The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


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Stones of Stenness, Orkney Island, Scotland

Stones of Stenness, in Orkney Island, Scotland

NGR: HY 30683 12513. At the far south-western edge of Loch Harray – beside the B9095 (Brodgar road), on the Island of Orkney, Scotland, is the famous henge monument known as ‘Stones of Stenness’ or ‘Ring of Stenness’, which is considered to date from around 3,000 BC – the Neolithic age of prehistory. There used to be twelve tall standing stones forming the circle, but now there are only four (one of these having been damaged and is now only half the size) – the other stones apparently vanished into thin air or, more likely, they were toppled and broken up to be used for building material, though there are outliers close by: one in particular stands beside the road, while close to the centre of the henge there are two smaller stones and one large recumbent, which may have been a cist grave, or a hearth? The four stones are surrounded by a (slight) low bank or fosse and, a rock-cut ditch now filled-in. The thinking was that this monument was either a temple to the sun, a ritualistic place sacred to the Druids, or an astronomical site? Stenness is 5 miles northeast of Stromness, 5 miles west of Finstown and 1 mile southeast of the ‘Ring of Brodgar’, which is another Stone Circle, just to the north of Stenness.

Charles Tate (1999) tells us a lot about the site, saying: “The Standing Stones of Stenness……were originally a circle of 12 stones with a diameter of 30m and now comprises of 4 uprights, the tallest of which is over 5m high. The circle was surrounded by a rock-cut ditch 2m deep, 7m wide and 44m in diameter which has become filled-in over the years. Excavation has revealed a square setting of stones and bedding holes for further uprights, either stone or wooden.

“Remains of domestic animals , including cattle, sheep and dog bones as well as a human finger and sherds of Grooved Ware pottery were found in the ditch. Radiocarbon dating indicates that the circle was constructed about 3000 BC, which is older than many henge monuments further south in Britain.

Tate goes on to add, that: “Nearby, at the Bridge of Brodgar, stands the Watchstone, (HY 305128 – 5.6m). At the Winter solstice the sun sets into a notch in the Hoy Hills as seen from this stone, clearly marking the shortest day. A recent observation suggests that there is an interesting alignment from the Watch Stone at Old New Year – still celebrated in Shetland with Up Helly Aa. At this date at the end of January, the sun disappears behind the Hoy Hills just before sunset and then reappears from the other side, before finally setting into a notch in the skyline.

“This impressive menhir and the Barnhouse Stone (HY312122 – 3.2m), in a field near the main road, as well as the Stone of Odin, which was destroyed in 1814, must have had some connection with the stone circles and Maeshowe. Since so many stones are missing, interpretation of the remaining stones remains problematical. This of course serves to add to the mystery of the purpose of the monuments. Other standing stones at Stoneyhill (HY320158), Howe and Deepdale (HY272118) may also form part of this Neolithic complex.

“The stone destroyed in 1814 was used as lintels by the farmer at Barnhouse, who was incidentally an incomer. Apparently the part with the hole was used as the pivot for a horse mill but was destroyed after World War II. Luckily the selfish farmer was stopped from demolishing the rest of the Standing Stones, but only after he had toppled two more of the menhirs, one of which he broke up. The threat of Court action finally stopped this 19th century vandal, and the fallen stone was re-erected in 1906. Luckily the vast majority of landowners over the millennia have had great respect for our antiquities.

“The Odin Stone had a hole in it through which lovers clasped hands and swore their everlasting love. The Oath of Odin was then said and the contract was binding thereafter. The stone was also credited with healing powers, in association with the well at Bigswell (HY345105) and especially at Beltane and midsummer. Recently the probable sockets of both this stone and another were found between the Standing Stones and the Watch Stone.”

Timothy Darvill (1988) says: “Little now remains of the bank and ditch of this site which was originally 61m in diameter, but a single entrance lies to the north. Four massive stones remain of the ring of 13 slabs that once stood inside the monument. Cists and pits containing burials have been found in the henge, and radiocarbon dates suggest that it was constructed about 2900BC.”

Childe & Simpson (1959) tells us: “The Ring of Stenness is now a flat-topped mound or platform, encircled by a fosse with a bank outside it and traversed by a causeway on the northwest. On the platform four monoliths stand on the circumference of a circle, some 52 feet in diameter.

Stones of Stenness, Orkney Island. An early photo by T. Kent.

