The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland

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Castle Haugh, Paythorne Bridge, Newsholme, Lancashire

11th century Castle Haugh, Lancashire, (from the north).

   OS Grid Reference: SD 82997 50775. High above a bend in the river Ribble, ¼ of a mile south of Paythorne Bridge, Newsholme, Lancashire, is a large tree covered mound with a deep ditch running part-way around it, which is known as Castle Haugh or Cromwell’s Basin. The site is 1 mile north of Gisburn and close to the A682 Hellifield road. It is about ¼ of a mile further along from Little Painley burial mound. Castle Haugh is actually a late 11th century Norman motte that is quite well preserved, although the ditch on the river-bank side has slid downwards. Often described as a medieval ringwork or earthwork. It was quite obviously a hastily constructed fortification built by a Norman baron; maybe William de Percy? There might have been a wooden structure on top of the mound in the early years, but that this was soon destroyed by Scottish raiders. The bailey, if it ever existed, has long since disappeared. It is best reached by way of a footpath heading south through the woods from Paythorne Bridge. Follow this path for about a ¼ of a mile until you see the mound of trees in the field just up ahead of you. As the mound is on private land it is best to ask the farmer for permission to view it more closely.

Castle Haugh Motte.

Castle Haugh Motte.

   Authors John & Phillip Dixon (1990) say of the site that: “Castle Haugh is sited on the edge of a high scar one hundred feet above the River Ribble south of Paythorne Bridge. It comprises a large mound and surrounding ditch. The central motte is small, twenty-five feet high, and it is evidently defensive, as it still retains the hearthen breast work round the top, silted down so as to convert the inner area into a shallow cup. The dry ditch round it, seven feet deep, is nearly perfect, except for a portion that has slipped down the scar. The situation is a commanding one, high above the Ribble, where Ribblesdale meets Craven and Blackburnshire.

   The authors go on to say that: “Some historians have suggested that Castle Haugh earthwork is what remains of an early castle of the Norman Baron, Roger the Poitevin, mentioned in the Domesday entry for Barnoldswick: “”In Bernulfeswic (including Ellenthorpe), Gamel (the English predecessor of Berenger de Todeni) had 12 carucates for geld. Berenger de Todeni held it, but now it is in the castellate of Roger the Poitevin.” This may be a reference to Castle Haugh, or to Clitheroe Castle, or to some other now lost castle in the West Craven District. 

   “Others suggest that the reference to a ‘castellate’ is not to an actual structure but a term used to indicate that a manor was in the honor of a lord. Many other words were used vaguely in the 10th and 11th centuries, before the establishment of an accepted terminology. The word ‘castelli’ is proven to have been used to refer to the whole of the lord’s estates, before the word ‘honor’ became the norm. This could well be the case with the Barnoldswick Domesday reference. However, the debate goes on.”

Castle Haugh. The deep  grassy ditch.

Castle Haugh. The ditch and motte.

   W. R. Mitchell (2004) says that: “When Norman rule began the valleys of Ribble and Hodder were already well settled, with evidence for the nuclei of many villages. William de Percy, who had arrived on the scene in 1067, was awarded a hundred Yorkshire manors, including Gisburn and Bolton-by-Bowland. Yorkshire territory was subsequently known as Great Bowland. Chipping — the Chipenden of Domesday Book — was not counted with Bowland until early in the 12th century, becoming part of the Lancashire share, otherwise called Little Bowland. The Bleasdale area, although not mentioned in the Domesday survey, was held by Tostig and included in the Forest of Lancaster. As such it was royal property.

   Jane Sterling (1974) says: “In the wholesale share-out of lands after the victory, William the Conqueror gave lands to Roger of Poitou, the third son of Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Arundel and Shrewsbury, a cousin of the Conqueror and who had fought with distinction at Hastings. Roger’s estates included the lands between the Ribble and the Mersey, Lonsdale and Furness. Amounderness (the Fylde) was added to these possessions in 1072. To this gift of land to Roger de Poitou we can trace the rather odd geographical distribution of the later county of Lancashire to include the southern part of the Lake District which would have more geographical affinity with Cumberland and Westmorland — an anomaly rectified by the new county boundaries. But military considerations took precedence over others and Roger de Poitou who became involved in a military campaign against the Scots was presumably given the land in the Cartmel and Furness areas so that he could defend the main route of the Scottish invasion — across the sands of the Leven and Kent estuaries.

