The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


Lexden Burial Mound (Tumulus), Near Colchester, Essex

Old Map of Colchester and Lexden Areas with Tumulus & Celtic town.

NGR: TL 97537 24712. In the back gardens of a row of houses on Fitzwalter Road at Lexden, 1 mile southwest of Colchester town centre, in Essex, is an ancient barrow (tumulus) with trees growing out of it. The area where the mound is located was originally called Lexden Park. It was con-sidered by historians and antiquarians to date from the late Iron Age period of pre-history and, probably constructed just before, or at, the Roman occupation of 43 AD. Traditionally, it has also been thought that the mound was where the British prince, Cunobelinus, was buried, although whether there is any truth in that remains to be seen. Colchester was originally called Camulo-dunum after Cunobelinus, King of the Catuvellauni. To the north of the tumulus is the site of a Celtic cemetery and, further to the northeast at Sheepen Farm the site of the Celtic town, which would have been inhabited in the time of Cunobelinus. When the tumulus was excavated in 1924 many artefacts were dis-covered, some of which were bronze. The 4-5 foot high barrow with its outer ditch is at the far south-western end of Fitzwalter Road (Handford Place), just before St Clare Road.

Benham’s (1946) tells of the site, saying: “The Lexden Tumulus is a burial mound situated in what was formerly Lexden Park, and was excavated in 1924. It has long been a local landmark, in fact Dr. William Stukeley (1687-1765) had noted it in 1758 as ‘“Prasutagus’s grave,”’ a fanciful and unfounded ascription. Morant, though not mentioning the mound in his History of Colchester, left a plan of it with manuscript notes. The Rev. Henry Jenkins (c.1860) called it a ‘”Beacon,”‘ regarding it perhaps as a mount or mound in the vicinity so described in Speed’s Map of Essex (1610). Roman remains were found in the mound in 1860 (an amphora and pottery). Though surrounded (at some distance) by a circular ditch the mound itself was ovoid in shape.”      

Lexden Burial Mound (Tumulus) bronze artefacts.

Benham’s goes on to say that: “The excavation in 1924 indicated that the mound was the burial place of some noted personage, probably before the Roman Conquest in A.D. 43. The objects discovered included : (1) fragments of burnt human bones; (2) fragmentary pottery, described as ‘“pre-Flavian,”’ or, at latest, of the first half of the first century; (3) masses of iron, of which several portions are apparently parts of a litter; (4) iron chain-mail (many fragments); (5) a bronze table about 13 in. long by 9¾ in. broad and about 3¼ in. high, standing on four small ball-footed legs, and adorned with pendent scroll-work (it is thought that this table may have been the base of a standard lamp); (6) bronze pedestal about 3½ in. square and 2 in. high; (7) small bronze foot, sandalled (part of a figure of which the remainder was not found); (8) bronze figure of Cupid, holding a bird, found near the pedestal; (9) neck and head of a bronze griffin originally the attachment (or handle) for a bowl; (10) a small bronze bull, lying down; (11) a small bronze boar (tusked); (12) other bronze objects and fragments, bosses (with traces of red enamel), large numbers of bronze studs of various sizes, some of which are supposed to have decorated harness, a bronze palstave (an implement or weapon devised  to fit in to a wooden handle, dating from the late Bronze Age, already at least 900 years old at the time of burial), etc.; (13) remains of leather clothing, with a buckle; (14) fragments of horn; (15) remains of fine gold tissue; (16) many trefoil-shaped silver ornaments, remains of silver buckles and silver studs; (17) silver medallion with head of  Augustus (Gaius Octavius, 65 B.C.—A.D. 14) said to be identical with that on denarii issued 17 B.C., cut out from an actual coin and soldered on a silver disc, enclosed in moulded silver frame. It is inferred that this must have been the burial of a personage of importance, and it has even been supposed that it may have been the funeral mound of Cunobelinus, the British King. The absence of all coins of Cunobelinus is significant.”       

Benham’s adds more, saying that: “Colchester has claims to be the oldest recorded town in Great Britain. It occupies the site of the British Camulodunum, the ‘“fort of Camulos,”’ the Celtic war god, and the “‘royal seat”’ or capital of the British King Kunobellinos, according to the historian Dio Cassius. The coins of Cunobelinus, with their legends CAMV for Camulodunum and CVNO for Cunobelinus, found in hundreds in Colchester, are substantial evidence in conformation of this statement.

“Cunobelinus is the Cymbeline of Shakespeare, though beyond the name the poet borrowed nothing of his story—either legendary or historical. Cunobelinus resigned from about 5 B.C. till his death about A.D. 43. He is described on his coins as son of Tasciovanus, whose coinage is also plentiful, and who was perhaps descended from Cassivellaunus (Caswallon), who resisted Julius Cæsar’s invasion of Britain in the year 54 B.C. Cassivellaunus made terms with the Romans and continued to reign after there departure. He is reputed to have seized Camulodunum about 50 B.C., taking it from Man-dubratius, who was restored to his sovereignty by Julius Cæsar. These latter details, however, cannot be accepted as authentic.

“The Celtic settlement was discovered to be a large area of wattle-and-daub huts, dotted over the hill now occupied by Sheepen Farm, from the river marshes on the north up to the plateau towards the south, very much in the manner of native ‘“kraals”’ in Africa. Great quantities of pottery were found, as well as moulds for the striking of Cunobeline’s coins. The pottery included native (British) ware and Roman ware imported from the Rhineland, N. and S. Gaul, and Italy. Brooches and bronze objects and coins were also discovered. The coins were mainly of Cunobelinus, but one of his predecessor, Tasciovanus, was unhearthed. Over 50 Roman coins were found, ranging up to Claudius (A.D. 41—54). The evidence showed that the Celtic site had been occupied by the Roman soldiers for many months, or even a few years, before the Roman Colony had been established to the S.E., thus changing the position of the town to that which it now occupies on the hill adjoining.