J. Gunn (1941) tells us that: “As regards the Standing Stones, a common theory has been that they had some connection with the religion of the Druids, and may have been places of sacrifice. Another theory is that they had some astronomical significance. Neither of those beliefs is now accepted by serious students of archaeology. On the other hand it is certain that such stones are in almost every case associated with graves and burial mounds, and in this connection they seem to have had a religious or ritualistic origin. It is probable that the religion of these circle-builders was some form of sun worship which had spread into Europe from the East. In Scandinavia there are many Bronze Age pictorial rock carvings which point to such a worship, and it has been thought that the practice of cremation, which became so general in Western Europe during that period, was due to new ideas regarding the persistence of the soul after death. In more southerly parts of Britain there is no doubt that fresh immigrations took place during this Bronze Age, but whether Orkney was affected by these to any extent we cannot tell. It may well be that the Stone Circles and Standing Stones were the work of the same racial stock, who had retained the megalithic tradition, and had found fresh forms of expression for it under the compel-ling influence of a new world of thought.” 

Sources / References & Related Websites:

Childe, Gordon & Simpson, Douglas, Ancient Monuments—Scotland—Illustrated Guide, H. M. Stationery Office, Edinburgh, 1959.

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

Gunn, J., Orkney—The Magnetic North, Thomas Nelson And Sons, Ltd., London, 1941.

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

The AA, Illustrated Road Book Of Scotland, The Automobile Association, London, 1963.

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

https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/stones-of-stenness-circle-and-henge/

https://canmore.org.uk/site/2105/stones-of-stenness

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2014/08/neolithic-orkney/

https://www.orkney.com/listings/standing-stones-of-stenness

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.


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The Triskele Stone, St Michael’s Church, Iselgate, Cumbria

The Triskele Stone from photo at St. Michael’s church.

NGR: NY 16240 33314. The Church of St Michael at Iselgate, half a mile southeast of Isel village, in the Derwent Valley, Cumbria, used to house the famous ‘Triskele Stone’, a Celtic symbol of motion, but sadly it was stolen from this 12th Century Norman church in 1986. Only a photo survives. However, there are still two large fragments of an Anglo-Saxon cross-shaft. The Triskele is a pre-Christian symbol or motif consisting of a three-armed carving similar to the Manx symbol (Three Legs of Man) which might represent the Holy Trinity? although the symbol goes back thousands of years to the Neolithic, and was used in ancient Greece; this particular stone, however, had Viking origins, being associated with the Norse gods, Thor and Odin. The stone also had carvings of a sun-snake and a four-armed swastika (or fylfot – the symbol of Freya). The hamlet of Iselgate is a few miles northeast of Cockermouth, whilst St Michael & All Angels’ Church is just off Blindcrake Lane – beside the river Derwent, not far from Isel Hall.

Stanley Kingsnorth (1984) in a magazine article tells us a lot about the Triskele Stone, saying: “The Triskele Stone came to light in 1812 when the bridge of 1691 spanning the river Derwent was rebuilt.” Mr Kingsnorth continues, saying it: “takes its name from the three-limbed design which appears on two faces, a variation of this sign is well known to us as the three-legs of Man. This strangely sculptured stone, now placed in front of one of the chancel windows, is about twelve inches high and has been closely studied by scholars. It is described in some detail by the Rev. W. S. Calverley, a former vicar of Aspatria in his paper presented to the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archeology Society in 1885. 

“Each of the four faces of the stone shows designs in relief, those in the upper panels being different on each side, while the lower panel of all sides displays the “‘Sun-Snake”′ sign resembling a double ended hook on its side, which is to be found in the relics of many early cultures. Three of the upper panels depict the emblems of the principal pagan Norse gods. The symbol for Thor is the thunderbolt or hammer device and appears in strong relief on one face. Another side is adorned with an unsymmetrical triskele sign with two limbs to the left and one to the right and which is attributed to Odin, or in the alternative spelling, Woden. 

“On the third face a four-armed swastika appears, being the symbol of Freya the god of fertility and peace, while the re-maining side shows a balanced triskele having all three arms turning to the right, that is, with the sun. This sign is held to represent the Trinity of the Christian faith, and is the most significant dedication if the stone is, as so many suppose, part   of an early stone cross which stood on the site..”  

