Territory, Australia

Ayres Rock, Australia

Ayres Rock, Australia

Latitude: 25.344683. Longitude: 130.037370. Ayres Rock is a ‘world famous’ natural rock formation (which includes Kata Tjuta) in the Australian outback – the southern part of the Northern Territory, central Australia, some 208 miles (in a straight line) south of Alice Springs, by road it is more like 280 miles! This sacred sandstone rock is located close to State Route highway 4 (Lesseter Highway) but more often called Uluru Road, a few miles south-east of Yulara.

The Aboriginal people of Australia regard Ayres rock, also called Uluru, as a sacred place. There are many deep springs and watering holes (billabongs) located on and around the rock that are known to have sacred healing qualities, and there are caves with rock-art. Ayres Rock Campground and Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre at Yulara are in a rocky area to the north, spread out over several miles, just east of State Route 4 in The Kata Tjuta National Park. Ayres Rock is now a World Heritage Site. The 19th century explorer Sir William Gosse named the great rock after Sir Henry Ayres, premier of South Australia.

At an elevation of 2,830 feet, 860 metres above sea level, a height of 1,142 feet (348 metres) and a length of 3.6 km (2.2 miles) Ayres Rock monolith is a massive natural rock formation that can be seen a very long way away, sixty miles or more due to the terrain of the Northern Territory. It is ‘said’ to be upto 450 million years old, with a circumference of 9.4km (over 5 miles) and estimated to be 6kms below ground level.

The make-up of the rock, geologically speaking, is very interesting in that it is made of reddish ‘arkose’ sandstone, although seperately Kata (the Olgas) is a conglomerate mix of small stones and boulders fused together with mud etc. Uluru is distinctly reddish at certain times of the day due to the high iron, red oxide content of the rock, but at other times it is grey. The rock also has a rich feldspar content whic adds to the rock’s distinctly reddish hue, although the colours change at different times of the day. Over millions of years there has been much erosion due to weathering and it is ‘this’ that has caused the strange formations of gulleys, ridges and furrows that we see today. The rock is virtually bare with no vegitation whatsoever.

Uluru (Helicopter View) Photo Copyright: Wikipedia

Uluru (Helicopter View) Photo Copyright: Wikipedia

There are many deep honeycomb hollows and, also a number of deep caves in Ayres Rock which have been made over millions of years, especially near the base where some contain fantastic rock paintings made by the ancestors of today’s Aboriginal people, namely the Yankunytjatjara (carpet-snake people) and the Pitjantjatjara (hair-wallaby people) who lived in what was at that time called the ‘Dreamtime’ (Tjukurpa); their paintings depicting scenes from life. These pictographs and paintings are “…..Mute testimony to primitive man’s reverence to Ayres Rock, these archaeological relics add to the majestic beauty of the colossus of the Australian outback” according to the ‘Book of Natural Wonders,’ 1980. And there are, apparently, many sacred springs that seep out from deep in the rock’s surface; these are sacred springs to which the powers of healing have been attributed, and around the great rock there are watering holes (billabongs) for the thirsty – man or beast – for this place is a very hot, unrelenting desert. Water being a matter of ‘life and death.’

The book ‘Strange Worlds Amazing Places,’ 1994, informs us that: ….“As the sun spreads its dawn rays across the sky, Uluru begin to lighten. Shifting from black to deep mauve, the giant monolith gradually becomes more distinct. When the first rays of the sun strike, the stone burtsts into a riot of reds and pinks that chase each other across the surface with startling speed. Shadows flee the hollows until the whole rock is bathed in desert daylight. The colour changes continue throughout the day, and by evening have run the spectrum from golden and pinky reds through ruby to crimson red and purples.”


Book of Natural Wonders, The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc, New York & Montreal, 1980.

Strange Worlds Amazing Places, The Reader’s Digest Association Limited, London W1, 1994.


