The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


Haken’s Mound, Preesall, Lancashire

Preesall War Memorial on the B5270 Lancaster Road.

Preesall War Memorial on the B5270 Lancaster Road.

   OS grid reference SD 3601 4822. This is one of those strange curiosities that do seem to crop up every so often. Haken’s Mound, also known as ‘Haakon’s Mound’ and ‘The Mount’ is, in fact, the Preesall war memorial near St Oswald’s church on the B5270 Lancaster road. The large, grassy mound always has well-tendered flowers at its entrance and up to the monument, and on top of the large mound there is a substantial memorial cross which commemorates the fallen of the two World Wars. According to ‘the’ local legend and, to some extent “myth” Haken or Haakon, an early 10th century Viking chieftain, who settled half a mile or so up the road at Hakensall in Knott-End-On-Sea, was buried inside the mound that is today known as ‘The Mount”. Whether there is any real truth in this I do not know – we will probably never know. The war memorial is located halfway between St Oswald’s church and the B5377 Stalmine turning, while the very pretty sea-side village of Knott End is half a mile in the opposite direction along Lancaster road.

   The story goes that: At some point in the early 10th century AD Haken, an invading Viking chieftain, sailed up the Wyre estuary (maybe in a longboat) and, just inland between Fleetwood and Knott End, founded a settlement at a place now called Hackensall – today the medieval Hackensall Hall on Whinny Lane (OS grid ref: SD 2874 5394) stands more or less on that site. The original hall (a defensive moated building) was built in 1190 – the building there today is of 1656; it was built by the Fleetwood family. In the 19th century the hall was greatly renovated by Sir James Bourne. According to “the” Legend, it is said from his settlement Haken laid siege to the area, pillaging and murdering, but I feel that here we have much embellishment added to the actual legend itself – and one “must” be very wary of this fact. Conversely, it may be that Haken was simply a seafaring Norseman who had come to the area and wanted to lead a quiet, unassuming life there.

The Mount at Preesall, Lancashire.

The Mount at Preesall, Lancashire.

    As to whether Haken or Haakon was still a pagan I don’t know, but I suppose it’s possible that he was a Christian, or had recently become one? After his death this Viking chieftain was buried nearby and a large mound built over his grave. Today this burial mound near St Oswald’s church, Preesall, is locally called ‘The Mount’ or ‘Haakon’s Mound’ and it still looks very impressive, made more so ‘perhaps’ by the war memorial cross standing on top. Alas, today, there are no visible signs (earthworks) of Haken’s settlement at Hackensall, only Hackensall road and Hackensall Hall are reminders. But we will never know archaeologically whether the Viking chieftain lies buried within the mound, due to the fact that it is protected as a war memorial.

    There are a few historians that have tried to link King Cnut, himself a Norseman, with Knott End with regards to the meaning of the place, but it seems that that is ‘not’ the case as most tend to agree “now” that it takes its name from a “knot”- a hillock that is located above the estuary. This knot or hillock probably refers to the golfcourse above the shoreline at Knott End, just to the north-west of Hackensall Hall. A ghostly horse (boggart) is ‘said’ to haunt the hall.

   In the delightful little book ‘The Lancashire Coastal Way And The Wyre Way’, by Ian & Krysia Brodie, we are enlightened about the possible meaning of Knott End: “The large sandbank off Knott End is called Bernard’s Wharf – reputedly after St Bernard. Many small birds, including knot and dunlin, feed here in the nutrient-rich mud. One story says Knott End derives from these birds, another that the Norse marked the channel of the Wyre with a chain of knots or cairns, the final one being the Knott End!” There is a church named for St Bernard on Hackensall Road.

   In 1926 a hoard of Roman coins was dug-up in the vicinity of Hackensall Hall, 500 to be precise, which later came to be known as the Hackensall Hoard. The coins were found beneath a stone and had been placed inside a leather bag. “Whilst the bag was originally found to contain around 500 coins, only 339 now have their whereabouts known” (Ian & Krysia Brodie, 1993). Some of the coin hoard was eventually given to The Revoe Museum in Blackpool, while more coins went to museums and galleries across the north-west of England.

   In the work ‘Romans in Lancashire’ by D. C. A. Shotter, we are told of the possibility that the mouth of the Wyre estuary, a safe and sheltered anchorage between Fleetwood and Knott End, was in use as a port in Roman times and that the great Ptolemy, who lived in the 2nd century AD, referred to it as such: “More important, however, for the present purpose is the reference in Ptolemy to the site which he names as PORTUS SETANTIORUM……this could have been the Roman name for Lancaster; alternatively, many have felt that the site has at some time been overwhelmed by the sea, and lies off the coast at the mouth of the Wyre.”

