The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


Leave a comment

The Noggarth Ridge Stone, Near Wheatley Lane, Lancashire

Standing Stone on Noggarth Ridge above Wheatley Lane.

NGR: SD 81786 37861. A standing stone-cum-boundary stone located on the Noggarth Ridge above the village of Fence (Wheatley Lane) near Padiham, in Lancashire. The 6 foot high gritstone boulder is situated beside a footpath and is roughly halfway between Croft Top Lane and the Pendle Forest Television transmitter at Noggarth, on the ridge above Spen Brook. It seems the standing stone is not in its original position having been moved a short distance along the ridge. It has some weathering marks on it at one side, which suggests it is an ancient stone, so could it perhaps be from a nearby stone circle that was built back in the Neolithic age. Today the standing stone seems to mark the boundaries of Old Laund Booth and Goldshaw Booth. There is a pile of broken stones opposite the boulder, one, in particular, a shaped pillar tapers at the top and looks very old, although it may have been used for something more recently. From the A6068 (Padiham bypass) head up Guide Lane, then turn right onto Croft Top Lane. Where this lane bends to the south go through the wall-style into the field. Walk along the footpath to another wall-style and continue along the footpath (passing near OS trig point to your left) to reach the standing stone, which is now straight ahead of you.

The Noggarth Ridge Standing Stone from a different angle.

Local archaeologist and Historian John Clayton (2014) mentions the standing stone on the ridge. He says that “Another stone from the Pendle Ridgeway. This menhir measures almost two metres in height and sits on a parish boundary. However, the stone does not appear to remain in situ having reportedly been moved by the farmer from its original position near to the stone in Fig P126. A ditch marking the parish boundary runs south from the possible ridge-top at C and within 100 metres is a pile of very large stones. The very large upright we saw in Fig P128 now stands close to this pile, having been moved by the farmer from its original home a few hundred metres to the east. As was the case with the upright in Fig P128, the stones within the pile are field clearance. Within the group is a circular flattish stone that would have originally measured around 1.5 to 2 metres across with a thickness of 30cm. There is also a former 1.5m upright, the broken top of another large stone similar to that in Fig P128, and numerous other large flat and rounded stones. The stones within this collection are very similar in size and form to those found within Neolithic burial mound chambers and it is worth asking the question as to whether they have been moved here from the site of a burial monument?” [See John’s book to view photos of this site.]

There is a similar standing stone at The Watermeetings (SD 856 411) at Barrowford, Lancashire, which is called the Cock Hill Stone.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Clayton, John A, Burnley And Pendle Archaeology — Part One — Ice Age to Early Bronze Age. Barrowford Press, Spring 2014

https://www.spectroom.com/1022974356-wheatley-lane-lancashire

https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=33171

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.


Leave a comment

St Mary’s Well, Clitheroe, Ribble Valley, Lancashire

St Mary’s Well, Clitheroe, Lancashire.

St Mary’s Well seen from the other side.

NGR:- SD 74503 42170.  On Well Terrace, Clitheroe, in Lancashire, stands a rectangular-shaped, walled stone structure locally known as St Mary’s Well. It is to be found just around the corner at the far end of Church Brow, close to a bus shelter, and downhill from St Mary Magdalene’s Church.  There are, in fact, three wells in the Ribble Valley town of Clitheroe: St Mary’s, Hield Well and Stocks Well, though they are not used today and have not been since the mid 19th century when water started to flow through pipes, but before that, though, these wells would have supplied water to various parts of the town. St Mary’s Well is obviously the ‘church well’ taking its name from St Mary Magdalene, but, whether it was ever a holy well is not known, though it could have been originally. The well could date back to Medieval times which makes it the oldest of the three wells. St Mary Magdalene’s Church dates from the 1820s; the church there before that was 15th century, but, there is likely to have been a Norman church as far back as the early 12th century, so perhaps the well dates from around that time?

St Mary’s Well interior.

St Mary’s Well interior

The rectangular well structure is surrounded by a wall that looks quite old and some of the coping stones are well-worn. There are two entrances opposite each other with well-trodden steps that lead down into the inner part of the well which has a raised, flag-ged bed or gangway that has a water channel running across and, opposite that, a lower, flagged area (pool) for water, and, in the centre a large square-shaped stone. But what was the stone used for; was it for someone to sit on or maybe wash clothes on? Beside one of the entrances is a small, shaped stoop stone. There is a rusty iron hole sort of thing which the water obviously flowed through, but it looks as though there has not been any water in this well for a long time. On the side of the wall there is a brass plaque which says: THIS WELL WAS ORIGINALLY ONE OF THE THREE PUBLIC WELLS  WHICH FORMED THE WATER SUPPLY OF THE BOROUGH UNTIL THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE WATERWORKS ON GRINDLETON FELL UNDER THE WATERWORKS ACT OF 1854 – Soroptimist International 1992. The well is a Grade II listed building.

Even today people from the local area and beyond, you might call them modern-day pilgrims, still come to visit St Mary’s Well and maybe look over the wall into the well and try to imagine what it looked like when the pool had water in it, and was in use.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

https://lancashirepast.com/2018/08/02/clitheroes-town-wells/

More local info here:  https://www.visitribblevalley.co.uk/events/clitheroe-town-wells-visits-cry-out/

https://britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/101362227-saint-marys-well-clitheroe

https://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=44674&sort=4&search=all&criteria=clitheroe&resourceID=19191

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Mary_Magdalene%27s_Church,_Clitheroe

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.


3 Comments

The Ring of Brodgar, Stenness, Orkney Island, Scotland

Ring of Brodgar Stone Circle and Henge at Stenness, in Orkney.

NGR: HY 29456 13361.  The Ring of Brodgar (or Brogar) is a Late Neolithic stone circle and henge monument situated on a narrow spit of raised land (Ness of Brodgar) between the Lochs of Stenness and Harray, just east of the B9055 road, in Orkney. The monument lies in the Parish of Stenness and is roughly halfway between Hestwall and Stenness. There used to be 60 standing stones forming the huge circle which has a diameter of 340 feet, but today less than half the stones remain standing; some of the fallen stones were recently re-erected. It is almost circular in design and is surrounded by a rock-cut ditch, the circle and outer ditch probably built in sections, rather than all at once. The monument dates from 2500-2000 BC. Whether the monument was built as a site for Druidic worship is not certain, but that would seem to be the case here, and, with that in mind, there are several burial cairns in the vicinity, and, also nearby are the equally impressive ‘Stones of Stenness’ and ‘Ring of Bookan’ which are all part of a ceremonial complex which also in-cluded Maeshow. All-in-all, then, the Ring of Brodgar was, and still is, a very sacred, magical and mystical place. From Hestwall take the B9055 road southeast to Wasbister, then continue southeast along the same road for a few miles in the direction of Stenness to reach the Ness of Brodgar – the stone circle soon coming into view on your right.

A part of the Ring of Brodgar Stone Circle at Stenness, in Orkney.

Childe & Simpson (1959) tell us: “The Ring of Brogar, on the isthmus between the Lochs of Harry and Stenness is one of the great complex of monuments of which Maes Howe is also a member. The ring stands not quite on the crest of the ridge separating the two lochs. It now consists of 27 upright slabs, set with their broad faces tangential to a circle 340 feet in diameter. Some stones are clearly missing. Many of the survivors are mere stumps and others are badly weathered. The tallest now stands 15 feet above the ground, and none is likely to have been less than 8 feet high. It is thought that the slabs have been brought from an ancient quarry on Vestra Fiold, some 6 miles away. On one upright on the north is cut an undeciphered runic inscription and a cross.  The stones stand on a gently sloping space, 10 feet to 12 feet from the inner lip of the enclosing fosse. This seems on an average 30 feet wide, but has never been excavated. It is spanned by a causeway on the north-west and south-east, but no trace of bank is visible outside it.

“The adjacent fields have yielded quite a harvest of flint arrowheads and broken stone mace-heads of Bronze Age type. To the north, just across the boundary of Sandwick Parish, is a ruined chamber tomb and close by, the Ring of Bookan, an irregular area surrounded by a fosse. Nearer to Brogar are several large earthen barrows, most probably heaped in the Bronze Age. There is a similar concentration of Bronze Age barrows round Stonehenge.  South of Brogar a series of five Standing Stones may be the remnants of an alignment or even an avenue leading across the narrow isthmus called the Bridge of Brodgar to another sacred enclosure.”  

Some of the standing stones that make up The Ring of Brodgar.

