The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland

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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 (

Stoney Littleton long barrow, Wellow, Bath and North East Somerset (

Stoney Littleton Long Barrow – Wikipedia

Stoney Littleton Long Barrow (Archeological site) •

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 (

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

Llanfoist (

| News | Abergavenny Chronicle

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

Saint Faith – Wikipedia

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

















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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.

More here:

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.

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


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):,_1879).png,-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.













Bryn Celli Ddu Passage Grave, Llanddaniel Fab, Anglesey, Wales

Plan of Bryn Celli Ddu, near Llanddaniel Fab, Anglesey, Wales.

Bryn Celli Ddu, near Llanddaniel Fab, Anglesey, and the entrance (portal).

NGR:- SH 50764 70187. One of the finest and best-preserved of the Neo-lithic monuments on Anglesey is the Bryn Celli Ddu passage grave  or chambered cairn, which is situated in a field ¾ of a mile to the southeast of Llanddaniel Fab. The monument is  recognisable with its truncated circular grassy mound and stone-built entrance (portal) at the E side leading into a roofed passageway and then into two polygonal burial chambers near the centre of the structure. The ritual pillar stone in the chamber is a replica and a stone in the walling has rock-art. The burial mound was excavated between 1925-29 at which time evidence of cremations were found in the chambers and elsewhere. At the base of the mound a circle of stones forming the kerb, while outside in the forecourt a standing stone with incised decoration; the outer ditch was possibly a henge and may predate the mound. Two cremation pits visible at front of the entrance, and at the side two hearths. To reach the site head SE from Llandanniel Fab towards Llanedwen, then after ½ a mile go left on the footpath NE and E to the monument, or from the A4080 head W on the footpath.

Bryn Celli Ddu, Anglesey, and a close-up of the entrance.

Passage-way into the burial chambers.

Bryn Celli Ddu’s burial mound measures 26 metres (85 feet 3″) in diameter and is formed out of a supporting revetment of large stones at its base, while the stone roofed passageway is 7.5 metres (26 ft 6″) in length and the inner chamber is 2.5 metres (8 ft 2″) in width. The total measurements of the mound across including the outer, partly buried ditch, are roughly 19 metres (62 ft- 0° deg) by 20 metres (65 ft – 279° deg). There is a circle of fourteen stones in front of the mound at the centre of which a pit is covered-over by a recumbent slab-stone; beside this pit is the decorated standing stone. The outer ditch, which was possibly an earlier henge, is partly buried and filled. Five stones standing at the front of the entrance mark where there were originally five socket-holes for stones, while just behind these the pit that had contained the skeleton of an ox.

Jacquetta Hawkes (1975) tells us that: “The imposing tomb is the finest representative in England and Wales of a type of monument well known in Ireland and Scotland, in which a large polygonal chamber is approached along a much narrower passage, the whole being covered by a round cairn or mound. Bryn Celli lies near a farm road just south of Llanddaniel Fab; since its excavation and restoration it has been protected by a Department of the Environment railing, and the key must be fetched from the farmhouse. As now restored a passage and chamber built of large uprights with drystone fillings are covered by a mound with a kerb of quite large stones. Inside the chamber is a pillar stone, almost perfectly circular in cross-section and with an artificially smoothed surface; a monolith of this form and in this position can be assumed to have had a phallic significance. Another most unusual feature is a stone now standing upright immediately beyond the end of the chamber at a point which would originally have been at the centre of the mound. This slab, which the excavator found prone above a ritual pit containing burnt bones, is covered with an incised design of wavy lines and spirals which meander over both faces and the narrow upper edge. The pattern makes one think of the magical maps of the journeyings of the spirit before birth, drawn by some aboriginal Australian tribes. There are many other details to see, but I have described enough to suggest the fascination and importance of Bryn-Celli-Ddu and the hints concerning the religious beliefs and ritual practices of its builders with which it tantalizes us.        

Harold Priestley (1976) says: “This is one of the rare examples of a passage grave under a circular mound, originally 160 ft (48.8 m) in diameter, but now little more than half that. The polygonal chamber almost at the centre of the mound is entered from a forecourt by means of a passage. The mound is ringed by a circle of large stones which at one time were buried under it.  Bryn Celli Ddu contained the only other stone in Britain besides Barclodiad y gawres on which were Neolithic designs. This is now in the National Museum of Wales at Cardiff and a plaster cast has been put in its place.  Some skeletons were found when the chamber was opened many years ago and the remains of fires and an ox burial were discovered in the forecourt.”  

Barber & Williams (1989) say regarding the prehistoric markings on stones at this site: “It is not surprising that the finest examples of these kind of markings are those that can be seen on the inside of a dolmen or burial barrow and have consequently been well protected from the elements. The finest example in Wales of such markings is inside dolmen called Bryn Celli Ddu, which is situated in the parish of Llandaniel Fab, Anglesey. The earliest book reference to Bryn Celli Ddu is in Archaeologia Cambria (1847), which is the first page of the old and well respected Welsh archaeo-logical journal. This and later yearly editions up to 1985 have a great deal of information, with plans and photographs relating to the site. An earlier reference, however, of little consequence can be found in The Journeys of Sir Richard Colt Hoare Through Wales and England (1793-1810), where it is mentioned as a carnedd overgrown.

“There are varying descriptions and photographs of the markings at Bryn Celli Ddu, which are formed by incised lines about ¼-inch deep and are considered to have been made by a pointed tool. One of the markings is an incised spiral on a pillar stone about 5 feet high which stands inside the chamber and some of the illustrations show other curious snake-like spirals. There has been no valid attempt at explaining the meaning of these markings, which are similar in form to those found at the ancient stone monument at New Grange in Meath, Ireland…..known as the Cave of the Sun.”