“The Celtic cemeteries were on the south side of the main settlement, many burials having been found in the Lexden Park area. Several lines of massive earthworks, including Gryme’s Dyke, protected Camulodunum on the west, running from the river Colne in the north to the Roman river in the south, thus cutting off the peninsula formed by those two rivers.”

Hawks (1975) regarding Colchester, says: “The town stands, as it were, at the junction of British history with prehistory. Cunobelin or Cymbeline, who united south-east Britain into a single powerful kingdom during the early years of our era, established his capital here in about 10 A.D. He chose a slope above the Colne just to the south-west of the present town at a place where now there is little for the visitor to see beyond a huge notice by which the Corporation have obligingly announced that this is the site of Camulodunum, capital of King Cymbeline. The outer dykes defending the settlement —comparable to those we have seen at Chichester and St. Albans……are still visible within the area of Lexden Park. These long lines of bank and ditch are typical of Belgic military ideas in contrast with the enclosed hill-fort of their immediate predecessors. The faint remains of the scattered city of Camulodunum are now under fields, houses and roads on the outskirts of Colchester. Excavation showed that Cunobelin, and after him, no doubt, his ill-fated sons ruled there until the time of the Roman conquest.” 

Darvill (1988) telling of the inhabitants of Camulodunum, says: “The Lexden Tumulus………contained the burial of one of their leaders, possibly King Addedomaros. Accompanying the cremation were many ritually broken objects including fine tableware, wine amphorae and jewellery. Following the Roman Conquest, Camulodunum became an important colonia for retired Roman army veterans.”

Priestley (1976) tells us Colchester is: “One of the earliest Roman towns to be founded in Britain. Colchester has a great deal to show the visitor. In days before the Roman conquest, Cunobelinus (Cymbeline) King of the Catuvellauni ruled the whole of SE England from his capital here. It was situated on flat land to the W and NW of the modern town and defended by an elaborate system of earthworks and dykes between 2 and 3 miles (3.2 and 8 km) distant from the town. Traces of these may still be seen and followed with the aid of an Ordnance Survey map.”

There is a second tumulus, though this one is not so well known, 665m to the northwest of the Lexden burial mound, on a grassy area in the middle of a modern housing estate (Marlowe Way) at NG: TL 96877 24882. This tumulus, known as ‘The Mount’, probably dates from around the same time as the one at Fitzwalter Road, Lexden.

Sources / References & Related Websites: 

Benham’s, Benham’s Colchester — a history and guide, Benham And Company Limited, Colchester, 1946.

Darvill, Timothy, AA Glovebox Guide — Ancient Britain, The 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.

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

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

https://colchesterheritage.co.uk/monument/mcc1356

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1019967

https://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=MEX34083&resourceID=1001

https://megalithix.wordpress.com/2009/12/20/lexden-tumulus/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.


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Maeshowe, Orkney Island, Scotland

Maeshowe chambered cairn, in Orkney Island.

NGR: HY 31830 12762. At the southeastern edge of Loch Harray (north side of the A965 Strom-ness to Kirkwall road) on Orkney Island, Scotland, stands ‘Maeshowe’ or ‘Maes Howe’, a well-preserved Neolithic chambered cairn and passage-grave from 2800 BC, which is the largest megalithic tomb in Orkney and the finest of its kind in the British Isles; the masonry in this tomb being far better than any of the prehistoric burial monuments in the rest of Europe! This large and imposing grassy mound is around 24 feet high, over 100 feet in diameter, and is surrounded by a ditch that is more than 40 foot wide. At the southeast side of the mound there is a slab-built entrance with a long passage-way leading inside the monument to the inner chamber that is over 12 feet in height. Inside the chamber there are 30 runic inscriptions and other carvings. Mawshowe is located about 1 mile east of ‘Stones of Stenness’ and 4 miles west of Finstown. A footpath leads of the A965 road (opposite Tormiston Mill) in a northwesterly, then northeasterly direction, for 300m to the monument.

Maeshowe Chambered Cairn, Orkney Island. (Photo: T. Kent).

J. Gunn (1941) on his visit to Maeshowe tells us: “We enter the mound by a low and what seems a very long passage, at first barely2½ feet high, but for the second half over 4 feet, and are glad to reach the central chamber, where we can stand upright once more. The floor of this chamber is 15 feet square. The walls are vertical for the first 6 feet of their height, and then begin to curve inwards, not by an arch structure but by each course of the masonry over-lapping the previous one, and so producing the effect of a vault, until at the height of about 13 feet only a small opening is left to be covered by a single slab. The angles of the building are strengthened by heavy buttresses of stone. In the wall opposite the entrance, and on either side, are recesses some 3 feet above the ground, built as if for burial chambers.

“The mound was broken into, perhaps in search of treasure, by the followers of Earl Rognvald II., who wintered in Orkney in 1151 before setting forth on his famous pilgrimage to Jerusalem. In 1861 it was reopened and carefully examined, the passage was opened out, the interior cleared of rubbish, and the roof restored.” 

Gunn goes on to say: “The mound which covers and protects the building is still some 35 feet in height, and 300 feet in cir-cumference. It stands on a level platform of nearly three times this diameter, surrounded by a trench about 40 feet wide, and from 4 to 8 feet deep. The entrance passage to the chamber is fully 50 feet long. Regarding the builders of the chamber, its purpose, and its date, nothing is known.” And Gunn goes on to say “There is thus no doubt that their original purpose was sepulchral, and this is true also of Maeshowe itself, as is shown by the fragments of human skulls which were found in it when it was examined in 1861.” 