The Megalithic Portal:


1 Comment

Drumtroddan Carved Rocks, Port William, Dumfries And Galloway, Scotland

Drumtroddan Cup and Ring Marked Rocks (Photo credit: Roger W. Haworth - Geograph)

Drumtroddan Cup and Ring Marked Rocks. Photo credit: Roger W. Haworth (Geograph)

Os grid reference: NX3626 4474. Some 2 miles to the north-east of Port William, Dumfries and Galloway, are three outcrops of rocks known as Drumtroddan Carved Rocks, that are said to have been carved in the Bronze-Age. These prehistoric carvings are located 200 metres south of Drumtroddan farm to the east of the B7085. White Loch of Myrton is just to the south; one of the carved rocks is located in a wooden area close by. And a further 400 metres south-east of Drumtrodden rock carvings there’s an alignment of three prehistoric stones, one of which lies on the ground. The town of Whithorn is 6 miles east on the B7021 and Glenluce is 12 miles west on the A747.

There are said to be between 80-90 well-defined cup-and-ring carvings spread out on the three natural rock faces, the majority being tiny or small, well-prounounced cups with medium and larger concentric rings, with some linear lines (grooves) linking one to another; and there are spiral deigns and other curious (unknown) symbols. The cups have either two, three, five or six rings. Although simple in their design, these carvings are very ingenious. But some might see the carvings as graffiti, or scriblings, though they were, in fact, very carefully and accurately carved at the time – some 4,000 years ago. They remind us, perhaps, of when a stone is dropped into a pool of still water and then we get the ripple effect with circles getting bigger as they move outwards. Another rock with cups-and-rings can be seen 1.4km to the east at Gr NX3776 4438.

The authors Janet and Colin Bord in their book Mysterious Britain,1984, look to the author John Foster Forbes writing in 1939 with regard to Drumtroddan. He believed that “There is an affinity between these cups and the nature of the stars. A star is a generator and transmitter of Cosmic Energy in spiral form. These cups could be used as micro-cosmic examples of spiral-staral energies.”

400 metres to the east (Gr NX3645 4429) an alignment of three stones (fenced off), two are up-right but one, the central stone, has  fallen down. These stones were probably placed here at an earlier date than the rock carvings, but no doubt they are in some way connected. The two standing stones are around 10 foot high and there is a space of 40 feet between each stone. It is thought that a fourth stone stood on the alignment which is orientated NE to SW. The south-west stone now leans at an angle out of true vertical.


Photo copyright: Roger W. Haworth (Geograph). This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

Bord, Janet & Colin., Mysterious Britain, Paladin (Granada Publishing Ltd), London W1, 1984.

Ancient Monuments – Scotland – Illustrated Guide, Vol VI, H.M.S.O, Edinburgh, 1959.

Hope Churchyard Cross, Derbyshire

Churchyard Cross, Hope, Derbyshire (Photo credit: Geograph)

Churchyard Cross, Hope, Derbyshire (Photo credit: Geograph)

Os grid reference: SK1721 8347. At the south-east side of the Derbyshire village of Hope stands the 14th century church of St Peter and the Hope Churchyard Cross, a late 9th century Saxon cross-shaft. There is also a medieval cross in the churchyard. The church is located on Station road at the east side of the village close by Pinder Road and, just a short distance to the east the river Noe flows into Peakshole Water. And 1 mile further east in The Hope Valley at Brough the scant earthworks of a Roman fort can be seen. The village of Castleton is 2 miles west on the A6187, Bamford is 3 miles to the north-east, and Buxton is 6 miles to the south-west on the A6 road.

This 6 foot 6 inch sandstone cross-slab stands at the south-side of the church and is now set into a more modern square base. Said to date from the time of King Alfred, it was found in two pieces after being hidden-away in the wall of a nearby school-house until 1858, having lain there for safety since the Civil War. It is richly carved albeit a little weather-worn. All four sides have carvings in seperate panels, the best side being the east which has three panels; at the top there is knotwork, while in the middle two figures are holding up a large staff (or a cross), the lower panel having two interlaced rings surrounded by foliage. The west face is also exellent. Again there are three panels, the top shows a figure holding the cross above his shoulders, the central segmental-headed panel has two saints embracing, while the bottom one has three double concentric rings with double cords crossing ‘diagonally’ and interlinking over the rings. The north face has just two panels with snakes biting each other (top) and the bottom having four-cord plait design with interlacing; there is interlacing composed of figure of eight knots on the south face. Sadly the cross-head is long gone. Close to this is The Eccles Cross, dating from the Middle Ages.