Stanley Kingsnorth goes on to add: “The other two stones now to be found near the south door are clearly fragments of the main shaft of a pre-Norman cross probably of a later date than the Triskele Stone. They were discovered in the walls of the church during the major restoration which took place just over 100 years ago. One is worked in relief on two sides and the other on all four faces with a variety of spirals and whorls, typical Christian designs of the Celtic post-Roman period. But again the pagan influence has persisted, as at the bottom of the fully patterned stone there is a boldly carved broad arrow or spearhead pointing downward. In his study of 1889, Calverley identified this as the sacred emblem of Woden as descri-bed in the old Norse sagas, where the unfortunate sacrifice has his breast marked with the point of a spear and is offered to Woden, after which he is hanged.

“In heathen ritual, the gallows was in the form of a cross, usually of ash, so it can easily be understood how the Cross of Christ and the symbolic ash cross of the Nordic peoples came to have an over-lapping meaning to the diverse inhabitants of this remote area during the confused and changing times between the withdrawal of the Roman legions and the arrival of the Normans. 

Lawrence E. Jones & Roy Tricker (1992)  say that Isel church has: “A perfect setting by the river Derwent for St Michael’s small and simple towerless church. (The nearby hall is much more spectacular, and has a pele tower). It is a Norman church of c1130 (with a fine chancel arch), but there are three Saxon stones with very interesting carvings, including a swastika and a triskele, also Saxon cross fragments. One 15th century chancel window has three Mass-dials carved in          its stonework.”

Arthur Mee (1961) tells us: “The church was chiefly built by the Normans, and has still their doorway, their chancel arch, and several of their little windows. Another window pierced in the 15th century has three sundials on it. There are two stones carved before the Normans came, and one being part of a 10th-century cross and the other having the rare three-armed symbol called the triskele, one of the earliest devices found on Christian monuments.” 

Sources / References & Related Websites: 

Jones, Lawrence E. & Tricker, Roy, County Guide To English Churches, Countryside Books, Newbury, Berkshire, 1992.

Kingsnorth, Stanley, Storied Stones At Isel — A Visit to St. Michael’s Church, (Magazine Article in Cumbria – Lake District Life, May, 1984), The Dalesman Publishing Co. Ltd., Clapham, Lancaster.

Mee, Arthur, The Kings England — Arthur Mee’s Lake Counties — Cumberland And Westmorland,  Hodder And Stoughton Limited, London, 1961.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Michael%27s_Church,_Isel

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

https://www.explorechurches.org/church/st-michael-all-angels-isel

https://www.ancient-symbols.com/symbols-directory/triskele.

Check this out: https://mythologian.net/triskelion-triskele-symbol-celtic-spiral-knot-meaning/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.

 


St Columba’s House, Kells, Co. Meath, Southern Ireland

Irish Grid Reference:- N 73908 75963. At the side of Church Lane, opposite the monastic site, in the town of Kells (Ceanannas Mór), Co. Meath, Southern Ireland, there is a curious little ecclesiastical building that is called ‘St Columba’s House’ or ‘the House of Columcille’ (Teach Naomh Cholumba), which dates back to the 9th-11th Centuries AD, although its sloping roof was probably rebuilt in more recent times. The chapel/oratory was probably built by one of the abbots. Traditionally, it was here that the famous illuminated gospels known as ‘The Book of Kells’ was written by a monk from St Columba’s Abbey in 800 AD and, the body of the Irish saint, may have been housed in this very building (or one before it) after being brought from Iona in Western Scotland in the late 9th Century. The monastic enclosure and graveyard on the other side of Church Lane has a 100 foot-high round-tower, and three sculptured Celtic high crosses, of the early Medieval period; and the Market Cross in the market square. Legend attributes the founding of the abbey at Kells to St Columcille (550 AD), although there has always been some uncertainty about that. 

St. Columba’s House, Kells, in Co. Meath, by Peter F. Anson

Peter F. Anson (1952) tells us about St. Columba’s House, saying that: “It is quite possible that in this curious little building with an upper chamber hidden away above the barrel vaulting of its roof, was written the famous Book of Kells, the great treasure of the library of Trinity College, Dublin. Who wrote this and illuminated this most perfect expression of Christian art which has survived the centuries of war and strife in Ireland ? Tradition has it that the artist was an unknown monk of the abbey of Kells, in Meath. Anyhow, whoever he was he must have been one of the greatest book illustrators and masters of penmanship the world has ever known, and for this reason I had always wanted to make a pilgrimage to Kells. When this marvelous work of art was being produced in what is now no more than a sleepy little country town, ‘London was a haunted Roman ruin on a hill with the brambles over London Wall and the camp fires of the East Angles shining on the marsh beyond the city which they were afraid to enter,’ writes Mr. H. V. Morton, ‘Paris was a desolation and the sun was setting over Rome.’ But Ireland, thanks to her isolation, remained a stronghold of learning and culture. What is left to-day of the ancient glories of Kells? There is this little building, known as St. Columba’s House, a dreary neglected churchyard containing some magnificent Celtic crosses, and that is all.”