Charles Tait (1999) says: “The Ring of Brodgar (HY294133). One of the finest stone circles any-where, this great henge monument is superbly situated on the Ness of Brodgar, in a confluence of water and sky, surrounded by the agricultural heart of Orkney. The feeling of spaciousness is enhanced by the size of the circle which is 103.7m or 125 megalithic yards in diameter. Of the original 60 stones, 27 remain standing, varying between 2m and 4.5m in height. The site is laid out very accurately in a perfect circle, with the stones approximately 6 degrees apart. One on the North side is inscribed by some cryptographic Norse tree runes, thought to stand for “Biorn”.  The surrounding rock-cut ditch is 10m across and more than 3m deep, though now half silted up. Radiocarbon dating from the excavation of this ditch places the building of the ditch in the third millennium BC. Despite the size of the ditch there is no trace of a surrounding earthwork, and an estimated 4,700 cubic metres of rock must have been shifted to complete the excavation. All this implies an organised society with a united belief in some form of cosmology or religion.

“Nearby is an isolated menhir, the Comet Stone, set on a platform beside the stumps of two other stones. Several other stones stand between this and the Bridge of Brodgar. There are also several large mounds and smaller tumuli in the area, which are probably Bronze Age, as well as another circular mound to the north-west called the Ring of Bookan (HY284145). It seems that theBrodgar area remained important during the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC. at least, and today it still has a magnetic attraction.” 

Tait adds more, saying: “There are a variety of astronomical alignments which may have been intended by the builders of the Standing Stones. While many stones are missing, simple observation suggests many possibilities. These relate to the solstices and the equinoxes as well as times such as Beltane (Old May Day). At winter and summer solstices the sunrises and sunsets align with the stones and notches in the hills. Other outlying standing stones may be markers for specific times of the year also. At spring and autumn equinoxes, viewed from the Comet Stone, the sun sets just glancing of the westernmost stone.”  

Reader’s Digest (1977) adds: Stenness, Mainland Orkney. Couples in the parish (Stenness) once made betrothal vows among the two famous stone circles in the district. They then swore constancy at the Odin Stone (a monolith destroyed in the 19th century) by joining hands through the hole in the stone’s centre.” The AA (1968) also tells us: “Stenness Mainland, Orkney. The Ring of Bookan is really a cairn of the Maes Howe type, but has been largely destroyed. The great surrounding ditch, however, is still in existence. Half a mile to the north-east is the Ring of Brodgar, a henge monument. The external bank has now disappeared, but the circling ditch still exists and encloses an area of 370 ft across, with two entrances.” 

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Childe, Gordon & Simpson, Douglas, Ancient Monuments — Scotland — Illustrated Guide Volume VI,  H.M.S.O., Edinburgh, 1959.

Reader’s Digest, Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain, The Reader’s Digest Association Limited, London, 1977.

Tait, Charles, The Orkney Guide Book (Edition 2.1), Charles Tait photographic, Kelton, St. Ola, Orkney, 1999.

The AA, Treasures of Britain And Ireland, Drive Publications Limited, London, 1968.

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

https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/ring-of-brodgar-stone-circle-and-henge/

https://www.visitscotland.com/info/see-do/ring-of-brodgar-p669061

https://www.orkneyology.com/ring-of-brodgar.html

https://www.orkney.com/listings/ring-of-brodgar

More info here:  https://perceptivetravel.com/blog/2021/08/23/ring-of-brodgar-scotland/

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.

 


5 Comments

William Walker’s Stone, Far Slippery Ford, Newsholm Dean, Near Oakworth, West Yorkshire

William Walker’s Stone at Far Slippery Ford, Newsholm Dean, near Oakworth, West Yorks.

Close-up of William Walker’s Stone at Far Slippery Ford, near Oakworth.

NGR: SD 99905 40664.  In the middle of a farmer’s field next to a drystone wall at Far Slippery Ford, Newsholme Dean, near Oak-worth, in west Yorkshire, there is a large glacial rock which is locally called William Walker’s Stone. The rock takes its name from a local farmer who had farmed the fields around here. After his passing in 2002 an inscription to his memory was carved onto the bottom of the rockface; there are a few more recently carved inscriptions on the rock. Also of interest: there are several faint cup-marks on the top surface of the rock and a partial ring with cup-markings inside it, but these are now very faint and difficult to make out when the light is not good, although when its raining these carvings are more visible to the eye. There are other cup-marked rocks and boulders 730 metres to the east at Greystones Farm. These erratic rocks and boulders, known as earth-fast, were deposited by the retreating glacier moving southwards 13,000-15,000 years ago; then coming forward in the late Neolithic and early Bronze Ages our distant ancestors carved these cup marks onto the smooth rock faces. From the A6068 at Cowling take Oakworth Old Lane (past the graveyard), Piper Lane, Buckstone Lane, Dick Lane, Long Gate, then Far Slippery Ford Lane to Walker’s Farm (on your left); here take the gated trackway (opposite) for a while until you see the boulder up against the wall in the field over to the SW.

Close-up of the partial ring carving on William Walker’s Stone.

Cup-marks and a ring carving on William Walker’s Stone.

William Walker’s Stone is around 6 feet high and lies on its own here against a drystone wall. There are, though, other similar earth-fast rocks and boulders over to the east at Greystones and, further to the north on Sutton Moor, there are the Buck Stone, Hitching Stone, Kid Stone and Quicken Stone. But William Walker’s Stone is the only stone of those to have definite prehistoric cup-and-ring markings, which are also known as petroglyphs. There are said to be perhaps up to twenty cup-markings (circular depressions) on the top of the stone and a very worn ring can just be made out next to a small and shallow rock basin. The partial ring has several cup-markings around its edge and within it, which almost make it look like a face. There are maybe a few other cups with rings in a line on the upper side of the rock, though these might be more recent. There are also some curious grooves on the top of the stone but these might be naturally-formed features caused by weather-related erosion. The Northern Antiquarian discovered the rock carvings on William Walker’s Stone back in 2006, and, they also noted what might be a boundary mark with the letters “I W”, although the stone does not appear to have ever marked any such boundary!

Near the bottom of the eastern face of the stone can be found an inscription or epitaph to the memory of a local farmer, William Walker. The inscription is difficult to read now due to moss growing in the lettering, but it looks to say: William Walker Farmed here 1963 to 2002. The Walker family still farm here and their farmhouse is on the opposite side of the lane from the gated trackway. And another inscription, possibly to another farmer, reads: F. Allen 1958-63.

On your way back to the track/footpath you will notice a nice little well in the grassy field. I don’t know anything about how old it is but obviously the spring is very ancient. Water issues out of a plastic pipe and into a rectangular stone basin, which is flat to the ground. There is a channel allowing the water to overflow out of the basin and into a stony area at the front and then downwards into the field. The water looks very clear coming out of the pipe.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

William Walker Stone, Keighley Moor, West Yorkshire | The Northern Antiquarian (wordpress.com)

William Walker Stone (Keighley Moor) [IAG0b] Rock Art : The Megalithic Portal and Megalith Map:

Greystones Farm Cup-Marked Rocks, Near Newsholme Dean, West Yorkshire | The Journal Of Antiquities

Slippery Ford :: Survey of English Place-Names (nottingham.ac.uk)

Copyright © Ray Spencer, THe Journal of Antiquities, 2021.


3 Comments

Lowlands Well, Wycoller, Lancashire

Lowlands Well at Wycoller. Only these stones now remain.

NGR: SD 9317 3944. The location of Lowlands Well was at the side of Wycoller Beck, 25 metres to the northwest along the farm track from Lowlands Bridge, on the grassy verge opposite Lowlands Farm. However not much remains of the well today, apart from two large recumb-ant stones, or is it just one complete stone, on the grassy area beside the beck – one stone having a deep groove through it and the other stone a shorter niche carved into it. At the front of these stones stood a large stone water-trough. You can still make out the depression in the grass where the trough used to be. A pipe that came across the beck from a well at the bottom of Lower Pepper Ing Field on the other side of the beck was very precariously sup-ported in the middle of the flowing water; the spring water then flowed through the pipe which went through a round hole in a long flat stone slab standing upon the two recumbant stones. The trough was originally covered over with a wooden lid in order to stop anything from dropping into the water. The well water was then collected by the family at the farm and by other residents in the village of Wycoller, near Trawden in Lancashire. However in more recent times when the trough and its piped-water supply was not needed it was taken away, but when did it go? and where did it go to? Maybe another local farm took the water trough?

