The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


Hare Hill Ring Cairn, Near Thornton-in-Craven, North Yorkshire

The Hare Hill ring cairn, near Thornton-in-Craven (closer-up).

The Hare Hill Ring Cairn, near Thornton-in-Craven, North Yorkshire.

OS Grid Reference: SD 92955 47705.  About ½ a mile to the south-east of Thornton-in-Craven, North Yorkshire,  is Hare Hill and  an early Bronze Age ring cairn or round barrow (tumulus). This ancient monument is on Hare Hill, close to footpaths which head northwest from Clogger Lane near Elslack. However, the burial cairn is now without its mound of earth and stones. At the south-east side is Low Hill, which might be a significant place-name here, and over at the northwest side, Stone Pit Hill. It was excavated back in the 1930s and 40s and many of the finds, including a large funerary urn, were deposited in the Craven Museum at Skipton. From the A56 Skipton Road near Thornton-in-Craven, turn (right) towards Elslack passing the hall, then right again onto Clogger Lane for ¾ of a mile and, after the woodland, take any of three paths (Pennine Way) on your right in a northwesterly direction onto the moor. Hare Hill being the second of the three lows hills in front of you.

Hare Hill Ring Cairn, Thornton-in-Craven. (Close-up of the cist).

Hare Hill Ring Cairn. Strange round-shaped stone within the barrow

The round barrow monument atop Hare Hill on Thornton Moor     is an early Bronze Age ring cairn or cairn circle that has lost its covering mound of earth and stones, but its outer ditch just about survives at the NW and SW sides, and there is possibly an inner ditch. Its raised bank is about 0.7m (2.3 ft) high, while the whole monument has a diameter of roughly 24m (78.7ft) and a radius across of 13m (42.6 ft) x 12m (39.3 ft). However, considering how long ago that this burial mound was constructed it is in a reasona-bly well preserved state,  just a bit messed-around with in the middle! There are several stones towards the central part of the circle but as to whether these came from the burial cist or from the bank is not certain, and the stones may not be in their original positions? The signs of excavations here are all to clear to see with a small hollow and a large shaped stone above, and smaller ones inside it, which might have been the cist burial, while other small piles of stones can still be seen embedded into the grassy bank. There may have been a settlement in the vicinity of the ring cairn though there are no visible earthworks here.

The remains of the bank, ditch and barrow

Hare Hill urn in Craven Museum at Skipton.

The ring cairn was excavated back in the 1930s and 1940s by Mr Welbury Holgate (who was accompanied by his sisters) and, over a number of years, there were many interesting finds including a very large collared funery urn with patternation, which broke into many pieces on being unearthed from the stone cist, but it was eventually (partly) restored and deposited in The Craven Museum, Skipton. It’s thought that up to 21, mainly young people, were buried in the cairn between the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age periods of pre-history. There were other finds including charcoal deposits, flints, an axehead and bone pins or needles. There is more information on the Hare Hill site on the ‘OneGuyFromBarlick’ website: https://oneguyfrombarlick.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=59&t=14401     

John & Phillip Dixon (1990) tells us that: “A Bronze Age collared urn displaying cord and jabbed impressions was found in a barrow on Hare Hill, Thornton-in-Craven. This is now on display in the Craven Museum, Skipton.” They also say: “A fine Bronze Age dagger was found in a field below the Manor House Residential Home, just up the road, in the 1960’s (SD 909484).”  

Sources / References & related websites:-

Dixon, John & Phillip, Journeys Through Brigantia Volume One: Walks in Craven, Airedale and Wharfedale, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1990.

https://oneguyfrombarlick.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=59&t=14401

https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=35748

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

©Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.


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Gop Hill Cairn, Trelawnyd, Flintshire (Sir y Fflint), Wales

Gop Hill Cairn (from the Howard Williams website: Archeodeath).

OS Grid Reference: SJ 08675 80152. A huge oval-shaped prehistoric cairn (tumulus) surrounded by forestry on the south-side of Gop Hill (Y Gop), a ¼ of a mile to the north of Trelawnyd village, about halfway between Holywell and Rhuddlan, Flintshire, northeast Wales. Also known as Garn Gop Cairn or in Welsh – Gop’r Leni. It is thought to date from either the Neolithic or Bronze Age. Gop Cairn is almost certainly the largest cairn in Wales and the second largest man-made mound in the British Isles after Silbury Hill. However, no human burials were found when it was excavated in the late 19th century though there were many animal bones. Two caves below the hill (southwest-side) yielded finds that suggest communal burial grounds. To reach this site from High Street, Trelawnyd: head northwest on the track past the houses which becomes a footpath; follow this but then soon veer off northwards to climb up to Gop Hill, which is 820 feet high, and is now directly in front of you and sandwiched between the forested areas.

Author Richard V. Simcock (1986) gives some interesting information regarding Gop Cairn. He says: “This conspicuous monument on the summit of a hill to the north-west of Trelawnyd (formerly Newmarket) but just within the boundary of the parish of Gwaenysgor, and also with walking distance. It is the largest cairn in Wales, and measures about 335 yards in circumference at the base. It is constructed of limestone pebbles, and probably dates from the bronze age. The cairn has been the site of many explorations by eminent archaeologists, and whilst considerable historic relics and information has been acquired, there is still lack of evidence as to the purpose for which it was originally constructed. Excavations have resulted in the discovery of the bones of several Pleistocene animals, including those of bison, reindeer, Irish elk, hyaenas, woolly rhinoceroses and artic lemming, which probably date from BC 400 TO 3000. A cave on the south side of the hill has revealed evidence of communal Neolithic burial ground.”

Simcock goes on to say that: “Boudicca, the Queen of the Iceni, is often associated in legend with this area, and one writer connects the neighbourhood of the Gop with the battle fought between Sustonious Paulinus and Boudicca in AD 61. Generations of writers have also speculated where the great battle was fought, and where such immense slaughter and carnage was committed; also the site of Boudicca’s grave. The Queen’s restless ghost is often summoned up to reinforce the claims of many sites in England too. These stories may or may not be true, but it is not known where or when. Yet as one strolls high on this tumulus crest, it is not difficult picture this warrior Queen hurtling into battle, as so ably portrayed in the massive Victorian statue on the Thames embankment.”

From Howard Williams website: Archeodeath)

Author Christopher Houlder (1978) says of The Gop Cairn: “This is surely the most imposing mound in Wales, though its apparent size is partly due to its position. The overall height of 12 m and the maximum diameter of 100 m no doubt conceal a natural core formed by the hilltop. A vertical shaft in 1886 and two galleries failed to reveal any central features, disclosing only a few animal bones. The Gop Cairn’s size invites comparison with the Boyne chambered tombs, but it may be in reality the most important of the many Bronze Age burial mounds of the region, indicating wealth or status such as might accrue from participation in the metal trade with Ireland along the north coast.” 