The Wikipedia website says: ‘St. Columb’s House is today thought to mostly date from the 10th century. It is named after Columba (Colm Cille), whose relics it may once have housed. The roof was modified at a later date. The house was used by monks to say the Liturgy of the Hours, or possibly as a shrine church or burial place of an abbot. It once contained a large flat stone called “St Columb’s Bed”, possibly a grave slab. His relics were brought to Kells in 878, and moved to Skryne Church later before finally going to Downpatrick, according to Wikipedia. See Link, below.

Katharine Scherman (1981) says regarding the Book of Kells that: “Argument, often stormy, surrounds the history of the Book of Kells, there being strong claimants for its generation in Ireland, Iona, Lindisfarne or other insular foundations of Irish origin and mixed personnel. The answer will probably never be known, though some experts reason that evidence favours its inception at Iona in the late eighth century and subsequent removal to Kells, where it was completed in the first quarter of the ninth century.

“In 795 Iona was pillaged by Norse raiders; in 801-802 they came again and burned the monastery to the ground; returning in 806 they murdered sixty-eight monks….. In 807 the abbot, Cellach, with the remaining monks, moved to Ireland taking with them the bones and other relics of St Columba and whatever valuables they had managed to hide from the ravag-ers—among them, presumably, the unfinished manuscript. They went to the site of one of Columba’s monasteries at Kells, County Meath, and built there a new monastery, to be the headquarters of the league of Columban houses.

“Kells, being inland, was considered safe from the marauders, who, in the early years, limited their invasions to hit-and-run assaults on the monasteries immediately accessible by sea. But Kells was struck the year after its founding and its church destroyed. A new church was completed in 814 and the monastic village, probably fortified, succeeded in fending   off subsequent attackers. Undoubtedly, also, successive abbots paid tribute for the privilege of being left alone. At any rate, the monastery of Kells had years of peace in the early ninth century — time enough for the production of the great book. For the creation of such a complex, profound and subtle work of art is a luxury that presupposes a number of conditions: security from outward disturbance; wealth to afford the years of dedicated specialization of a corps of scribes and painters; a scholarly intimacy with the Christian thought of the time; and a large library of books from abroad, which, being rare, would take years to accumulate. The scriptorium at Kells, fortunate in its relative tranquillity, could meet these conditions and finish — though it was never absolutely finished — the work that had begun at Iona. But the monastery was not permanently inviolate. The Norse sacked it in 919, 950 and 969, and in the following century it was raided repeatedly by the Irish themselves. In 1170 it was burned to the ground by the Anglo-Normans at the instigation of their Irish ally, Diarmait Mac Murrough.

“Despite the brutal history of Kells, the manuscript survived almost intact. In 1006 it was stolen, and turned up two and a half months later buried “under a sod” with the gold of its wood-and-metal cover wrenched off. The inside pages were unscathed, though some missing leaves at the beginning and the end may have been torn off at this time.

Andrew Jones (2002) tells us that: “The first probable record of the existence of the Book of Kells is an account of the theft of ‘the great Gospel of Columkille, the chief relic of the western world’ from the great stone church of Kells in the year 1007. The book was found buried in the ground almost three months later, and presumably remained at Kells until it was brought to Dublin and presented to Trinity College by Henry Jones, Bishop of Meath, some time after the year 1661. It has been in the College Library ever since as its greatest treasure.”

Greenwood, Connolly, Hawkins & Wallis (1999) tell us a lot about the Kells monastic site, saying that: “The Round Tower in the churchyard is known to have been here before 1076, for in that year Murchadh Mac Flainn. who was claiming the High Kingship, was murdered within the tower. It’s a little under 100ft high, with five windows near the top, and missing only its roof.