Lowlands Well, Wycoller from E. W. Folley’s Romantic Wycoller 1949

There were a few other water troughs in Wycoller village; indeed one other trough had three stone steps inside and was 7 ft 6” long x 4 ft 6” wide and was made from a solid piece of gritstone; it was dragged on rollers by seventeen pones, from Wycoller Hall to a farm at Nelson, so the legend goes, according to Cookson & Hindle in their 1973 book Wycoller, though Lowlands Well was always the main source of drinking water there. Looking at the two remaining recumbant stones, opposite Lowlands Farm, it would seem the water pipe was originally positioned lower down and coming through the middle of these stones where the groove is, but the black and white photo from Ebenezer W. Folley’s Romantic Wycoller in 1949 shows a lady collecting water at the well, and in this old photo we clearly see the pipe higher up and coming through the long slab, so there must have been a problem with the beck flooding, and the water-pipe having to be raised to a much higher, safer position; and there have been some very bad floods in Wycoller Dene back in the past. Lowlands Farm, opposite the well, dates from between the 17th and 19th centuries, and was the home of the Wilkinson family in the 1900s. It was Alfred Wilkinson who wanted to purchase the Wycoller Estate in 1972 but nothing came of it and soon afterwards Lancashire County Council came in with the Wycoller Country Park scheme which took off the following year, says John Bentley in his 1993 book Portrait of Wycoller. 

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Bentley, John,  Portrait of Wycoller, Wycoller Country Park Project Townhouse School, Nelson, Lancs., 1993.

Cookson, Stanley & Hindle, Herbert, Wycoller, Hendon Publishing Co. Ltd., Hendon Mill, Nelson, Lancs, 1973.

Lowlands Farmhouse, Trawden Forest, Lancashire (britishlistedbuildings.co.uk)

Lowlands Well, Wycoller, Lancashire | The Northern Antiquarian (wordpress.com)

The Three Ancient Bridges, Wycoller, Lancashire | The Journal Of Antiquities

Wycoller – Wikipedia

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.


St John The Evangelist, Escombe, County Durham.

Escombe Church near Bishop Auckland. Photo is courtesy of Anne T.

NGR: NZ 18929 30139. The well-preserved little church of St John the Evangelist, Escombe, stands on Saxon Green in the middle of the village of Escombe, in Co Durham, and is 2 miles to the west of Bishop Auckland. There has been a church on this site since 670-75 AD and there is still much early Saxon work to be seen inside and outside the present church, in-cluding some Anglo-Saxon crosses, which date from the 7th-10th centuries AD, but St Bede does not mention it. Some Roman inscribed stones built into the outer walls obviously date from several centuries before the actual church. The churchyard is roughly circular so this little church must stand on a sacred site. Much of the stonework of this 7th-century building came from the nearby Roman Fort of Binchester (VINOVIUM), which stood on the bank of the River Wear. St John’s has seen various periods of restoration, particularly in 1875-80, when the roof had to be restored. At the SW side of Bishop Auckland take the B6282 for a couple of miles. Stay on this road S and then W, then take the country road heading N to the village of Escombe – St John’s Church is near the centre of the village on Saxon Green.

Nigel & Mary Kerr (1982) tell us that: “The little church of St John is an excellent example of early Anglo-Saxon work. Standing tall and austere in an almost circular churchyard, its majestic antiquity is unmarred by the tasteless modern houses which sur-round it. This is one of the best-preserved Anglo-Saxon churches in England and, apart from a short break during the last century, worship has probably continued here for 1,300 years.  Nothing is known of the foundation of the church, and the dedi-cation is unhelpful. The main fabric is of 7th-century date, and some have claimed that its simplicity shows continuity from Celtic timber buildings. The Venerable Bede makes no mention of the church in his History of the English Church and People which was finished in 731. This has led some to question the early dating, but Bede only mentioned churches germane to his narrative, so the omission is not critical.

“The gables of the nave have been restored; the ‘crow step’ pattern may therefore be later. The walls are over two feet (61 cm) thick and 23 feet (1 metre) high. Huge quoin-stones, some  nearly two feet (61 cm) high and three or four feet (1 metre) long, are set on edge and extend along each wall alternately; hence the name ‘side alternate’ quoins. Many of  the stones show character-istic Roman diamond tooling and were doubtless taken from the nearby fort at Binchester. A steeply pitched roof line, perhaps of a porch, can be seen on the west wall. The blocked doorway in the north wall of the chancel led into a small chapel, called a porticus, which was excavated in 1968. The present south porch is later. Just to the east of it, high up in the wall, an original sundial may be seen, decorated with a carving of a serpent.

“Internally, the lofty nave is complimented by a tall chancel arch, a further example of re-used Roman work. The small chancel has a simple Saxon carving behind the altar. The four Saxon nave windows, round-headed on the south side and square on the north, are strongly splayed internally to admit more light. They are now glazed, but vertical grooves for wooden shutters show the original arrangement; some window glass was found during the excavation of the north porticus, however. A small section of early cobbled flooring is preserved at the west end of the nave.  As Escombe is older than St Lawrence’s at Bradford-on-Avon and Odda’s Chapel at Deerhurst, it is the earliest largely complete Anglo-Saxon church in England, and well worth a visit.”  

Arthur Raistrick (1972) says that: “Escomb church stands one and a half miles to the west of Bishop Auckland, on the south bank of the Wear. It is the only parish church of the seventh or eighth century, in this country, still surviving in its entirety. It is small but very high and plain, and achieves a great dignity. The nave is long and high, with a nearly square chancel beyond it, separated by a chancel arch of carefully fitted well-cut long and short work. These very large blocks are probably taken from the Roman fort of Vinovia, Binchester, not far away. The windows are very small and very deeply splayed on the inside, two on the north side with straight heads, and two on the south with round  heads. A few later windows have been inserted to light the building. 

Escombe Cross. Photo: Anne T.

In the church porch there’s a beautifully carved section of a cross-shaft which is said to date from the late 7th to early 8th century AD, and might have been part of a taller preaching cross that once stood outside the church, while located behind the altar is an incised cross-slab, or was this a grave cover, from the 9th century AD; this may have originally stood outside the church and to have been part of a preaching cross, or the preaching cross itself? There is also a stone with an eagle carved onto it that is dated to the 9th century AD and is also to be found inside the porch. There are other fragments of Celtic and Anglo-Saxon carvings in St John’s. On the gable end of the south porch can be seen a very interesting sundial from the 7th or 8th century AD.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Many thanks to Anne T for letting me use her two photos which are copyright © Anne T.

Kerr, Nigel & Mary, A Guide to Anglo-Saxon Sites, Paladin Granada Publishing Limited, St Albans, Herts & London, 1982.

Raistrick, Arthur, The Pennine Dales, Arrow Books Ltd., London, 1972.

Escomb Cross Ancient Cross : The Megalithic Portal and Megalith Map:

Escomb Saxon Church | Official Website for one of the most complete Saxon Churches in Europe

THE SAXON CHURCH, Non Civil Parish – 1292122 | Historic England

Escomb Church – Wikipedia

Anglo-Saxon Sites in County Durham and Northumberland – Keys To The Past

Some Surviving Churches – Wilcuma

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.


1 Comment

Childe the Hunter’s Tomb, Dartmoor, Devon

Childe’s Tomb on Dartmoor by P. H. Rogers (1826) – Dartmoor – A Descriptive Poem by N. T. Carrington

Childe’s Tomb on Dartmoor. (Photo by Herbythyme (talk | contribs). Creative Commons.

NGR:- SX 62579 70302.  On the south-eastern side of Fox Tor Mires, 500 metres to the north of Fox Tor, on Dartmoor, in Devon, is a solitary late 19th century stone cross known as ‘Childe the Hunter’s Tomb’ or ‘Childe the Hunter’s Cross’. There are some local legends attached to this cross and what lay beneath it – because we know there was an ancient burial tomb or Kistvaen with an outer kerb. In the 11th century a Saxon nobleman or thane called Ordulph was out hunting on his horse upon the moor but he became lost in a snowstorm and eventually died in the freezing conditions; his body was buried by the monks of Tavistock with a cross erected on that very spot, although the burial tomb beneath the cross predated Childe the Hunter and was of prehistoric origins. There are many other ancient burial cairns in this area. Originally the cross stood on blocks of granite which formed the tiered steps, but, these are now in a rather sorry, jumbled state and a lot of the stones were, sadly, robbed-away to build a nearby farmhouse in the early 19th century.  In the west at Blowing House near Burrator Reservoir, Southern Dartmoor: take the trackway heading E onto the moor for 4 miles to reach Whiteworks, then, take the path SE across Fox Tor Mires for a few miles towards Fox Tor – the 1.3 metre high cross can be seen over to the NE, but there’s no proper footpath leading to it.

