The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


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The Tarr Steps, Exmoor National Park, Somerset, England

The Tarr Steps bridge over the River Barle, in Somerset.

NGR:- SS 86770 32113.  The Tarr Steps are an ancient Clapper Bridge that spans the river Barle in Exmoor National Park, about 4 miles northwest of Dulverton and 2½ miles south of Withypool, in Somerset. The slab-stone bridge could be prehistoric in age and date back 3,000 years to the Iron Age; however, some historians now consider the Tarr Steps to be Mediaeval in age and only dating back to the beginning of the 15th Century. The Tarr Steps slab bridge is 135 feet in length from bank to bank though Dr Sweetapple-Horlock (1928) said its length across the river was 180 feet. The stone slabs or clappers are between 6-10 foot long and the larger slabs are estimated to weigh between 1-2 tons; they lie on pillars with one or two slabs on top. Writing in 1924 Sir William Boyd Dawkins was the first to suggest prehistoric origins for the clapper bridge, or the earlier trackway over the ford, that crossed the river Barle, and its links with the Bronze Age round barrows (dating back to 2,500 BC) over to the west on Fyldon Ridge – while another trackway heads northeast from Tarr Steps bridge to the ‘Caratacus Stone’, an inscribed standing stone on Winsford Hill.

The Story of Tarr Steps by Michael Harrison (1985).

Michael Harrison (1985) says regarding the Position of Steps  The theory adduced by some writers is that it is a link track between the ridgeway over Winsford Hill (note the wam-barrows and Caratacus Stone), presumably to harbours in the Bristol Channel, with the other ridgeway over Molland Common via Anstey Barrows, White Post and over Fyldon Ridge (the present County Boundary) and on to Barnstaple. The significant point in common is that both tracks have Bronze Age Round Barrows alongside which date them around 2500 B.C., making the bridge seem comparatively modern and the ford across the river of very ancient origin.  Whether the original trackway went up the hill to the Church or whether it went up Hardway to Pennycombe Brook, which was the more direct line and not quite so steep, to White Post and the Ridgeway, must be a matter for speculation. The former route would meet the way over Hawkridge ridge coming up from the woods, where the Danesbrook joins the Barle guarded by the Iron Age earthworks of Mounsey Castle and Brewers Castle. showing that this track must have been of importance in very ancient times.  The writer apologizes for this diversion in the story of the Steps, but it must relate to the question of why the trackway was made there by the people who lived in these parts so many years ago. The answer is presumably because the river was easily fordable there, and the bridge later constructed to enable travellers to cross dryshod. 

Tarr Steps, Somerset. Description by Clery Welch.

“Description Of Steps  Back from the wilds of Exmoor let us return to Dr. Sweetapple’s Guide and a description of the Bridge, which consists of 17 spans, the covering stones laid flat without mortar or cement of any kind, on pillars of rough stone placed directly on the river bed. The pillars are from 4ft to 6ft apart, 3ft to 4ft high and about 3ft in breadth. Most of the pillars are spanned by one stone only but some have two laid side by side and one has three. The great slabs are from 6ft to 8ft long. One is over 10ft in length, nearly a foot thick, and estimated to weigh two tons or more. One stone about the centre of the Bridge is laid crosswise and is said to mark the boundary between the Parishes of Dulverton [now Winsford] and Hawkridge. This last mentioned stone seems to have been left out in one of the later reconstructions.

The Tarr Steps (illustrated by Clery Welch).

“At each pillar a long stone is slanted lengthways, one end resting on the river bed with its higher end projecting just above the flat stones of the bridge (the present writer’s theory on this aspect of the construction is that this was to allow tree branches and other debris to slide up the sloping stones in times of flood and be washed over the flat stones rather than pile up against them and risk damage to the bridge). The sloping stones were also to break the force of the water against the pillars.  The Bridge is 180ft long according to Dr. Sweet-apple and Grinsell, but the actual length from bank to bank, is about 135ft. The discrepancy     is accounted for by the stones lying flush with the surface of the ground on the Hawkridge side, which, if included, come to approximately 180ft.  The writer discovered, during a conversation with Mr. A. Oakes, who was tenant of Tarr Farm for many years, that originally a branch of the river ran under these stones and across the present meadow leaving a large island. Dr. Sweetapple had the old channel under these stones and across the meadow, filled in to make the present much larger and more useful field.  

“Building Of The Steps  The position of the bridge was evidently carefully chosen as the pool above is one of the longest and stillest in the river, and the flow of the water would be slowed before it reached the bridge. “‘The labour of building such a bridge must have been colossal’”, says the Guide, “‘in an age when machinery was un-known and it is hardly to be wondered at that local tradition ascribes the work to the devil. As he was bringing         the stones in his apron the string broke and the large square stone thus dropped can still be seen between the holly trees on the left bank making a useful seat’”. This stone is now below the island having been carried there in the Lynmouth flood. 

“The devil seems to have been held responsible on a number of occasions on Exmoor for rocks and stones in un-usual places, but why he should have built anything so useful as a bridge remains another mystery.  In the case      of Tarr Steps he is said to have built it in one night, saying it was for his exclusive use and that he would destroy the first creature crossing it. An unfortunate car attempted it and was torn to pieces, in one account, or struck by lightning in another. This appears to have broken the spell, for a Parson then crossed in safety, exchanging com-pliments with the builder. “‘The devil called the Parson a black crow, to which the Parson replied that he was not blacker than the devil’”. 