Bryn Celli Ddu is in the care of Cadw. Before setting out to visit the ancient monument, please check the Cadw website, as it may be closed due to the Covid-19 restrictions and also National guidelines.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Barber, Chris & Williams, John Godfrey, The Ancient Stones of Wales, Blorenge Books, Abergavenny, Gwent, 1989.

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

Priestley, Harold, The Observer’s Book of Ancient & Roman Britain, Frederick Warne & Co Ltd., London, England, 1976.

Wood, Eric S., Collins Field Guide To Archaeology,  Collins, St James’s Place, London, 1968.

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

Ancient Cross-shafts in Dunblane Cathedral, Perthshire, Scotland

NGR:- NN 78149 01389. Dunblane Cathedral is situated on Kirk Street at the western side of the town, which is in Perthshire, Scotland. The cathedral occupies the site of a Celtic monastery that was founded in the 6th Century AD by St Blane. The saint is said to have been born on the Isle of Bute in 530 AD where he became a monk at a monastery founded by his uncle, St Cathan, though his parents were from Ireland, and Blane may have been educated over in Ireland by St Comgall. He was eventually made Bishop of the Picts at Kingarth. His death was recorded as being in 590 AD. The Cathedral was founded in 1141 by David, King of Scotland, but much of the architecture is 13th Century. In the nave are two cross-shafts that date from the 9th-10th Centuries AD; they were found during restoration of the building in the 1870s; the highly-sculptured carvings on the taller shaft are Pictish in origin but Christianized with a very nice carved cross – whereas the smaller shaft is thought to be from a broken cross-shaft. Before visiting the Cathedral [please check first] to see if the building is open at this time of Covid-19 restrictions. Dunblane is 6 miles north of Stirling on the A9 road.

Photo is courtesy of Patrick John Leonard.

Photo is courtesy of Patrick John Leonard.

Elizabeth Sutherland (1997) gives details of this site, saying that: “12 Dunblane Cathedral is an ancient Christian Pictish site dedicated to the 6th century St Blane. Part of the tower was built before 1100.  It was restored in 1889 when two stones were recovered. Dunblane 13.1: C.III. ORS. c. 6 ft (183 cm) tall.  Ringed cross-slab. Front: top and lower ends of a cross termi-nate in single spirals. Bead moulding outlining the cross ends at the foot in two serpent heads with protruding tongues.  Back: single panel reading from the top: (1) two facing beasts on hind legs with fore-paws crossed and a single spiral in upper right corner; (2) a piece of square key-pattern surrounding square figure filled with five bosses like dots on dice;  (3)  a small ringed-cross on the left with a design like a key-hole plate to the right; (4) a horseman with a spear and dog; (5) a disc ornamented with a cross on the right surrounded by crude key-pattern and also spirals; (6) a man with a staff lying with his feet towards a single spiral on the right similar to the spiral on the top of the stone. 13.2: C.III. ORS. 2¾ ft (71 cm) long. Side panel contains three pieces of ornament, ten-cord plaiting, diagonal key-pattern and zoomorphic interlace.” 

Joyce Miller (2000) tells us more about the Cathedral, saying: “In the picturesque town of Dunblane by the banks of the Allen River, is the fine Cathedral, which is dedicated to St Blane. Blane was active trying to convert the Picts in the 6th century, at the same time as Mungo was preaching in Glasgow. Blane was from Kingarth on Bute, and is said to have been given a dun or fort here. Although there was a church here from Pictish times, the cathedral dates substantially from the 13th century. The bell-tower is earlier, probably 11th century. The cathedral became ruinous after the reformation, except for the choir – but the whole building was restored in 1889-93 by Sir Rowand Anderson. There is fine carving inside the church, medieval stalls, and a 9th century ringed cross-slab with two serpent heads. On the back of the stone are several more carvings with animals, figures and a disc and cross. There is another carved stone. The building is still used as the parish church.”

Joyce goes on to tell us about St Blane’s Chapel, Kingarth, saying: “The site is surrounded by an enclosure wall, and there are several ruinous buildings, including ‘The Cauldron’, the purpose of which is unclear, although it is recorded as being used as a place of punish-ment. In the middle of the site is the 12th-century chapel, with a finely decorated chancel arch. There is also an upper and lower burial yard with some fine gravestones, the upper yard being used for burying men, while the lower was for women. A spring here, a reputed holy well (and also believed by some to be a wishing well) is known as St Blane’s Well.” 

Childe & Simpson (1959) say that Dunblane Cathedral is: “One of Scotland’s noblest medieval churches. The existing building dates mainly from the thirteenth century, but embodies a square tower, once free-standing, the lower part of which is Norman work. The cathedral consists of an aisled nave, an aisles choir, and a lady-chapel attached to the north wall of the choir. There are no transepts. The nave was unroofed after the Reformation, but the whole building was restored in 1892-5, under the direction of Sir Rowand Anderson. Apart from the Norman tower, the oldest portion is the Lady-chapel. The east and west gables of the church, and the nave arcade, are particularly fine essays in the high style of the thirteenth century. The church contains some good monuments, also important remnants of the medieval carved oaken stalls. In the nave are buried James IV’s mistress, Margaret Drummond, and her two sisters, all poisoned at Drummond Castle in 1502. The cathedral occupies a commanding and beautiful position overlooking the Water of Allan. It is well seen from the railway. The most celebrated Bishop of Dunblane was the saintly Robert Leighton (1661-71).”

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Many, many thanks to Patrick John Leonard for the use of his two photos (above). The photos are copyright © Patrick John Leonard.

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

Miller, Joyce, Myth and Magic — Scotland’s Ancient Beliefs & Sacred Places, Goblinshead, Musselburgh, Scotland, 2000.