Crispin Gill (1976) tells us: “Legend has it that Childe the Hunter was buried here. Overtaken when hunting on the Moor by a snowstorm he slew his horse, disemboweled the animal and used it as a shelter from the storm. But he froze to death, leaving a message that whoever gave his body Christian burial would have his lands of Plymstock. The monks of Tavistock found the body and were carrying it across the Moor when the people of Plymstock sought to bar their way by blocking the bridge over the Tavy. So the monks threw a bridge across the river further up, and gave his body burial. It must be said that Tavistock Abbey, and the Dukes of Bedford who acquired the land after the dissolution of the monasteries, did own Plymstock, and a bridge east of Abbey Bridge at Tavistock is still called Guile Bridge. 

“But when Childe’s Tomb is examined it is found to be a kistvaen, a prehistoric grave, overlaid with slabs of stone and surmoun-ted by a clearly-modern cross. There was an earlier cross surmounting a monument, mentioned early in the seventeenth century, which was thrown down and the stones used to build Fox Tor Farm in 1812. The ruins of the farm can be seen north-east across the River Swincombe. Childe’s Tomb was restored as we know it in 1885, with a new cross, but why the kistvaen was chosen is a mystery. The story is confused, but the late H. P. R. Finberg in Devonshire Studies pieces together the story of a giant Devon landowner buried at Tavistock Abbey, to which he left much land, and who was in his day a great hunter. ‘Childe’ he points out was a title of honour (like Childe Roland) in the eleventh century, the time of this giant. The story that has come down to us in Finberg sees as ‘an almost perfect specimen of folk-lore based on facts'”.

“On Fox Tor there is a 10th-century Saxon noble’s memorial called Childe’s Tomb. Lost in a blizzard, the nobleman cut open his horse and crawled inside for warmth. Before he died, he wrote his will in the horse’s blood on a nearby rock”, according to Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain (1977).

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Gill, Crispin, David & Charles Leisure & Travel Series — Dartmoor, David & Charles  (Publishers) Limited, Newton Abbot, Devon, 1976.

Reader’s Digest, Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain, (Second Edition), Reader’s Digest Association Limited, London, 1977.

Childe’s Tomb – Wikipedia

Childe the Hunter / Childe of Plimstock (Roud 23155) (mainlynorfolk.info)

Wayside cross 1120m ENE of Childe’s Tomb, Dartmoor Forest, Devon (ancientmonuments.uk)

Childe’s Tomb Cross | Legendary Dartmoor

Childe’s Tomb (dartmoor-crosses.org.uk)

Childe’s Tomb – Academic Kids

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.


1 Comment

The Discovery of Roman Shrines on Scargill Moor, County Durham

Head of  Silvanus crowned with pine by Carole Raddato. (Creative Commons).

NGR: NY 9987 1030. In 1945 two Roman shrines about 15 metres apart were discovered by a shepherd on the bleak Scargill High Moor, in County Durham, about 3 miles to the south of the Roman fort of Lavatrae (Bowes). Inside these stone structures were altar-stones with inscriptions to the Roman god Vinotonus, also known as Silvanus, who was the god of the countryside, the moorland, the woodland, and animals. The two shrines were built at the western side of the East Black Syke, a stream which runs off the larger Eller Beck, and due to this the little buildings have suffered from erosion from the stream and some of the stonework having been washed away. Both shrines were set-up by Roman officers of the Thracian Cohort who were stationed at nearby Lavatrae (Lavatris). A year after the discovery of the shrines County archaeologists exca-vated and removed the altars and other artefacts, and deposited them in the Bowes Museum. From Gilmonby head S then SE on country lanes to The Rigg, then take the track heading SSE for a few miles to link up with a track heading W and then S onto the moor; this track heads down the East Black Syke beck on the opposite side from where the shrines were discovered. The Bowes Museum is on Newgate in Barnard Castle, while Bowes Roman fort lies under the Castle and St Giles’ Church on The Street in Bowes.

Arthur Raistrick (1972) tells us more about this, saying: “During 1945 two shrines were found on the side of a small stream, East Black Sike, just above its junction with the Ellerback. This is on the wild Scargill Moor about two miles south of the Bowes fort, at NY 998105. One shrine is a small rectangular building 12 ft 8 in. by 6 ft 3 in. inside, with walls 2 ft thick built of partly-dressed grit stones, and still standing in part to more than 3 ft high. The wall towards the stream has been destroyed by erosion. The floor was flagged and the burnt remains of a thatched roof covered it. The second shrine was of similar structure but was circular, 17 ft in diameter. At the middle of the back wall of each was an altar, and in the circular shrine the bases and fragments of six other altars, with some coins and pottery. The altar in the rectangular shrine has an inscription:                                                                                                                                              VINOTONO                                                                                                                                                                                                                  SILVANO. IVI                                                                                                                                                                                                              SECUNDVS                                                                                                                                                                                                                  COH.I.THRAC.                                                                                                                                                                                                           V.S.L.L.M.                                                                                                                     and this can be translated: ‘To Vinotonus Silvius Julius Secundus Centurion of the First Cohort of Thracians gladly and willingly fulfilled his vow’. The inscription on the altar of the circular shrine can be read: To the God Vinotonus, Lucius Caesius Frontinu prefect of the First Cohort of Thracians from Parma, gladly, willingly, and deservedly fulfilled his vow’.

“Silvanus was the god of the wild uncultivated land and of the wild creatures in it. At Scargill, the first altar identifies him with Vinotonus, the god of stream and place. The altars belong to the early part of the third century and the pottery suggests that the shrines were used intermittently into the fourth century, when the Roman officials felt like thanking the gods for a successful hunt. 

Raistrick writing in 1972 adds to the above, saying: “In the wild moorlands of Bollihope, tributary to the Wear valley, an altar was erected to Silvanus Invictus by Gaius Tetius Veturius Micanus, prefect of the Sebosian cavalry regiment, who gave thanks ‘after catching a lovely boar which previous hunters had hunted in vain’. In Weardale at Eastgate (the gate-house of the Bishop of Durham’s hunting park some centuries later), Aurelius Quirinus, a prefect of the first cohort of Ligonians, and commandant at Lanchester, erected an altar to Silvanus between A.D. 234 and 244. It may well be that natives found employment or were con-scripted into the hunt, driving, carrying, tending horses, and acting as general followers, or possibly by their local knowledge and skill contributing to the success of the hunt.”  

Richmond (1963) tells us that: “More romantic relics of ancient hunting are the shrines of Silvanus which sprang up in lonely cloughs on the high moors of the Pennines. These were erected by the commandants of Roman forts, wealthy men, mostly on the first rungs of their careers in the Imperial Civil Service, to commemorate successful hunting expeditions. Two are attested by altars only: one stone dedicated by Aurelius Quirinus, commandant at Lanchester (Co. Durham) and found at Eastgate in Weardale; the other erected by Sibinianus, commandant of a cavalry regiment, in remote Bollihope, ‘after catching a lovely boar which previous hunters had hunted in vain’. The third, boasting both altars and shrines, lay higher still, on the Eller Beck, south of Bowes (Yorkshire), 1,275 feet above sea-level. There the local commandant, Caesius Frontinus, and one of his centurions set up separate shrines to Vinotonus, a stream-god whom the centurion identified with Silvanus. The temples were simple structures, one round and the other rectangular, with stone walls and thatched roofs. Their ruins still half buried the altars when they were first observed by a shepherd.”   

More recently a flat stone, possibly a Roman tablet, was found in the East Black Syke stream near the shrines, but this was without any inscription, or maybe it has been eroded away by the water. Other fragments of stones and altars from the two shrine structures were deposited into the Bowes Museum, although some of them were probably washed down the stream.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Johnston, David E., Discovering Roman Britain, Shire Publications, Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire, 2002.

Raistrick, Arthur, The Pennine Dales, Arrow Books Ltd., London, 1972.

Richmond I. A., The Pelican History of England — Roman Britain, Penguin Books Ltd., Harmondsworth, Middlesex, 1963.

File:Head of Silvanus crowned with pine, Centrale Montemartini, Rome (21952718528).jpg – Wikimedia Commons

1602 ‒ Scargill Moor Roman shrines | Roman Inscriptions of Britain

RIB 732. Altar dedicated to Vinotonus Silvanus | Roman Inscriptions of Britain

Roman shrine on Scargill Moor, Scargill – 1002317 | Historic England

Heritage Gateway – Results

The Bowes Museum > Home

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.