“Near the tower is the South High Cross, the best and probably the oldest of the crosses at Kells, carved as ever with scenes from the Bible. Here you’ll see, on the south face, Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel; then the three children in the fiery furnace; then Daniel in the lions’ den. On the left arm of the wheel Abraham is about to sacrifice Isaac, and on the right are SS. Paul and Anthony in the desert; at the top is David with his harp and the miracle of the loaves and fishes. There are two other complete crosses in the churchyard, and the stem of a fourth (behind the church back-entrance door) with the inscription Oroit do Artgal, A prayer for Artgal. This has several identifiable panels. The near side shows the baptism of Christ, the marriage feast at Cana, David with his harp again, the presentation in the Temple, and others to worn to make out. On the other side are a self-conscious Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, and others hard to identify accurately. There are sculptured stones embedded in the walls of the bell tower.

“In the central market square there’s another fine high cross, discoloured by traffic fumes, said to have been placed here by Jonathan Swift. In 1798 it served as the gallows from which local rebels were hanged. Yet again, it is liberally festooned with fine stone carving. The base shows horsemen and animals in a battle scene; on the west face are the adoration of the Magi, the marriage at Cana and the miracle of the loaves and fishes, all surrounding the Crucifixion in the centre of the wheel; on the east are Christ in the tomb, Goliath, Adam and Eve, and Cain and Abel, with Daniel in the lions’ den occupying centre stage.”

Sources and related websites:-

Anson F., The Pilgrim’s Sketch Books — No. 4 — An Irish Pilgrimage, Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., London, 1932.

Greenwood, Margaret, Connolly, Mark, Hawkins, Hilda & Wallis, Geoff, Ireland — The Rough Guide, Rough Guides Ltd., London, 1999.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Columb%27s_House

Jones, Andrew, Every Pilgrim’s Guide To Celtic Britain And Ireland, Canterbury Press, Norwich, 2002.

Scherman, Katharine, The Flowering of Ireland — Saints, Scholars & Kings, Victor Gollancz Ltd., London, 1981.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Columb%27s_House#/media/File:St._Columb’s_House,_Kells_2018-07-24_

http://www.megalithicireland.com/Kells%20Monastery,%20Meath.html

http://irelandsholywells.blogspot.com/2013/06/saint-columbas-well-kells-county-meath.html

http://www.heritagetowns.com/kellslarge1.shtml

http://www.archaeologicalconsultancyservices.com/index.php/archaeological-consultancy-services-blog/47-archaeologist-from-acs-ireland-at-st-colmcilles-house-kells-co-meath

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.

 

 

 


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Halangy Down Ancient Village, St Mary’s, Scilly Isles

Halangy Down Ancient Village, St Mary’s, Scilly Isles (photo: F. Gibson).

NGR: SV 90983 12379. The ancient village/settlement of Halangy Down is situated about 1 mile north of Hugh Town on St Mary’s Island, in the Scilly Isles, and is close to the sea-shore between Toll’s Porth and Halangy Point; it is just a little down the slope from Bant’s Carn Burial Chamber, while a bit further to the south is the golf course at Carn Morval from which there are quite exceptional panoramic views of all the Scilly Islands. This ancient site was probably occupied originally in the Bronze Age, but the village itself was established in the late Iron Age and, continued to be occupied through the Roman period, and on into the Romano-British period. There are some well-preserved remains of a complex of buildings including circular huts, inter-connected structures, courtyards and stone drains, all of which seem to be well looked after. To get to St Mary’s take the ferry-boat from Penzance, Cornwall. It’s then a case of walking the footpaths and road (northwards) at the western side of the island from Hugh Town, keeping to the coastline, and passing Porthmellon, Porthloo, Seaways, the golf course, and Toll’s Porth, to reach Halangy Ancient Village.

Circular hut at Halangy Down Ancient Village, St Mary’s. (F. Gibson).

F. Gibson tells us quite a bit about this site, saying: “There is an extensive complex of stone built huts here, developed and modified during the course of some half-millennium. A courtyard house is the uppermost, with buildings lower down which were all inter-connected. A system of stone drains led under the main entrance of the house and beneath the courtyard. It is probable that both the house and the courtyard were roofed; roofing spars supported in the middle by posts would have supported a thatch of reeds or straw, held in position by straw ropes weighted down by boulders. During excavation a number of quartz implements were found; they were crude choppers, rounded blocks, rough scrapers and axe-like points. There were also a wide range of heavy tools and equipment made from the local granite, as well as numerous querns of the saddle, bowl and rotary types.

“The earliest inhabitants are considered to have arrived about 2000 B.C. and they sought sustenance from the sea. Shellfish were collected, and fish, birds and mammals were caught; whilst at the same time the land was not neglected, cereals being brought to the islands, where clearances were made to grow them. It would seem from the middens however that limpets were the main source of protein in their diet.” 