Houlder adds that: “A startling example of such wealth came to light in 1815 in a small quarry at Bryn Sion (SJ 135 719), though it took the keen eye of a gipsy to recognize its value. Used for a while as a gate fastening, it proved in the end to be a gold torc, a twisted rectangular bar of metal bent into a hoop.”

Chris Barber writing in 1987 says of the Gop Hill cairn and nearby cave that: “Professor Boyd Dawkins carried out excavations here in 1886. He sank a central shaft right down to the bedrock, but his efforts were not rewarded with any significant finds. However, further down the hill below this cairn, he excavated a cave and discovered a small sealed chamber cut into the limestone. Inside were fourteen skeletons in crouched positions, with their arms and legs drawn together and folded. Of particular interest is the fact that the shape of their skulls showed two different periods of man, thought to be Neolithic and Early Bronze Age. Fragments of crude pottery and flint tools were also found here.”

Also, Barber (1987) adds more information regarding Gop Carn. He says: “Here is the largest carn [cairn] in Wales. It is 300 feet by 200 feet and 36 feet high. The hill on which it stands is known as Bryn-y-Saethau – The Hill of the Arrows. Many flint arrowheads have been found on its slopes and the massive carn is claimed to be the grave of Boudicca (otherwise known as Boadicea, the warrior Queen of the Iceni tribe in the first century AD). It is also said to be the grave of a Roman general. In 1938 a local man was walking from Dyserth to Trelogan when he saw a field full of Roman soldiers, and on Gop Hill he saw the ghost of the Roman general on a white horse with a sword in his hand. A cloud passed over the moon and the apparition vanished.”

Sources and related websites:- 

The two photos (above) are from Prof. Howard M. R. Williams website ‘Archeodeath’ and are displayed here under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. https://howardwilliamsblog.wordpress.com/2015/11/14/the-largest-ancient-mound-in-wales-the-gop-cairn/

Barber, Chris, Mysterious Wales, Paladin, London, 1987.

Barber, Chris, More Mysterious Wales, Paladin, London, 1987. 

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

Simcock, Richard V., North Clwyd At Random, Countryside Publications Limited, Brinscall, Chorley, Lancashire, 1986. 

http://www.coflein.gov.uk/en/site/306725/details/gop-cairn-y-gop-gop-hill-cairn

https://www.peoplescollection.wales/items/417521

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

© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2017.


Dyffryn Ardudwy Burial Chamber, Gwynedd, North Wales

Dyffryn Burial Chamber outskirts. Pjposullivan (Creative Commons)

   OS Grid Reference: SH 5887 2284. Neolithic monument consisting of two independent burial chambers stands in a field, 200 feet above sea-level, at the east side of Dyffryn Ardudwy village, Gwynedd, on the western slopes of Moelfre Hill which rises to 1932 feet. Dyffryn Ardudwy is 5 miles north of Barmouth. The ancient monument from about 4000 BC is also known as a ‘chambered cairn’, ‘portal dolmen’ and ‘cromlech’; it goes by several other names including Arthur’s Quoit, Carreg Arthur and Coaten Arthur. These megalithic burial chambers or dolmens can be reached by way of a lane running east off the A496 (coast road to Harlech) just before, or after Bro Arthur, depending on which way you are walking, and then by a short footpath into the fields (passing close by the village school) for maybe 100 metres east of the village. It is marked by a large cairn of stones spread widely about and two burial chambers that are set-apart, each of them having upright slab-stones and huge sloping capstones.

Dyffryn Ardudwy Burial Chamber, Gwynedd in North Wales. Plan.

   Some very good information is given in the following description by T. G. E. Powell, MA, FSA (Reader in Prehistoric Archaeology, University of Liverpool), and here quoted in full. He says: “It will be understood that the cairn  had been used over a long period as a quarry for stones to build the neighbouring walls and perhaps older structures no longer visible. Only the basal layers of cairn stones therefore survived, but sufficient to show that it had been roughly trapezoidal in plan, measuring  about 100ft in length, and in width some 35ft at the eastern end and 54ft at the western end. The cairn had a rough edge of small boulders. It’s bulk was made up of loose stones of kinds that could have been collected nearby. The megalithic slabs of which the chambers were built come from grits and slates of the Cambrian series and could have been obtained on the hillside. Excavation disclosed that there had been two periods of construction at the site. First, the smaller, western, chamber had been put up and surrounded by a small oval cairn. Later, but at perhaps no great lapse of time, the larger, eastern, chamber had been erected; then the trapezoidal cairn had been built to envelope everything. Whether this final cairn covered the capstones of both burial chambers cannot be proven, but it is likely that the cairn reached at least as high as their edges.

   “The construction of the western chamber shows it to be of a type often called for convenience a ‘Portal Dolmen’. At the higher, eastern end there is a pair of massive forward projecting stones with a high blocking stone between. These form a portal although one that is blind or non-functional. Access to the chamber was doubtless over the low slab forming the southern side. The floor of the chamber consists of a single large flat rock probably found here in its natural position by the original builders. The markedly sloped position of the capstone resting on the two portal stones and on the end stone of the chamber should be noted as characteristic of the Portal Dolmen type.

   “The eastern chamber was much more ambitious in construction, especially in the width to be spanned and in the weight of the capstone that was raised into position. It was found necessary in 1961-62 to provide additional support for this great roofing stone and a buttress was built on either side of the chamber for this purpose. This chamber stands some 28ft east of the other and is itself some 12ft long, splaying in width from 5 to 7ft. A low cross-slab with broken upper edge should be noted near the eastern end within the chamber. This may have stood to a greater height, thus acting as a partial closing stone. The gap between its free end and the southern side of the chamber was found to have been filled with blocks. A gap towards the rear in the walling of the north side of the chamber may have been intentional as it was spanned only by small flat slabs and no socket for a missing upright came to light. Eastwards of the cross-slab, the projecting walls of the chamber provided a kind of covered portico; then there was an open area bounded by small uprights of various heights, more or less continuing the shape of the portico. Finally, all this area the cross-slab outwards was sealed up with a massive blocking of sloped slabs and cairnstones. 

   “The original contents of the western chamber (Portal Dolmen) are unknown and had doubtless long been destroyed, but a pit under the cairn, just in front of the portal, produced a quantity of potsherds of a recognizable Neolithic ware. The original deposits in the eastern chamber had not been so much thrown out as thoroughly disturbed and mixed up with modern rubbish. Potsherds of several kinds were however found, as well as two polished stone pendants and some traces of cremation burials.”

