The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


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Kit’s Coty, Walderslade, Kent

OS grid reference: TQ 7451 6083. The prehistoric burial chamber called Kit’s Coty or Kit’s Coty House stands in a field to the west of the Chatham road in the Medway Valley and the A229, 1 mile south-west of Walderslade. The famous Pilgrims Way is just to the south as is the Rochester road. The nearest town, Chatham, is 2 miles to the north. The ancient monument can be reached by a trackway running alongside the site from the south at Blue Bell Hill. At first glance the monument looks like a large stone shelter or a tiny house, but it soon takes on the form of a burial chamber, which is also referred to in other terms as being a cromlech, dolmen or quoit. Although it dates back to the Neolithic age, it apparently takes it’s name from a 5th century Welsh prince called Catigern – hence we get “the house of Cati”.

Kit’s Coty Burial Chamber, Kent.

Originally the burial chamber was at the eastern end of a long barrow that was completely covered over by a mound that has now gone, while at the western end there used to be a large standing stone and another stone (a peristalith) that was known locally as “the General’s Tombstone”. Sadly this large stone was blown up in 1867 because it got in the way of ploughing the field. The burial chamber consists of three huge up-right slabs or sarsens 2.5 metres high with an equally large, overlapping capstone 4 metres long standing upon a small mound 1 metre high; originally this mound was 15 metres wide. The whole site of burial chamber and long barrow are roughly 70 metres in length. Today the monument is surrounded by ugly railings for security reasons.

Although the monument dates back more than 4,000 years to the Neolithic age, the name is derived from a Dark Age prince called Catigern, son of Vortigern who, according to legend, died in a battle against the Saxons, under Hengest and Horsa, at or near Aylesford in 455 AD. 400 metres to the south, beside the Aylesford road, can be found another ancient monument called Little Kit’s Coty or “the Countless Stones” where there are a number of recumbant stones, which once formed a second burial chamber. No burials have been found at either of these sites.


King Orry’s Grave, Laxey, Isle of Man

Grid Reference: SC 4389 8439. At the north side of Laxey village, about 70 yards to the north of the junction of the A2 road and Ballaragh road, stands the largest prehistoric monument on the island known as King Orry’s Grave, a section of which is in a garden. The original name for the monument was apparently ‘Gretech Veg Cairn’. It is actually a chambered long barrow from 4,000 years ago in the Neolithic age. There is uncertainty as to just who King Orry was, and why this monument should be associated with him, but probably he was the legendary King Gorse or Gorred of Crevan, a Viking who died here in the 11th century AD. However, as we already know, the long barrow pre-dates King Orry by thousands of years.

King Orry’s Grave, Laxey, Isle of Man

The chambered long barrow with it’s single chamber at the top end is formed by two standing stones with a lintel slab that has now fallen. Here at the west end the cist burial would have been located beneath a cairn, but whether this long barrow ever had a mound over it we do not know for certain, so perhaps it would be safe to say that it did. There is a well preserved U-shaped forecourt that is 12 metres long and 4 feet wide, and is formed by 6 stone slabs, two of which are quite long. The eastern section of the moument has a second barrow with possibly two chambers, a forecourt and entrance, and a line of cists running roughly north-east to south-west.

But, unfortunately this section has a road running through it and has largerly destroyed this part of the monument, it’s cairn of stones having been robbed-away to be used in the building of the two cottages close by in 1868. The western section of the long barrow was originally in a private garden and had never been excavated but, in the 1990s, the cottage and garden were purchased by MNH (Manx National Heritage), allowing access for visitors to the main part of the site, which is some 30 feet in diameter; the whole site being over 170 feet in length.

The site was first excavated back in 1830 when the cist was uncovered and, more recently in 1953-4 when only one burial of unburnt bones was found along with a few grave goods, including a pottery bowl and some flints.

Source:-

The Manx Museum And National Trust: Fourth (Revised) Edition, The Ancient Monuments And Historic Monuments Of The Isle Of Man (A General Guide), Douglas, 1973.


Pentre Ifan, Pembrokeshire, Wales

SN0990 3690. The famous ancient monument Pentre Ifan or Coetan Arthur (Arthur’s Quoit) is located in a field beside a country lane between Penwern and Llwynihirion. The nearest village, Brynberian, is 2 miles to the south, while the nearest town is Newport on the Pembrokeshire coast, 3 miles to the west. Carn Ingli and the Preseli Mountains form a backdrop on either side of the ancient monument which is a Neolithic burial chamber, cromlech or dolmen, whatever you want to call it – they all mean the same thing at the end of the day – a place where some ancient chieftain was buried.

Pentre Ifan Burial Chamber, Wales

Pentre Ifan is a Neolithic burial chamber, dating from between 3,000-4,000 BC, that was probably built in two phases. It stands on a slightly raised mound and is 8 feet high with a huge capstone that rests on the very tips of three upright stones. The entrance is H-shaped and is amost closed by a large blocking stone; at the south side (front) a semi-circular forcecourt and at the sides some of the kerbstones still lie flat. Originally the momument would have been covered over by a huge mound of earth over 36 metres (18 feet) long and 17 metres (9 feet) wide. Some of the stones have been robbed-away to the locality, but at least seven are in situ. The massive capstone is 5 metres in length and some 2 metres off the ground and, the whole monument is 5.5 metres in length. It’s wedge-shaped capstone weighs an “estimated” 16 tonnes. Looking at the capstone you could almost expect it to move at any moment, the balancing of this stone on it’s three supporting uprights is quite remarkable. There is a saying, locally, that a man could sit on horseback underneath the capstone, but I don’t know whether this theory has ever been tried out? The ancient monument stands on a slightly raised mound. Over the years there has been damage to the monument and so it has had to be partially restored when the huge capstone fell down, but you wouldn’t know it had.

Archaeological excavations took place here in 1936-37 and 1958-59 but nothing significant was found, certainly no burials were discovered. But the excavations firmly placed the ancient monument to around 3,500 years BC, in the Neolithic age. This is almost certainly the best preserved of all the burial chambers in Wales. King Arthur is also associated with the site. It is said he placed the capstone into position or threw the stone to where it came to rest. Arthur is also said to have built the monument. These are just legends, but ones that have stuck. The famous king probably had no connection with it at all. The little people (fairies) are said to inhabit the area around Pentre Ifan, sometimes dancing around the stones!

Pentre Ifan (Engraving by Richard Colt Hoare, 1809)