“Name Of The Steps  The Bridge and its name is another chapter in the Guide. Signposts to the steps varied between Torr and Tarr. Dr. Sweetapple points out that Torr means a boulder or rock outcrop, never stones such as could be used for bridge building. It seems more likely to be derived from the Celtic ‘toucher’ anglicised to ‘toher’ meaning a causeway, and the word ‘Steps’ added at a later date when they had been built. The other suggestion is that it may have taken its name from the family of Tarr connected with the district for many years. L. V. Grinsell, mentioned earlier, speculates in more detail in his book. Certainly all the earlier writers on Ex-moor—Collins, the Rev. Jack Russell, and MacDermot, call it Tarr Steps. Maps made in 1782 and 1822 show the form Tar Steps.

“The Guide [Dr. Sweetapple’s] itself mentions that occasionaly, after a combination of heavy rain and melting snow, the river overflows the bridge and that fifty years ago it was rare for the water even to cover the bridge, but this was before the moors were drained and in consequence the flow of water was more constant. Also the river was wider and deeper. Since drainage grants came in with the Second World War, the run off from the uplands has been greatly accelerated and this in turn causes flash floods of greater violence and more often than in the old days, bringing down driftwood and even trees which crash into the structure with great force, breaching it on several occasions in recent times.  The unforseeable happening was the Lynmouth flood……….” 

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Harrison, Michael, The Story Of Tarr Steps, (with illustrations by Clery Welch), 1985.

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

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1021325

More info here at:  https://www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/enjoying/tarr-steps

https://archaeology-travel.com/england/tarr-steps-exmoor

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/tarr-steps

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.


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The Charing Cross (Eleanor Cross), Westminster, London E.C.2

The Charing Cross or The Eleanor Cross.

NGR: TQ 30197 80498. On the forecourt of Charing Cross Railway Station on the Strand, in Westminster, London E.C.2., is the sculptured monument known as ‘The Charing Cross’ or the ‘Eleanor Cross’ which        is a replica of the original one that stood nearby, and one of only four such crosses to remain, although the other three are originals. It was named after Queen Eleanor of Castile, the wife of King Edward I, and was erected as a memorial to her in 1291 the year after her death at Harby in Nottinghamshire at the age of 49. Queen Eleanor was buried in Westminster Abbey. However, this 70 foot (21 metre) high richly decorated monument dating from 1865 is made of granite and Portland stone. But it is said ‘not to be as good’ as the original, which was pulled down and broken up about 1647. A statue of King Charles I on horseback was erected where the original Charing Cross used to stand, near Trafalgar Square. The present Charing Cross was recently restored. Charing as a place-name is thought to be derived from ‘cerring’, an Early English word meaning “bend or turn in the road.” The monument is Grade II listed.

Arthur Mee (1949) says that: “…….in the courtyard of Charing Cross Station is the lovely Eleanor Cross, a copy of the last of that pathetic series set up by Edward the First to mark the resting-place of his Queen Eleanor on her last ride through our countryside. She came from Harby in Notts, the village where she died, and rested nine nights on the way. Three of the nine crosses remain in the country; this is a copy of the old one destroyed in 1647. It stood where Charles Stuart sits on horse-back a little way off,  and this copy of it was designed by Edward Barry and sculptured by Thomas Erpe.  The cross is seventy feet high and rises in two stages surmounted by a spire. Below are coats of heraldry, and above are eight statues of the queen with a kneeling angel at the foot on each statue. The figures are all under canopies, and four show Eleanor as a sovereign and the others as a gracious lady.”

Eleanor Cross, Charing Cross Railway Station.

Mary Fox-Davies (1910) says that: “You know, I expect, the story of these crosses: how King Edward I. brought the coffin of his dead queen, Eleanor, from Nottinghamshire to her burial-place in Westminster Abbey, and on each spot where the coffin was placed to rest during the long, weary journey the King erected one of these crosses, and the little village of Charing was the last halt on the way. The original Charing cross stood nearer to White-hall, on the spot now occupied by the statue of Charles I.; it was removed in 1647, when the copy was placed in its present position. Ten of these ”Eleanor Crosses“ were erected by King Edward, but only three now remain — one at Geddington, one at Northampton, and one at Waltham Cross.” 

Garry Hogg (1968) tells us the locations of the other Eleanor Crosses, saying the: “Eleanor Cross, Geddington, Northants, three miles north-east of Kettering. Only three of the original eleven memorial crosses erected by Queen Eleanor’s funeral cortege between Hardby, Lincolnshire, and West-minster Abbey survive today (the third is at Waltham, Essex). Eleanor Cross, Hardingstone, Northants, on the A50, one mile south of Northampton. The earliest one, carved in 1291 by John Battle.”  Please note there is an error by the author: it should read Harby, Nottinghamshire, not Hardby, Lincolnshire. 

The HE (Historic England) List No is:- 1236708. See the Link, below.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Fox-Davies, Mary, London — Shown To The Children, T. C. & E. C. Jack, Ltd., London And Edinburgh, 1910.

Hogg, Garry, Odd Aspects of England, David & Charles (Publishers) Limited., Newton Abbot, Devon, 1968.