Dept of Environ-ment & H.M.S.O leaflet

   T. G. E. Powell in his conclusion of the site at Dyffryn Ardudwy says that: “This chambered cairn is a com-posite burial monument first having consisted of a small megalithic chamber of Portal Dolmen type surrounded by a small oval cairn. The  Portal Dolmen type is widely distributed in the coastlands of Wales, in Cornwall, and in Ireland. The Neolithic pottery found in the pit associated with this chamber at Dyffryn Ardudwy is related  to similar  wares known from Pembrokeshire and Cornwall. It was not possible to obtain any material during the excavation suitable for radio-carbon measurement so that only a suggestion based on other evidence can be given about date. On present information it seems likely that this Portal Dolmen was erected the middle of the third mill. BC. Subsequently, a larger megalithic tomb was built and the cairn proper to this chamber was extended so as to envelope the older monument to the west. The somewhat irregular shape of this cairn may be explained by this factor in conjunction with the slope of the ground. Pottery recovered from the eastern chamber belonged to various types and suggested a period of use beginning a little later than that of the Portal Dolmen, continuing perhaps to the opening of the second mill. BC. The general structural characteristics of the eastern  chamber, and its trapezoidal cairn, suggest a mixing of building practices owing something to the Portal Dolmen tradition, but more to influences coming by pastoral routes through the mountains from the Cotswolds and south-eastern Wales.”

   Chris Barber & John Godfrey Williams (1989) say of this site that: “On early Ordnance Survey maps they are marked as Cromlech and as Burial Chamber on later ones.” Bill Anderton (1991) says that: “As part of an outbreak of light phenomena, columns of light were seen issuing from the ground here in 1905. The site stands on the Morchras geological fault.” Christopher Houlder (1978) describes it as a “long cairn” and also adds that: “The cairn lies in an area of some of the finest Iron Age cultivation terraces in the country, visible on the hillside above.” And Jacquetta Hawkes (1975) informs us that: “The Dyffryn long barrow is approached through the iron gates of the village school and will be found alongside the playground not many yards from the highway. Hawkes goes on to say: “The barrow was excavated in the 1960’s revealing a long and complex history.”

Sources and related websites:-

Anderton, Bill, Guide To Ancient Britain, Foulsham, Slough, Berkshire, 1991. 

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. 

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

Powell, T. G. E., Dyffryn Cairn – the megalithic chambered cairn at Dyffryn Ardudwy, Merionethshire, Dept of the Environment Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings on behalf of the Welsh Office – for H. M. S. O, 1973.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyffryn_Ardudwy      The photo (above) from the Wikipedia website is displayed under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License.

http://cadw.gov.wales/daysout/dyffrynardudwyburialchamber/?lang=en

http://www.megalithics.com/wales/dyffryn/dyffmain.htm

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=4449

                                                                                     © 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.

 


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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.

 

 

 

 


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Cashtal-yn-Ard, Near Glen Mona, Isle Of Man

Cashtal-yn-Ard, Isle of Man (photo by Chris Gunns (Wikipedia)

Cashtal-yn-Ard (photo by Chris Gunns – Wikipedia)

   OS Grid Reference: SC 46222 89226. The ancient burial chamber known as ‘Cashtal-yn-Ard’ stands on the edge of a hill to the northeast of Glen Mona, just to the south of Cornaa in the parish of Maughold, and close to the eastern coastline of Isle of Man. It is said to date back some 4,000 years to the New Stone Age (the Neolithic). It is quite a large megalithic structure at 130 feet in length. The name ‘Cashtal-yn-Ard is thought to mean ‘The Castle of the Heights’. However, today this megalithic burial cairn is minus its conical mound of earth and stones, but it still looks very impressive. From the A2 Laxey to Ramsey road at Glen Mona village: take the country lane towards Cornaa for 1 mile. Halfway along, and just after and opposite the entrance to Rhenab Farm on the left-hand side, walk northwest up the footpath for 180m to the southern edge of the hill – there in front of you stands the chambered burial cairn of Cashtal-yn-Ard.

   Cashtal-yn-Ard is a large, oblong shaped chambered cairn dating from the late Neolithic Age – roughly between 1,800-2,000 BC. It covers a large area some 40m (131 ft) long and 14m (46 ft) wide, and still has its outer kerb stones, forecourt, entrance and 5 burial chambers (compartments). The side stones (or slabs) of these burial chambers are angled inwards and some have jagged edges, though sadly all but one of the roof-slabs have been lost, although this long flat-slab might not be the original one. Some of the large standing stones at the entrance have been re-erected or replaced. However, its large conical mound of earth and stones, probably more stones than earth, has gone – the stones now lost to local walls and maybe farm buildings? The monument is very well-preserved and is said to be the largest of its kind in Britain.

   Here at Cashtal-yn-Ard it is thought chieftains of the New Stone Age (the Neolithic) were buried maybe with members of their close families. Indeed during excavations back in 1932-35 funerey urns and other artefacts were found. It was also excavated more recently in 1999. At the E. side there is a small grassy mound consisting of earth and stones.  The orientation of this monu-ment is said to be almost W-E. There are two more Neolithic tombs on the island – similar in size to this one.

   In the publication ‘The Ancient And Historic Monuments of the Isle of Man’, there is more information on this site. It says that this is an: “Outstanding example of a megalithic chambered cairn, of ‘Clyde-Carlingford’ type, burial place of chieftains of the New Stone Age, about 2000 B.C. A semi-circular forecourt at the western end gives access, through a ‘portal’ of two standing stones, to a burial chamber of five compartments, originally slab-roofed. Here unburnt bones, pottery and flints were found. East of the the burial chambers is a mound of earth and stones reddened and fused by heat. The whole monument, apart from the forecourt, was originally covered by a massive oblong cairn 130 feet long.”

Sources and related websites:-

Hulme, Peter J., More Rambling In The Isle Of Man, The Manx Experience, Douglas, Isle of Man, 1993.

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

The Viking Heritage – Isle Of Man – Millennium Of Tynwald, Shearwater Press, Douglas, Isle of Man, 1979.

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cashtal_yn_Ard

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=5944

http://www.iomguide.com/cashtalynard.php

http://www.isle-of-man.com/manxnotebook/history/arch/aj16n4.htm

                                                                                       © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2016.


Whitelow Cairn near Shuttleworth, Greater Manchester

Whitelow Hill and Cairn, Shuttleworth, from a nearby hill.

Whitelow Hill and Cairn, Shuttleworth, from a nearby hill.

Whitelow Cairn (looking up to the Western side).

Whitelow Cairn (looking up at the Western side).

    OS grid reference: SD 8049 1627. On Whitelow Hill up above the village of Shuttleworth, near Ramsbottom, Greater Manchester, there is a prehistoric cairn, cairn circle, or ring cairn, on what was a sacred hill to the ancient people – the “low” part of the the site’s name being evident in this case. The burial mound is quite a ‘large and prominent feature’ and in the centre there is a cist grave, which is now almost destroyed. Whitelow cairn can be reached from the A56 (Manchester Road) in Shuttleworth, opposite the Bury Old Road turning. Walk up the “very rocky” Whitelow road to the east for 180m, branching off to the right around the edge of Whitelow Hill for another 220m. There is a gate on the right. It is best to proceed by this gate up to the hill and the cairn, which is at the north side.