 

 

 

 

 


Archaeological Discovery of a ‘Priest’s House’ on Malham Moor, North Yorkshire

NGR: SD 8967 6743. In 1964 Arthur Raistrick the author, historian and archaeologist, stayed at Malham Tarn House, in North Yorkshire, and whilst there he conducted a number of archaeological excavations in that area, one of which was a rectangular-shaped Dark Age “priest’s house” or a “hermit’s hut” located on Malham Moor above the Malham Tarn Field Centre.  This structure and a similar one close by, were built from the surrounding Limestone, and at the edges of a circular feature that might be an Iron Age enclosure? or something else. There were a number of interesting finds from inside the hut which were of Celtic-Anglian design-work. But it begs the question – just what was a priest doing living in a stone hut on a bleak high ridge of the moor well-over 1,000 feet above sea-level – in what must have been an often weather-beaten existence, although maybe he withdrew down to lower ground in the Winter-time where there would be more shelter from the elements. Arthur Raistrick (1896-1991) also excavated some prehistoric hut circles and, a possible Medieval chapel site upon Chapel Fell, although this structure later proved to be only 16th century. Unfortunately, there is no direct footpath up to the site.

Raistrick (1972) tells us: “On Malham Moor and within a few hundred yards of the Tarn, at SD 897674, a building was excavated a few years ago to which the name of ‘priest’s house’ has attached itself, and the features of this may reflect one of the more permanent Dark Age huts. It stands on a high shelf of the hills, about 1,500 ft OD, with a magnificent view across the upper Airedale country and over the moors of Bouldsworth beyond. The house is a rectangular building 15 ft by 9 ft inside, with two slender partition walls, one cutting off a room 8 ft by 9 ft at the south end into which there is an entry from outside at the south-east corner. The narrower room is divided by cutting off 3 ft from the south end. The outer walls are remarkable, made of a double row of limestone boulders up to 6 ft long and 4 ft wide, set on edge, making the inner and outer faces of a 6 ft-wide wall. The space between the large stones is carefully packed with smaller limestone boulders, but no gravel. The natural limestone floor of the rooms was carefully levelled with small stones, then covered with a layer of calcareous marl from the near-by Great Close tarn. There was a small hearth in one corner of the larger room and a large stone placed as a footing for a central post to support the mid point of the ridge tree. If timbers had been footed on the long walls which were about 3 ft high, they could have met on a ridge tree supported at the ends and mid point by posts, and would give a height to the house of more than 7 ft. The end gables could be made up with a thick turf wall or with wattle screening.

“Among the finds in the house was a cast bronze disc, head of a large pin, 1¼ ins in diameter with pierced ‘Celtic’ interlacing ornaments and traces of gold inlay, a simpler bronze brooch and buckle, and pieces of perforated bronze strip which could be the edging for a book cover, along with typical book ornaments. The house and material found in it are very like those excavated from the Anglian monastery which underlies Whitby Abbey. All this suggests that we have the little house of a seventh-or-eighth-century priest or hermit, but it was no doubt based upon prevalent tradition, built here in stone instead of timber.” 

The priest’s house (site) is 300 metres (984 ft) north of Malham Tarn at the SE side of Malham Moor. The very beautiful Malham Tarn covers an area of 153 acres (619 square-metres) and it measures 1132m S-N and 1016m SW-NE. “Malham Tarn is Yorkshire’s second largest natural lake – the largest being Hornsea in East Yorkshire”, according to Eric Lodge. There is no direct path up to the site but a footpath at the edge of the tarn goes up further to the east towards Middle House.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Lodge, Eric (Compiler), The Yorkshire Dales Official Guide And Handbook, The Yorkshire Dales Tourist Association, Grassington via Skipton.

Raistrick, Arthur, The Pennine Dales, Arrow Books Ltd., London, 1972.

Arthur Raistrick – Wikipedia

Malham Tarn – Wikipedia

Malham Tarn archaeology walk | National Trust

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.


Hades Hill Barrow, Near Whitworth, Rossendale.

Hades Hill Barrow and more recent cairn. Photo is courtesy of Stephen Oldfield.

NGR: SD 9082 2010. Hades Hill is 3 miles to the east of Shawforth, near Whitworth, in Rossen-dale.  Roughly about halfway between Hades Hill  and Rough Hill  and close to the footpath running northeast there is a Bronze Age barrow or cairn, though it is not easy to make out today as nearby there are a number of bell pits and mounds caused by past mining and quarrying operations. The barrow is today marked by a stone cairn – these stones most likely coming from the burial cist at the centre of the low mound. In 1982 the barrow was excavated by (GMAU) Manchester University,  but they didn’t say what they found and they left the barrow in a pretty bad state.  However, it was excavated further back in 1898 and their findings were published, thankfully. Hades was the Greek god of the Underworld, so this place is known as “The Hill of the Underworld”, a very apt name indeed. There are also a group of barrows on the western slope of the hill and a large cairn, or cairn circle, on the summit that was described by the 19th century antiquarian, T. D. Whitaker, as a beacon. From Facit take the footpath for 3 miles heading E, then NE, to reach a track also going NE halfway between Hades Hill and Rough Hill – the barrow is at the N side of the track, next to some bell-pits.

Hades Hill B.A. Barrow.  Photo is courtesy of Stephen Oldfield.

The Hades Hill barrow is 15 metres long and 134 wide, with evidence of the excavations back in 1898 and 1982, and it overlooks an ancient settlement. It is situated on the west side of the depression between Hades Hill and Rough Hill, above Whitworth, and close to the road to Crook Hill Wind Farm. Excavated in 1898 by Mr J.T. Hill of Shawforth, in appalling weather conditions, it contained an inverted urn over the cremated remains of a female, with a barbed arrow head, a flint scraper, a finely pointed borer, animal bones and charcoal. The urn and its contents are now in the archives of the Touchstones museum, Rochdale. Hades Hill literally means ‘hill of the dead’ and there are depressions nearby which were thought to be late medieval coal mining, but may actually be Bronze Age ‘pit’ dwellings. A fascinating area with incredible views and not a soul in sight, says my friend Stephen Oldfield, who has researched this area.

“All online resources give a slightly different grid reference for Hades Hill Barrow.  Having studied the maps and the accounts – and been up there – this is the barrow – with evidence of a quarter of it being dug out.  It looks like stone dug at the recent 1982 excavation has been used to build a cairn nearby.  It’s a great site – lined up with Knowl Hill, Hamer Hill SW, Blackstone Edge SE  and Broadclough Dykes/Hogshead Law NW with the basin stone at Todmorden at NE. Cleverly situated”, says Stephen.

“This small, low barrow or cairn — a couple of miles north of the little-known Man Stone — measures 15 metres north to south, 13 metres east to west and is 0.9 metres high (about 3 feet in height)” – The Northern Antiquarian.

There is a site page in “Lancashire Archaeological Bulletin”, Vol. 10, No. 2/3, May and July, 1984. This says: “PARISH: Wardle. SITE NAME: Hades Hill. N.G.R. SD 908 202. PRIMARY REFERENCE: *Sutcliffe 1900. DISPOSITION OF FINDS: Barrow, excavated December 1898. Contained urn with cord decoration in chevrons, burnt human bones, burnt flint implements, burnt flint flakes and “a broken nodule of jasper flint” (?) Central cairn and peristalith. Further excav. 1982 by GMAU.” *On page 29 of the Bibliography it adds: “Sutcliffe W.H. (1900) Hades Hill Barrow. Trans. Rochdale Lit. & Sci. Soc. 6 (1900) 56-63).”

There is also a circular feature on the summit of Hades Hill, which looks like a round barrow or cairn circle. Described as a circle within a circle by Stephen Oldfield. However, the noted Antiquarian Thomas Dunham Whitaker (1759–1821) described this as a beacon. On the western slope of the hill there’s a group of round barrows that can be seen on aerial views and as circular, grassy mounds at ground level. This is probably a Bronze Age cemetery.

The circular feature on the summit of Hades Hill, which might be a cairn circle or maybe a beacon. Photo courtesy of Stephen Oldfield.

One of several Bronze Age barrows on the western slope of Hades Hill, near Whitworth. Photo is courtesy of Stephen Oldfield.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources & References & Related Websites:-

Many thanks to Stephen Oldfield for the use of his photos and for the information he has provided. These photos are Copyright © Stephen Oldfield 2021.

Edwards, Margaret & Ben, Lancashire Archaeological Bulletin, Vol. 10, Nos. 2/3, May & July, 1984.

Hades Hill, Whitworth, Lancashire – (thenorthernantiquarian.org)

Prehistoric – Archaeological Discoveries in South-East Lancashire (wordpress.com)

Whitworth – Archaeological Discoveries in South-East Lancashire (wordpress.com)

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.

 

 


1 Comment

Stoney Littleton Long Barrow, Near Wellow, Somerset

Plan of Stoney Littleton Long Barrow, Som.