Mee, Arthur, The King’s England — London, Hodder And Stoughton Limited, London E.C.4., 1949.

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1236708

https://lookup.london/the-eleanor-cross-of-charing-cross/

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

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

More info here: https://www.strandlines.london/2019/11/18/the-eleanor-charing-cross/

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.


St Patrick’s Well, Heysham, Lancashire

St Patrick’s Well or Church Well at Heysham, Lancashire.

NGR: SD 41093 61591.  At the corner of Main Street in Heysham, Lancashire, and just down the slope from St Peter’s Church is St Patrick’s Well (also known as Church Well). It is built into the wall at the side of the street at the bottom of the rectory garden (Glebe Garden).  However, it would seem that it has never been a holy well despite being named after the Irish patron saint, but merely ‘a spring’ that was used by the local church, St Peter’s, and its rectory.  Perhaps it should be called St Peter’s Well. The village, it would seem, needed the divine help of a great saint such as St Patrick and, after all the ruined Saxon chapel on the headland above the parish church already bore his name. Today, in the rectangular-shaped arched walled recess above two stone steps and pebble-filled basin there is a hand-operated pump contraptiuon, but whether this still pumps water is anyone’s guess – though it might do!? The present structure only dates from the early 1900s but it stands in the place of an earlier 18th Century well that had collapsed. It is Grade II listed.  Heysham is a very attractive village situated about 1¾ miles to the southwest of Morecambe on the A589.  

The ‘British Listed Buildings’ website has the following information: “Well head. Possibly C18. Well set in a roughly semi-circular recess in a rubble retaining wall, spanned by a lintel.  The kerb stone at the front of the wall is level with the top     of a second lower wall which contains a recess with two steps in front of the well.” See their website:   https://britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/101355054-st-patricks-well-lancaster-heysham-central-ward#.XqoLVlLsZjo

Eileen J. Dent (2003) says of St Patrick that: “The popular myth that St Patrick came to Heysham can be discounted by his “Confessions” written towards the end of his life:

“‘Wherefore then, even if I wished to leave them to go to Britain–and how I would have loved to visit my country and my parents and also Gaul in order to visit my brethren and to see the face of the saints of                my Lord. God knows it that I desired it, but I am bound by the Spirit, who gives evidence against me if                       I do this, telling me that I shall be guilty; and I am afraid of losing the labour which I have begun – nay,                not I but Christ the Lord who bade me come here and stay with them for the rest of my life,  if the Lord             will, and will guard me from every evil way that I may not sin before Him.”’   

“This was St Patrick’s reply to his fellow bishops who had criticised him for remaining in Ireland and not evangelizing abroad.”

Ken Fields (1987) tells us that: “A saint whose name has become linked with holy wells is the patron of Ireland, Saint Patrick. Little is known about his early life before he rose to become the great missionary, but we have a tradition that an important episode in his youth occurred on the north-west coast.

St Patrick’s Well at Heysham, Lancashire (b/w photo view).

“Patrick was born about AD385 of noble stock at a place named Banavem Taberniae, which some people say is the village of Bewcastle near Carlisle. The story of his capture by pirates while still a boy, and his imprisonment in Ireland is well docu-mented. Just how he managed to escape by sea and was subsequently ship-wrecked is less well known and his landing place is not documented at all.  Some historians claim it was Gaul, but others disagree, pointing to what is now part of the Lancashire coast as a likely spot.  It is at a point close to lovely Hey-sham Village that the young Patrick is said to have landed; a stony bank visible only at low water is still known as St Patrick’s Skier. The ruin of an ancient chapel on the cliff edge marks the spot where he came ashore and alongside are some unusual graves hewn out of the rock.  Now empty these probably once held the bodies of monks.  After his landing at Heysham, the weary saint began the long journey home on foot.  The route he took can still be followed on a map, for many of his stopping places recall his name. At Hest Bank, a few miles north of Heysham lies the first St. Patrick’s Well, a place where the holy man stopped to drink. Near the small town of Milnthorpe lies Preston Patrick, and the magnificent valley of Patterdale in the heart of Lakeland was originally St. Patrick’s Dale.  Patterdale church is dedicated to the saint,  and on the road to nearby Glenridding is yet another St. Patrick’s Well. The village of Bampton near Haweswater, has a pub named St. Patrick’s Well, and its Anglican church is one of only ten in all England dedicated to the saint. North of Maryport, lies the town of Aspatria, which is said to be yet another settlement derived from his name. Thus it is possible to travel northwards from Heysham, following in the saint’s footsteps through some of our most attractive countryside. Here is a link with a journey that took place sixteen centuries ago.”  

There used to be another well in Heysham which was called Sainty Well or Saintly Well, but this was capped and covered over in recent times. This second ‘holy well’ is now on private land half-way along St Mary’s Road, Heysham. See History of Heysham website Link: http://www.sandhak.co.uk/html/history_of_heysham.html

Sources / References & Related Websites:

‘British Listed Buildings’ website Link:  https://britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/101355054-st-patricks-well-lancaster-heysham-central-ward#.XqoLVlLsZjo

Dent, Eileen J., Heysham − a History, The Rector and Parochial Church Council of St Peter’s Church, Heysham, and Heysham Heritage Association, 2003.

Fields, Ken, The Mysterious North, Countryside Publications, 1987.

