The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


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Aedmar’s Mound And Earthworks, Blacko, Lancashire

Aedmer's Mound at Admergill, near Blacko, Lancashire.

Aedmar’s Mound at Admergill, near Blacko, Lancashire.

    OS grid reference: SD 84829 41718. For want of a better name I am calling this site ‘Aedmar’s Mound Earthworks’. These earthworks or ringworks are located down in a narrow valley, in a field above Blacko Water, near Wheathead Lane, just to the west of Blacko and Gisburn road, Lancashire, in the area called Admergill. A trackway heads off from Wheathead Lane at the bridge and then goes in a south-westerly direction for a short distance, and eventually through a wall stile – the earthworks are in the field (here) at the western-side of the beck – being noticeable by the grassy rectangular mound with its accompanying low ramparts, known as ringworks. These now rather forgotten earthworks may date back to the Iron-Age, or from the so-called Dark-Ages, or from the early Medieval period, but other than that we do not know when these earthworks were built or what they actually were; and they are not marked on any Ordnance Survey maps.

Aedmar's Mound / Earthworks viewed from the south-east.

Aedmar’s Mound / Earthworks viewed from the south-east.

    The earthworks cover an area of approx. 94m across N-S and 60m diagonally W-S though the S and N sides are cut-off and damaged by the farmer’s ‘modern’ field system, while at the NW side of the site there is a continuation of the low ringwork ramparts. The rectangular-shaped low mound ‘with the telegraph pole’ is quite a distinctive shape, but there are actually two mounds here – both being intersected in the middle by a deep ditch, or entrance. So what was it exactly? Was it a camp, a hillfort, or a defended site? Or was there a settlement here or maybe a royal residence of some kind? There appears to be at least three circular ramparts or ring-works and, possibly a fourth ring by the looks of it, surrounding the low, grassy elevated mound, and the same again at the far NW side but in a sort of square-shape, which has been cut off from the main site, possibly due to farming, or that it was meant to be like this?

    Local author, John Clayton, in his fascinating book ‘Valley of the Drawn Sword’, says that Admergill could possibly take its name from: “the Welsh prince A’dd Maur who controlled certain British lands sometime in the Early Medieval period, it is very possible that this name has been shortened over time to Mawr….but equally, it could apply to the nearby settlement of Admergill…..which eventually leads to A’dd Mawr’s Gill.”

Aedmar's Mound, Blacko, with ditch through the middle.

Aedmar’s Mound, Blacko, with ditch through the middle.

    But what of Aedmar and Eadmer two names that may be connected with this area, in which our ancient site lies.  St Aedmer or Eadmer was a bishop, ecclesiastic, and theologian who died in 1126, and was a friend of St Anselm. Was it “he” who gave his name to Admergill. And, there was a 7th century St Eadmer, a Northumbrian monk and disciple of St Cuthbert. But the truth is we don’t know, and probably never will – the name being lost in the mists of time. I think we should, therefore, say that the Welsh prince A’dd Mawr (Athmawr) is the more liklely contender here. He may have ruled over the Celtic (British) kingdom of Craven – Admergill being at the southern edge of this northern kingdom. And 2 miles to the north we have a farm called Craven Laithe!

    About 1 mile to the north on the southern side of Burn Moor a bowl-shaped quern stone was found, dating from 300-400 BCE (the middle Iron-Age). Grain would have been rubbed in the central depression with a small, rounded stone or pestle. In the vicinity of this discovery there were found to be a number of ancient boulders, some being built into walls (Clayton, John A, 2006).

Sources:

Clayton, John A., The Valley of the Drawn Sword – The Early History of Burnley, Pendle and West Craven, Barrowford Press, 2006.

Dixon, John & Mann, Bob, Historic Walks Around The Pendle Way, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1990.