Near the north door there is a medieval calvary on five octagonal steps with a pillar sundial on top of an eight-sided base. This base has a square-shaped hole which could have accommodated an earlier, Saxon cross, although the whole thing is more akin to a market or wayside cross? Inside the church there are two nicely carved medieval grave-slabs (in the chancel) with crosses and various symbols of outdoor life, namely hunting horns and arrows suggesting that these belonged to two officials of the Royal Forest of the Peak. These grave-slabs were made in the 13th century and came from the building prior to the present church. On the north wall there are a number of “ugly” gargoyles, reflecting our pagan past, two of which may be the horned god of the Celts, Cernunos. According to the author David Clarke in his book ‘Ghosts & Legends of the Peak District, 1991, St Peters “is the oldest recorded Christian place of worship in the northern Peak District, and in Saxon times it was the focus of one of the largest parishes in England, stretching from the Derwent woodlands in the north to Buxton, Tideswell and the Padley gorge.”

About a mile to the east at Brough, near Bradwell, in the Hope Valley are the earthworks of the Roman fort of ANAVIO. But there is little to see now apart from some low, grassy banks. Two Roman roads ran from the fort, one going to Buxton, the other to Melandra Castle near Glossop and Templeborough, near Rotherham.



Photo:  © Copyright Ashley Dace and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Sharpe, Neville. T., Crosses Of The Peak District, Landmark Publishing Limited, Ashbourne, Derbyshire, 2002.

Clarke, David., Ghosts & Legends of the Peak District, Jarrold Publishing, Norwich, 1991.

Bunting, Richard., Anglo-Saxon and Viking Derbyshire, J. H. Hall & Sons Limited, Derby, 1993.


The Devil’s Den, Marlborough, Wiltshire

The Devil's Den, Wiltshire (Dixon-Scott)

The Devil’s Den, Wiltshire (Dixon-Scott)

OS grid reference: SU 1521 6965. In a field on Fyfield Down, 1 mile east of Marlborough, Wiltshire, stands the prehistoric burial chamber known as The Devil’s Den or Clatford Bottom Stone, a Neolithic monument from 5,000 years ago that is also known as a Dolmen (stone table). To reach the site head north on the footpath from the A4 (Bath Road) opposite Clatford village and near the “private” entrance to Manton House Estate, then after about 950 metres head west to the monument on Fyfield Hill, which is in a little valley. They own much of the land on this side of the road, so keep to the footpath if possible. The town of Marlborough is 1 mile east on the A4, while Avebury is 2 miles to the west. Nearby, to the east stands an ancient mound which has given its name to the town of Marlborough. You may well come across some crop circles in the fields around The Devil’s Den! Don’t be surprised!

The Devil’s Den, near Marlborough (drawing)

The Devil’s Den burial chamber stands upon a low mound that was originally part of a long barrow – which is still visible near the south-east edge of the field in the form of a recumbant “outlier” stone; the barrow would have been 230 feet in length. So what we see here today is almost certainly a reconstruction from the early 1920s – the stones having fallen down. The large capstone now only stands on two supporting stones, the other upright lies recumbant, though there might have been another two or three stones here long ago. Originally this burial chamber would have been covered over by an earthen mound but, over time this has been either ploughed away, or eroded away by the weather. Recent evidence ‘suggests’ it might never have had an earthen covering? The large, chunky capstone is said to weigh 17 tons or more and to have at least two cup markings on it. And there is a legend concerning these cup-marks. A number of well-respected antiquarians have visited the site including the great William Stukeley in the early 1740s; he called this ancient monument a kist-vaen (cist).