‘History of Heysham’ website Link:  http://www.sandhak.co.uk/html/history_of_heysham.html

https://megalithix.wordpress.com/2010/04/29/st-patricks-well-heysham/

https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=48439

https://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=41448#aRt

http://www.heyshamheritage.org.uk/html/visiting_heysham.html

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

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.


St Ebba’s Chapel, Ebb’s Nook, Beadnell, Northumberland

St Ebba’s Chapel near Beadnell (looking west). Photo Credit: Anne T.

NGR: NU 23964 28707.  The grassed-over scanty remains of St Ebba’s Chapel are situated on a narrow promontory known as Ebb’s Nook (Snook), which juts out into the North Sea, on the opposite side of Beadnell Harbour, near Seahouses. Northumberland. These grassy humps and lumps are all that remains of a 12th or 13th century chapel named after St Ebba or Æbba, a Northumbrian princess who died in 683 AD. There are also some earthworks surrounding the ruined chapel (E side) which are said to be those of a small pre-Conquest monastery possibly founded by St Æbba, the step-daughter of King Æthelfrith of Bernicia, who is ‘one and the same’ as St Abb, abbess of a monastery at Coldingham, near Eyemouth, on the East Berwickshire coast. She was also the sister of St Oswald, King and Martyr (d 642).

The chapel site can be reached by going through Beadnell village (north end): going (south) along Harbour Road and then Marl-borough Road. At the south end where the road bends to the southwest take the footpath (south) for a short while between the buildings, and then (east) along the promontory (Beadnell Point), with Little Rock in the distance; the chapel ruins are about half-way along this narrow, grassy promontory.

Nigel & Mary Kerr (1982) tell us that: “The situation of the small ruined chapel at Ebb’s Nook is all-important. It stands bleakly beside the North Sea, looking up the forlorn and storm-swept coast of Northumbria, and we may well wonder at the piety and faith which made men choose this of all places to build a chapel. There can be few more powerful examples of the juxtaposition of the spiritual and elemental than this small outpost of Christianity.

“The ruins of the chapel, originally a simple two-roomed structure of nave and chancel which was later extended by a western annexe, were uncovered in 1853. There is no certain date for the building, but the place name recording its associations with St Ebba, stepdaughter of Ethelfrith, king of Northumbria, suggests a site of ancient usage.

The first view of St Ebba’s Chapel near Beadnell. Photo credit: Anne T.

“St Ebba, whose feast day is 25th August, fled from Northumbria to Scotland when Edwin invaded the kingdom in 616. She later became a nun and was famed for her wisdom. She reputedly secured the release of St Wilfrid one occasion by telling Ecgfrith, the king who had imprisoned him, that his wife’s illness was a divine punishment for depriving the saint of his freedom: he was speedily released! Later, however, St Ebba was criticized for relaxed state of her community of nuns at Ely. Particular attention was drawn to the nuns’ weaving of fine clothes with which they sought to attract attentions of ‘strange men’. Despite this temporary lapse from grace, Ebba’s reputation for holiness continued after her death, and she was especially venerated during the 12th century in the north of England and south Scotland following the discovery of her relics.

“Perhaps, therefore, the little chapel on Ebb’s Nook is of the 12th century, and was constructed when her cult underwent a revival. But in lieu of direct evidence to the contrary, we will follow the confident assertion of the 19th-century excavators that this was the site of a chapel dedicated to her during the halcyon days of Northumbria in the 7th century.”

Northumberland National Park Guide (1990) tells us that:  “The small pile of grass-covered rubble near the point is the re-mains of Ebba’s Chapel, a 13th century structure excavated in 1853 after being buried for many years. Ebba was the sister of King Oswald; she may have been responsible for the building of a small chapel on this site in the 7th century. The stones and debris of the chapel have been colonised by thrift and scurvy-grass.”

St Ebba’s Chapel (north doorway and wall). Photo credit:  Anne T.

David Hugh Farmer (1982) has much more on St Ebba or Ebbe, saying she was: “first abbess of Coldingham (Berwickshire). Daughter of Ethelfrith, king of Northumbria, she fled to Scotland on his death in 616, when Edwin conquered Northumbria. Later she became a nun at Cold-ingham and subsequently abbess of this double monastery. In 672 Etheldreda was separated from her husband, King Egfrith, with the counsel of Wilfrid, and became a nun under Ebbe (who was her aunt) before founding her own monastery at Ely. In 681 Egfrith visited Cold-ingham with his second wife Ermenburga, who was then seized with some kind of sudden illness. Ebba, now famous for wisdom, interpreted this as a punishment for the imprisonment of Wilfrid, disobedience to Roman decisions in his favour, and the theft of his relics and reli-quaries by Ermenburga. Egfrith released Wilfrid; Ermenburga restored the relics and soon recovered.

“Not long afterwards, the aged Ebbe was warned by the priest Adomnan of the relaxed state of her community. The nuns were said to spend their time weaving fine clothes, to adorn themselves like brides or to attract the attention of strange men, while both monks and nuns alike neglected vigils and prayers. In spite of Adomnan’s threat of divine punishment, the community mended its ways only for a little while. A few years after Ebbe’s death, the monastery was burnt down (686). These failures of Ebbe’s community did not destroy her reputation for holiness. Her name was given to Ebchester and to St Abb’s Head, where the remains of a fort possibly indicate the site of her monastery. Interest revived in her during the 12th century, following the discovery of her relics in the late 11th. At this time, according to an account attributed to Reginald of Durham, she was known from York to Lanark. Calendar evidence for her feast comes from Durham, Aberdeen, and Winch-combe, while Durham and Coldingham shared her relics.  She is also the titular of a church and street in Oxford.  The present church at Coldingham (part of the priory founded by Durham) is more than a mile away from Ebbe’s monastery. Feast 25th August.”   