Gibson also adds that: “Evidence of the Roman period can be found in the islands. Ancient villages of this period are at Halangy Down on St Mary’s and on Nornour. The site at Halangy is on the higher slopes of a much larger settlement which reaches down to the Porth. The lower slopes were probably abandoned on encroachment of the sea. The people who lived there were growing grain, keeping cattle, pigs and sheep; and eating fishand limpets in vast quantities. From evidence of finds the economy appeared well adjusted to island life.”

Timothy Darvill (1988) with regard to Bant’s Cairn on St Mary’s, tells us that: “Nearby are the foundations of round and oval houses of a small Iron Age and Romano-British village.” Lord Harlech (1970) tells us much the same as Timothy Darvill (1988) apart from saying it……“was occupied in the middle of the Roman period.”

Nearby, just up the slope, at NGR: SV 90994 12302 is ‘Bant’s Carn Burial Chamber’, a Bronze Age tomb dating from around 2000 BC. There are four large capstones resting above a rectangular chamber with an entrance leading into it, and there is an inner and an outer wall of large slab-stones; the whole structure with its grassy mound being quite well-preserved. Close-by is a small section of ancient field terraces which were begun in the Bronze Age but, later, in the Iron Age and Romano-British periods – these field systems were obviously re-used by the occupiers of the Halangy Down Ancient Village.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Darvill, Timothy, AA Glove Box Guide — Ancient Britain, Publishing Division of the Automobile Association, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 1988.

Gibson, F., Visitors companion to the Isles Of Scilly, (publisher unknown, and date unknown).

Harlech, Lord (the late), Southern England — Illustrated Regional Guide to Ancient Monuments No. 2, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1970.

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

https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/bants-carn-burial-chamber-and-halangy-down-ancient-village/history/

https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=6333313

https://www.citizan.org.uk/interactive-coastal-map/#zoom=10&lat=6435646.73888&lon=-700072.42535&layers=B00000TF

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/antiquaries-journal/article/excavation-of-a-homestead-of-the-roman-era-at-halangy-down-st-marys-isles-of-scilly-1950/4676994F35C2F26A377B817179CFED2F

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.


The Old Man of Gugh Standing Stone, Isle of Gugh, Scilly Islands

The Old Man of Gugh Standing Stone (by F. Gibson).

NGR: SV 8904 0848. At the east side of the little Island of Gugh (below Kittern Hill, south-east side) which is connected by a sand bar (tombolo) to the larger St Agnes Island, in the Scilly Islands, is a tall granite standing stone (menhir) called ‘The Old Man of Gugh’, that is thought to date from the Bronze Age. This odd-shaped pillar stone is 9 foot high and is slender and jagged, and leans at an angle towards the east. It is aparently ‘the only’ standing stone in the Scilly Islands, but there are 17 other prehistoric monuments close by, on Kittern Hill, including ‘Obadiah’s Barrow’. The standing stone was first recorded in 1756, but it was not excavated until the beginning of the 1900s at which time nothing much was found. Coming over from Penzance, Cornwall, one is able to reach the Island of Gugh, firstly, by ferry-boat to St Mary’s, the main island of the Scillies, and then the local boat service must be availed of to get you to St Agnes Island, and then [“at low tide”] walk along the sand/shingle bar to the Isle of Gugh, following the main footpath across the island, to reach the standing stone, at the east side, close to the sea cliffs.

F. Gibson tell us that: “Gugh has many Megalithic remains. Unfortunately none are cared for by the Ministry of the Envi-ronment, as on St. Mary’s, but they can be seen amongst the bramble and bracken…….. In the centre of the island is a single stone monolith, considered to have been placed there in the Bronze Age. It is about nine feet high. This is the Old Man of Gugh. It is an interesting fact that this monument stands on the southernmost point of the British Isles, and that a similar stone stands on the most northern point in the Shetland Isles.”

Dixe Wills (2018) says with regard to the sea-birds nesting on the island’s cliffs and their angry calls, that ……“you can strike up an altogether less frenzied acquaintance with the Old Man of Gugh, a 9ft-high leaning menhir (or standing stone). Etched with long grooves and placed here sometime during the Bronze Age, he may have served as a memorial or merely as a territorial marker. Apparently, there are over a dozen ley lines radiating from the Old Man, but when the ground around the stone was excavated no further clues were found.” 