Whitelow Cairn (north-west side).

Whitelow Cairn (outer bank north-west side).

Whitelow Cairn (outer bank south-east side).

Whitelow Cairn (outer bank south-east side).

    The large oval-shaped cairn here at Whitelow measures 26m x 24m and has a diameter of 27m. It has a well-defined outer ‘stone’ bank or kerb, especially N and E sides, that is slightly raised. There are some large stones embedded at intervals at the S side, some beneath the grass, whereas the kerb at the E, N and W sides has smaller stones, in little piles, at intervals on top of the slightly raised bank; the kerb at the N side is quite a prominent feature and can be seen from the hill to the north-west. At the centre of the ring cairn is an inner cairn or cist burial, now almost destroyed but still with its pile of stones. The hole or hollow can clearly be seen underneath the stones. Some of these stones clearly look to be shaped and would have originally made up the burial chamber, the large stone looks as if it originally covered the grave? but nothing much remains of that now as many of the stones have gone to be used in nearby walls. Adjacent to the cist, just a few feet away, is a larger stone on its own.

Whitelow Cairn (cist grave at the centre).

Whitelow Cairn (cist grave at the centre).

Whitelow Cairn (cist grave from the north).

Whitelow Cairn (cist grave from the north).

    Excavations were carried out at Whitelow Hill between 1960-62 by Bury Archaeological Group. Twelve or thirteen cremations were discovered – five or six of these cremations being in collared urns. Also found were flint and chert flakes, two clay studs, and two halves of a bronze awl, all dating from the early Bronze-Age (the first half of the second millennium BC). Apparently there used to be at least three more cairns in this area, all situated close to the lane (the old Bury road) which runs to the east of the main site, though these have, sadly, been lost to quarrying and farming. That being the case with Bank Lane Cairn, just north of Whitelow Hill. However, there are what ‘might be’ two cairns (tumuli), although now very faint, in the field over to the southeast at SD 8058 1612 close by the kennels on Bury Old Road. However these two “possible” circular features are not recognizable at ground-level. The finds from Whitelow Cairn are housed in Bury Museum.

Sources and related websites:-

http://www.chronologyandidentity.wordpress.com

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

http://www.gmmg.org.uk/our-connected-history/item/cinerary-urn/

http://www.oocities.org/ramsbottom_bury_uk/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shuttleworth,_Greater_Manchester


Worsthorne Hill Stone Circle, Near Burnley, Lancashire

Worsthorne Hill Stone Circle.

Worsthorne Hill Stone Circle, near Burnley, in Lancashire.

    OS grid reference: SD 8845 3276. On Worsthorne Hill to the east of Burnley, Lancashire, and close to Swinden Reservoirs, stands a prehistoric stone circle. Though it is not the usual type of stone circle with stones standing up-right. This site is also known as ‘Hameldon Pasture Stone Circle’ and sometimes ‘Slipper Hill Stone Circle’. It has also been referred to as a ‘cairn circle’- and was stated as such on earlier OS maps. To reach the site take the Gorple Road at St John’s Church in Worsthorne. Continue eastwards on this often quite rough track for about ¾ of a mile. Take the track on the left just after Brown Edge Farm, climb over two stiles and continue along the here for 270m, climbing a 3rd wall stile. At the old rusting steam-roller walk to the right down the dry water course for 150m. Here in front of you is what remains of the stone circle – now partly surrounded by a land-fill site and field debris scattered about, which is quite appalling to say the least, being right next to an ancient site. A second rusty old road repairing vehicle can be seen beyond the circle!

Worsthorne Hill Stone Circle, near Burnley.

Worsthorne Hill Stone Circle, near Burnley.

The "possible" cup-marked stone in the stone circle.

The “possible” cup-marked stone in the stone circle.

There is not a great deal to see of this so-called stone circle, if that’s what it is.?  Today only 5 recumbent stones remain in a sort of circle, though there may be 2 or 3 others buried under the grass tufts. The largest of the 5 stones at the E side may also have originally been underneath the grass; this stone is about 2 ft vertically. It could ‘possibly’ have a number of tiny cup-marks on its surface where the circular lichen features are visible, or were these made by something else? There is a faint earthen circle, but this feature of is ‘now’ difficult to make out; and it has been suggested by some that the stones were part of an outer kerb. It roughly measures 15m x 12m. So was this a cairn circle? Probably not as there is no burial mound nor any visible sign of one now. This ancient monument probably dates from the Bronze Age.

[At the time of my visit it looked like a vehicle, of sorts, had been driven across the circle as they’re were tyre marks].

Sources:-

http://www.ancientmonuments.info/en23723-ring-cairn-on-slipper-hill

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


Hameldon Pasture Round Barrows, Worsthorne, Lancashire

Hameldon Pasture Round Barrow I

Hameldon Pasture Round Barrow I

    OS grid reference: SD 8914 3262. Upon the windswept Hameldon Pasture near Worsthorne, Lancashire, are two prehistoric round barrows, but often referred to as cairn circles or round cairns. The small hill on which they are located is also known as Little Hameldon Hill, and to the local people it is Worsthorne Hill. Unfortunately, both monuments are now ‘much’ destroyed and robbed of their stonework. The larger barrow is called Hameldon Pasture I while the smaller one is Hameldon Pasture II. To reach the site take the Gorple Road at St John’s Church in Wors-thorne. Continue eastwards along this often quite rough track for about 1½ miles. Take the second footpath over the ladder stile on left-hand side (after power cables), then walk-on northwards for 290m to the hill and round barrows. The ladder stile was broken at the time of my visit and the footpath often quite boggy.

Hameldon Pasture Barrow I showing the boulder at the centre.

Hameldon Pasture Barrow I (showing the boulder at the centre).

    The larger of the two barrows (Hameldon Pasture I) is 0.3m high and has a circumference of 21m (almost 69 ft) but it is now much destroyed and difficult to make out in the grass. It was originally a bowl-shaped tumulus consisting of earth and stones – many of its stones having been robbed away and used in the walls down slope. At the centre there is a hollowed-out area 5m x 4m (16 ft x 13 ft) with two weather-worn gritstone boulders, the bigger one looks to have some tiny cup-marks at one side? A third, smaller boulder lies close by. When this barrow was excavated in 1886 a cist grave was found. This had two large flat stones covering it and other flat slabs at the sides and the ends. A number of arrowheads and tiny flints were also found.

Hameldon Pasture Round Barrow II.

Hameldon Pasture Round Barrow II.

    The second barrow lies 55m to the south-west at (SD 8912 3259) and is identified as ‘Hameldon Pasture II’. But it is also known as a round cairn or cairn circle. This much destroyed round barrow measures 12.5m x 10.8m (41 ft x 35 ft) and is 0.3m high. The large hollow (depression) at the centre is 2.5m x 1.5m (8 ft x 5 ft); there are traces of a second hollow. Several stones lie in the centre and around the edges – indicative of an outer kerb. When the cairn was excavated in 1843 by Mr Studley Martin*, of Liverpool, an undecorated urn containing the bones of an adult and child was found in a stone cist, but the stones from this have been robbed away for other use in the ‘immediate’ locality.