The 19th Century parish church in the centre of Beadnell village is also dedicated to the local saint, Ebba. There are three late 18th Century (restored) limekilns at Beadnell Harbour (east side).

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Photos (above) are the © copyright of Anne T. Many thanks Anne for your help and kindness. Please see the Link:  https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=50082&m_distance=0.0

Farmer, David Hugh, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1982.

Kerr, Nigel & Mary, A Guide to Anglo-Saxon Sites, Granada Publishing Limited, St Alban’s, Hearts, 1982.

Northumberland National Park, Walks on the Northumberland Coast, Northumberland County Council National Park and Countryside Department, Eastburn, South Park, Hexham, 1990.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%86bbe_of_Coldingham

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

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1008563

https://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=8230

https://www.channel4.com/programmes/time-team/articles/series-19/st-ebbas-chapel-by-the-sea/453

More info here:  https://www.scribd.com/document/239530531/Time-Team-St-Ebba-s-Chapel-Beadell

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.

 


The Long Stoop, Yeadon, West Yorkshire

Photo credit, see below.

NGR: SE 22127 41831. At the side of the roundabout on the very edge of the Leeds-Bradford Airport at Yeadon, west Yorkshire, stands a rather curious gritstone pillar that looks rather out-of-place being located where it is, but it has, in fact, been moved in order to facilitate its predicament of being in the way of an airport runway extension; the most recent move being in the early 1980s.  This tall, roughly-hewn stoop stone is actually a boundary stone or guide stone whose base is all that remains of the original stoop from the early part of the 19th Century, which had, at that time, stood at Coney Lodge Farm about a ¼ of a mile to the northeast, but was apparently destroyed by lightning. The ‘Long Stoop’ Stone stands beside what looks to be a mounting block! on the verge of the A658 roundabout at the junction of Victoria Avenue (Harrogate Road) and Warren House Lane at the northwestern perifery of the Leeds & Bradford Airport complex, just to the east of Yeadon.

The original ‘Long Stoop’ Stone which had stood for a few hundred years at Coney Lodge Farm, near Yeadon, was destroyed by lightning around 1836 after which a replacement stoop was erected a ¼ of a mile to the west on the Harrogate Road turnpike     at Crown Point (east side of Yeadon), but in 1983 it was moved once again a short distance to the side of the A658 roundabout when an extension to the airport’s runway was being built. It is a boundary or guide stone and is a tallish, rough-hewn gritstone pillar with a flat top, and is set into a base stone from the original old stoop; but it has been blackened by the chimney smoke from nearby Bradford and Leeds which occurred during the Industrial Revolution. Today, however, it is probably something of an oddity or curiosity to the people in their cars going round the roundabout. See the very excellent ‘Aireborough Historical Society’s’ website, below, for further historical information and old photos.

Sources / References & Related Websites:

Photo by Patrick John Leonard. Thanks mate.

https://www.aireboroughhistoricalsociety.co.uk/yeadon/long-stoop-1900.aspx

https://www.aireboroughhistoricalsociety.co.uk/yeadon/long-stoop-1979.aspx

http://www.leodis.net/display.aspx?resourceIdentifier=20041019_84974307

https://www.geocaching.com/geocache/GC6C6DJ_yeadon-stoop?guid=228e1a7c-5db9-47c4-8ed8-0113448d5e09

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yeadon,_West_Yorkshire

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.


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Ancient Cross St Oswald’s Church, Guiseley, West Yorkshire

Photo credit (see below).

NGR: SE 19415 42151. The 13th to 15th Century parish church of St Oswald King & Martyr on Church Street, Guiseley, West Yorkshire, houses a 9th Century Anglo-Danish cross-shaft with some heavily worn carved decoration on its two faces, although the head, or rather a cross-arm, is obviously from another cross, and    one other fragment. This carved cross-arm shows a strange serpent-like creature which is Danish in design, while the shaft itself has the more typical Saxon cord-work interlacing and is perhaps earlier than the head. The sides of the shaft are now very eroded. There was a church here in the early 12th Century and perhaps even one before that? There is some fine Norman architecture in the south doorway and arcade, and Early English south transept, while the N tower and arcade are 15th Century Perpendicular. St Oswald’s church, which is Grade 1 listed, was extended and modified in the early 20th Century. St Oswald’s Parish Church is located on Church Street, just south of Queensway, at the northeastern side of the west Yorkshire town.

Photo: (see below).

At the west end of the church nave stands a rather blackened and worn cross-shaft set into a chunky stone base, and on top another fragment which is a carved cross-arm from somewhere else, and which together stand at almost 6 feet high; but the arm is obviously from another cross – the main part of that would now seem to be lost. The cross-shaft itself is made-up of fragments of carved stonework from the Anglo Saxon period, which, had earlier been found inside the church where it had been in use as a door lintel,  but did it originally stand out in the churchyard?  The front face, as it stands, has intricate cord-work interlacing formed into a sort of trellis – or, according to W. G. Collingwood, “a scimitile trellis”, and nice cord-work scrolls – although those at the top of the trellis are smaller; or are they spirals? Collingwood said there was a sword through the centre of the trellis. Above that (lower cross-arm) a smaller section of curving cord-work interlacing which is better than that below, and what is probably a line of knots? There is now very worn flat mouldings on the edges. See The Corpus of Anglo Saxon Stone Sculpture’ website, below.