Burial recess & blocking stone

Childe & Simpson (1959) tell us that: Maes Howe covers the finest “megalithic tomb” in the British Isles, the masonry of which is surpassed nowhere in Western Europe. The tumulus rises from a flan plain at the south-east end of the loch of Harray, and belongs to a great complex of monuments to which we shall return. The imposing mound is 115 feet in diameter and still 24 feet high. It is encircled, 50 feet to 70 feet from its base, by a great penannular ditch, 45 feet wide. From the south-east edge of the barrow a passage now over 36 feet long leads to a chamber 15 feet square and now 12 feet 6 inches high. (The original corbelled roof is preserved to that height only, the gap being covered by modern vaulting). In the middle of each side wall save the southern rectangular “window” some 3 feet above the floor gives access to a small rectangular cell, 3 feet 6 inches high, and roofed by a single lintel slab. These cells, the actual depositories of the deceased, could be plugged with stone blocks, still lying near them on the chamber floor.

“The masonry of the passage and chamber is of outstanding excellence. Most of the stones used have been dressed. The walls and roof of the inner part of the passage are formed of monoliths, on an average 18 feet 6 inches long, 4 feet 4 inches wide and 7 inches thick. The joints are so finely adjusted that it is impossible to insert a knife-blade between them. Projecting piers in the chamber’s four corners, ingeniously designed to support the corbels, are each faced on one side with upright monoliths that attain a height of 9 feet 8 inches. 

“Maes Howe was presumably designed as the burial place of a potent chief and recalls in several details some famous tombs on the Boyne. It was opened by Farrer in 1861, who found he had been anticipated  by Vikings in the 12th century. These had left nothing of the original burials nor their furniture, but a record of their violation in the form of Runic inscriptions and engravings of a lion, a walrus, and a serpent-knot. The inscriptions mention the removal of treasures and record various visits by Christian Vikings and crusaders about A.D. 1150.”   

Bill Anderton (1991) says of the Maes Howe Tomb: “Near Stromness, on the island of Orkney can be found the remains of a magnificent chambered tomb. The tomb lies beneath a 7-metre-high mound of clay and stones, the entrance being through an 11-metre-long passage lined with huge slabs of stone. The chamber of the tomb measures 4½ metres square. The wall opposite the entrance and the two side walls each have a recess leading into the body of the earthern mound. Burials may have been placed within these recesses. The tomb was sealed in about 1500 BC, and remained thus until AD 1150 when it was broken into by some Norse pirates who were spending the winter on the island. Nothing was left in the tomb except for some runic inscriptions testifying to their presence. These inscriptions were carved by Vikings over 800 years ago, but the beautifully constructed cairn is dated to about 2750 BC. It is orientated so that the mid-winter sun shines down the 11-metre-long entrance passage to light up the inner beehive chamber. Among the carvings on one of the uprights is the famous Maes Howe Dragon.”    

Further to that Charles Tait (1999) says: “Maeshowe has the distinction of having one of the largest groups of runic in-scriptions known in the world. Inscribed artefacts are common all over Scandinavia and the Norse colonies, with the earliest dating from about AD 200. The younger futhark was developed about AD 700 and was the form of runes used by the Vikings. Many inscriptions are on artefacts and tell who carved the runes while runic memorial stones are also common, often using existing boulders. These epitaphs often commemorate the exploits of the dead.

“The Vikings left much runic graffiti, but none have so far been as rich and interesting as in Orkahaugr – the Norse name for Maeshowe. These runes were carved in the 12th century and are a development of the characters used by the earlier Vikings. Runes developed as a simple way of carving letters into wood, bone or stone using a blade or similar implement. They represent most of the Latin alphabet as required by Old Norse. There are many variations in the runic alphabet, but most of the characters have Latin equivalents. Runes were used throughout the Germanic lands, but probably developed in Scandinavia.

“At Maeshowe there are about 30 inscriptions, many of which are of the style “Thorfinn wrote these runes”. Some gave their father’s name, or a nickname, some are by women and one intriguing inscription says “these runes were carved by the man most skilled in runes on the Western Ocean with the axe that killed Gaukr Trandkill’s son in the south of Iceland”. This rune carver may have been Thorhallr Asgrimassom, Captain of Earl Rognvald Kali’s ship when they returned in 1153 from the Crusades. Clearly the Vikings were interested in Maeshowe and left inscriptions on at least one other occasion, when stories about treasure were being told, as in “Haakon singlehanded bore treasures from this howe”. Women were also discussed, as in “Ingigerd is the most beautiful of women” and “Ingibiorg the fair widow”, or “Many a women has come stooping in here no matter how pompous a person she was”’.

Charles Tate adds that: “Some of the runes are cryptic tree runes which are easily deciphered by a numeric code based on the futhark – the runic alphabet. Little could the Viking graffiti writers of 1153 have realised how interesting their runes would be today! In the magnificent setting of the 5,000 year-old tomb, the Viking visitors seem not so distant.”

Sources / References & Related Websites:

Anderton, Bill, Guide To Ancient Britain, W. Foulsham & Co. Ltd., Slough, Berkshire, 1991.

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

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

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

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

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

https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/maeshowe-chambered-cairn/

https://canmore.org.uk/site/2094/maes-howe

https://stonesofwonder.com/maeshowe.htm

http://www.orkneyjar.com/history/maeshowe/index.html

https://sites.google.com/a/umich.edu/from-tablet-to-tablet/final-projects/runic-graffiti-at-maeshowe-orkney-katie-rokakis-13

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.


Tinkinswood Burial Chamber, St Nicholas, South Glamorgan, Wales

Tinkinswood Burial Chamber, Wales. Photo: FruitMonkey, Wikipedia Commons.