Wills goes on to say that: “A walk around the island is like a trip in a broken time machine, hunting its occupants backwards and forwards apparently at random. Head towards the heather-strewn hillock at the southern end of Gugh and you’ll come upon the Carn of Works Civil War Battery. Built by Cavalier troops to hold two guns that would defend the southern approaches to the Isles of Scilly, the battery’s designers appear to have pressed an ancient entrance grave within its walls into use as a magazine, which one would have thought was an act of sacrilege. Perhaps such matters matter less in times of war.” 

The Historic England monument list no. is: 1014791.

Sources / References & related websites:

Gibson, F., Visitors companion to the Isles Of Scilly, (publisher not known, and un-dated).

Wills, Dixe, Tiny Islands — 60 Remarkable Little Worlds Around Britain, AA Publishing, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 2018.

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1014791

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

https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=6333302

http://www.cornwallinfocus.co.uk/history/ancientsites.php?r=IO

http://scillypedia.co.uk/PhotoOldManGughl.htm

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.

 


Celtic Cross, Lanherne (St Mawgan-in-Pydar), Cornwall

NGR SW 87219 65926. Standing between the churchyard of St Mauganus & St Nicholas’ Church and the convent garden at Lan-herne or Lannhorne, in the village of St Mawgan-in-Pydar, near Newquay, Cornwall, is a Celtic wayside cross, which is thought to date from the 10th or 11th Century AD. It is a wheel-headed or four-holed cross with a tapering shaft, a carving of Christ, curious inscriptions in ancient lettering similar to the runic-type, and carved decoration. The carvings on the opposite side are very faint. There is a five-boss cross on the head and another inscription at the bottom. However, the cross is not in its original setting, as it used to be located at Roseworthy, 20 miles to the north. The convent of Lanherne, just opposite the church was a manor house built in Elizabethian times, but Carmelite nuns from Belgium moved in in 1794; today it is still home to the Fran-ciscan sisters. St Maugan’s Church stands on the site of a 5th-6th Century Celtic monastery, founded by an Irish saint who came here from south-west Wales! The saint’s holy well can be found near the lych-gate, and there is a 15th Century lantern cross in the churchyard.

The Lanherne Celtic cross.

The Cross of Lanherne is located in ‘a peaceful setting’ at the northeastern side of the convent garden, close by the churchyard. It is just under 5 foot high and is made from a single lump of stone from Pentewan in Cornwall. The SW face: (head) shows in high relief a delicately carved figure of Christ crucified with arms outstretched (forming the actual cross-head but leaving holes visible), his longish body and legs, and with his feet resting upon some outstandingly beautiful Celtic two-cord plaitwork (banding) and three-cord plaitwork – all intertwining (with flat cord-knots at intervals) in a sort of ‘zig-zag’ fashion. Below that a large panel of ancient-style lettering similar, perhaps, to Scandinavian runic letters, which might spell out a personal name? While the opposite side: NE face (head) has a simple rounded cross with five tiny bosses forming the actual head, with the holes left showing, and below that, but now very faint a longer in length area of cord-plaitwork intertwining and twisting in and out in a ‘zig-zag’ fashion with flat-cord knots and, at the bottom, a small panel of ancient lettering similar to that on the main face. The edges of the cross have more cord-plait banding, interlacing and knotwork.

The Historic England Monument List No is: 1020866. See the Link, below. 

Sources / references & related websites:

The AA, The Illustrated Road Book Of England & Wales, The Automobile Association, London, 1961.

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1020866

https://www.megalithic.co.uk/modules.php?op=modload&name=a312&file=index&do=showpic&pid=100139

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

https://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/CON/MawganinPydar

http://www.friendsoflanherne.org/p/the-sisters-at-lanherne.html

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.

 


Marrick Priory, Swaledale, North Yorkshire

Old Plan of Marrick Priory, Richmondshire, Yorkshire (c.1590).

NGR: SE 06686 97759. About 1 mile southwest of Marrick village, on the north bank of the river, in Swaledale (formerly Richmondshire), North Yorkshire, are the now ‘very scanty’ ruins of Marrick Priory, a 12th Century house of Benedictine nuns that was founded by Roger de Aske and, dedicated to St Andrew & St Mary the Virgin. The religious buildings, or what’s left of them, are now incorporated into more modern buildings that are an Outdoor Education and Resi-dential Centre for young people. The former priory church (St Andrew’s) has largely survived and was still in use up until 1948 as the parish church, though the tower was rebuilt in the early 19th Century, and the rest of the building much renovated more recently. One is still able to see the fragmentary remains of some of the monastic buildings in particular the cloister and chancel and fishponds. The priory ruins are on [private land] but you can view them from the lane: by heading southeast from Reeth via Fremington and Grinton on the B6270, or southwest from Marrick via the 375 nuns’ stone steps (causeway) down through the woods, and then onto Sikelands Lane.