Sources:

Brodie, Ian & Krysia., The Lancashire Coastal Way And The Wyre Way, Lancashire County Books, Preston, 1993.

http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=39399&sort=2&type=&rational=a&class1=None&period=None&county=1306799&district=None&parish=None&place=&recordsperpage=10&source=text&rtype=&rnumber=&p=465&move=n&nor=6188&recfc=4000

http://www.preesalltowncouncil.org/about-preesall.pl

Shotter, D. C. A., Romans in Lancashire, Dalesman Publishing Company Ltd., Clapham, Yorkshire, 1973.


Sambo’s Grave, Sunderland Point, Lancashire – An Article by Cliff Astin

Sambo's Grave, Sunderland Point, Lancashire (photo credit: Rwendland for Wikipedia)

Sambo’s Grave, Sunderland Point, Lancashire (photo credit: Rwendland for Wikipedia)

   Os grid reference: SD 4222 5594. I recently came across this interesting article by Cliff Astin in his series called ‘Digging Deeper into Graves’ which appeared in the August 1996 edition of the ‘Really Lancashire’ magazine  A Magazine for the Red Rose County. I thought that it would be good to share this on here for all to read. The well-tendered grave is located at the far western-side of Sunderland Point, close to the coast. To reach the site from Overton walk 1 mile south-west along a track crossing the northern and western edges of the Lune estuary (please check the tides) as there are deep river channels. On reaching Sunderland Point (SD 4266 5598) walk the length of the ‘Lane’. At the far western-side of the lane walk 100m south on a footpath. Here in the corner of a field lies Sambo’s Grave. Children have left flowers, painted pebbles and tiny little wooden crosses at the grave-side.

   [I would like to apologize about the name “Sambo” but it is the one that is “always” given for this site and, also for any other “offensive” words that appear here, they are not the “words” that I would have given, but they are the ones that “still” seem to crop-up in this world of ours. To me that is very sad.]

   “Sunderland Point was, for purposes of shipping, the predecessor of Glasson Dock, which in turn was superceded as the most important port in our area by Lancaster. Should you choose to visit Sunderland Point, take care to check the tide-tables before setting out in order to leave time to wander along the shoreline and to accommodate your return. On reaching the shore, walk to your left until you see a marker indicating ‘Sambo’s Grave’ – a fascinating burial spot but also a somewhat disgusting and misplaced instance of contemporary superiority and man’s inhumanity to man on the part of the local inhabitants of the day. Happily this has been tempered by later and greater understanding and kindness albeit mainly on the part of our young ones.”

   “About 1730 a negro boy who had been acting as a sea captain’s servant arrived at Sunderland Point in one of the ships from the West Indies. Because it took some time to unload and re-freight the vessel, this negro – they called him Sambo, I suppose nobody bothered to ask him his real name – was accommodated at one of the inns. There are no inns at Sunderland Point now but formerly there were two. His master, the sea captain, meanwhile went off to Lancaster to attend to some business affairs, whereupon the negro slave took it into his head that in this alien foreign speaking land he had been abandoned. He became so worried and depressed that he refused to take any food and in a very short time he died. Here’s where the inhumanity comes in.”

   “The “good Christians” of the parish could not tolerate the idea of a black heathen being buried in consecrated ground and so at a spot on the lonely western side close to the shore (it is now one corner of a field) sailors buried Sambo coffinless covered only with his own clothes.”

   “In 1796 (sixty years later) the reverend James Watson, the recently retired headmaster of Lancaster grammar school, was shown the burial spot. By now, Sunderland Point had become popular with visitors so James Watson collected a shilling from every willing visitor and placed on the site a monumental stone containing, in the centre on a copper plate, the following inscription:-” Here lies Poor Sambo, A Faithful  Negro who (attending his master from the West Indies), Died on his arrival at Sunderland.

   “Whenever you visit this site today you will find pathetic but loving little offerings from local children in the form of daisies, buttercups or other wild flowers in jam jars and crosses made from twigs or lolly sticks, for the local schoolchildren and other visitors have taken Sambo into their hearts. Happily in Sunderland Point today Sambo is the most remembered resident.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Full sixty Years the angry Winter’s Wave
Has thundering daſhd this bleak & barren Shore
Since Sambo‘s Head laid in this lonely Grave
Lies still & ne’er will hear their turmoil more.

Full many a Sandbird chirps upon the Sod
And many a Moonlight Elfin round him trips
Full many a Summer’s Sunbeam warms the Clod
And many a teeming Cloud upon him drips.

But still he sleeps _ till the awakening Sounds
Of the Archangel’s Trump new Life impart
Then the Great Judge his Approbation founds
Not on Man’s Color but his_Worth of Heart

James Watſon Scr.               H.Bell del. 1796

Sources:-

Astin, Cliff., Sambo’s Grave (article), Really Lancashire – A Magazine for the Red Rose County, Issue No. 2, August 1996, Landy Publishing, Staining, Blackpool, Lancs.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sambo%27s_Grave


Beneath The Waves – An Article by Paul Harris

Ptolemy Cosmographia (Wikipedia)

Ptolemy Cosmographia (Wikipedia)

   Looking through some of my old ‘Prediction’ magazines I came across a fascinating historical article by Paul Harris. This article appeared in the June 1995 edition of the magazine and is all about the sunken lands, lost cities, kingdoms and islands (one of which has ‘perhaps’ given rise to the famous legend and, perhaps myth of Atlantis) which are reputed to lie around the coastline of the British Isles. I thought that other people might like to read this and so here it is “quoted” in full. The author says:

   “The coastline of Britain is constantly under attack from the sea with vast tracts of land having been lost over the centuries while medieval ports find themselves stranded inland by the action of longshore drift and estuarine silting. With this ever-changing scenario it is not surprising that many tales are told of one-time kingdoms, cities and islands now lost beneath the waves.”