According to local tradition “if water is poured into the hollows on the capstone, a demon will come along in the night and drink it.” But there are many legends and myths associated with the devil around these ancient sites, most of them should be taken with a pinch of salt over the left shoulder! It might be that the devil was considered the only one who could build such a monument, but we know different. In the grounds of Marlborough College (SU1836 6867) at the north-east side of the town – a stepped grassy mound is thought to be where Merlin the Magician lies buried, but infact, it is Maerl’s Mound and the town’s name is derived from this. One or two places in Wales migh also claim to have Merlin buried in their neck of the woods! It was probably, originally, a prehistoric burial mound or barrow pre-dating Merlin which in the Middle Ages had a small castle built over it. Though Maerl or Maerla could well be ‘one and the same’ as Merlin?


Romantic Britain, ed. by Tom Stephenson, Odhams Press Limited, Long Acre, London WC2, 1939.

AA Illustrated Guide To Britain, Drive Publications (Reprint), London WC1, 1982.

The Northern Antiquarian:’s_Den,marlborough,wiltshire/photos/the-devils-den-1901_47674/

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2014 (Up-dated 2021).



Roman Bath, Westminster, London, WC2

Roman Bath, The Strand, London. (D. Mcleish)

Roman Bath, The Strand, London. (D. Mcleish)

OS grid reference TQ 3085 8087. In the stone-vaulted cellar of number 5 Strand Lane, off The Strand, Westminster, in a narrow alley-way close to King’s College, and next to Surrey Street, London WC2, can be found a very well-preserved Roman Bath, dating from the 2nd century AD, that is now regarded as a notable and historical reminder from the Roman city of Londinium (London), but now a curiosity of hidden-London. The bath is still in use and has been in one way or another since the late 16th or early 17th century, having been lost for hundreds of years after the Romans departed at the beginning of the 5th century AD. It seems the bath had belonged to a grand Roman villa which had stood on this site in the early days of the Roman occupation, probably the 2nd century AD, and which had stood on a raised area of land outside the city walls, overlooking the river Thames. The site is near to Charing Cross underground station and Covent Garden. The Victoria Embankment is just a short walk to the south.

The Roman Bath on the south side of the Strand is in a well-preserved condition considering its age; and is under 5 feet (1.5 metres) below street level, measuring 16 feet in length by over 6 feet in width and nearly 5 feet deep. The plunge bath as it is often called is still fed by a spring of cold water from St Clement’s Well just as it was in Roman times and, also more recently in the 17th century. Its stonework consists of bricks that are 10 inches long by 3 inches wide, all solidly packed together and water-tight. The stonework surrounding the Roman bath is very grand and it certainly looks ‘Roman’ but is it? However, the ugly iron grate-covers at the sides do not do it any justice, though they serve their modern-day purpose as inspection covers!

Roman Baths, The Strand, London (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Roman Baths, The Strand, London (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

In 1612 King James I had the Roman bath fully restored from whence it had been the property of the Earls of Essex in the late 16th century; he then continued to patronise it – as did many other royals including Anne of Denmark, his wife, and a number of royal courtiers. Then in the 18th century it was frequented by London’s wealthy and famous. In 1784 John Pinkerton the Scottish antiquarian described it as “a fine antique bath in the cellar of a house in Norfolk street in the Strand.” Norfolk Street no longer exists in name. At this time it belonged to the Earl of Arundel whose house and gardens were adjacent to the bath. In 1792 the antiquarian William Weddle Mp died suddenly after taking a plunge in the Roman bath. The famous author Charles Dickens visited the bath and then wrote about it in his book ‘David Copperfield’ recalling, perhaps, that master Copperfield had “many a cold plunge in the said bath.” The bath fell in to disuse in the late Victorian period but in the early part of the 20th century it was again restored to what we see today.

The bath is open to the general public one day a week (by appointment) and is today maintained by The City of Westminster on behalf of the National Trust. Roman artefacts have been discovered close by including: a sarcophagus and numerous items of pottery and coins, all dating from the Roman period. In September 2011 another Roman bath was found by railway workers on the south-side of the Thames at the corner of London Bridge street. A few historians have argued that the bath only dates from the 17th century, being built as a water feature or spa-bath by the Earl of Arundel, but this is now generally considered not to be the case – and so the thinking is that the bath is indeed Roman.