The cross-arm (top) shows a dragon-headed serpent eating its tail. This is probably the ‘Midgard Serpent’ and likely to be 10th Century and Danish. Beneath the serpent is a half circle or archway. The opposite side (against the wall, and not visible) has a panel with similar carvings to the front, but damaged. There is a moulding on the left-hand side (edge). The cross-arm (top) shows a possible animal carving that is damaged. See ‘guiseleywithesholt’ website, below. Also see ‘The Corpus of Anglo Saxon Stone Sculpture’ website, below.

John & Caitlin Matthews (1988) say:Midgard Serpent (N) Also called Jormundgand. The monstrous son of Loki and Angrboda. He grew until his body encircled the earth and he could capture his own tail. Placed in the sea by Odin, he writhed so as to cause tempests. He will only be destroyed by Ragnorok, according to Crossley Holland (1980).  Please         note: (N) Norse.

Robert A Carter (1976) tells us St Oswald’s was: “Extensively restored in the second half of last century and much enlarged in 1910 by Sir Charles Nicholson. Nevertheless it retains Norman and Early English work. The pulpit and a pew in the south chapel with the initials of Sir Walter Calverley on the door are seventeenth century but most of the other Jacobean style woodwork is by Nicholson. Good woodcarving, including the rood beam erected in 1921, by the Italian artist Gulielimo Tosi. Fragments of Anglo Saxon sculpture. Two literary associations: Patrick Bronte married Maria Bramwell here in 1812 and this was the parish church of many ancestors of the American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.”    

Also of interest in the church below the arch (at the side of the entrance) can be found a large stone bearing a consecration cross; there were originally seven of these tiny crosses.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Photos are by Patrick John Leonard. Many thanks Patrick.

Carter, Robert A., A visitor’s guide to Yorkshire Churches, Watmoughs Limited, Idle, Bradford, West Yorkshire, 1976.

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

http://www.ascorpus.ac.uk/catvol8.php?pageNum_urls=91

More info here:  http://guiseleywithesholt.org.uk/our-churches/st-oswalds-church-guiseley/the-guiseley-cross/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Oswald%27s_Church,_Guiseley

https://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/YKS/WRY/Guiseley/PhotoFrames/GuiseleyStOswald

https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=16750

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.

 

  


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Chichen Itza, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, South America

Stepped pyramid of El  Castillo at Chichen Itza. Photo credit: James Stephen Strickland.

‘Temple of the Warriors’ at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, before all the trees were cleared away.

Latitude 20.684285. Longitude -88.567783. In the north of the Yu-catan Peninsula, Mexico, South America, lie the ancient ruins of the Mayan city of ‘Chichen Itza’ (meaning “at the mouth of the well of the Itza”), which is located in Tinúm Municipality (Yucatan State) some 38 kilometers (24 miles) to the west of Valladolid on the 180 road – just to the southeast of the village of Piste. This remarkable, and quite mysterious site, is a large complex of Mayan temples, halls, strange beast sculptures, human-figure statues (there is a reclining stone figure of Chac Mool at the Temple of the Warriors), and also carved walls, and, in the centre of the court-yard is the stepped pyramid of ‘El Castillo’ (also called the ‘Temple of Kukulkan’). The ruined buildings and temples are thought to date from the Pre-Columbian period 550 AD to 1250 AD and to span three historical Mayan periods: Late Classic, Terminal Classic and Post Classic. Today, this much-visited archaeological site, covering four-square miles, comes under the guardian-ship of ‘The National Institute of Anthropology and History’. Chichen Itza was by far the largest of all the Mayan cities. There are antiquities displayed from Chichen Itza in the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City.

Wonders Of The World (1930) says of Chichen Itza: “The city, as it stands to-day, consists of a group of six stone buildings which are more or less intact, and the remains of numerous other stone structures in various states of ruin. All authorities agree that these buildings were the palaces of chiefs and officials, temples for the worship of the Maya gods and religious establishments for the housing of the priestly castes, the abodes of the poorer classes being palm-leaf huts, which have long since disappeared, but which in all probability were built in the same manner as the natives erect them to-day. 

Temple of the Warriors at Chichen Itza, before the restoration work had taken place.

Stepped Pyramid of El Castillo at Chichen Itza. Photo Credit: James Stephen Strickland.

“The Eyes of Jade: The building which is the most magnificent is, to give it its Spanish name, El Castillo. This is a truncated pyramid faced with solid slabs of stone with a building on top. From the ground-level to the top of the building it is over one hundred feet high, while the base lines of the pyramid are round about two hundred feet each. The four sides all but face the four cardinal points, and on each of them is a gigantic stairway leading to the summit. The main entrance to this building is on the northern side, looking towards the sacrificial pool.  The doorway, which has now partly fallen, still bearing traces of its former magnificence.  It is twenty feet wide and the lintel was supported by two pillars carved in the pattern of snakes and ending at their bases with enormous, open-mouthed, flattened heads of these reptiles, the now empty eye-sockets being at one time filled with eyes of polished jade.                                                        

A carved stone serpent (snake). Photo: James Stephen Strickland.