OS Grid Reference: ST 0922 7331. In a clearing at the edge of a partly wooded field, just south of the village of St Nicholas, in South Glamorgan, Wales, there is a megalithic monument known as Tinkinswood Burial Chamber or Tinkinswood Chambered Cairn. This ancient monument which dates from the Neolithic Age has a long and quite enormous capstone weighing 40 tons or more, and also an unusually low entrance (portal). It is known by several other names including: Tinkinswood Long Barrow, Tinkinswood Cromlech and, also Castell Careg, Llech-y-Filliast, Maes-y-Filiast and Gwal-y-Filiast, to name but a few. It is sometimes also called a dolmen. The stones that lie scattered around close to the monument are, according to legend, some local women who had danced around the burial chamber on the Sabbath day and were turned to stone! You can reach the monument on a footpath running south towards Duffryn House for about ¾ of a mile from Duffryn Lane in St Nicholas (Sain Nicolas).

Christopher Houlder (1978) tells us that: “John Ward’s excavations here in 1914 were outstanding for their time, and the careful restoration does justice to the importance of the monument. The enormous capstone, estimated to weigh 40 tons, was locally quarried along with its supporting slabs, to form a simple end chamber in a dry-walled cairn of the typical Severn–Cotswold wedge-shaped form. The back of the funnel-shaped forecourt was walled to the chamber roof, leaving only a low entrance gap at one corner. At least 50 individuals were represented by the mass of bones recovered, along with several fragments of plain pottery and Beaker ware. A slab-lined pit in the body of the mound was not part of the original layout, but internal lines of upright stones are either ritual in purpose, or a practical demarcation of family shares in the building of a communal tomb.

“Settlements of the Neolithic period are usually found only by chance, as happened when a Bronze Age cairn was com-pletely excavated at Sant-y-nyll in 1958. An oval ring of post holes 4.6 m by 3.7 m across represented a hut succeeding two smaller ones, amid domestic refuse which indicated a sheep-farming economy. Pottery was of late Neolithic type distinct from that of the long-cairns, and probably represented a phase of peasant life transitional to the Bronze Age proper.”

Barber & Williams (1989) write that: “It is marked as Cromlech on the one inch Ordnance Survey maps of 1833 and as Long Barrow on maps of 1947 and 1956. This dolmen is sometimes confused by writers with the dolmen at Duffryn in the adjoining parish of St. Lythans. The capstone itself is 22 feet by 3 feet and weighs over 40 tons.” The authors go on to say that R. E. M. Wheeler (1925) mentions that the old belief that anyone who slept within the dolmen on a spirit nightwould suffer one of the following calamities — he would either die, go raving mad or become a poet. Marie Trevelyan (1905) relates several stories about the dolmen.” Chris Barber (1982) has a photograph and mentions various legends including one which says that around the cromlech are stones said to be women who had danced on a Sunday and were turned into stone.”

Tinkinswood Burial Chamber at St Nicholas, South Glamorgan.

Jacquetta Hawkes (1975) tells us more of the site and its surrounds. She says: “About five miles out of Cardiff on the south side of the Cowbridge road there is a remarkable concentration of long barrows and other megalithic tombs. The doubtful Coed y Cwm barrow lies closest to the road, but of far greater interest is the well-known chambered long barrow in Tinkinswood just to the south of it. This St Nicholas is obviously of the Cotswold family—that is at once shown by the long wedge-shaped mound with its containing drystone walls and horned forecourt. The chamber, reached through the forecourt, is a large but plain box-like chamber covered by one colossal rectangular capstone measuring as much as twenty-two by fifteen feet. The entrance is at the side, and not in the centre, of the front wall and therefore lacks the usual architectural formality of jamb-stones; the whole of the front wall is screened by drystone walling of considerable thickness, but with a slab-lined opening leading to the entrance.

“About a mile to the south-west is the St. Lythans long barrow; the mound (or rather cairn, for as in the Cotswolds these Welsh examples are of piled stones) has almost disappeared leaving the megalithic chamber with its cover-stone standing naked; there is no question, however, that it was originally very similar to that of St. Nicholas.”

Timothy Darvill (1988) gives some in-depth info on this site, saying: “This partly restored Neolithic long barrow lies about 1 mile north of the St Lythans barrow. It is approached from the east across fields by way of a footpath (signposted). The mound, roughly rectangular in plan and now a little overgrown in places, is about 40m long and 17.8m wide. It is composed of limestone rubble, and is neatly revetted on all sides by a drystone wall. At the eastern end is a shallow funnel-shaped forecourt flanked by two slightly flattened horns. The wall of the forecourt is rather unusual in that the stones are set at an angle in what is known as herringbone style.

“The chamber, which is roomy and can still be entered, opens almost directly out of the rear of the forecourt. The walls are of large orthostats with dry-stone walling filling the gaps between the main uprights. The massive capstone measures 7.1m long, 4.5m wide, and is up to 0.9m thick. Its weight is estimated at 40 tons. Excavations in 1914 uncovered the remains of at least 50 individuals in a jumbled state in the main chamber, 21 were adult females, and 16 were adult males. Some pottery was also found in the chamber.

“About half-way down the mound on the north-side is a polygonal cist. At the time of the excavation this was thought to be a later addition to the barrow, but an alternative theory is that it is the remains of a small early Neolithic tomb that preceded the construction of the long barrow. CADW—WELSH HISTORIC MONUMENTS.”

The CADW site page tells that: “Parts of the site were reconstructed following its excavation in 1914. A supporting pillar was inserted in the chamber and the external walls were re-clad using a distinctive herringbone pattern.” See Link, below.

Sources and related websites:-

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

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, London, 1975.