Sutherland, Elizabeth, The Pictish Guide, Birlinn Limited, Edinburgh, 1997.

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

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Foldys Cross, Towneley Park, Near Burnley, Lancashire

NGR:- SD 85234 30660.  To get to Foldys Cross walk 300 metres south-west along the main path from Towneley Hall to reach “The Causeway”. Foldys Cross stands (here) at the intersection of three main footpaths. Or you can park the car in the Barwise car park just off Todmorden Road (A671) and then take the footpath from the northeast side of the car park to the monument, which is now directly in front of you. 

Foldys Cross, Towneley Park, near Burnley.

Foldys Cross stands on the Causeway in Towneley Park, near Burnley, Lancashire, 300 metres southwest of Towneley Hall. Originally it was the Burnley market cross and stood at the south side of St Peter’s parish church. It was set up and named after John Foldys or Foldy, a former chaplain of St Peter’s church, who died in 1520. In the late 18th Century the cross was damaged by local Puritans, and so in 1789 it was brought by the Towneley family to their park to save it from destruction; Charles Towneley (1737–1805) possibly having a hand in this. The cross is made of sandstone and is Gothic in appearance. It is a tall slender monument on a circular stone pedestal which sits upon a set of seven square-shaped steps; the cross-head is very nice with its decorated four arms, one of which is sunk into the shaft to support the head itself; this appears to be the original moulded head or cap with carved emblems and fleurons on the collar – all typically Gothic in style. In the middle of the cross-head is a crude crucifix scene and on the other side the letters “IHS”, while on the plinth there is a Latin inscription.

Foldys Cross, Towneley Park, from a different angle.

On the base of the cross a Latin inscription reads:- Orate pro anima Johannes Foldys, capellani qui istam crucem fieri fecit Anno Domini MCCCCCXX, which when translated reads:- “Pray for the soul of John Foldys, chaplain who caused this cross to be made in the year of Our Lord 1520.” The letters “IHS” on the opposite side of the four-armed cross-head is a monogram or symbol for the name Jesus. The cross was fully restored for the Jubilee Year celebrations by Burnley Corporation in 1911, according to the metal plaque on the base, and set up in its current position from where it used to be located on the Avenue at the northeastern side of Towneley Hall. The seven tiered steps upon which the monument stands date from the 20th century probably from when it was restored by the Corporation in 1911. Foldys Cross is now grade II listed and the English Heritage Building identity number is 467232. The HE (Historic England) list no is: 1247301.

Inscribed Plaque on the base of Foldys Cross.

Richard Peace (1997) tells us that: Foldys Cross lies behind the house at the top of Lime Tree Avenue (in fact a path). It was built in 1520 and the Latin inscription around the base instructs you to pray for the soul of John Foldys, Chaplain. It stood intact in Burnley churchyard until 1789 when it was broken up, probably by a Puritan mob. The various pieces were carefully collected and resurrected at Towneley. It was moved to its present location in 1911, the Jubilee Year of Burnley Borough, and the Corporation had the cross restored. Some portions are original, and the base tier of seven steps is believed to be a copy of the original design.” 

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Peace, Richard, Lancashire Curiosities, Dovecote Press Ltd., Stanbridge, Wimborne, Dorset, 1997.

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


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Dupath Well, Near Callington, Cornwall

Dupath Well, Cornwall. Porches & Fonts by J. Charles Wall  (1912).
Wikimedia Commons

NGR: SX 37499 69220. At the southeast side of Dupath Farm, 1 mile southeast of Callington, Cornwall, is a late medieval wellhouse-cum-chapel-cum-baptistry known as Dupath Well. The ornate wellhouse is built from local granite and stands beneath some trees at the corner of the farmyard and is surrounded by a wooden fence. It was built over an existing holy well/spring which was dedicated to St Ethelred, King of Mercia, who died in 709. Augustinian canons from St German’s Abbey, near Saltash, built the wellhouse sometime between 1500-1510. The building was restored in the Victorian period. It was to became a place of pilgrimage when water flowing into a stone basin inside the building was found to have miraculous healing properties. The well water was reportedly able to cure whooping cough, but also other diseases too.  Dupath Well is the site of a legendary fight between two local notaries over the love of a lady. The wellhouse is a Grade I listed building and is under the guardianship of Historic England, and managed by the Cornwall Heritage Trust. From the A390 at the NE side of Callington take Dupath Lane SE for about 1 mile. Dupath farm is on the left-hand side. The wellhouse is on private land. However, it may be closed due to the current Covid-19 re-strictions, so please do check before visiting the site.

Robert Charles Hope (1893 & 2012) tells us that: “Dupath Well is a pellucid spring, once the resort of pilgrims and still held in esteem. It overflows a trough, and entering the open archway of a small chapel, spreads itself over the floor and passes out below a window at the opposite end. The little chapel, 12 feet long by 11½ wide, is a complete specimen of the baptisteries anciently so common in Cornwall. It has a most venerable appearance, and is built of granite, which is gray and worn by age. The roof is constructed of enormously long blocks of granite, hung with ferns, and supported in the interior by an arch, dividing the nave and chancel. The doorway faces west; at the east end is a square-headed window of two lights, and two openings in the sides. The building is crowned by an ornamental bell-cote. The well is famed for the combat between Sir Colam and Gotlieb for the love of a lady; Gotlieb was killed, and Sir Colam died of his wounds.”

Garry Hogg (1968) says of the: “Well-Chapel, Dupath, Cornwall, off A388, two miles south-east of Callington. The best-preserved of Cornwall’s well-chapels, built in the sixteenth century to serve as a baptistery and preserve the holy well beneath its massive roof of moorstone. The site (as so often) was probably a pagan one, sanctified in medieval times by the Christian Church as the new Faith spread further into this ‘outlandish’ corner of the country. Inevitably it has an accretion of legend. Local belief is that it was built as a penance by a Cornishman who had slain a rival for the hand of the woman he loved.” 