The stone carved animal heads.

“The building was erected for the purpose of a temple, and inside the doorway is the Maya Holy of Holies which was used only for the per-formance of the most sacred rites.  Whether the ghastly sacrificial acts celebrated on the pyramids of Mexico, in honour of the God of War and the Sun Diety, were enacted in this temple is not known, but it would seem probable that those flattened heads of serpents on the platform of the pyramid  served another purpose than that of  an ornamental base for the door-pillars.  If it was a fact that human sacrifices similar to those performed in Mexico were practiced in Yucatan, then it was on the flattened heads of these serpents that the ceremony of tearing the palpitating heart out of the human sacrificial victim’s body was performed by the Maya priests, and the body, scarcely lifeless, was rolled down the side of the pyramid to be sacramentally eaten by the hundreds of worshippers congregated on the plain below.

El Castillo (Temple of Kukulkan). Photo: James Stephen Strickland.

“Home of the Rain God: From the northern base of El Castillo a forest path, showing traces here and there of the remains of a cemented roadway, leads to one of the grimmest pools in the world. It is one of the wells, or cenotes, from which Chichen takes its name. An enormous circular basin, two hundred feet in diameter, its sides drop sheer and perpendicular over one hundred feet to its limestone basin. As you stand adventurously on the brink and, clutching the branch of a tree for safety, gaze over its precipitous edge into the black water seventy feet below, you do not wonder that the ancient Maya saw in its sepia depths the home of their Rain God. In a report sent to Madrid from Yucatan, in 1579, the sacrificial ceremony of throwing human victims into the cenote to appease the wrath of the Rain God in times of drought was described, but for centuries there was nothing to verify this tale. In 1906 the dredging of the bottom of the cenote was commenced, and several human skulls and bones were brought to the surface. On closer examination these human remains proved without exception to be those of females of immature age, and this confirmed once and for all the truth of the early Spanish report.

“To the south-west, one hundred and thirty yards from El Castillo, is what is now known as the Tennis Court. Running north and south are two parallel walls twenty-five feet high, thirty feet thick, two hundred and seventy-four feet long and one hundred and twenty feet apart. The court was used for a ball game of which the ancient Maya were very fond. It was played by teams whose object it was to get a ball made of rubber through a hole in a stone disc jutting out from the upper part of the wall. 

Chichen Itza ‘Wall of the Skulls’. Photo: James Stephen Strickland.

“The Mayas at Play: One of these big stone discs, measuring all but an inch of four feet in diameter, pierced through its eleven and a half inches of thickness with a hole one foot seven inches in diameter, is still in position. The Spanish historian tells us that the ball was bounced from the hips of the players through the ring, and the winning team had the right to take as their prize all the clothes of the spectators. At each end of the court stand the remains of a small temple, and on the eastern wall at the southern end is a building called the Temple of the Tigers, which gets its name from an elaborately carved frieze design of these animals around the wall coping. On the walls of the interior of this building are the most remarkable Maya paintings that have so far been discovered. They depict the scenes of everyday life as it was lived by the Mayas before the coming of the Spaniards, in greens, reds, blues, and yellows. The designs are crude and out of proportion, but much can be gleaned of the life of the past inhabitants of Chichen.

The Nuns House (Casa de las Monjas) at Chichen Itza, Yucatan.

El Caracol or ‘The Observatory’ at Chichen Itza, in Yucatan.

Workers without Tools:  To the south of El Castillo stands a ruined building, known as the Caracol, from a ‘“winding staircase”’ by which the top is reached from the interior. The building is turret-shaped and stands on two terraces one above the other, the lower one measuring two hundred and twenty feet by one hundred and fifty feet. The top of the building was about sixty feet from the ground-level and on it was originally an observation platform, which was, it is believed, used for the study of the heavens and was possibly connected with sun and star worship. Only a short distance from the Caracol is another building which is a fine example of Mayan architecture. It is known as the Casa de las Monjas (‘“Nuns’ House”’), probably on account of its having been set apart for the housing of that body of young maidens who were known to have performed special services in the temples, and whose ultimate fate was in all probability the cenote. It has well withstood the elements for four centuries, and given a good idea of Maya architectural ornamentation.

“The other buildings standing to-day at Chichen Itza are: the Akad-zib (‘“House of Mysterious Writing”’), which gets its name from a series of Mayan hieroglyphics over the doorway; the Chichanchob (‘“Red House”’), in allusion to the remarkable, possibly symbolic, decorations on the interior walls, which take the form of a hand painted in red, which design is, curiously enough, found also in parts of Asia; and a small building close against the Casa de las Monjas.”

There is an article (1952) in the book ‘Gods, Graves, And Scholars’ by Ceram, recalling the expedition to Chichen Itza of Edward Herbert Thompson, the American explorer. The following is a part of that article, in which we are told that: “A full moon was shining down on the jungle. Accompanied only by an Indian guide, the American explorer and archaeologist Edward Herbert Thompson—fifteen hundred years after the Mayas had left their cities and made a break for the country farther north—was riding through the New Empire that they had built for themselves, which had collapsed after the arrival of the Spaniards. He was searching for Chichén Itzá, the largest, most beautiful, mightiest, and most splendid of all Mayan cities. Horses and men had been suffering intense hardships on the trail. Thompson’s head sagged on his breast from fatigue, and each time his horse stumbled he all but fell out of the saddle. Suddenly his guide shouted to him. Thompson woke up with a start. He looked ahead and saw a fairyland.