Romantic Britain, edt. by Tom Stephenson, Odhams Press Limited, London, WC2, 1939.


Ysbyty Cynfyn Stone Circle, Powys, Wales

St John's Church, Ysbyty Cynfyn (Photo credit: Geograph)

St John’s Church, Ysbyty Cynfyn (Photo credit: Geograph)

OS grid reference: SN 7520 7910. The little hamlet of Ysbyty Cynfyn is located in The Valley of Afon Rheidol between Devil’s Bridge and Ponterwyd in the parish of Llanbadarn Fawr, and in the shadow of the Rheidol and Plynlimon Ranges, western Powys. It is a 19th century church, but its sacred churchyard stands inside a prehistoric stone circle; the actual churchyard itself is partly circular which strongly suggests this is, and has been, a sacred site for thousands of years, and is often referred to by historians and antiquarians alike as Ysbyty Cynfyn Stone Circle. In the middle ages a monastic hospice run by the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem stood on the site of the present-day church, which is dedicated to St John the Baptist, though there isn’t much to see of that today – but hence we still have the place-name “Ysbyty” meaning ‘hospittum’ (hospice). The hospice cared for pilgrims making their way to St David’s. This must undoubtedly be seen as a something of a compromise between the Christian Church and the pagan world of standing stones, temples, ritual and magic – something the church had wanted to banish, but here the two ‘quietly’ came together and so, we have a church within an actual pagan stone circle, even if there’s not a great deal to see, only five stones remaining, today. Or could it be that the stones were just too big to move so the churchyard wall was built around them! Aberystwyth is 12 miles to the west on the A44 and Devil’s Bridge is 2 miles south on the A4120 road.

Churchyard at Ysbyty Cynfyn (Photo Credit Penny Mayes, Geograph)

Churchyard at Ysbyty Cynfyn, Powys.  (Photo Credit: Geograph)

Ysbyty Cynfyn church is located about 80 metres west of the A4120 road, beside Temple farm. Today only five stones remain of the former circle set on a low earthen bank that is said to date from the Bronze-Age, around 1,500 BC; however the remaining stones seem to blend in well with the churchyard wall, indeed two thin slab-stones now act as gateposts at the eastern entrance and, there is at least one recorded account that says there is a faint ‘Christianised’ carving on one of these? A large lump of quartz-stone on the top of the wall next to the gateposts looks interesting! The other two stones, also at the eastern-side, are very big in many ways both in height and girth, but whether they are in their originals positions is open to question? Two large, quite bulky standing stones fit ‘nicely’ into the wall surrounding the churchyard, while a third one stands at the back of the church (north-side) adjoining the wall and gravestones and is 3.4 metres (11 feet) high and about half as much in width; this particular stone would seem to be in its original position. Almost without a doubt there were other standing stones here long-ago, forming a proper circle, the site of what may have been, perhaps, a pagan temple used by druids for the purposes of ritual and magic. There are apparently a few ‘lost’ recumbant stones in the nearby fields – maybe these came from the stone circle?

In the little church of St John there’s a curious carved wooden font (1850) and on the wall a brass plaque in memory of local men who fell in the 2nd world war. The church dates from 1827. Over by the carpark there is a round-shaped well with a ‘warning notice’ saying: “this water is not for drinking.” Could this well have been used by the knights of St John and did it once have healing properties? To the north of the church upon the Rheidol, opposite Bryn Bras, are the remains of an old lead mine that was called Temple Mine and, 1 mile to the west close to Parson’s Bridge, at Dolgamfa, a Bronze-Age cairn circle can be seen.


Gregory, Donald., Country Churchyards In Wales, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Capel Garmon, Llanrwst, Gwynedd, Wales, 1991. 

Gregory, Donald., Wales Before 1066 – A Guide, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Llanrwst, Gwynedd, 1992.

Houlder, Christopher., Wales: An Archaeological Guide, Faber & Faber, London, 1978.

Barber, Chris., Mysterious Wales, Paladin (Grafton Books), London, 1987.

Photo Credit: © Copyright Penny Mayes and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Photo Credit:© Copyright Penny Mayes and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.