Houlder, Christopher, Wales: An Archaeological Guide, Faber And Faber Limited, London, 1978.

Photo (top) by FruitMonkey:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tinkinswood#/media/File:Tinkinswood_Interior

https://cadw.gov.wales/daysout/tinkinswoodburialchamber/?lang=en

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

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

https://www.stonepages.com/wales/tinkinswood.html

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=1471

© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2018.


Golgotha Lodge, Williamson Park, Lancaster, Lancashire

OS Grid Reference: Approx. SD 4866 6121. At the northwestern side of Lancaster’s Williamson Park at the place strangely known as Golgotha, in the County of Lancashire, there used to be ‘in olden times’ one or more Bronze Age burial mounds or barrows (tumuli). However, there is nothing to see there today as the barrow(s) were destroyed and the park was, sadly, later built over them in 1881. The barrow(s) were located close to Golgotha Lodge, near the western entrance to the park, which has ‘also’ long since disappeared. The biblical name of Golgotha is usually taken to mean ‘a place of skulls’ or ‘hill of skulls’, which is very apt for a place of death and burial – as we had hearabouts. There also used to be a few drumlins or hummocks (small round-shaped hills) around here which may, or may not, have sometimes been mistaken for burial mounds, although obviously not in the case of this particular (destroyed) barrow, or barrows, located near or in the vicinity of Golgotha Lodge.

The barrow(s) (tumuli) were excavated back in 1865 at which time six or more funery urns were found along with some other, smaller finds (grave goods). Mr. J. Harker (1865, 1872 & 1877) has left us with some good information on the site which was near Golgotha Lodge, Lancaster; the destroyed barrow(s) also sometimes going under the name of ‘Lancaster Moor’. The site had lay close to what is today Wyresdale Road (on a ridge of land ) at the edge of the now Williamson Park; and to the northeast of what were Bowerham Barracks (now St Martin’s College and part of the University of Cumbria). In the vicinity of the barracks there was, apparently, another prehistoric mound or barrow but, once again this suffered destruction, and not much is known about it and its location is now difficult to pin down.

The site entry (No. 6) in the ‘Lancashire Archaeological Bulletin’ (1984) for the parish of Lancaster. Site Name: Lancaster Moor. N.G.R. SD 489 611. Primary Reference: Harker 1865 (=Harker 1877b). Disposition of Finds: Siting “A group of urn was found on Lancaster Moor c.1865. Harker describes the site as being ‘a little to the south of the most elevated part of the people’s recreation group’. This cannot be Highfield Recreation Ground, as the Ordnance Survey record card suggests, since this was not in existence even as late as 1893 (First edition O.S. 25” map). Harker also suggests, in dealing with the Bowerham Barracks find of 1877 (Site 8), that there were only 300 yards between the two discoveries. This suggests the general area of Golgotha Lodge for the 1865 site. He also says ‘At the eastern extremity of the barrows the land inclines steeply towards the Asylum ground’. This must be a down slope, but this and the following sentence are the only places where he uses the word ‘barrows’. The sentence quoted, in conjunction with the siting evidence already quoted, suggests that find covered a considerable area.

Stratigraphy “Eight feet below the then current ground level. The top six feet broken stone recently brought from the quarry. Below this, six inches of ‘dark vegetable soil’. ‘Between this soil and the sandstone rock, ordinary drift deposit and marl’.

The six B/A urns found near Golgotha Lodge

Golgotha Lodge Barrow(s). Artefacts (Grave-Goods).

Nature of finds “Urns placed ‘in pairs, at intervals of a yard, in a long extended line extending east and west’. (Exactly what does this mean?) Harker describes and illustrates six urns and an accessory vessel. In one of the urns was an unburnt bone from the head of a fish and a tanged bronze spearhead (Not in Davey and Foster 1975). Another contained a bone pin and two perforated cheek pieces of antler. The riveted dagger blade illustrated by Harker (not in Davey and Foster 1975) came from an urn which was not preserved, which was one of a number nearer the Asylum, where, Harker suggested, the ‘free drainage’ resulted in the urns and their contents being ‘so much decayed…as scarcely to be recognisable’. This point about ‘the urns in this part of the barrows’, expressions such as “Some of them….; others….’ and the fact that ‘fragments of several other urns have been brought to me’ show that the total was many more than the six plus an A.V. [accessory vessel] described.

Ritual “It is frequently implied in the report that all pots contained cremated bone. Harker notes an absence of teeth. He describes a cist containing one pot, the remainder of the space with only a flag to cover the mouth. His description of the disposition of Nos. 1 and 2 is hard to follow. They were ‘placed side by side, a thick flag, nearly two feet square between them and another heavy flag resting on the uprights (?) so as to cover the mouth of both vessels’ All pots were apparently upright since the 1872 urn (site 7) was not, and the fact that the 1865 urns were is there mentioned. Illustration from Harker *1977b — Plate A.” [*Should probably read 1877b).

Sources & related websites:-

Edwards, Margaret & Ben, (Editors), Lancashire Archaeological Bulletin, Vol. 10, No. 2/3, May & July 1984.

https://www.lancaster.gov.uk/…/Lancaster%20District%20Housing%20Sites%20-%20I…

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=6858&m_distance=1.3

http://www.lancaster.gov.uk/sites/williamson-park

http://andrewgough.co.uk/golgotha-england/

https://getoutside.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/local/golgotha-lancaster

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2018.

 

 


Winckley Lowes II, Near Hurst Green, Lancashire

Map of Winckley Lowes, Bronze Age barrows, Lancashire.