NGR: ST 73494 57213. On a steep hillside just to the east of Littleton Lane and ¾ of a mile southwest of Wellow, in Somerset, is the ‘Stoney Littleton Long Barrow’, a gallery-grave monument dating from the Neolithic period (3700 to 3500 BC), which was built in the Cotswold-Severn tradition; this barrow being the northern-most of the series. It is also known as Bath Tumulus and Wellow Tumulus. In 1858 it had to be restored following damage caused by the robbery of stones almost one hundred years previously from inside the mound, but, it had been properly excavated before that in 1816-17 when a number of finds were found including bones, some of them burnt; these artefact were later deposited in the Bristol City Museum. There are seven burial chambers inside the barrow including the one at the far end of the 13 metre long passageway or gallery which is reached through the entrance and vestibule! The monument is in the care of English Heritage. You can reach the site from the south. From Stoney Littleton walk NE on the footpath for a mile, then head NW along the Limestone ridge for a short while to the monument, which is in front of you, or park in the small carpark opposite Stoney Littleton farm, and join the foot-path.

Timothy Darvill (1988) tells us that it is: “Approached across fields from the south along a signposted path, this Neolithic long barrow was constructed in the Cotswold-Severn tradition about 3700 BC. The cairn, edged by a neat drystone wall, measures about 30.5m long by 15.2m wide at the south-eastern end. At the front are two projecting horns flanking a forecourt, in the back of which is the entrance to the chambers. As you enter the chamber look for the cast of an ammonite fossil on the left-hand door jamb. The burial chambers, which occupy only a small proportion of the mound, open from a central passage — three on each side and an end-chamber. When excavated, these chambers contained confused heaps of bones representing many individuals. Details of the burial rites at other Cotswold-Severn barrows suggest that corpses were first placed in the entrance to the passage and that later, as each body decomposed, it was moved further into the passage until ultimately, as dry bones, it was left to rest in one of the side chambers. The construction of the chamber and passage is of interest, not only because of the techniques used — upright wall stones carrying a partly corbelled roof — but also because the stones themselves were brought to the site from outcrops over 5 miles away.” 

Jacquetta Hawkes (1975) says that: “By far the most important of the northernmost of the group, the chambered long barrow of Stoney Littleton which lies on a hill slope three-quarters of a mile south-west of Wellow church. Like Fairy Toot, this is an outlier of the finest and supposedly earliest type of the Cotswold megalithic barrow; like them the imposing entrance portal is approach-ed through a forecourt, or recess, in the large end of the mound, and itself leads into a passage with cells opening off it on either side. Here at Stoney Littleton there were six side cells in all, skilfully built of megalithic uprights packed with drystone walling and with a roughly but effectively corbelled roof. Although it was plundered of its skeletons and grave-goods in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries,  the architecture is itself unusually complete,  and other than the Cotswold Hetty Pegler’s Tump there is nowhere in England or Wales where one can better experience the ancient character of these earth-fast sepulchres, where the bodies of the Stone Age dead were returned to the Great Goddess.”  

Janet & Colin Board (1991) add to the above, saying: “A low passageway penetrates almost halfway into the 100-foot mound, and this is therefore a particularly exciting burial chamber to visit, not recommended to the claustrophobic! (Take a torch, there is no light inside.) Three pairs of chambers lead off the passage, and burnt bones have been found, with fragments of an earthen vessel. A stone with a fine fossil ammonite cast was used to decorate the entrance, its beauty obviously being appreciated by Neolithic man; but did they realise its age and the means whereby it was formed?” 

The HE (Historic England) list entry no is:- 1007910. See Link, below.

Barrow at Stoney Littleton Somerset – Section And Plan. Taken from ‘The Story of Prehistoric and Roman Britain – Told in Pictures’ by C. W. Airne, M.A. (Cantab.), Sankey, Hudson & Co. Ltd, Manchester.

Transverse Section of Gallery And Chambers, Stoney Littleton, Som. From ‘The Story of Prehistoric and Roman Britain’ – Told in Pictures’ by C. W. Airne, Sankey, Hudson & Co. Ltd, Manchester.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Airne, C. W., The Story of Prehistoric and Roman Britain — Told in Pictures, Sankey, Hudson & Co. Ltd., Manchester, 1935.

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

Darvill, Timothy, AA Glovebox Guide — Ancient Britain, Publishing Division of The Automobile Association, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 1988.

Hawkes, Jacquetta, A Guide To The Prehistoric And Roman Monuments In England And Wales, Cardinal (Sphere Books Ltd.,), London, 1975.

Stoney Littleton long barrow, Wellow – 1007910 | Historic England

Stoney Littleton Long Barrow | English Heritage (english-heritage.org.uk)

Stoney Littleton long barrow, Wellow, Bath and North East Somerset (ancientmonuments.uk)

Stoney Littleton Long Barrow – Wikipedia

Stoney Littleton Long Barrow (Archeological site) • Mapy.cz

Photo by Rick Crowley:  Entrance to Stoney Littleton Long Barrow © Rick Crowley :: Geograph Britain and Ireland

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.

 

 


St Faith’s Church, Llanfoist, Monmouthshire (Sir Fynwy), Wales

Llanfoist. Church of St Faith, Monmouthshire by Alf Beard (Creative Commons 2.0).

NGR:- SO 28588 13227. At the western edge of the village of Llanfoist near Abergavenny, in Monmouthshire, is the lovely little church of St Faith, a 19th century Gothic style building, but with some 13th century stonework remaining. Originally it was dedicated to St Ffwyst, a Welsh saint of the 6th Century, about whom next to nothing is known. She, or he, was also known as Foist, hence the name of the village, but the Latin name was probably Fausta. It is thought the saint was born on the Island of Anglesey. However the present dedication, perhaps through lack of any reliable information on St Ffwyst’s life, is to Saint Faith or Foy, a virgin and martyr under the Romans at Agen in France (304 AD), which was near the end of the reign of the Emperor Diocletion. The village name is sometimes given as Llanfoist Fawr, so could there be another Llanfoist or Llanffwyst somewhere else in Wales or on the Island of Anglesey? However, “it would seem that St Ffwyst was a priest of the monastic college of Seiriol, a saint who lived in Anglesey in the 6th century”, according to Chris Barber (1992). In the circular churchyard of St Faith’s there is the shaft and base of a medieval preaching cross, and an obelisk marks the grave of Crawshay Bailey Esquire, the 19th century ironmaster and industrialist of Nantyglo. St Faith’s Church is at the junction of Llanellen Road and the B4246 (Merthyr Road), just a little to the north of the Brecon & Abergavenny Canal.

Eiddil Eiddil (Thomas Evan Watkins) writing in 1834 tells us that: “The parish of Llanfoist extends from the banks of the Usk to the banks of the Torfaen, and is surrounded by the parishes of Abergavenny, Llanwenarth, Llanelly, Aberystruth, Trevethin, Llanelen, &c. There are some who believe the name (Llanfoist) to be derived from Llan and ffos, or Llan (Church) in the trench or marsh. Others (such as Willet in Stranger in Monmouthshire, 46) think it is Llanfoyle, whilst others still ask if there is no better derivation than either of the above names, and whether it cannot be derived from Llan and Faustus (Latin), that is to say, the lucky or prosperous church. Or it may be from Fausta, the daughter of Gwrtheyrn Gwrthenau by his first wife (Warrington, 63) and if so it may be inferred that this church was built at or about the beginning of the 6th century (Welsh saints, 86), although I am not aware that it has any register older than other churches. When historical researches are made (see William’s History of Monmouthshire, app. 194) we find the family of one William’s of Llanfoist descended from the lineage of Caradog Fraich Fras, Earl of Hereford, the Prince and owner of the fine territories between the Wye and the Severn, Lord of Dolorous Castle, and a Baron of the Order of the Round Table in the Time of King Arthur. And that one Gwgan ap Blethin ap Maynarch, Lord of Brecknock, married Gwenllian, the daughter and heiress of Phillip ap Gwys, Lord of Wiston, and I believe the Church was built in the time of Gwgan ap Blethin, as a token of regard for her grandfather (Viz. The Grandfather of Gwgan’s wife). It was easy to change Gwys into Ffwys, and corrupted more and more by others, doubling the F, so that scarcely anybody seeing the spelling of the word today by the Welsh and English would imagine that it had any connection with Gwys (Llanfoist !!).”

St Faith’s. Llanfoist Churchyard Cross by Jeremy Bolwell (Creative Commons 2.0).

