The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


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’.