Hameldon Pasture Round Barrow II.

Hameldon Pasture Round Barrow II.

    *Mr Studley Martin the 19th century Liverpool writer and antiquarian was a guest of the Reverend William Thursby of Ormerod House near Hurstwood, Burnley, Lancashire, in 1843. During his sojourn in the Burnley area he visited the two prehistoric barrows upon Hameldon Pasture, and was ‘seemingly’ delighted to find an undecorated funery urn in the smaller of the two tumuli. Martin was also associated with the prehistoric Calder Stones at Allerton, Liverpool.

Sources:-

Hall, Brian, Burnley (A Short History), Burnley and District Historical Society, 1977.

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1008919

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=11195

http://www.burnleyexpress.net/news/nostalgia/worsthorne-a-village-history-1-1688523

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worsthorne-with-Hurstwood


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Bradley Long Cairn, Farnhill, North Yorkshire

Bradley Long Cairn, near Farnhill, north Yorkshire

Bradley Long Cairn, near Farnhill, north Yorkshire.

    OS grid reference: SE 0092 4756. At the north-eastern side of Bradley Low Moor, near Farnhill, in north Yorkshire, is the Bradley Long Cairn, which is also known as ‘Bradley Long Barrow’ and sometimes ‘Black Hill Long Cairn’. Now, sadly, it is a large pile of stones and an uncovered oblong-shaped cist grave that has suffered from much disturbance over the years, and maybe robbery in some shape or form. Some 40m to the south-west is a much destroyed ring cairn, and yet a third cairn lies 50m to the north-west but this is hardly visible beneath the thick heather. The site can easily be reached from the hamlet of Farnhill, and then along Crag Lane which skirts the western-side of the moor. Just opposite the house go through the gate and follow the footpath up onto the moor in an easterly direction for 290m, then via off to the right in the direction of the wall for 360m. You will soon see the long barrow and ring cairn as piles of grey stones in the heather. The village of Kildwick is about a mile to the south.

Bradley Long Cairn.

Bradley Long Cairn, near Farnhill, North Yorks.

    The Bradley long cairn measures roughly 76m (249 ft) in length by 30m (98 ft) in width at its widest part and on its eastern flank it is up to 2.4m (8 feet) high, although it is difficult to make out due to the long heather which grows in abundance on the higher parts of the moor. Sadly the cairn has suffered greatly from disturbance over the years and maybe from robbery, especially at the E side; today its oblong-shaped cist grave is 1.5m deep and is open to the elements and its large flat covering stone broken up and partially missing, but its side stones are largerly still intact. In 1930 this Neolithic barrow was excavated by archaeologists and its funery contents (one single human burial) taken away to safety. The thinking is that during the Bronze Age a round cairn was built onto it at the S side. There is no sign of the earthern mound that would have formed the covering to this megalithic structure, only the piles of stones survives; some of the outer stones in the large pile are nicely shaped, while many others are very smooth – very typical of this grey gritstone.

    Author John Dixon in his work ‘Journeys Through Brigantia’, volume one, tells us that: “The excavation revealed a stone cist, 6½ feet long and 3 feet wide, some 60 feet from the eastern end of the barrow. The cist was formed by four stone slabs set on end with a fifth forming a ‘capstone’. A sixth slab lay  on the floor and this covered a deposit of unburnt but smashed human bones. Cremated were also found in the cist. The mound contained a number of standing stones, but none of these were formed a second cist. The barrow may represents a degenerate example of a megalithic chambered tomb.”

    John Dixon goes on to tell us about the probable construction of Bradley Long Cairn. He says that: “The building of such a large monument would have consumed an appreciable share of the community’s time, energy and effort. Its construc-tion and use would to some extent have performed a community function, although it was probably directed by and for a small elite.

“The building of the tomb would take twenty or so able-bodied persons over thirty days. Such an investment of labour would have to be made over a period of time, and at times when there was little farming activity. It is reasonable to sup-pose that they used the labour potential availability of neighbouring groups to join in the construction work. Given a suitable incentive — a great feast with amusement and exchanges providing a forum for social intercourse, co-operative effort can work to build impressive monuments.

    “The Bradley cairn reflects the importance of the social occasion and the passionate concern for the group status in Neolithic society. The long cairn would become the principal feature of the territory, which may itself have been known by the name of the monument. Its construction would be one of the steps such a group would have to take in order to estab-lish its identity with the regional clan.”

Black Hill Ring Cairn.

Black Hill Ring Cairn.

Black Hill Ring Cairn.

Black Hill Ring Cairn.

    Some 40m to the south-west of the long cairn at (OS grid ref: SE 0087 4753) is a much destroyed round cairn. It is often referred to as the ‘Black Hill Cairn’. This round cairn from the Neolithic age is sadly now just a large pile of stones – with four slight depressions at intervals in the inner part of the monument – where they are no stones. These are perhaps the result of stone robbery, and not burials. This cairn measures approx. 30m x 24m.

    And yet a third cairn which is also known as the ‘Black Hill Ring Cairn’ is only just visible 50m to the north-west at (OS grid ref: SE 0081 4756) but is now ‘virtually’ lost in the thick heather. This is a ring cairn or maybe a cairn circle, and it has a diameter of 20m. There is just a scattering of stones on its heather-clad mound.

Sources:

Dixon, John & Phillip, Journeys Through Brigantia, (Volume One), Walks in Craven, Airedale and Wharfedale, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1990.

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1010440

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=11624

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=11625


Bleara Lowe, Earby, Lancashire

Bleara Lowe heather-clad burial mound near Earby, Lancashire

Bleara Lowe burial mound near Earby, Lancashire.

    OS grid reference: SD 9258 4543. On the bleak and windswept Bleara Moor 1 mile east of Earby and above Broom House Farm, Lancashire, stands the prominent little mound known as Bleara Lowe, which is in fact a Bronze Age burial mound (tumulus). It is usually covered in thick heather and not easy to spot at first sight. And 200 metres to the west there is a second burial mound which is next to a wall and some old quarry workings. The site is located along West Road which runs north from Colne to Carleton-in-Craven, just after Broom House Farm and opposite the entrance to Salt Pye Farm. However there are “no” designated footpaths going in the direction of the two burial mounds – as they stand on ‘private land’. You can ‘probably’ visit Bleara Lowe by heading east out of Earby and coming up onto the moor from there.