Dupath Well.

As for St Ethelred to whom the well-chapel at Dupath was dedicated, Stenton (1942), says: “Ethelred, King of Mercia, founded Abbingdon Abbey. Abingdon is in S. Oxfordshire. The abbey was more likely founded by Cissa. St Wilfrid was under the protection of Ethelred and was a close friend. Ethelred was the benefactor of many churches in the various provinces of his kingdom. and in 704 he retired into the monastery of Bardney in Lindsey.” King Etherlred had founded the Benedictine monastery of Bardney in 697 and became its abbot sometime after 704. He died there in c 709 and his relics were interred there. His feast-day is on the 4th May. Butler & Given-Wilson (1979) add that: “Ethelred gave his consent to the founding of a double monastery at Gloucester 674-81 being founded by Osric, whose sister Cyneburh was 1st abbess.”     

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Butler, Lionel & Given-Wilson, Chris, Medieval Monasteries of Great Britain, Michael Joseph Limited, London, 1979.

Hogg, Garry, Odd Aspects of England, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, Devon, 1968.

Hope, Robert Charles, The Legendary Lore Of The Holy Wells Of England — Including Rivers, Lakes, Fountains and Springs, (orig. published by Eliot Stock, London, 1893. Classic Reprint Series: Forgotten Books, 2012).

Stenton, F. M., Anglo-Saxon England, Oxford University Press, London, 1943.

More info here:-

And more history:

Cornwall’s mysterious Dupath’s Well

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

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The Monk’s Well, Towneley Park, Burnley, Lancashire

The Monk’s Well in Towneley Park, Burnley Lancashire.

The Monk’s Well in Towneley Park, and the large water trough.

NGR: SD 8587 3054.  Hidden away in the woodland of Towneley Park, Burnley, Lancashire, is what at first glance looks like a tiny chapel, but it is, in fact, the now very crumbled ruins of a well-house.  In the 1930s it seems to have acquired the name “Monk’s Well”. The stonework and the archway that we see there today could date from the Victorian period, or perhaps the early 1900s?  It looks as though there used to be a spring issuing from the ground into the rectangular stone-trough and cistern that can be seen inside the tumbled down building, though this may have been capped off.  However, there was a trickle of water still running from the ground just in front of the arch when I visited the site in early October, 2020.  It would seem the water from the spring, here, was used for watering young trees back in the 18th Century but it was never used for anything else!  In the 1990s it was rebuilt in the style of a Gothic folly. The Monk’s Well is reached along a path through Thanet Lee Woods, 500m southeast of Towneley Hall, close by a wooden bridge. There are two carved wooden fairies in the trees, here, and another on the wooden bench opposite.

The Monk’s Well in Towneley Park (interior of the building).

Monk’s Well, Towneley Park, is now a tumbled down little building.

What’s left of the Monk’s Well is now a tumbled-down collection of walling around a wellhead and, at the front a rough stone archway that is still standing, which actually looks quite solid today, though some years back this lay broken on the ground. The large rectan-gular stone-trough and the cistern  (behind it)  with a connecting water channel and slab-covered outflow are in pretty good condi-tion, even though stonework from the walls has fallen into them. Rain-water fills the large, deep trough nowadays and trickles out from beneath stones in front of the archway. Way back in the 18th Century one of the Towneley family, Charles (1737–1805), seemingly discovered the spring and had the water trough, cistern and outflow constructed so that he could water his young trees, and then in the Victorian period a well-house was constructed around the spring/well from rough-hewn stones; the archway maybe built onto the front of the little building at a later date? No-doubt the spring, or the water filled trough, has been used by a succession of Towneley Estate gardeners down the years. Much of the present-day landscaping of Towneley Park is the result of Charles Towneley’s work in the late 18th Century.

Headley & Meulenkamp in their book Follies Grottoes & Garden Buildings (1999) say of Monk’s Well: “A pile of stones in Towneley, Park, Burnley, was rebuilt as a Gothic folly in 1992. It started life as a wellhead called the Monk’s Well, built by Charles Towneley. The British Trust for Conservation Volun-teers proposed to rebuild it at no extra cost to the local council, which nevertheless demurred, thinking of future maintenance costs. Then a happy compromise was reached — why not rebuild it as a ruin, which would need less supervision? Nice one.”

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Headley, Gwyn & Meulenkamp, Wim, Follies Grottoes & Garden Buildings, Aurum Press Ltd., London, 1999.

Woodcarvings in Towneley Park:

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

The Giant’s Causeway, North County Antrim Coast, Northern Ireland

The Giant’s Causeway on the North Antrim Coast, Northern Ireland.

NGR: NR 1332 0335. On the north coast of County Antrim, 2½ miles northeast of Bush-mills, in Northern Ireland, is the mysterious rock formation known as The Giant’s Causeway, which is also a well-known tourist attraction and no doubt a must for any geologist! These strange hexagonal and polygonal-shaped columns of black basalt being grouped into colonnades that cover a four-mile wide area of the Antrim coastline, and there are thousands-upon-thousands of them! The legendary giant, Finn McCool, used the causeway as stepping-stones between the Irish coast and the Scottish coast. These basalt columns, towers and pyramid-shapes vary in size between very tall to quite small, and they have been smoothed by the pummeling waves from the sea and from weathering over thousands of years, though the rock formations date back 50 million years to the time of lava-spewing Volcanoes. There are other strange rock formations here that have, over the years, acquired strange names due to their shapes: The Giants’ Organ and The Camel’s Hump for instance. Take the Causeway Coastal Path (west) from Dunseverick for 4 miles along the cliff-tops, or from the visitor centre at Bushmills (check first to see if the centre is open at this time of Covid-19).