   Sterling goes on to say that: “The Domesday Survey is a unique document. It was compiled mainly for the purpose of aquainting William I with the extent and tax potential of his new realm. Though by no means a comprehensive survey of the country it is an invaluable record of England in the early years of Norman domination. Lancashire at this time had still not emerged as an administrative county and the entries which cover the present day Lancashire are included partly in the survey of Cheshire and partly in “”the King’s lands in Eurvicshire (Yorkshire)””.

Castle Haugh. On the summit of the motte.

Castle Haugh. On the summit of the motte.

   I am informed by Nick Livsey that the large mound of Castle Haugh was built on top of a Bronze Age burial mound. This occurred because a site was quickly needed for a defensive castle (motte) to be situated close to the river Ribble. Nick says that: “Its a bronze age burial mound that was re-used as a motte and bailey castle (timber construction) around 1080; but its a shame that the river Ribble has eaten 1/3 of it away, and that a motte and bailey was constructed upon it and, as far as I know, it hasn’t been archeologically excavated, well not by professional archeaologists anyway.” Nick also adds that “the new Norman lord used the easiest available mound that offered good views down and up the Ribble and also the road system; the fact that there are so many burial mounds near here is because of the River Ribble was a watery liminal place between the living and the dead. You often find burial mounds on parish boundaries or next to lakes or rivers.”

Sources and related websites:-

Dixon, John & Phillip, Journeys Through Brigantia, (Volume One), Walks in Craven, Airedale and Wharfedale, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1990. 

Mitchell, W. R., Bowland And Pendle Hill, Phillimore & Co. Ltd., Chichester, West Sussex, England, 2004.

Sterling, Jane, Dark Age and Norman Lancashire, Dalesman Publishing Company Ltd., Clapham, North Yorkshire, 1974.

Thanks also to Nick Livsey for his input.

                                                                                          © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2017.

Winckley Lowes I, Near Hurst Green, Lancashire

Winckley Lowes I Tumulus near the boathouse building.

   OS Grid Reference: SD 70649 37461. Grass-covered Bronze Age burial mound (tumulus) in the corner of a farmer’s field, near the old boathouse (now a private house), 1 mile southeast of Hurst Green, Lancashire, which goes under the name Winckley Lowes I. The River Ribble is close by this site with a footpath running alongside it. There is a larger mound with trees growing on top of it a short distance away that is called Winckley Lowes II or Loe Hill.  At the time of my visit in late August the mound was surrounded by maze crops and so the site was difficult to get to and difficult to photo! There was a large hollow in the centre of the mound and what looked like a hole at the side of this, which was probably due to robbing-away in the past. At least two foot-paths heading south-eastwards, then south, from the B6243 road between Hurst Green and Great Mitton, near the bridges, are the best bet to reach the site; then follow the Ribble Way running beside the river to the former boathouse (now a private house); the two mounds lie in the farmer’s fields, just at the back.

   It’s not a good idea, however, to visit the mounds when the maze crops are growing tall. When the crops have been cut back in the Autumn it is possibly to see both mounds from the footpath beside the river Ribble, or from the two metal gates at either side of the boathouse, and if you do go further into the fields to get a closer view it is probably best to walk along the edges of the ploughed fields. 

Winckley Lowes I.

   The mound or barrow known as Winckley Lowes I stands in the corner of a  farmer’s field – some 220m north of the Hacking boathouse. It is 2.5m (8 ft 2′) high and roughly 34m (111 ft) by 45m (147 ft) and is built of earth and stones. It is described as being a bowl barrow or round barrow. At the centre there is a large hollow or depression with a small hole visible at one side. At the time of my visit in August the mound was covered in very thick grass and weeds. The barrow stands on what is the floodplain of the river Ribble.