St Faith’s parish church stands in the shadow of the Blorenge Mountain, which is 1,841 feet high. In the churchyard there is a late Medieval preaching cross. The thin octagonal pillar, which possibly replaced an earlier shaft, stands to a height of just over 2 metres and tapers away towards the top. This is built into a chunky socket-stone, which is atop four ashlar-built steps; at the sides of the socket-stone there are curved stone stops. The steps are much older than the pillar; the largest step at ground level is cut-away at an angle – and the stepped arrangement is pyramidal in shape. Also in this churchyard is a tall granite obelisk marking the grave of the iron-master and industrialist of Nantyglo, Crawshay Bailey Esquire (1789 – 1872). “He owned ironworks and coal mines and was a railway pioneer in the Cynon Valley”, says Alun Roberts (2002). Some of the stained-glass windows inside the church are dedicated to the memory of Bailey, whose son greatly restored the church back in 1877 in memory of his father. Bailey Snr. had the Abergavenny town-hall clock built and also gave Bailey Park to the people of the town. There are yew trees in the churchyard which could well date back hundreds of years, although one that was 1,000 years old, sadly, came down in high winds in 2012.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Barber, Chris, The Seven Hills of Abergavenny, Blorenge Books, Abergavenny, Gwent, 1992.

Barber, Chris, Exploring Gwent, Regional Publications (Bristol) Limited, Clifton, Bristol and Abergavenny, Gwent, 1984.

Eiddil Ifor (Thomas Evan Watkins), Hanes Llanfoist, (Transcribed And Footnotes Added By Colonel J.A. Bradney, C.B.), First published 1998 in association with the Llanfoist & Distrct Historical Society, Blorenge Books, Llanfoist, Abergavenny, Gwent, in this edition Chris Barber.

Roberts, Alun, A Pocket Guide — Discovering Welsh Graves, University of Wales Press and The Western Mail, 2002.

Geograph Photo by Alf Beard:  St Faith Church, Llanfoist © Alf Beard cc-by-sa/2.0 :: Geograph Britain and Ireland

Geograph Photo by Jeremy Bolwell:  File:St Faiths, Llanfoist, Churchyard cross – geograph – 3199908.jpg – Wikipedia

Parish Church of St Faith, Llanfoist, Monmouthshire (britishlistedbuildings.co.uk)

St. Faith’s Churchyard Cross, Llanfoist, Llanfoist Fawr (Llan-ffwyst Fawr), Monmouthshire (Sir Fynwy) (ancientmonuments.uk)

Llanfoist (mongenes.org.uk)

| News | Abergavenny Chronicle

Vortigern ap Gwidol, High King of Britain (c.385 – d.) – Genealogy (geni.com)

Saint Faith – Wikipedia

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


1 Comment

Grimspound Ancient Settlement, Near Manaton, Devon

Grimspound Ancient Settlement, Near Manaton, Devon

Grimspound Ancient Settlement in Devon. One of the hut circles.

NGR: SX 7006 8089.  At the northern side of the Dartmoor National Park half-way between Hameldown Tor and Hookney Tor and 3 miles to the west of Manaton, Devon, is the Grimspound Ancient settlement, an almost circular four-acre site dating from the mid to late Bronze Age period of pre-history. The whole site is enclosed by an almost complete 500 foot diameter ancient boundary wall and within this there are 24 hut circles or roundhouses, some of which are in an excellent state of  preservation, although a few have had to be rebuilt. The hut circles were built with loose stones, indeed some very large, shaped stones were used, and they had narrow entrances; most of the huts were used as dwellings with hearths but a few were used for storage or maybe as animals shelters, and they would have been roofed-over. Nearby there is an ancient field system. To reach the site head W on the country lane from Manaton; then W again for 1 mile to Heatree and Heather-combe Forest. Now walk W for 2 miles on the footpath over the hilly, windswept moorland to Grimspound Ancient Settlement. 

Timothy Darvill (1988) tells us that: “This site is probably the best-known middle Bronze Age enclosed settlement on Dartmoor. It lies in a shallow valley sheltered from the wind by hills to the north and south in an area of wild open moorland. When the site was occupied  between about 1600BC and 1200BC, the climate was warmer than today, and this part of Dartmoor was probably open grassland occasionally punctuated by small fields. The Grimspound enclosure covers an area of about 1.6ha, and is bounded by a stout wall of granite boulders. The ancient entrance lies on the south side; the other gaps are modern. Inside are the foundations of over 20 buildings, all round in plan with walls up to 1m thick. Sixteen of them were probably dwellings and another eight possible storage buildings, barns or byres. The stone foundations visible today originally supported a wooden superstructure and a thatched roof. 

Roland Smith (1990) says: “In his first report back to Sherlock Holmes from Baskerville Hall, in Conan Doyle’s novel The Hound of the Baskervilles, the famous detective’s loyal lieutenant, Dr Watson, painted an accurate picture of Dartmoor’s brooding sense of prehistory: 

On all sides of you as you walk in the houses of these forgotten folk, with their graves and the large monoliths which are supposed to have marked their temples. As you look at their grey stone huts against the scarred hillsides you leave your own age behind you, and if you were to see a skin-clad, hairy man crawl out from the low door, you would feel that his presence there was more natural than your own.

Grimspound Ancient Settlement. One of the B/A hut circles.

Grimspound Ancient Settlement. Entrance to one of the huts.

Watson’s keenly observant eye led him to the conclusion that the occupants of Dart-moor’s many pre-historic hut circles must have been an ‘unwarlike and harried race’, forced out on to this inhospitable moor where no one else would settle. Of course, in Watson’s day,  pollen analysis of Dartmoor’s peat had not yet revealed that the climate of Bronze Age Britain was several degrees warmer and much drier than it is today. But as you pick your way through the foundations of a settlement like Grims-pound , near Manaton, it is not difficult  to share the good doctor’s uncanny feeling  about the close proximity of the past and those pioneering first farmers.  Grims-pound, on the wild and windswept combe between Hameldown and Hookney tors, is the most complete and accessible of Dartmoor’s Bronze Age village settlements. The wall surrounding the four-acre site is almost complete and still 6 ft (1.8 m) high in places, and the remains of two dozen hut sites can be clearly seen. It is the nearest thing England has to Orkney’s Skara Brae settlement, and a place where the past seems very close.”

Janet & Colin Bord (1991) say that: “Dartmoor today does not look the most inviting of locations for a cattle farm, but in the late Bronze Age conditions may have been better. Grimspound survives as evidence for such settlements, and a ruined wall encloses a large area in which can be seen the remains of about twenty-four huts and some cattle-pens. The name ‘Grimspound’ was given to this place when it was already ruinous and its occupants forgotten — ‘Grim’ means  the Devil, or Woden, or some evil spirit.” 

Crispin Gill (1976) tells us more, saying: “Of all the Bronze Age villages on the Moor none has a more striking wall around it, heavily built and 6ft high in places. A stream runs in and out, there are clearcut gateways and 24 huts inside, all free-standing, and some small courts against enclosure walls. It covers nearly 4 acres. The general belief is that the wall was to keep animals in, protected from natural predators, rather than to keep out human enemies.”

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Bord, Janet & Colin, Ancient Mysteries of Britain, Diamond Books, 1991.

Clamp, Arthur L., A Pictorial Guide to Eastern Dartmoor, Westway Publications, Plympton, Plymouth, Devon, 1969 or 70.

Darvill, Timothy, Glovebox Guide — Ancient Britain, Publishing Division of The Automobile Association, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 1988.

Gill, Crispin, David & Charles Leisure & Travel Series — Dartmoor, David & Charles (Publishers) Limited, Newton Abbot, Devon, 1976.

Smith, Roland, Britain’s National Parks — A Visitor’s Guide,  Dolphin Publications, Salford, Manchester, 1990.

https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/grimspound/history/

https://historicengland.org.uk/services-skills/education/educational-images/grimspound-prehistoric-settlement-nr-manaton-9402

https://ancientmonuments.uk/112881-grimspound-a-partially-enclosed-prehistoric-settlement-with-field-system-and-two-post-medieval-caches-between-hookney-tor-and-hameldown-tor-north-bovey#.YFkhqlJM5jo

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

More here:  https://www.legendarydartmoor.co.uk/grim_pound.htm

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.

                                                                                                                                                                                                         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Spinster’s Rock, Near Drewsteignton, Devon

Spinster’s Rock Burial Chamber, near Drewsteignton, Devon.

NGR:- SX 70093 90782. At the northern edge of Dartmoor National Park about ½ a mile west of Drewsteignton, in Devon, is Spinster’s Rock, a Megalithic burial chamber from the mid Neolithic age of Prehistory. The monument stands in a field beside a country lane close to Shilstone farm. It has been described variously as a Portal Dolmen, a Cromlech and Burial Chamber. Three large stones (uprights) tentatively support the massive capstone, and a few other stones or outliers lie on the ground in the close vicinity of the burial chamber. In 1862 the monument collapsed but within the year it had been re-erected again. One or two local legends have been ascribed to the site with regard to the name ‘Spinster’s Rock’ though these seem to have their founding in more recent times, rather than back in prehistory, and are very far-fetched, but each legend is associ-ated with three local spinster ladies who apparently built the monument! To reach the site head W out of Drewsteignton for 1 mile, then turn S onto lane towards Chagford. Look-out for the track to Shilstone farm and a wooden signpost. The monument is in the field 130m to the W of the farm.

llustration of Spinster’s Rock, in Devon.