OS Grid Reference: SD 70843 37313. In a farmer’s field 1 mile to the south-east of Hurst Green, Lancashire, is a large tree-clad mound (bowl barrow) which is called Winckley Lowes II or Loe Hill. This particular mound has only recently been identified as a Bronze Age burial site. It lies some 200m to the southeast of a smaller burial mound (tumulus) called Winckley Lowes I. Both sites are located in fields opposite the River Ribble. In the Summer and Autumn the local farmer grows tall maze crops here and so the two burial mounds are difficult to see and, as they are on private land, they can not really be reached. The Winckley Lowes II mound was examined by local antiquarians in the early and late 19th century, but no University-based excavations have, as yet, taken place here. At least two footpaths heading south-eastwards from the B6242 road between Hurst Green and Great Mitton, near the bridges, are the best bet to reach the site; then follow The Ribble Way running east beside the river to the former boathouse (now a private house). The tree-clad mound of Winckley Lowes II lies across the fields 140m to the northeast of this building. 

It’s not a good idea, however, to visit the mounds when the maze crops are growing tall. When the crops have been cut back in the Autumn it is possible to see both mounds from the footpath beside the river Ribble, or from either of the two metal gates at either side of the boathouse; and if you do go further into the fields to get a closer view it is probably best to walk along the edges of the fields when ‘they’ have been ploughed. 

The grassy mound, bowl barrow or round barrow, has trees growing from its sides and summit. It is about 6m (20 feet) high and has dimensions of approx. 42 x 38 metres (137 ft x 124 ft). It has the look of being a naturally-formed hillock or knoll that was formed many thousands of years ago. 

The late John Dixon (1993) says of this site that: “The second, larger, mound is known as Loe Hill and has only recently been declared man-made. No major excavation work has been carried out on the mound and its purpose remains uncertain. Some suppose that it was built after the Battle of Billington in A.D. 798; towards the close of the 8th century the Anglo-British kingdom of Northumbria was fraught with internal conflict.”

Mr Dixon adds that: “It is also possible to see the mound as a Bronze Age earthen bowl-barrow; consequently, one could put the barrow into the wider pattern of Bronze Age settlement in the area. Its close proximity to Winckley Lowe might indicate that the site had some ritual significance. Given the lack of dateable remains the site must remain the subject of speculation.”

Author Ron Freethy (1988) further adds to that uncertainty and says that: “Billington has its roots way back in Saxon times; the important battle of Billangahoh was fought there in 798 AD. The tumuli found close to the spot are said to be the burial mounds but no bones or artefacts have yet come to light. The name of Billington was mentioned in Domesday as was nearby Langho with its ancient church, repaired in 1684 using stones from the ruins of Whalley Abbey.”

The site entry for Winkley Lowes II mound (in the parish of Aighton, Bailey and Chaigley) in ‘Lancashire Archaeological Bulletin’ (1984) says:- “(b) Excavated by Whitaker in 1815. The whole, as far the investigation proceeded, was made up of large water gravel, mixed with exceedingly tough marle, of which there is a bed by the river side. The labour and expense of removing such materials was found so great, that we were compelled to desist before we had arrived at the centre, so that unfortunately nothing was found. Also excavated by Fr. Luck (from Stoneyhurst College. See link, below), September, 1894. Trench 10 feet wide from south-east to centre in four steps. Found earlier excavators’ trench with mussel shells, potsherds, clay pipes and two coins of 1806 (? Whitaker, but why not coins of 1815?). Combination of slate-coloured clay and ice-striated limestone convinced excavator that mound is natural.”  

John Dixon (1993) adds further to the above sites saying that: “A third mound once stood across the river at Brockhall Eases. During the summer of 1836 Thomas Hubbersty, the farmer at Brockhall, was removing a large mound of earth when he discovered a stone-lined cist. This was said to contain human bones and the rusty remains of some spearheads of iron. The whole crumbled to dust on exposure to air. Given that the spearheads were made of iron, one is tempted to describe it as a 1st millennium B.C. burial.”

Sources/references and related websites:-

Dixon, John & Phillip, Journeys Through Brigantia (Volume Nine) The Ribble Valley, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1993.

Freethy, Ron, The River Ribble, Terence Dalton Limited, Lavenham, Suffolk, 1988.

Lancashire Archeological Bulletin, Vol. 10 No. 2/3, May & July 1984.

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/modules.php?op=modload&name=a312&file=index&do=showpic&pid=12695

http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/3015/loe_hill.html#images

http://www.jesuit.org.uk/pause-for-prayer/3753/prayer/nojs

https://thejournalofantiquities.com/2017/09/14/winckley-lowes-i-near-hurst-green-lancashire/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2018.

 

 


Winckley Lowes I, Near Hurst Green, Lancashire

Winckley Lowes I Tumulus near the boathouse building.

   OS Grid Reference: SD 70649 37461. Grass-covered Bronze Age burial mound (tumulus) in the corner of a farmer’s field, near the old boathouse (now a private house), 1 mile southeast of Hurst Green, Lancashire, which goes under the name Winckley Lowes I. The River Ribble is close by this site with a footpath running alongside it. There is a larger mound with trees growing on top of it a short distance away that is called Winckley Lowes II or Loe Hill.  At the time of my visit in late August the mound was surrounded by maze crops and so the site was difficult to get to and difficult to photo! There was a large hollow in the centre of the mound and what looked like a hole at the side of this, which was probably due to robbing-away in the past. At least two foot-paths heading south-eastwards, then south, from the B6243 road between Hurst Green and Great Mitton, near the bridges, are the best bet to reach the site; then follow the Ribble Way running beside the river to the former boathouse (now a private house); the two mounds lie in the farmer’s fields, just at the back.

   It’s not a good idea, however, to visit the mounds when the maze crops are growing tall. When the crops have been cut back in the Autumn it is possibly to see both mounds from the footpath beside the river Ribble, or from the two metal gates at either side of the boathouse, and if you do go further into the fields to get a closer view it is probably best to walk along the edges of the ploughed fields. 