    The round-shaped, almost conical mound or bowl barrow is between 4-5 feet high and approximately 20 yards across, according to pastscape. It appears to have an outer bank but the heather makes for difficulty in seeing this. There is a hollow 3m x 1.5m and 0.4m deep in the middle (pastscape), although this is possibly the result of ‘an invalid’ excavation by someone other than archaeologists; no proper excavations have been carried out here and so next-to-nothing is known about its history, other than it is probably of a Bronze-Age date. However, authors John & Philip Dixon ‘Journeys Through Brigantia’, Vol 1, say that: “Upon excavation the mound produced several sherds of Bronze-Age pottery. These can now be seen in the Craven Museum, Skipton.” 

    Bleara Lowe is aligned with other local burial mounds, cairns and earthworks, and is said to be situated on an ancient trackway linking Boulsworth Hill, where there are similar burial mounds at Ell Clough. And 1½ miles to the north-east, on Elslack Moor, is Pinhaw Beacon at 388 feet.

Tumulus above Broom House Farm, Bleara Moor, Lancashire.

Tumulus above Broom House Farm, Bleara Moor, Lancashire.

    Some 230 metres to the west of the Bleara Lowe mound at (OS grid ref: SD 9243 4538) is a second tumulus, burial mound, cairn or bowl barrow. This is situated close to the wall above Broom House Farm and next to what looks like an old quarry-working, now grassed over and partly covered in the dreaded heather. This does, however, have a substantial and well-defined oval-shaped outer bank and a possible inner ditch. It measures roughly 8m x 7m and is 4 feet high. But, once again, no archaeological excavations have been carried out on this second tumulus. It seems to be aligned with Pendle Hill to the west, and is located in a ‘splendid setting’ on the ridge of Bleara Moor, with good panoramic views over to the west and east.

    Some 250m to the west of the 2nd tumulus at (OS grid ref: SD 919 457) on the western slopes of Bleara Moor, east of Coolham Lane, there is a cairn-field where there are a number of small burial mounds or round cairns scattered around but, once again, covered by heather. This probable “new discovery” was found by Paul Bennett and is discussed by him on The Northern Antiquarian website (see below).

Sources:

Dixon, John & Philip., Journeys Through Brigantia, Volume One: Walks in Craven, Airedale and Wharfedale, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1990.

http://www.pastscape.org/hob.aspx?hob_id=46285#aR

https://megalithix.wordpress.com/2010/05/04/bleara-moor-cairnfield/


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Ell Clough Cairn Circle, Boulsworth Hill, Lancashire

Ell Clough Ring Cairn on the lower slope of Boulsworth Hill.

Ell Clough Ring Cairn on the lower slope of Boulsworth Hill.

    OS grid reference: SD 9019 3412. The Ell Clough (Hell Clough) cairn circle, ring cairn and burial mound, is located on the side of Boulsworth Hill, in Lancashire – with commanding panoramic views over Thursden Valley and, in the distance Pendle Hill. It is named after the nearby stream which runs down slope through Ell Clough. At the junction of three lanes in Thursden Valley walk up the signposted footpath right to the very top of the hill and then via right along the trackway to reach the tumulus, which is located just where the track curves around the ancient site. A little further along the track there is a second tumulus, although this one is now hardly recognizable at ground level. The village of Trawden is 3 miles to the west.

    This tumulus is in a reasonably good condition although the small inner mound has suffered from being disturbed by excavations and other things, and the outer circle of stones has long since gone to nearby walls, but the circular earthworks of this ring cairn are still very well-defined despite the ravages of time and the weather conditions upon the bleak, windswept hillside of Boulsworth – some 350 metres above Thursden Valley.

Ell Clough Ring Cairn on Boulsworth Hill.

Ell Clough Ring Cairn on Boulsworth Hill.

    In 1886 Archaeological excavations took place here and these yielded a mid to late Bronze-Age funery urn. It would seem that originally there were seven standing stones in the outer circular bank, but these have long since gone. There are four stones on the banking but these are not the original ones. Sadly the stones were robbed away to build field walls. The monument measures approximately 19m diagonally by 17m across. The outer bank is still quite substantial as is the inner ditch which would originally have been quite deep; while at the SE side there is what could be an entrance or maybe damage. The small ‘denuded mound’ near the centre originally contained the burials as a funery urn was excavated from here back in 1886. This measured 12 inches x 10 inches and had a 4″ base and was carved with various patterns. An adult and a child’s remains were found in the urn and also a few other artefacts including a Bronze pin.

    It is of interest here to note that the monument seems to be aligned with Broadbank Earth Circle, Walton Spire and Pendle Hill, or is this just a coincidence?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA    In the very well respected local antiquarian work ‘The History Of Marsden And Nelson’ by Mr Walter H. Bennett, we are told that: “The existence of Bronze Age burials on Bleara Moor on the old Colne to Skipton road, at Catlow, at Shelfield (possibly) and at Ell Clough above Thursden Valley may point to a pre-historic track connecting the Whalley-Barnoldswick-Leeds route with that between Whalley-Mereclough-Heptonstall.”

    Some 100 metres to the north and close by the trackway (Os grid ref: SD 9027 3412) there is another tumulus that is similar in size, however this is now hardly recognizable “as such” at ground level. There is just a trace of a circular earthwork and possible ditch. And there is a third tumulus some 240m to the north-west at (Os grid ref: SD 9051 3421). This is located on the bank beside a stream but once again it is very faint and hardly recognizable at ground-level.

Sources:

Bennett, W., The History Of Marsden And Nelson, Nelson Corporation, Nelson, Lancashire, 1946 & 1957. Diagram of Ell Clough by Mr Jack Wilcock.

http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/1692/hellclough.html#fieldnotes


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Maen Ceti (Arthur’s Stone), Cefn Bryn, Reynoldston, Gower, Wales

Maen Ceti (Arthur's Stone) illustration.

Maen Ceti (Arthur’s Stone) illustration.

    OS grid reference: SS 4914 9055. On the south-facing ridge of Cefn-y- Bryn, overlooking the village of Reynoldston, on the Gower Peninsula, stands the Neolithic burial chamber known as Maen Ceti, but more commonly known as ‘Arthur’s Stone’. Maen Ceti means just that – ‘The Stone of Ceti’. This well-known ancient, megalithic chambered tomb, with its huge capstone is variously known as a cromlech, a dolmen and a quoit, but they all mean the same thing in reality – a burial chamber. It is located 300 yards to the north of the main road that crosses Cefn Bryn – between Reynoldston and Cillibion  – ¾ a mile to the east of Reynoldston village.  There are many footpaths criss-crossing the 609 foot-high Cefn Bryn Hill, which is locally called ‘the common’, but at least two of these moorland paths head to Maen Ceti from the road; the ancient monument can quite easily be seen once you start to climb up onto the ridge itself. The village of Llanrhidian is a further mile to the north of Maen Ceti.

Plan of Maen Ceti (Arthur's Stone).