The Giant’s Causeway in Co. Antrim, N. Ireland.

Wonders of the World (1930) tells us that: “The Irish would not be true to the spirit of Celtic mysticism and poetry had they not woven around one of the wonders of the world, the Giant’s Causeway in the County of Antrim, a mesh of legend, folklore and romance. The existence of fields upon fields of gigantic, truncated pyramids of columns of varying polygonal sides had to be explained, as also that of the Porticoon and Dunkerry caves, into the darkness of which boats are rowed on the swell of the waves and in whose mysterious depths sounds reverberate as from the cannon’s mouth. Here, where the columns rise, forming, as it were, the back to a low step, is My Lady’s Wishing Chair; there were the basaltic mass takes a weird shape, are the Nurse and Child who were petrified by a giant because his wife had betrayed him — so runs the legend.  And, in a similar strain run hundreds of legends, the chronicling of which would constitute an epic poem of giants unparalleled in the literature.

“The giant Fin MacCoul, would be the hero, for he it was who is reputed to have built the Great Causeway across the sea to Scotland, so that his enemy, the Scottish giant, might step over high and dry to get the thrashing he so richly deserved. The Giants’ Amphitheatre, with its perfect tiers of broken columns overlooking the bay, was built by him to amuse his quests, and when he breathed heavily, the pipes of the Giants’ Organ, likewise formed of high columns, played a tune the exact notes of which have presumably been lost to us.

Giant’s Causeway.

“It would be impossible within the limits of a short paragraph to do justice to the strangeness and poetry of the Giant’s Causeway.  It is a honeycombed series of beaches without a grain of sand, flanked by the ruins of two castles, Dunseverick and Danluce, situated high above the sea on isolated crags. Nor must the Carrick-a-Rede be forgotten, that lonely rock island in the path of the salmon shoals.  To reach it during the season fishermen sling a rope bridge be-tween it and the mainland, eighty feet above the roaring waves.  A photograph gives but a passing impression of what is surely one of the unique spots on our globe.  Unfortunately it cannot do justice to the whole range of wonderful beach, for the very simple reason that no two spots resemble each other, but are as varied in form as are the legend or romance atta-ched to each.  The size of the columns and pyramids varies likewise, some attaining a height of thirty feet.  Now they are close-fitting, forming a level tessellated floor, now loose and irregular.

“At times their regularity is so perfect as to appear to be wrought by hand and to have been artificially grouped into colonnades of most exquisite harmony and design; at others, all is wild and broken and thrown about as though giants had really spent their time and their strength in destroying the very things they are reputed to have created.”

Romantic Britain (1948) says that: “On the Antrim coast is the Giant’s Causeway where a mass of once molten rock has cooled and solidified into innumerable columns of basalt, most of them of hexagonal shape. Fingal’s Cave in the Isle of Staffa, presents a similar formation and legend claims both these outcrops as remnants of a bridge built by an Irish giant. The Giant’s Causeway at Antrim is said to have been flung across the sea to Scotland by Fionn, to hasten his hostile encounter with a fearsome Scottish rival. Cloughmore (Big Stone) at Rostrevor, was hurled, it is said, by the Scottish giant at Fionn’s head and just missed it! Fionn retaliated with the Isle of Man which he pulled out of the space now occupied by Lough Neagh.”

Nicholson (1983) adds that the Giant’s Causeway is: “A rare and famous series of cliffs that resulted from gigantic outpourings of volcanic basalt in remote tertiary times. The rock cooled as a lower layer of thousands of regular hexagonal columns and an upper layer of slim uneven prisms like a crazy architect’s fantasy. This amazing piece of coast belongs to the National Trust.”

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Nicholson, Guide To Ireland — The Essential Touring Companion, Robert Nicholson Publications Limited, London, 1983.

Romantic Britain (Edited by Tom Stephenson), Odhams Press Limited, Long Acre, London, 1948.

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

More info here:

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

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Spooyt Vane Keeill (Chapel), Near Kirk Michael, Isle of Man

Spooyt Vane Keeill, near Kirk Michael, Isle of Man.

NGR: SC 30750 88760. In woodland a little to the south of Glen Móoar and close by the Monk’s Road, ½ a mile southwest of Ballaleigh village, in Kirk Michael Parish, Isle of Man, is the Spooyt Vane Keeill, an ancient ruined Chapel of St Patrick (Cabbal Pherick), which is thought to date back to between the 8th-10th Centuries AD. At the side of the chapel, inside an enclosure, are   the remains of a hermit’s or priest’s cell, a boundary wall and burial ground. The foundations of this keeil, mainly boulders and turf, are now very grassed over, but it is still fairly easy to make out with an entrance at one side. 130 yards SE of the keeill can be found the spectacular ‘Spooyt Vane Waterfall’, a tourist attraction. The keeill site is 2 miles southwest of Kirk Michael. We don’t know when it was last used as a chapel but it is recorded that the last priest was found to have worked on the Sabbath Day, and for doing this he met with rather a bad end. To reach the site take the A4 Peel road SW out of Kirk Michael for 1½ miles, turning off onto Ballaleigh road, but just before the village take lane SE to Spooyt Vane carpark and Waterfall; the keeill site is in woodland to the SW. The chapel and waterfall are on private land, so it is best to get permission before you visit them.

Ancient keeill, Spooyt Vane. Photo: Jim Barton (Creative Commons).