Winckley Lowes I.

   The mound or barrow known as Winckley Lowes I stands in the corner of a  farmer’s field – some 220m north of the Hacking boathouse. It is 2.5m (8 ft 2′) high and roughly 34m (111 ft) by 45m (147 ft) and is built of earth and stones. It is described as being a bowl barrow or round barrow. At the centre there is a large hollow or depression with a small hole visible at one side. At the time of my visit in August the mound was covered in very thick grass and weeds. The barrow stands on what is the floodplain of the river Ribble.

   Authors John & Phillip Dixon say of Winckley Lowes I: “The one by the nearby barn was excavated by Rev. J. R. Luck of Stonyhurst College in 1894. The tumulus revealed a cinerary urn of c. 1250 B.C. which contained the cremated remains of a body. Also found were a young man’s skull and a flint knife; a boy’s skull and a child’s skull.

    “The burial is one of an important person — probably some local chieftain — buried near the ancient natural ford at Jumbles Rocks which must have been known and used by early man even in Neolithic times.”    

Winckley Lowes I.

   The site entry for Winckley Lowes (in the parish of Aighton, Bailey and Chaigley) in ‘Lancashire Archaeological Bulletin’ (1984) says:- “Two mounds. (a) Excavated by Fr. Luck in 1894. Found cremation  without urn, 3 inhumations, flint knife and pottery. These finds were all at Stonyhurst College in 1961 and 1967. The pottery was medieval or post-medieval, and, taken with the hollow in the top of the mound, suggests robbing. The flint is now at L. R. O.”

   Winckley Lowes II also known as ‘Loe Hill’ will be looked at in more detail in a separate site page.

Sources and related websites:-

John & Phillip Dixon, Journeys Through Brigantia (Volume Nine) The Ribble Valley, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1993.

Lancashire Archaeological Bulletin, Vol. 10 No. 2/3, May & July 1984.

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=11088

http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/1697/winckley_lowes.html#images

                                                                                 © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2017.

 


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Wind Hill Cairn, Cheesden, Near Rochdale, Greater Manchester

Wind Hill Cairn at Cheesden, near Roch- dale (the north-side).

   OS Grid Reference: SD 83262 14945. In a farmer’s field at the side of Ashworth road, Cheesden, near Rochdale, Greater Manchester, is Wind Hill Cairn, dating from the Beaker Period of the Bronze Age. Now it is nothing more than a low, grassy mound at either side of the more recent drystone wall. The cairn stands at the north side of Wind Hill, 298m above sea-level and overlooking Knowl Moor, with Knowl Hill itself rising over to the east beyond Edenfield road. A little further down the lane is Ashworth Moor Reservoir and, on the opposite side of Edenfield Road, is the famous Owd Betts public house. The cairn is in a damaged condition due partly, at its north-side, to farming, but on its south-side there is less damage and has, therefore, kept its circular identity. There is a footpath heading east across Wind Hill from Ashworth road, just above Wind Hill farm and the wind turbine, but the cairn is partly on private land (at its northern-side) where there is a locked metal gate next to the wall – beside Ashworth road.

Wind Hill Cairn, Cheesden (at the northeastern side).

Wind Hill Cairn at Cheesden near Roch- dale (the south-side).

   Originally Wind Hill Bronze Age cairn had a diameter of 10.45m (34 feet) and a height of 0.75m (2-3 feet) but it is now less than that due to destruction at its N side. According to the ‘Lancashire Archaeological Bulletin’ (1984) with the primary reference: Tyson, N (1972) at the end of the excavations by Bury Archaeological Group between 1968-72: this is a ruined cairn with a kerb of horizontal slabs. There was an opening to the E which was 6 feet wide with a subrectangular area outside that was defined by inward-leaning slabs that are further enclosed by a “satellite kerb”. Both of these kerbs were finally concealed. No grave pits were found, but at the cairn’s centre a flint knife, pebble hammer and a V-bored ‘jet’ button were discovered. Further to this information: there was a cist of sand-stones at the E side. The central and W parts of the cairn were denuded; the E and S sides were in a better condition and still visible. The dry-stone wall running in a straight-line through the middle of the mound ‘was’ dug deep into the structure, causing further destruction, and some of the stonework from the cist may have ended up in the wall itself, or could still be in ‘situ’ in the mound? There looks to be another “possible” tumulus at SD 83461 15136, some 290m to the east.

Knowl Moor & Knowl Hill seen from Ashworth Road, Cheesden.

   In 1905 a Late Bronze Age socketed axe (palstave) was dug up by workmen building the Ash-worth Moor Reservoir, just along the road from Wind Hill cairn. There have also been a number of archaeological finds on Knowl Moor and on Knowl Hill itself including arrowheads in a variety of shapes: lozenge, leaf, stemmed and barbed, and many flints in varying sizes and a thumbstone. It would seem, though, that these finds have not originated from ‘settlements’, but from pre-historic man simply roaming the higher ground above the forested areas beside the river Roch – where today we see the highly populated towns of Rochdale, Heywood and Bury. On Hamer Hill (Rooley Moor) above the town of Rochdale – some recumbent stones were recently discovered which has led archaeologists to consider the distinct possibility that they form a stone circle, and on nearby Hunger Hill there are possible burial mounds. There have also been a number of coin finds from the Roman period in the Rochdale and Heywood areas.

Sources of information and related websites:-

Lancashire Archaeological Bulletin, Vol 10, No. 2/3, May & July, 1984.