Carne Beacon, Veryan, Cornwall

Carne Beacon, Cornwall (photo credit: Mick Sharp)

Carne Beacon, Cornwall (photo credit: Mick Sharp)

OS grid reference SW 9126 3863. On the hilltop overlooking the beautiful Gerrans Bay in south Cornwall stands a fairly prominent ancient burial mound or round barrow (tumulus), dating from prehistoric times, rather than the more recent so-called Dark Ages, as was often thought from the Cornish legend of the saintly King Gerrenius. The man-made mound known as ‘Carne Beacon’ is covered in trees, bushes and grass and stands at the south-side of a farmer’s field (near Churchtown farm) ringed by a barbed-wire fence, but with a gate at one side for access. The site can be reached from the village of Veryan 1 mile to the north, or from the hamlet of Carne half a mile south, via footpaths around the edges of the field where the mound is located. The A3078 St Just and Tregony road is roughly one-and-a-half miles to the west of Carne Beacon. Just to the north of the ancient burial mound are the earthworks of an Iron-Age fort or settlement known as ‘the Veryan Rounds’.

Carn Beacon is between 15 and 28 feet (upto 6 metres) in height, depending on which part of it you’re standing on, and it has a circumference around the base of 370 feet (113 metres). During World War II it was used as a lookout post; a concrete pillar can still be seen on the top of the mound from this structure. It is considered to be the largest Bronze-Age burial mound in England. According to the ‘often accepted’ legend, a golden boat with golden oars was buried inside the mound in the 6th century AD along with a Dark-Age king; the boat in question had been rowed across Gerrans Bay from Dingerrin carrying the body of the saintly King Gerrenius (Geraint) of Dumnonia (Devon) who had died in his palace there circa 555 AD. But there was also a St Geraint or Gerran who lived about the same time and founded the church of St Gerrans-in-Roseland, which has rather added confusion to the legend, perhaps, although we known that a certain King Geraint figured in the ‘Register of Llandaff’ concerning St Theliau (Teilo) a 6th century Welsh churchman who had cause to travel through this part of the country on his travels to Brittany at that particular time and was well received by that king; so are the two saints Gerrenius and Geraint one and the same, quite probably. One legend informs us that St Just, son of King Geraint, had been converted to christianity by the Irish female saint, Boriana (Buryan). St Just in Roseland, Cornwall, is named for him. A St Geraint is commemorated on the 16th May. Some accounts also confuse things more by saying that King Gerrenius lived in the 7th or 8th century?

The antiquarian, John Whittaker, in his work ‘The Ancient Cathedral of Cornwall’ says that “when Gerrenius died, he was brought from his castle of Dingerein and ferried with great pomp across Gerrans Bay in a barge plated with gold”. The site of Dingerein or Dingerrin castle, a sort of crescent-shaped earthwork, can be found near Trewithian, Cornwall, some 4 miles to the west of Carne Beacon. It seems that the good Dr Whittaker never got the chance to excavate the great mound, even though the local people had got word that he was going to do so and had been given the ‘day off’ work for this wonderful event.

English: Carne Beacon

Carne Beacon (Photo credit: Tony Atkin – Wikipedia)

In 1855 the mound was finally excavated, but sadly, or perhaps unfortunately, no golden boat with golden oars was found – only a cist-type grave inside slabs of stone, like a small chamber, was found along with some ashes of burnt bones and charcoal. Whether these ashes were those of King Gerrenius of Dumnonia we may never know. But this very ‘fanciful’ legend has proved to be a good story told down the centuries. The cist grave (cairn) would most probably date from the Bronze-Age. The almost circular-shaped earthworks a short distance to the north of Carne Beacon is all that now remains of an Iron-Age hillfort or settlement that is locally called ‘the Rounds’, ‘Veryan Rounds’ or ‘the Ringarounds’.

Sources:

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

Whittaker, John Dr., The Ancient Cathedral of Cornwall History Surveyed, (2 vols), London, 1804.

Westwood, Jennifer, Gothick Cornwall, Shire Publications Ltd., Princess Risborough, Buckinghamshire, 1992.

Readers Digest., Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain, Readers Digest Association Limited., London, 1977.

Farmer, David., The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, (5th Edition), Oxford University Press, 2004.

Spencer, Ray., A Guide to the Saints of Wales and the West Country, Llanerch Enterprises, Lampeter, Dyfed, 1991.

National Trust: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/roseland/things-to-see-and-do/view-page/item944365/


Taeppa’s Low, Taplow, Buckinghamshire

SU9061 8216. Taeppa’s Low, a man-made burial mound or tumulus stands in the grounds of Taplow Court to the west of the village of Taplow, 1 mile east of Maidenhead, and to the north of the A4 and just east of the A4094 road. The site is close to the east bank of the River Thames. The Anglo-Saxon burial mound stands inside an old churchyard where there stood, upto 100 years ago, a Saxon church dating from c700 AD. The whole site is surrounded by the earthworks of an Iron-Age fortification which are now barely noticeable to visitors.