The ruined Spooyt Vane keeill is situated on top of a hill above the river in the Glen Móoar woods. It is a very primitive ancient chapel and is rectangular-shaped in design with slightly rounded corners. It measures 23 feet x 13 feet with a narrow entrance at the W side. The walls are built rather roughly from unhewn stones, river boulders, rubble and turf, which are now very grassed-over but, in places, these walls still stand to between 30-40 inches in height (2ft 5“ to 3ft 3”). There are remains of a window at the E side. The stone altar which had stood at the E side was taken away for safety, while a thin cross-slab found recumbent on the ground in the entrance was taken to the church at Kirk Michael, again for safety reasons. At the southwest side is an enclosure with turfed bank and inside this there is a ruined Culdee cell at the corner – this being the primitive abode of a hermit or priest, and somewhat similar to a monastic cell. There is more information on the archae-ology of the site at: isle of website (below).

The Manx Museum And National Trust (1973) tells us: “The keeills were the small early Christian chapels built throughout the Island following the conversion of the Manx to Christianity.  Over one hundred and eighty such buildings are known to have existed (though visible remains of less than a quarter of this number survive today).  The sites are found in all parts of the Island, and it is thought that their distribution is probably related to the ancient Celtic land divisions known as treens, a keeill being found on almost every treen.  The earliest keeills were probably built of sods, or wattle and daub, and no trace of these now remains, but ruins survive of later examples, consisting of stone-faced walls, dating from perhaps the eighth to the twelfth centuries.  In a few late examples mortar has been used in their construction, but the more usual form is earth walls, faced with rough dry stone walling.  The keeills were small plain rectangular structures, usually measuring inter-nally about 15 feet by 10 feet; in some examples the base of an altar remains at the eastern end.  The keeill was often sur-rounded by an enclosure or burial ground, and in some cases traces of the priest’s small habitation cell may be observed.  The keeills probably had thatched roofs when in use.”

Andrew Jones (2002) says: The earliest keeils, being so small, could not have been intended for congregational worship but rather as places in which the first Christian missionaries could offer up their simple service of prayer and praise. Preaching would have been conducted out of doors, and so too would baptism, for a holy well is usually found near these old chapels. Many of the keeils that have been examined are known to have been built on sites that had been sacred for a long time previously, thus illustrating that respect for tradition which was a marked characteristic of Celtic Britain.” And The Viking Heritage (1979) adds that: “For centuries before the longships of the Vikings first appeared off our coasts, our Celtic forbears worshipped at tiny keeills or chapels, the remains of many of which are still to be seen in the countryside. The dedications of many are lost, but those which are known form an impressive monument to the founders of the Manx Church — Patrick, Brigid, and Columba among them. Greatest of all the saints of Mann were Germanus, disciple of St. Patrick, whose cathedral stands on St. Patrick’s Isle at Peel, and Maughold, a repentant brigand who was set adrift in a coracle by Patrick.”

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

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

The Manx Museum And National Trust, The Ancient And Historic Monuments of the Isle of Man, The Manx Museum & National Trust, Douglas, Fourth (Revised) Edition, 1973.

The Viking Heritage — Isle Of Man — Millennium Of Tynwald, The Viking Heritage — The official pictorial souvenir to commemorate the Millennium of Tynwald, Shearwater Press, Douglas, Isle of Man, 1979.

Geograph (Creative Commons) photo (above) is by Jim Barton:

Keeills and Cake; Cabbal Pherick, Kirk Michael.

Check this out:

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




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Rooley Moor Burial Mound, Near Rochdale, Greater Manchester

Burial mound on Rooley Moor. Photo copyright: Stephen Oldfield.

NGR: SD 8577 7952. On Rooley Moor to the north of Rochdale, Greater Manchester, and quite close to Rooley Moor Road, there is a Bronze Age burial mound (barrow), which actually looks more like a long barrow? However, this ancient mound has been missed by the archaeologists and the Ordnance Survey people, even though it is quite a prominent grassy mound with what looks to be a faint outer ditch. The barrow appears to have been damaged at one side, though whether it has been dug into, or robbed of what was contained inside it,  is not known.  The barrow is at the E. side of the moor some 50 metres to the west of Rooley Moor Road, and is not far from the scant remains of the Old Moorcock Inn, where two tall gateposts still stand like sentinels. Moorcock Inn was in its heyday in the 19th Century.  There are two footpaths going onto the moor from Rooley Moor Road: one running N.W. to Ding Quarry and Cowpe, another running S. to Reddyshore.

B/A barrow on Rooley Moor. Photo copyright: Stephen Oldfield.

There are other ancient features on the moors around here including an enclosure, a cup-marked rock, and a bit further away to the east at Bagden Hillocks, a cairn. Bagden Hillocks is just inside the boundary with Rossendale. Rooley Moor used to be called Shore Moor and Rooley Moor Road used to be Catley Lane; it is nowadays known as ’the Cotton Famine Road’ and, in Medieval times, it was the packhorse route between Rochdale, Whalley Abbey and Clitheroe. Hamer Hill has some recumbent stones which archaeologists had thought were part of a stone circle, while Hunger Hill has possible burial mounds at its northern side. The moor is scattered with mines, quarry pits and mounds dating from the time of the Industrial Revolution, and sometimes these can, perhaps, be mistaken for ancient burial mounds, but this particular mound does appear to be a prehistoric barrow of Bronze Age date. 

The Damaged barrow by Stephen Oldfield.

Stephen Oldfield, who told us of this site, gives directions to finding the burial mound, saying: “You will see a small rectangular wall which was the perimeter for the Old Moorcock pub. The cairn is at the north corner of this. Unmissable. Head about 100m due north-east and you hit the superb Bagden Hillocks cairn. Both are lined up with the north-east/south-west axis of Knowl Hill.” Stephen goes on to say that: “Just behind the ruins of the old Moorcock Inn on Rooley Moor Road is a Bronze Age burial mound lined-up exactly with the prehistoric site of Knowl Hill to the west.  It appears to have been dug into in the past.  The alignment cuts through a ’henge feature’ too and my guess is they are aligned with sunrise at the equinoxes but I’ll have to check this out,” he adds.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

I would like to thank Stephen Oldfield for the use of his photos (above) and for his input with further information on the site and its surroundings. Thanks mate. All photos are Copyright © Stephen Oldfield 2020.