   Authors John & Phillip Dixon say of Winckley Lowes I: “The one by the nearby barn was excavated by Rev. J. R. Luck of Stonyhurst College in 1894. The tumulus revealed a cinerary urn of c. 1250 B.C. which contained the cremated remains of a body. Also found were a young man’s skull and a flint knife; a boy’s skull and a child’s skull.

    “The burial is one of an important person — probably some local chieftain — buried near the ancient natural ford at Jumbles Rocks which must have been known and used by early man even in Neolithic times.”    

Winckley Lowes I.

   The site entry for Winckley Lowes (in the parish of Aighton, Bailey and Chaigley) in ‘Lancashire Archaeological Bulletin’ (1984) says:- “Two mounds. (a) Excavated by Fr. Luck in 1894. Found cremation  without urn, 3 inhumations, flint knife and pottery. These finds were all at Stonyhurst College in 1961 and 1967. The pottery was medieval or post-medieval, and, taken with the hollow in the top of the mound, suggests robbing. The flint is now at L. R. O.”

   Winckley Lowes II also known as ‘Loe Hill’ will be looked at in more detail in a separate site page.

Sources and related websites:-

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

Lancashire Archaeological Bulletin, Vol. 10 No. 2/3, May & July 1984.

                                                                                 © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2017.


The Blarney Stone, Blarney Castle, Co. Cork, Southern Ireland

Blarney Castle, Co. Cork, Ireland, in 1791.

   Irish Grid Reference: W 60784 75334. A large lump of limestone that is set into the battlement of Blarney Castle, near Mangerton, Co. Cork, Southern Ireland, has been revered by Irish folk for hundreds of years due to its magical powers that give one ‘the gift of the gab’, or ‘the Blarney’, if you are able to kiss the said Blarney Stone (Cloch na Blarnan), which is not an easy thing to do as the famed antiquity is actually located a few feet or so below the top of the tower. As to where the stone came from know one seems to know with any great certainty, but it may have been brought here from the Holy Land, Egypt, or from Scotland. The stone was placed in its current position in the mid 15th century. Blarney Castle, a 12th century stronghold, is to be found about ½ a mile south of Mangerton to the east of the R617 road. Cork is 5 miles to the southeast. Access to the castle is usually from the Dromderrig side of Mangerton. From the ‘The Square’ follow the long, straight-road going southwards through the castle grounds. 

   Mary Penelope Hillyard (1958) in her excellent work ‘Blarney Castle and Rock Close’, goes into great detail regarding The Blarney Stone. She says: ‘The Blarney Stone itself is a block of limestone four feet one inch long, by one foot one inch wide and nine inches deep. There is a piece chipped out of the front, caused it is said by a cannon ball from one of Cromwell’s cannons. It is built into the battlement about two feet from the top…..The stone is said to give the gift of oratory in exchange for a kiss. According to one legend, it was once known as Jacob’s pillow and was brought to Ireland from the Holy Land during one of the crusades. The Blarney Stone is difficult to photograph to advantage.” 

   Hillyard goes on to say that: “A tale of a later date relates how one of the MacCarthys (the custodians of the castle) provided Robert Bruce with five thousand kerns to fight Edward II in Scotland. At the Battle of Bannockburn, in gratitude, Robert Bruce presented his Irish helper with a piece of the stone, that the owners had broken off the original, when the armies of Edward II, threatened the precious relic. The MacCarthy placed this stone of fame upon the battlement of his castle.

   “Yet another legend says that Cormac MacCarthy, walking beside the Martin river, rescued a woman from drowning. He thought that she was a peasant but she proved to be a witch. As a reward for saving her life, she told her rescuer of a magic stone in the castle which would give the gift of eloquence in return for a kiss.

   “Apart from all these legends, it is known that the MacCarthy who reigned in Munster during Queen Elizabeth’s time, was able to talk “”the noose of his head,”” and that the word “”blarney,”” meaning in conversation “”fair words in soft speech,”” dates back to that time. In his dealings with the Queen, while professing to be her loyal Baron of Blarney, MacCarthy never fulfilled any promise or condition he had made. Procrastination followed dalliance, delay and subterfuge followed device and evasion, until eventually in disgust the Queen cried out: “”Blarney, Blarney, what he says he does not mean. It is the usual blarney.””