*Plan of Maen Ceti (Arthur’s Stone)

    The monument is a double chambered tomb that consists of a huge capstone, a glacial boulder of millstone grit measuring 12 feet across, which is supported on four small up-rights, with a large part of the capstone having fallen to the ground at the side and another bit partly lying beneath the capstone, and there are six other small stones lying around the monument and beneath it, which presumably were up-rights that “now” don’t support the great stone. Maen Cetti burial chamber is 8 feet high and dates from the Neolithic – 2, 500 BC, or maybe earlier. The capstone weighs as much as 25 tons, or it used to do, so it would have been ‘a great fete of strength’ on the part of the builders of the monument.

    “The raising of the huge stone onto its supports has also be summed up in ancient records as one of ‘the three arduous undertakings accomplished in Britain, the old proverb: Mal gwaith Maen Ceti – ‘Like the labour of the Stone of Ceti” supports that fact, according to Chris Barber ‘More Mysterious Wales’. The burial chamber has taken a battering from the elements on the high ridge of Cefn Bryn, being very exposed to high winds and driving rain, ‘causing the capstone to split in two places – though this feature is often put down to other things in legend including King Arthur’s sword Excalibur and, even St David, who took a dislike to the pagan stone. Long ago a large mound of earth and stones covered the burial chamber, but nothing much of that remains – although there are traces of a ring cairn.

    Barber in ‘The Ancient Stones of Wales’, says that: “It is marked as Arthur’s Stone on the first Ordnance Survey map of 1830 and later editions.” He says that in its Welsh name “It is first mentioned in a Triad of the 10th century.” And that: “There are over 70 literary references to Arthur’s Stone and it is better documented than any other prehistoric stone monument in Wales.” Maen Ceti is “one of the wonders of  the ancient isle of Britain” (The Gower Society, 1989).

    We know, however, that Maen Ceti pre-dates King Arthur and St David by thousands of years, but it is always a good thing to have a British king and a Welsh saint on-board. According to the legend: “When one day King Arthur was walking in Carmarthenshire he felt a pebble in his shoe and plucked it out and threw it into the air; it landed in Gower and became the capstone of Maen Ceti.  So does the historical Arthur become inflated to gigantic stature” (Jacquetta Hawkes, 1973).

Arthur's Stone near Swansea (depicted c 1840 by Henry G. Gastineau - Wikipedia)

Arthur’s Stone (as depicted c 1840 by Henry G. Gastineau – Wikipedia)

    Beneath the ancient monument there is “said” to be a spring called Ffynnon Fawr which apparently ‘ebbs and flows’ with the tide, although the sea is several miles south of Maen Ceti. However, one other legend says that the stone “goes down to the sea to drink on New Year’s Eve” (The Gower Society, 1989). Maybe St David, patron saint of Wales, ’caused the spring to flow when he came by here in the 6th century. In a sense then St David had attempted to Christianise the pagan stone, though of course, we know the spring was here long before Christianity was established in Gower. About 500 metres to the south-east there is, though, a holy well called Ffynnon Fair (St Mary’s Well), which was for a long time one of the main sources of water supply for the Gower. Chris Barber ‘Mysterious Wales’, tells us more about the myths and legends:

    At midnight on nights of the full moon maidens from the Swansea area used to place cakes made of barley meal and honey, wetted with milk and well kneaded, on the Stone. Then on hands and knees the girls would crawl three times around the stones. This was done to test the fidelity of their lovers. If the young men were faithful to their sweethearts they would appear. If they did not come, the girls regarded it as a token of  their fickleness, or intention never to marry them. The water (of Ffynnon Fawr).….. used to be drunk from the palm of the hand and one had to make a wish at the same time. On nights with a full moon a figure wearing shining armour emerges from under the stone and makes his way to Llanrhidian. Those who have seen this  mysterious spectre claim that it was King Arthur.”

    Arthur’s Stone (Maen Ceti) is regarded as one of the most magical stones in Wales, according to Bill Anderton ‘Guide To Ancient Britain’, and he goes on to say that: “the holy well (Ffynnon Fair) along Cefn Bryn, as well as a number of standing stones, are all involved in a complex of ley lines. And says Anderton: “The name Arthur is probably a corruption of a more ancient word, yet it is the same Arthur who was supposed to have split the capstone with his sword.” There are other ancient burial tombs, cairns, hill-forts and earthworks in this particular area.

Sources:-

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

Barber, Chris., More Mysterious Wales, Paladin Books, London W1X, 1987.

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

Barber, Chris., Mysterious Wales, Paladin Books, London W1X, 1987.

Hawkes, Jacquetta., A Guide To The Prehistoric And Roman Monuments In England And Wales, Cardinal, London, 1975.

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

*The Gower Society, A Guide To Gower, The Publication Committee of The Gower Soc., (orig. prepared 1965. Edt. 1989).

 

  


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Heston Brake Long Barrow, Portskewett, Monmouthshire, Wales

Heston Brake Puddingstones (Photo credt: Grashoofd - Wikipedia)

Heston Brake Puddingstones (Photo credt: Grashoofd – Wikipedia)

Os grid reference: ST 5052 8867. Located in a field and on the brow of a hill overlooking the Severn Estuary, south Monmouthshire, stands the more than 4,000 year old prehistoric barrow or cairn called Heston Brake Long Barrow, sometimes also referred to as a “chambered tomb”or “dolmen”. The barrow still has nine of its stones positioned (maybe in situ) on top, but has obviously suffered over time from damage caused by vandals digging into it, although in the late 19th century it was excavated by archaeologists. It is located in a field at Black Rock – about half a mile to the north-east of Portskewett, and just 100 metres to the west of Leechpool Lane. This ‘now’ partly destroyed barrow stands (on private land) about 150 metres south of a footpath heading in a westerly direction from Lower Leechpool Farm on Leechpool Lane. The village of Mathern is some 2 miles to the north-east.

Plan of chambered tumulus at Heston Brake by Mary Ellen Bagnall Oakeley (1888)

Plan of chambered tumulus at Heston Brake by Mary Ellen Bagnall Oakeley (1888)

The remains of the barrow’s two inner chambers (internally connected E and W sides) apparently measured 26 feet long by 5 feet across, according to Fred Hando (in the much acclaimed work ‘Hando’s Gwent’); however the middle section of the monument was destroyed in more recent times. However the 9 standing and recumbent pudding-stones on the 1 metre high mound still look very impressive. It would seem that there were originally 13 upright stones here but 4 of these have now gone – probably being robbed-away to the local area for walls. At the east side (the probable entrance to the chamber) an impressive-shaped stone is 5 foot in height and shaped like a knife or axe-head, while beside it a 2 foot high square-shaped stone (called the chopping block) by local author Fred Hando in the work ‘Hando’s Gwent’, where there is a drawing of  ‘Heston Brake Tumulus by moonlight’ on page 159.  So could this ancient monument have been used for sacrificial/ceremonial purposes back in the Neolithic Age?