Photo of the Old Moorcock Inn:

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



Broch of Mousa, Island of Mousa, Shetland Isles, Scotland

Broch of Mousa on the Island of Mousa in the Shetland Islands.

NGR: HU 45730 23660. At the far western side of the Island of Mousa (south island), in Shetland, and overlooking the Sound of Mousa, stands the well preserved ‘Broch of Mousa’, dating from the late Iron Age; but these brochs have often wrongly been called Pictish towers by some historians, though the building of brochs had almost certainly ended by the 2nd Century AD, so it would seem the Picts merely took them over and lived in them as they were very strongly built and fortified. This particularly fine example of a broch has thankfully not been robbed of its stone-work and still stands to a height of nearly 44 feet or 13 metres, and is the only broch to have survived to its original height. The broch is a bell-shaped fortress-like tower, or round-house, that is built with thick drystone blocks of stone and has a double inner wall with a stairway – while on the outside there is a stonework surrounding wall forming a courtyard. To reach the uninhabited Island of Mousa you will need to take the motor boat from Sandsayre pier at Sandwick, 2 miles to the west. [Check first to see whether the boat is operational at this time of Covid-19].

Broch of Mousa, Shetland (exterior).

Broch of Mousa, Shetland (Interior).

Gordon Childe & Douglas Simpson (1959) tell us that: “The Broch of Mousa stands on the shore of a small rocky island, yet was defended on the landward side by a wall, now much dilapidated. It has often been taken as the most typical broch, so only diver-gences  from  the ideal  norm  need  be  mentioned.  The solid  “ground-floor” wall  is  exceptionally  high,  12   feet 4  inches. Immediately  above  the  present entrance there was once an entrance passage, but its mouth was built up in 1919. Again the entrance to the stairhouse cells in approximately on a level with the floor of this upper passage and some 6 feet above the primary floor, but just below the second scarcement. Below it are three intramural cells entered by descending steps. At the bottom of the court is a rock-cut cistern that is doubtless original. On the other hand the present hearth, a radial wall, and a low wall, concentric with and inside the main wall, seem to be secondary additions to the original plan.

“According to Egil’s Saga an eloping couple from Norway took refuge in the broch about A.D. 900, and, a similar incident about 1153 is recorded in the Orkneyinga Saga.” 

Timothy Darvill (1988) says of Mousa Broch, that it is: “Set on the tiny island of Mousa to the east of mainland Shetland, this great stone toweris built straight on to the rock overlooking Mousa Sound. Undoubtedly the best-preserved broch in Scot-land, it still stands over 12m high and is constructed of dry-stone walling of the very highest standard. The broch tower has an external diameter of 15.2m at the base, but tapers inwards slightly towards the top. To withstand the gales and high winds that blow in from the North Sea the wall is over 6m thick.

“Opening off the central courtyard are three large corbelled cells with low doorways. There are three wall-cupboards in the side of the inner court. Two ledges representing supports for upper floors or galleries can be seen. The upper ledge may have supported the roof. The inner wall-face also contains sets of openings or voids which may have been to allow light into the galleries contained within the walls. A stair rises clockwise inside the wall allowing access to the galleries. It is unlikely that these galleries were ever lived in, although they could have been used for storage. Judging from its superior design and craftsmanship, this broch was probably constructed fairly late in the tradition of broch building.”

Janet & Colin Bord (1984) add similar information, saying: “This broch now stands over 40 feet high, taller than most other brochs, and has been restored at various times. The only opening in the thick external wall is the doorway, and inside a passage leads to a central chamber. All round the walls, right to the top of the broch, are small chambers, and a stairway winds gradually to the top of the building.”

The Rough Guide (2000) informs us that these Iron Age brochs were: “Concentrated along the Atlantic coast and in the northern and western isles, the brochs were drystone fortifications (that is, built without mortar or cement often over 40ft in height.  Some historians claim they provided protection for small coastal settlements from the attentions of Roman slave traders.  Much the best-preserved broch is on the Shetland island of Mousa; its double walls rise to about 40ft, only a little short of their original height.  The Celts continued to migrate north almost up until Julius Caesar’s first incursion into Britain in 56 BC. 

“At the end of the prehistoric period, immediately prior to the arrival of the Romans, Scotland was divided among a number of warring Iron Age tribes, who apart from the raiding, were preoccupied with wresting a living from the land, growing barley and oats, rearing sheep, hunting deer and fishing for salmon.  The Romans were to write these people into history under the collective name Picti, or Picts, meaning painted people, after their body tattoos.” 

There is a second broch over on the east coast of Sandwick, a couple of miles to the west of the Island of Mousa, overlooking the Sound of Mousa at (NG: HU 44687 23214). This is known as the ‘Broch of Burraland’, Leebitten.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Airne, C. W., The Story Of Prehistoric & Roman Britain — Told In Pictures, Sankey, Hudson & Co. Ltd., Manchester.

Bord, Janet & Colin, Mysterious Britain, Paladin Books, London, 1984.

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

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

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

The Rough Guide (Humphreys, Reid & Tarrant), Scotland, The Rough Guides Ltd., London, 2000.

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


Belas Knap Long Barrow, Cleeve Common, Near Winchcombe, Gloucestershire

Belas Knap Long Barrow on Cleeve Common, near Winchcombe, Gloucestershire.