The grass-covered mound is 15 feet (4.5 metres) high and 80 feet (24 metres) in diameter at its base with a flatish top to it. In 1883 an archaeological excavation was carried out by the parish clerk who just so happened to be an antiquarian. He dug down into the mound for a few feet but  nothing much was found; however, when a 6 foot hole was dug into the mound just below ground level, a burial was found. The funery finds consisted of a thigh bone and vertebrae inside a planked coffin in a pit with a gravel floor. The grave pit or chamber was 12 foot by 8 foot and was made out of timber. Along with the bones of Taeppa were his many grave goods, some quite rich and decorated, indicating that he was a person of noble lineage – probably a chieftain or prince. He may have been a relative of King Redwald of East Anglia who died in 617 or 625 AD and was buried at Sutton Hoo. The finds at Taeppa Low were dated to 620 AD.

Among the artefacts found during the excavation was a sword, spear, shields, gold buckle, bronze clasps, drinking horns with gilt ends, glass beakers, an Egyptian bronze bowl, drinking cups, fragments of a harp, some well-decayed cloth found on the bones and golden thread from his tunic – everything that he would need in the afterlife! These finds are now in the British Museum, London. We do not, however, know whether or not Taeppa was a Christian, certainly his relation King Redwald was an “on off Christian”, and this was before the area was Christianised by St Birinus twenty years later.

200 yards to the north-west of the mound is Bapsey Pond which is actually a holy well associated with St Birinus, bishop of Dorchester, who died in 650 AD. He baptised many converts at the well in 642 AD. The source of the pond comes from the old churchyard where the mound is located. So, maybe there were originally two holy wells here?

Taplow Mound, Buckinghamshire. Image copyright Bob Trubshaw / bobtrubs@indigogroup.co.uk. From At the Edge / Bob Trubshaw 1996.


Silbury Hill, Beckhampton, Wiltshire

SU1000 6850. Silbury Hill is a man-made chalk and clay mound beside the A4 road 1 mile south-east of Beckhampton. It dates from the Neolithic period of prehistory some 4,700 years ago. This famous conical-shaped hill is 130 feet high or 40 metres and, with its wide outer circular ditch, which is most noticeable at the eastern side and quite often filled with water in wet spells of weather, it covers a total area of about 5 acres (2 hectares). The base of the hill covers 167 metres, while the flat-topped surface is about 100 feet in diameter.

The first phase of building here began in 2,500 BC followed by, perhaps, another three phases of work; thousands of local workers were employed in the construction of the mound which was built in the form of a pyramid in steps or tiers – the steps being cut sarsen stones from nearby quarries. Then these steps were filled in with more chalk and clay and then levelled off and fashioned in to what we see today, an almost circular smooth-sided mound.

Silbury Hill by William Stukeley.

Archaeological excavations have taken place at Silbury in 1776, 1849, 1968-70 but nothing of any great interest has ever been found, certainly no sign of any burials. Historians and archaeologists have mused over what the hill was used for for a long time but no one has been able to come up with anything special. It could have been used for astronomical purposes or perhaps as an ancient sundial or something else. The Romans are also likely to have used the hill as a look-out post when they were marching along their road, now the A4.

According to legend, Silbury Hill was the burial place of King Sil. He was apparently buried inside the mound wearing his gold armour and seated on top of a golden horse or, the devil had a hand in the building of the mound by tossing a shovel full of earth away while building the Wansdyke; or he was aiming at the town of Marlborough and a bit of earth dropped from his shovel in the process. There are a number of other legends but none hold much credance.

English: Avebury - Silbury Hill Looking a bit ...

Silbury Hill (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The area around the hill is quite literally covered with round barrows, earthworks, and ancient sites. Half a mile to the south-east is the West Kennett Long Barrow and the famous Avebury stone circle is only a couple of miles to the north. Together they form a sort of ancient complex, many standing on ley-lines and alignments that intersect and pass through each other, as if that’s what they were meant to do and no doubt to the ancient peoples that’s what they did. The stone Age people were well aware of  alignments, they knew a thing or two about them.