Tyson, N., A Bronze Age Cairn at Wind Hill, Heywood, Lancs. Bury Archaeological Group, 1972.

http://www.buryarchaeologicalgroup.co.uk/windhill.html

http://heywoodmonkey.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/bronze-age-heywood-beaker-th-moss.html

https://lancsarchaeology.wordpress.com/2009/02/13/recent-archaeolgical-discoveries-in-south-east-lancashire/

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

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=18858

                                                                                  © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2017.

 


2 Comments

Blackheath Circle, Near Todmorden, West Yorkshire

Blackheath Cairn Circle is only just visible in the middle distance marked by the red arrow.

OS Grid Reference: SD 94339 25434. About 1 mile north of Todmorden, west Yorkshire, at the eastern edge of Todmorden Golf Course there is a Bronze Age cairn circle, ring cairn or round barrow. This is usually referred to as Blackheath Circle, but locally it is called Frying Pan Circle, because of its circular shape. It also sometimes goes under the name ‘Blackheath Ringbank Cemetery’. This quite large circular feature is now partly incorporated into a raised golfing platform, but at ground-level it is hardly noticeable today apart from a slight raised bank at either side of the circle; the north side being very denuded. The grass is often a brownish colour where the cairn’s outer raised ring shows up after being mowed. Blackheath cairn circle is situated at over 900 feet above sea-level. When it was excavated nineteen burial cists were discovered along with a number of cremation urns, food vessels and other artefacts or grave-goods. Very sadly, though, this ancient site has been built-over by a golf-course – of all things! 

Blackheath Circle is best reached from Kebs Lane, Eastwood Road and then Hey Head Lane, which goes past the golf course. About halfway down the lane on the right-hand side there is a wall-stile and a footpath running west beside a wall at the northern edge of the course. The Bronze Age cairn circle is 350m along this path through the trees and, at the far end, just in front of the large gap in the wall running across.

The following information is taken from ‘Life In Bronze Age Times – A Resource Book For Teachers’. It says of the site: “Blackheath is a Prehistoric cemetery situated at 940 feet (287) O.D., on a south facing slope. On excavation it was found to comprise a circular bank of earth 3 feet (1m) high in which large stones were regularly arranged. The circle was 100 feet (30m) in diameter. There was no obvious entrance. A circular area with a floor of beaten clay was enclosed by the bank.

“There were cairns both inside the circle and in the earth bank. These revealed pits and cists containing cremation burials. Nineteen were found in all. Some of the cremations were found in urns. The urns were all upright and buried just below the surface. A characteristic feature of the urned cremations was the use of a small inverted vessel placed upside down in the urn and serving as a lid.

“The central urn is 11 inches (20 cm) high. The collar shows impressions made by twisted cord. As well as bones, the urn contained a small decorated pygmy vessel . In this vessel there was a bronze dagger, a bone pin and a bronze pin.

Plan of Blackheath Ringbank Cemeterey, near Todmorden.

Plan of Blackheath Ringbank Cemetery, near Todmorden.

Collared urns found at Blackheath Circle.

Collared urns found at Blackheath Circle.

Another urn also contained a pygmy vessel together with beads of faience, amber, jet and shale, two bone pins, flint flakes and a leaf shaped arrowhead. Two of the urns were covered by other vessels, one of which may have been a food vessel. With the exception of the two urns in the bank, all  the finds  were in the  eastern half  of the  circle. In the rest of the circle there were areas where the floor showed evidence of being baked by a great heat. These were covered with a layer of charcoal 1-2 inches thick. It was suggested that these may have been the areas where the bodies were cremated. Two deep pits were also found, possibly the holes where clay was dug out of the ground for making the pots. Areas of coarse sandstone were discovered. This could have been used for grinding down and mixing with the clay.  There was at least one (possibly four) kilns.  These were cist-like structures surrounded by baked floors where the pottery was fired.”

 Author Paul Bennett in his work ‘The Old Stones of Elmet”, says that: “The archaic West Yorkshire game of Knurr and Spell used to be played inside this circle. This is a game played with a wooden ball (the knurr) which is released by a spring from a small brass cup at the end of a tongue of steel (the spell). When the player touches the spring the ball flies in the air and is struck with a bat. Quite why they chose this place is unknown.”

Mr Bennett goes on to say with regard to Blackheath Circle that: “It was accurately described for the first time by Robert Law (1898) in  the Halifax Naturalist; but a most eloquent detail of the site was given several years later by J. Lawson Russell (1906) who, even then, told that it had been “”cut into again and again by deep plough ruts, marked out by tufts and hummocks of varying height.” 

“The first detailed excavation was done on July 7, 1898, when the site was examined in quadrants and turf cut accordingly. “”The diameter of the circle was 100ft (30.5m), ie. measuring ridge to ridge, from north to south, Russell told us.    ………There were a number of large stones set around the edge of the circle, some of which were still in situ in 1898. This led subsequent archaeologists to think the site was originally a stone circle. It may have been, but I’m sure the excavators of the period would have made such allusions.  Certainly they thought it had some ritual import.  How can we disagree!?”, says Mr Bennett. 

There is another “possible” circular feature just to the east of the large cairn circle at SD 94454 25507. However, this almost destroyed circle is smaller and very difficult to make out as it is now, sadly, incorporated into a raised golfing barrow, but the outer ring of this circle often shows up at one end as brownish grass in the summer months, especially where the golfing barrow slopes down to ground level.

Sources and other related websites:-

Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann Publishing, Milverton, Somerset, 2001.

Thomlinson, Sarah & O’ Donnell, John, Life In Bronze Age Times – A Resource Book For Teachers, Curriculum Development Centre, Burnley.

https://megalithix.wordpress.com/2010/11/19/blackheath-circle/

http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=46095

http://www.calderdale.gov.uk/v2/residents/leisure-and-culture/local-history-and-heritage/glimpse-past/archaeology

                                                                                   © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2017.