Plan of Belas Knap Long Barrow, Gloucestershire.

NGR: SP 02093 25434. Standing at the western side of Humblebee Wood on Cleeve Common, 1¾ miles south of Winchcombe, Glou-cestershire, is the ancient Megathlic monument known as ‘Belas Knap Long Barrow’,  a Neolithic chambered tomb of the Severn-Cotswold type and dating from 3,800 BC. The monument can be found on the Cotswold Way footpath – with Cleeve Hill over to the northwest. It is certainly the best known of all the Cotswold long barrows and, now that it has been restored, it is an amazing sight with its 51m long wedge-shaped mound, and its height of 4.3m. There are four burial chambers, three of these along its sides, and the fourth chamber at the south side. The N. end has a false entrance (portal). These chambers, excavated in the 1860s and 1920s, were found to contain the bones of at least 31 people. From Winchcombe in the N. take the B4632 road SW., then      the country lane S.E. over river Isbourne (watch out for signposts to Belas Knap) toward Corndean Hall, and then a steepish climb S. through the woodland to meet the Cotswold Way path heading E. to the ancient Long Barrow on a ridge of land.

Timothy Darvill (1988) tells us that it is: “Perhaps the most well known of all the Neolithic long barrows constructed on the Cotswolds, this site lies on a windswept ridge above the town of Winchcombe.  Now fully restored, Belas Knap displays many classic features of barrows constructed in the Cotswold-Severn tradition. The wedge-shaped mound, now grassed over, measures more than 50m long and stands nearly 4m high. At the north end is a deep forecourt between two rounded horns, and in the back of the forecourt is a false portal resembling the H-shaped setting at the front of a portal dolmen. The dry-stone walling in the forecourt is partly original Neolithic workmanship; only the upper portions have been subject to restoration.

“Three chambers, all of which can still be entered, open into the mound from its long sides, while a fourth chamber which lacks a roof opens from the narrow southern end. Although heavily restored, the three side chambers still preserve the gloom and dampness that must have pervaded them when in use. The remains of about 30 people were found in the burial chambers during excavations which took place early this century. The name Belas Knap derives from the Old English words bel meaning a beacon and cnaepp meaning a hilltop. In addition to Belas Knap itself, a small round barrow is visible in the ploughed field to the west of the site.” 

Belas Knap Long Barrow near Winchcombe from above in black & white.

Belas Knap Long Barrow in black and white and seen from above.

Jacquetta Hawkes (1973) tells us that after Notgrove Long Barrow: “The  second  notable long  barrow  is  called  Belas Knap  (it is worth noting that not very many of the Cotswold barrows have folk names attached to them) and it lies far to the west of the rest, about two miles south of Winchcombe and not more than half a dozen miles from the centre of Cheltenham. Luckily the mound is well preserved and judicious restoration has made a monument which gives at least some idea of what these tombs and holy places  looked like four thousand years ago.  It shows well the oblong form of the mound held within a low retaining wall of fine drystone masonry and it possesses the characteristic ‘horns’ or recessed forecourt at the larger end. This court makes the approach to a dignified megalithic portal with a pair of large jambs, transverse slab or door stone between them, and a large lintel across the top. But whereas at Notgrove an entrance in just this position must have led into the gallery and its cells, this construction at Belas Knap is a sham, it is built against the solid mass of the barrow and has never at any time given access to anything. It is, in fact, a classic example of the ‘false entrance’ for which we have already seen close parallels in the south-west and

Belas Knap Chambered Long Barrow. Entrance to the chambers.

in Kent. The true burial-chambers open from the long sides of the mound and are infinitely smaller and meaner than the central chambers of the Notgrove, Hetty Pegler and Nympsfield kind.  Some have compared these dummies to the false entrances to Egyptian pyramids, claiming that they, too, were made in an attempt to mislead tomb-robbers and keep the burial chambers; others have attributed the device to human laziness, seeing them as a degenerate form which kept the portal, essential for ritual purposes, but shirked the construction of a large and complex megalithic chamber. For myself I do not find either explanation satis-factory; primitive peoples do not violate their own sanctuaries and here in the Cotswolds there is no evidence to suggest the presence of alien invaders in any force at a time while long barrows were still being built; nor were these New Stone Age peoples in the habit of burying precious grave-goods with the dead which could provoke cupidity. On the other hand if the builders were still willing to raise tons of stone and earth to make the mounds.  I cannot think that the small amount of extra labour needed to make the dignified central chamber would have been found burdensome enough to promote such a radical change of plan. I believe that the false entrance was intended to mislead not human beings but supernatural creatures—spirits—but more than that I will not attempt to guess.”

Harold Priestley (1976) says Belas Knap is: “A very good example of a barrow with a false entrance and with entries to its chambers in the sides, reached by means of short passages. The barrow, more than 170 ft (51.8m) long, is orientated N–S; it had a revetment, a false entrance and a forecourt with two horn-like extensions at the N end. This may have been designed either to ward off evil spirits or to fool possible tomb robbers.  Two of the chamber entrances are let into the E side, one half-way along the W side and a fourth at the S end. The barrow had a revetment of stone all round it.”

A few miles to the northwest on Cleeve Hill (NGR SO 9847 2659), near Woodmancote, there is the ‘Ring Settlement’ which was probably an Iron Age or Romano-British village and, below the hill at the southeast side, is the ‘Cross Dyke’ earthwork. 

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

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

Hawkes, Jacquetta, A Guide To The Prehistoric And Roman Monuments In England And Wales, Cardinal (Sphere Books Ltd), London, 1973.

Priestley, Harold, The Observer’s Book of Ancient & Roman Britain, Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd., London, 1976.

Wood, Eric S., Field Guide to Archaeology, Collins, London, 1968.

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