All the other stones here are somewhere between 1-2 feet in height; but obviously the low mound on which they now stand would originally have been much higher and would have covered the standing stones by several feet. The mound contained two interconnecting chambers for burials – which revealed various antiquities when it was excavated back in 1888, although at this time it became known that, very unfortunately, earlier vandalism and, or robberies had taken place here, according to Chris Barber and John Godfrey Williams in their excellent book ‘The Ancient Stones of Wales’ (1989). The authors also say that: “It is marked as Long Barrow on the Ordnance Survey maps of  1953 and 1981”.

In the work ‘Wales: An Archaeological Guide’ (1978) by Christopher Holder we are told that: “The present condition of the stone structure and the mound of this chambered long barrow is misleading. Excavations in 1888 showed it to consist of a gallery 8 m long by 1.5 m wide, in the E. end of a barrow 18 m long by 9 m wide”. And it would seem, according to Christopher Holder, that in spite of its position by the Severn, virtually in sight of the Cotswolds, “it seems to belong with Gaerllwyd….. to a tradition of more western origin, distinct from that of the Black Mountains and….. Parc Cwm”.

At the excavations of 1888 a number of human bones were dug up from the earliest period and, some pottery sherds from slightly more recent times. The late author Fred Hando in the work ‘Hando’s Gwent’ adds that: “if you would like to feel cold shivers down your spine, choose a moonlit midnight next summer and visit this long barrow alone”. Okay, thanks Fred, will do that next time!

The late and renowned author Roy Palmer in his epic tome ‘The Folklore of (Old) Monmouthshire’ speculates as to Heston Brake, among a couple of other sites nearby, being the place where the British (Celtic) chieftain Caractacus or Caradoc lived for a time with the ancient Silures tribe in the early part of the 1st century AD, but eventually he went to Rome and died there after being pardoned by the emperor Claudius – sometime after 51 AD.

Sources:

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

Hando, Fred., Hando’s Gwent, (Ed. by Chris Barber), Blorenge Books, Abergavenny, Gwent, 1987.

Holder, Christopher., Wales: An Archaeological Guide, Faber & Faber, London, 1978.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portskewett

Palmer, Roy., The Folklore of (Old) Monmouthshire, Logaston Press, Almeley, Herefordshire, 1998.

Plan of Heston Brake chambered tumulus, Monmouthshire, by Mary Ellen Bagnall Oakeley, 1888, can be found in Volume 2 ‘Proceedings of The Clifton Antiquarian Club’.

 


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Bedd Branwen, Glanalaw, Treffynon, Anglesey

The site of Bedd Branwen by Eric Jones (Geograph).

The site of Bedd Branwen by Eric Jones (Geograph).

Os grid reference: SH 3611 8498. In a farmer’s field close to the west bank of Afan Alaw (river Alaw) near the hamlet of Glanalaw, Treffynon, Anglesey, stands the Bronze-Age ring-cairn known as Bedd Branwen, which is said to date back 4,000 years. It is named after the legendary princess Branwen or Bronwen, the daughter of King Llyr, and sister of Bran the Blessed (Bendigeidfran) from the Mabinogian. She was related to King Arthur. The cairn site is located on private farmland to the south-west of Bod Deiniol farm, close to the west bank of Afon Alaw – roughly half a mile south of Glanalaw, although a track/footpath runs past Hafan to Glanalaw hamlet and reasonable viewing looking south across the fields can be had from [here] with good zoom photography. However, you can probably walk across the fields to the cairn as long as the farmer doesn’t mind! The village of Treffynon is 1 mile to the east of Bedd Branwen, while Llanbabo and its ancient church are about one-and-a-half miles to the north-east.

Described as a ring-cairn or round barrow approx 24 metres by 28 metres – the kerb of which is still visible at the outer limit of the circle with a large, chunky standing stone (cist grave) at the centre which is now, sadly, cracked down the middle. The monument was apparently damaged back in 1813 by a local farmer who needed some stones for his house; at this time an urn was also dug up which was ‘said’ to have contained the ashes of a female – could these ashes have been those belonging to Branwen, the fairest and most beautiful woman in all Wales, if not the whole of Britain. Or, according to another account: she is one of the three most beautiful women in Wales!

But in reality the cairn pre-dates the legendary princess Branwen by a few thousand years or more, and other urns with grave-goods have been excavated here in more recent times – the early 1960s in fact. These urns almost certainly date from the Bronze-Age at around 2,000 BC. So, perhaps the discovery of the ashes of a female purporting to be those of the princess were ‘just a coincidence’. Today nothing is left of the earthern mound that once covered the cist grave, only the outline of this being still visible and some stones around the edge, though there are a few other curious stones in this field which ‘might’ well be associated with the monument. In the early 1960s excavation some more cremation urns were dug up along with pottery, grave-goods, and also a necklace made of jet. These antiquities are housed in Bangor Museum in north Wales. In the work ‘The Ancient Stones of Wales’, author Chris Barber describes the monument as a “dolmen” and also referrs to it by another name: Bod-Deiniol.

Branwen is a legendary and mythical character who figures strongly in the Mabinogian along with her father King Llyr (Lear) and her brother Bran the Blessed, who is known as Bendigeidfran in Wales, but it is a very sad tale. Princess Branwen is given in marriage by her brother to the Irish king, Matholwch, but after an insult to the Irishman by her half-brother, Efnisien, they soon begin to quarel and then fall out, and poor Branwen is treated badly by being put to work as his cook. Bran then makes war on Matholwch but is killed in the battle (MacKillop, 1998). Later, she manages to escape back to the Isle of Anglesey where ‘she dies of a broken heart’, and is allegedly buried beneath the mound and cairn that now bears her name (Bedd Branwen).

According to The Mabinogian (second branch) Bran the Blessed is credited as going on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, but life ends badly for him; his severed head is buried on Tower Hill in London which then acts as a sort of talisman for the city against foreign invasion on the grounds that Britain should not rely on magic, according to the author Geoffrey Ashe in his work ‘The Quest for Arthur’s Britain’. Traditionally Bran is recorded as being the son of Belinus (Gruffudd, 1980). If that is the case, then he and his sister Branwen are descended through Manogan, King of Britain, with the Blessed Virgin Mary? And Belinus or Beli has sometimes been identified with the Celtic sun god of that name. But as we know the Mabinogian gives the father of Branwen and Bran as King Llyr, who has sometimes been identified with the legendary King Lear of Shakespearean fame.

Sources:

Ashe, Geoffrey., The Quest for Arthur’s Britain,  Paladin, St Albans, Herts, 1976.

Barber, Chris., Mysterious Wales, Paladin, London W1X, 1987.

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

Gruffudd, H., Enwau Cymraeg I Blant – Welsh Names For Children, Y Lolfa, Talybont, Dyfed, 1980. 

MacKillop, James., Dictionary Of Celtic Mythology, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998.

Photo Credit: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1358949  © Copyright Eric Jones and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.