Spinster’s Rock, also known as ‘Shilstone Cromlech’, dates from between 3,500 to 2,500 BC and stands 11 feet high. The three Granite uprights supporting the huge slab or capstone are between 6-7 feet high, while the capstone itself is roughly 16 feet X 10 feet, and is said to weigh upto 16 tonnes. It almost looks as if the capstone is floating in mid-air. Originally there would have been a mound of soil and stones covering the burial chamber but this is long gone. This is apparently the only Neolithic burial chamber in the County of Devon, though there are many Bronze and Iron Age sites on Dartmoor – Grey Wethers and Grimspound being two. In 1862 the monument collapsed due to subsidence but was re-erected within 10 months, although it wasn’t put back in its original form, and some of the supporting stones have had to be fixed in position with iron straps, and a notch had to be made in one of the uprights so that the capstone rested more easily onto it. When it was excavated in the 19th century no burials were found.

Roland Smith (1983) tells us that: “Most famous of Dartmoor’s cromlechs is Spinster’s Rock tomb, its massive four stones standing over 6 ft (1.8 m) tall in pleasant farmland at Shilstone, near Drewsteignton. The cromlech gets its name from a local legend that it was erected by three spinster’s of that parish one morning before breakfast — a labour of truly Amazonian proportions. The cromlech is probably the denuded remains of a Neolithic  (New Stone Age) burial mound, with a great capstone perched delicately on three uprights, but it is known that the monument was re-erected after collapse in 1862, so its original form is uncertain.”

The legends that are associated with this burial chamber are far-fetched and not plausable. Apparently three (or maybe four) spinster ladies (they may have been wool spinners) of the parish were on their way to market early one morning. They decided to build the dolmen before eating their breakfast. It seems they accomplished this great fete because of a trist, each wanting to out do the other, so they could marry the same man. The ladies were turned to stone and Spinster’s Rock took on their form, according to another legend.

The HE (Historic England) list entry number is: 1003177. See below.

Sources & References & Related Websites:-

Clamp, Arthur L., A Pictorial Guide to Eastern Dartmoor, Westway Publications, Plympton, Plymouth, Devon. 1969/70.

Smith, Roland, Britain’s National Parks — A Visitor’s Guide, Dolphin Publications, Salford, Manchester, 1983.

The AA,  The Illustrated Road Book Of England & Wales, The Automobile Association, London, 1962.

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1003177

https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=149

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spinsters%27_Rock

http://www.stone-circles.org.uk/stone/spinstersrock.htm

http://www.saintsandstones.net/stones-spinstersrock-journey.htm

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.


2 Comments

Ballintaggart Ogham Stones, Co. Kerry, Southern Ireland

Ballintaggart Ogham Stone (with an unusual incised cross).

Irish Grid Reference: V 4645 9966. On the top of Ballintaggart Hill, just to the southeast of the village of Ballintaggart (Baile an tSagairt) and 1½ miles southeast of Dingle, in County Kerry, Southern Ireland, there is a circular enclosure which was probably an ancient burial ground from the early Christian period; within this enclosure there are nine sandstone grave-markers – cigar-shaped recumbent stones in a circular pattern arrangement – the ninth stone laying in the middle, and all having incised carvings on them; these carvings either being Ogham-script notches or curious thin crosses, some having both. Some of the stones have Ogham inscriptions recalling the devotees of the pagan goddess, Dovinia (Duibhne) of the Corcu Duibne tribe of the Corcaguiny Peninsula. Three of the smooth recumbent stones have thin crosses carved on them. These carvings could well date back to the 5th Century AD. The site is also known as ‘Ballintaggart Nine Stones’. To reach the site: head W for ½ a mile or so along the lane from Doon-shean, then on the right-hand side, look out for the footpath up to the hill, just before the lane turns N to the racecourse and then Dingle town. 

Ogham Stone by R.R.Brash (1879).

The circular enclosure on Ballintaggart Hill, which is a low hillock or knoll, measures around 30m (98 ft) in diameter and approx. 17m W-E – 92° degs X 17m S-N – 1° deg. There is a raised bank around the edge of the enclosure and a shallow ditch. Three of the stones have thin incised crosses and most have Ogham inscriptions. One stone recalls AKEVRITTI another to TRIAM MAQA MAILAGNI or ‘the three sons of Malagnos’, while on its reverse side CURCITTA. And on this stone a triple-ended incised cross. Another stone in memory of INISSIONAS, while another recalls CUNUMACCQQI AVI CORBRI or ‘Conmac grandson of Coirpre’. Another recalls NETTA LAMINACCA KOI MAQQI MUCOI DOVINIAS or ‘the nephew of Laminacca, son of the people of Dovinia’. Dovinia, Dobhinia, or Duibne, being the pagan goddess of the tribe Corcu Duibne of the Corcaguiny Peninsula. This stone also has a cross with expaned ends. Another stone has a similar inscription in memory of MAQQI IARI KOI MAQQI MUCCOI DOVVINIAS recalling the same goddess. There is also a stone recalling someone called SAVL or SAUL, grandson of DOCHAR. Two other stones in memory of: SUVALLOS MAQI DUCOURROS and MAQI DECCEOA MAQI GLASICONAS. The burial ground was apparently the site of a church but nothing remains of that now.

James Mackillop (1998) tells us that Ogham is: “The earliest form of writing in Irish in which the Latin alphabet is adapted to a series of twenty ‘letters’ of straight lines and notches carved on the edge of a piece of stone or wood. Letters are divided into four categories of five sounds. A twenty- first symbol, an upturned arrow, was used for the letter p in British inscriptions. Notches and grooves appear on one or both sides of a foundation line (druim). Designations for the letters q, v, and z, which are not used in Irish, support the now widely accepted interpretation of ogham as an expression of Irish through the Latin alphabet. The current view displaces many colourful speculations on ogham’s origin: runic alphabet of Scandinavia, Chalcidic Greek, northern Etruscan, etc.

“Ogham inscriptions date primarily from the 4th to 8th centuries and are found mainly on standing stones; evidence for inscriptions in wood exists, but examples do not survive. The greatest concentration of surviving ogham inscriptions is in southern Ireland; a 1945 survey found 121 in Kerry and 81 in Co. Cork, while others are scattered throughout Ireland, Great Britain, and the Isle of Man, with five in Cornwall, about thirty in Scotland, mainly in ‘Pictish’ areas, and more than forty in Wales. In Wales, ogham inscriptions have both Irish and Brythonic-Latin adjacent inscriptions.

“Most ogham inscriptions are very short, usually consisting of a name and a patronymic in the genitive case. They are of linguistic rather than literary interest, because they show an older state of the Irish language than found in any other written sources. Many appear to be memorials to the dead, while others mark the border between two lands. Although the knowledge of ogham was never lost in scholars (at least one 19th-cent. grave-marker uses it), the notion that ogham was employed for occult or magical purposes dogs critical commentary. As late as the 1930s the eminent archaeologist R. A. S. Macalister proposed that ogham was part of the secret language of ‘druidic freemasonry’. Sean O’ Boyle suggested (1980) that the key to explaining ogham is harp notation. The god of rhetoric and eloquence, Ogma, is an attributed creator; his name and the word appear to be philologically related”.

Before setting out to visit Ballintaggart Ogham Stones, please check websites to see whether it is open or closed to the public in these times of Covid-19, and also check National rules.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Mackillop, James, Dictionary Of Celtic Mythology, Oxford University Press, 1998.

Matthews, John & Caitlin, The Aquarian Guide To British And Irish Mythology, The Aquarian Press, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, 1988.

Image Ogham Stone by R.R.Brash (1879):  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CIIC_156_(Richard_Brash,_1879).png

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

http://www.ancientireland.org/ballintaggart/

https://ogham.celt.dias.ie/stone.php?lang=en&site=Ballintaggart&stone=155._Ballintaggart_I&stoneinfo=description

https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=27329

https://www.google.com/maps/dir/53.8361757,-2.2012261/Ballintaggart+Ogham+Stones+IN+cO+kERRY+-+IS+IT+OPEN+OR+CLOSED+%3F/@52.8993587,-10.7110317,6z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m9!4m8!1m1!4e1!1m5!1m1!1s0x484ffa2aebcaa01d:0x6f921f297f781b5c!2m2!1d-10.2431562!2d52.1278522

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.