   Hillyard also says of the Blarney Stone that: Once on the battlements the visitor must empty his pockets of valuables to prevent them cascading downwards through the branches of the yew trees, lie flat on his back, grasp two upright iron bars, have ankles held by a strong man, and inch his body through the opening, above which rests the Blarney Stone. The stone is set in the wall about two feet below the battlement. 

   “There is a fine view from the top of the Castle, over the wooded hills of Muskerry. To the south can be seen the turrets of the modern Blarney castle, and beyond that the lake. Beneath the castle to the east lies the lovely dell known as the Rock Close and under one of the walls of the keep is a cave.” 

Sketch by John Leitch (1859). Two Victorian ladies having kissed the Blarney Stone.

   Reader’s Digest (1992) says of the Blarney Stone: “It is scrubbed with disinfectant four times a day to prevent any risk of transmitting disease”….and says: “Father Prout , the 19th century humorist and poet, wrote of it….. a stone that whoever kisses…. O he never misses…. To grow eloquent.” It goes on to say that: “The public ritual of kissing the Blarney Stone seems to date from the 18th century development of the Blarney Castle estate by the Jefferyes family. Some say the stone is  part of the Stone of Scone, the ancient crowning seat of Scotland’s kings, now in Westminster Abbey.” Also, Kevin Eyres & Michael Kerrigan (2008) add more information saying that: “Blarney Castle, built in 1446 by Dermot McCarthy, King of Munster, is one of Ireland’s oldest and most historic fortresses . The castle was the third to be built on the site by the McCarthys, whose stronghold it remained until Cromwell finally took it in the seventeenth century. Impressive as the castle is, it is the presence of the Blarney Stone, now rather prosaically referred to as the Stone of Eloquence, that makes Blarney Castle so internationally famous.”

   There are several theories as to where the Blarney Stone came from: it might have come from Israel where it was used as a pillow by the Hebrew Prophet Jacob (Yacob), or it came from Egypt and was the stone, or a part of it, that Moses struck “twice” in order to get water for his fellow travellers, while there is a legend that associates the stone with St Columba and it was maybe part of the Stone of Scone at which the kings of Scotland were crowned. More than likely the lump of stone is millions of years old and came from the local area.

   Mary Penelope Hillyard (1958) says of the Rock Close at the eastern front of the castle: “Here are a remarkable collection of massive boulders and rocks. Some of the rocks are arranged in circles. Others take on quaint shapes. A long, narrow rough stone staircase connects with a lower level in which a giant balanced stone, possibly a Druid tolmen stands.

   “The orderly arrangement of the various objects would indicate human planning rather than a haphazard setting by nature. Many of the Rock Close possessions have been by tradition and in folklore associated with witchcraft and magic. Among these are a wishing stairs, the Druidic circle, two caves (one known as the witch’s kitchen) and the fairy dancing green. Where the fancy ends and fact begins is difficult to ascertain. In the second half  of the 18th century James Jefferyes, then owner of Blarney Castle, found time to interest himself in the Rock Close, and its possible that he conceived the idea of setting out an ornamental garden here, on the lines of the Garzoni design often to be seen in the landscape gardens of Italy. There is evidence to show that Jefferyes made reconstructions. A large flat stone covering the wishing steps, with an inscription on it giving his name and the date 1759. Did Jefferyes, in fact, erect the wishing steps and arrange the other objects in the close—or did he merely renovate a far older construction?”

Sources and related websites:- 

Eyres, Kevin & Kerrigan, Michael, Ireland – Landmarks, Landscapes & Hidden Treasures, Flame Tree Publishing, Fulham, London, United Kingdom, 2008.

Hillyard, Mary Penelope, Blarney Castle and Rock Close, Woodlands Press, St Ann’s Hill, Blarney, Co. Cork, 1958. (The two images above are taken from this work).

Reader’s Digest, Reader’s Digest Illustrated Guide To Ireland, The Reader’s Digest Association Limited, London, 1992.

                                                                                  © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2017.