Marie Hartley & Joan Ingilby (1963) tell us that: “The Priory of St Andrew, a house for Benedictine nuns, was founded c. 1154 by Roger Aske, who endowed it with a hundred acres of land and the advowson of the parish church of Marrick. Other gifts of land here and elsewhere followed. Bear Park in Wensleydale was their most valuable property. Although one of the smaller houses exempted from suppression, it was surrendered 17 November 1540; it then had a prioress and twelve nuns, and the gross annual value was £48 18s. 2d.

“The parish CHURCH is still there, and recently the interior has been renovated and altered for an Outward Bound centre for young people. The tower was pulled down and rebuilt in 1811, and old arches were used to form a chancel arch. A chapel of ease in Marrick village, formerly a Roman Catholic church, bought in 1893, has replaced it. Some of the priory buildings are incorporated in the farmhouse; other remains may be picked out amongst the farm buildings, and the ruins of the old chancel, swathed in ivy, stand at the E. end of the church. Note: fishponds between house and river.”

Frank Botttomley (1981) has the following entry information for Marrick, Yorkshire North Riding c1155-1540. “Large P (CN, possibly BN) with dependent H at Rerecross. Some remains cannibalized by C19 church, ruins of chapel in situ, incorp-orated in new secular building.”  Key: P – priory, CN – Cistercian nuns, BN – Benedictine nuns, H – house.

Frank Bottomley adds regarding Benedictine priories, that: “Their chaplains may have been Benedictine priests but some of the older nunneries were provided with secular chaplains with prebends in the monastic estates. Such benefices generally became the perquisites of royal clerks who provided vicars for the nunneries.”

The following information is from the Genuki Website: “The Church (St. Andrew) occupies a portion of the site, and seems also to have served for the conventual chapel as well as the parish church. The old structure having become much dilapidated, the greater part of it was taken down in the early part of this century, and the present small church built on its site, mixed with parts of the old fabric. It consists of a nave, with north aisle, chancel, and the ancient tower, In the latter are three bells, one of which dates from old Catholic times, and bears the invocation in Latin, “St. Peter, Pray for us.” The chancel was restored and improved in 1885, at the expense of the impropriator. A few ancient tombstones remain. On the chancel floor, cut in relief, are the arms and sword of Sir Roger de Aske; and near the door are the places from which some vandal hand has torn the funeral brasses of the founder and his wife. In the nave is a slab, which a Latin inscription, in Old English characters, tells us covers the remains of Isabella, one of the nuns of the priory, and sister of Thomas de Pudsay, of Barforth; and on another, forming part of the step of the altar rail, are an incised cross, with chalice, book, a square object charged with a quartrefoil, and another object, apparently a pax. Against the wall is a tablet to the memory of Mr. Thomas Fawcett, of Oxque, in this parish, who died in 1783. He was, the inscription tells us, “a celebrated cultivator of bees, for which he received many testimonies from the Society in London for the encouragement of Arts and Sciences.” See Genuki – UK & Ireland Genealogy Website Link, below.

The Yorkshire Dales Official Guide says that: “The Priory has a most delightful situation a short distance from the river, and was founded in King Stephen’s reign by Roger de Aske. Built into the shell of the Priory is a two-storey structure to provide hostel-type accommodation for youth organisations as a kind of spiritual Outward Bound Centre. A refectory, quiet room, chapel and two dormitories provide accommodation for 35 young people of both sexes.”

Sources / References and related websites:

Bottomley, Frank, The Abbey Explorer’s Guide, Kaye & Ward, London, 1981.

Genuki Website:  https://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/YKS/NRY/Marrick/Marrick90                                         

Hartley, Marie & Ingilby, Joan, The Yorkshire Dales, J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd., London, 1963.

The Yorkshire Dales Official Guide, (Compiled by: Eric Lodge F.R.G.S.), The Yorkshire Dales Tourist Association, Burnsall, Skipton.

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

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1012182

https://library.leeds.ac.uk/special-collections/collection/6

Click on:   https://marrickpriory.co.uk/history/

Click on:   https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Marrick_Priory_-_geograph.org.uk_-_142879.jpg

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.