“Above the dark tree-tops rose a mound, high and steep, and on top of the mound was a temple, bathed in cool moonlight. In the hush of the night it towered over the tree-tops like the Panthenon of some Mayan acropolis. The Indian guide dismounted, unsaddled his horse, and rolled out his blanket for the night’s sleep. Thompson could not tear his fascinated gaze from the great structure………Steep stairs overgrown with grass and bushes, and in part fallen into ruins, led from the base of the mound up to the temple. Thompson was acquainted with this architectural form, which was obviously some kind of pyramid. He was familiar, too, with the function of pyramids as known in Egypt. But this Mayan version was not a tomb, like the pyramids of Gizeh. Externally it rather brought to mind a ziggurat, but to much greater degree than the Babylonian ziggurats it seemed to serve mostly as a stony back providing support for the enormous stairs rising higher and higher, towards the gods of the sun and moon.

“Thompson climbed up the steps. He looked at the ornamentation, the rich reliefs. From the top, almost 96 feet above the jungle, he surveyed the scene. He counted a dozen scattered buildings, half-hidden in shadow, often revealed by nothing more than a gleam of moonlight on stone. This, then, was Chichén-Itzá. From its original status as advance outpost at the beginning of the great trek to the north, it had grown into a shining metropolis, the heart of the New Empire. Again and again during the next few days Thompson climbed on to the old ruins. ‘“I stood upon the roof of this temple one morning,”’ he writes, ‘“just as the first rays of the sun reddened the distant horizon. The morning stillness was profound…..Then the great round sun came up, flaming splendidly, and instantly the whole world sang and hummed. The birds in the trees and the insects on the ground sang a grand Te Deum. Nature herself taught primal man to be a sun-worshipper and man in his heart of hearts still follows the ancient teaching.”’

Sacred Well of Sacrifice or (Cenote) at Chichen Itza, which was dredged by E. H. Thompson.

Ceram (1952) adds that: “In one respect at least, Edward Herbert Thompson was very much the Schliemann of Yucatan, for when he pushed forward to Chichén-Itzá he was staking everything on a book that no one but himself took at all seriously. Schliemann himself could not have acted more credulously. Thompson also brings Layard to mind, for like Layard, who set out on his first expedition with only £60 in his purse and one companion to guide him, he plunged into the depths of the jungle with the most meager backing. And when he ran into difficulties that would have cowed any other man, he reacted with all of Petrie’s stub-bornness. We have seen that when the world was excited by Stephens’s first discoveries, the question was hotly debated whether the Mayas were the descendants of the people of the lost Atlantis, one of the lost tribes of Israel, an offshoot of the primordial American Indian stock, or what not. As a budding archaeologist, Thompson defended the Atlantean theory of Mayan descent in an article published in 1879 in a popular periodical. This was one of his very first ventures into print. The special problem of origins slipped into the background of his critical consciousness, however, when he actually went to Yucatán in 1885. At this time he was twenty-five years old, the youngest man in the American consular service. Once on the spot, he had no time for theory. It was an instinct rather than a considered judgment that drew Thompson to Yucatán. He took a long chance on the validity of Diego de Landa’s reports. In one of the volumes written by the archbishop he discovered the story of the Sacred Well, the cenote of Chichén-Itzá. Basing his account on old Mayan stories, de Landa described how, in times of drought or disaster, processions of priests and common people went to the Sacred Well of Sacrifice to propitiate the angry gods who lived in the depths. The marchers brought offerings with them to appease the diety, including beautiful maidens and captive warrior youths. After solemn ceremonies the maidens, de Landa said, were cast into the well, which was so deep that no victim ever rose to the surface.

“But there was to be more to de Landa’s story.  It was a custom, he said,  to throw in rich offerings after the sacrificial victims—household utensils, ornaments, gold. Thompson had read that ‘“if this land once contained gold, the largest part of it must be in the Well.”’ Generally this description had been dismissed as a quaint old tale with a great deal of rhetorical flourish and little factual basis. But Thompson accepted it as gospel truth, and he was determined to prove the validity of his belief. When he looked down on the Way to the Well of Sacrifice from the pyramid platform, little did he know what toil was to be his before arriving at the goal.” 

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

All the coloured photos are by James Stephen Strickland. Many thanks James. 

Ceram C. W., Gods, Graves, And Scholars — The Story of Archaeology, Victor Gollancz Limited in association with Sidgwick And Jackson Limited, London, 1952.

Wonders Of The World (forward by Sir Philip Gibbs, K.B.E.,) Odhams Press & Hutchinson & Co. (Publishers) Ltd., London, 1930.

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

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

https://www.visitmexico.com/en/main-destinations/yucatan/chichen-itza

https://www.chichenitza.com/

http://www.haciendachichen.com/ruins.htm

More info here: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/06/science/chichen-itza-mexico-mayan.html

http://museu.ms/museum/details/16762/national-museum-of-anthropology

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/world-heritage/chichen-itza/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.