   “One of the most extensive of these ‘lost lands’ would seem to be that reputed to lie under Cardigan Bay, Wales. Known as Cantrer Gwaelod, or Bottom Cantred, this land was said to be 40 miles in length, 20 in breadth, containing 16 cities and protected from the sea by a series of dykes.”

   “According to a tale told in the Welsh Triads, a dyke-keeper, being drunk, left open some sluice gates which inevitably led to the overwhelming of Cantre Gwaelod by the sea. It is now said that church bells can be heard tolling mournfully from their undersea locations at certain times and that, at low tide when the water is clear, buildings can be seen beneath the shallow sea.”

   “The Triads date the flood as ‘the time of Ambrosius.’ Since Ambrosius was the Celtic leader between about 460AD and 480AD, the flood must have occurred then. So what evidence exists to support the local belief and the Triad story?

   “Well, firstly, there are long pebble ridges that stretch out to sea here. They look like abandoned sea defences and are often assumed so to be. Also, there are megalithic remains in the shallower parts of Cardigan Bay.”

Submerged Forest Ceredigion Coast (photo credit: Richerman for Wikipedia)

Submerged Forest Ceredigion Coast (photo credit: Richerman for Wikipedia)

   “Indisputably then, there were islands off this coast during the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods that have since been submerged, thus leaving the megalithic structures beneath the sea and indicating that the sea level has risen since then. Also, there are fossil remains of forests that must have existed in the warm period after the end of the last Ice Age. These are now only exposed at low tide.”

   “This raising of the sea level, though, affected the whole of Britain, not just Cardigan Bay, and certainly occurred prior to the ‘time of Ambrosius.’ It seems, therefore, that the indications of former land, now submerged, may have given rise to the legend of Cantrer Gwaelod, not the other way round. The Triads story may refer to the flooding of a small island elsewhere. Indeed, it bears an uncanny resemblance to the story of the island of Ker Is which, according to Celtic sources, sank off Brittany during the 6th century.”

   “So what of the sea defences? These apparently are natural formations. Indeed, it was not even suggested that they were submerged sea walls until the 17th century, according to folklore researcher and author, Jennifer Westwood.”

Lyonesse                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Land's End (Looking West) Photo Credit: Carcharoth (Commons) for Wikipedia

Land’s End (Looking West) Photo Credit: Carcharoth (Commons) for Wikipedia

   “Evidence is much stronger, however, for the fabled lost land of Lyonesse, no doubt the best known of our legendary sunken kingdoms. Its capital, the City of Lions, is said to have existed in the area of the Seven Stones, which lie seven miles west of Land’s End.”

   “Lyonesse itself supposedly extended from the Cornish peninsula to the Scilly Isles, contained many towns and villages and a total of 140 churches. The lost land also has a place in Arthurian legend; but did it ever exist?”

   “Certainly the Scilly Isles themselves were one island as recently as the period of the Roman occupation, there being reliable descriptions of the Silvram insulam or Scilly Isle in 240AD and by Suplicius Severus in about 400AD. Furthermore, the islands themselves show signs of inundation since the pre-Roman Iron Age, there being huts and walls from this period still visible in the shallow waters between the islands. This, with the Roman reports mentioned above and the Arthurian legend of Lyonesse, strongly suggest the existence of a lost land here at least into the 5th century.”

   “Perhaps the flood described in the Welsh Triads sank Lyonesse, too? Or did all these Celtic legends arise from just one event? Whatever, the timing of this particular submergence seems fairly clear. As for the depth of the submergence, investigations during the 1950s and 1960s put this as 14ft since the Iron Age.”

   “This is enough to link some of the Scillies together, particularly with the aid of sea defenses, but not enough to allow the area from the Scillies to Land’s End to be above sea level in its entirety, though parts such as the Seven Stones reef would be. To allow the whole of the legendary land of Lyonesse to be above sea level would require a drop of 60ft in ocean depth. The last time that this was the case was toward the end of the last Ice Age, some 9,000-10,000 years ago, perhaps stretching back into prehistory.”

East Coast                                                                                                                                                                                                

Plan Of Goodwin Sandbank (photo credit: Claus Ableiter for Wikipedia)

Plan Of Goodwin Sandbank (photo credit: Claus Ableiter for Wikipedia)

   “Moving around the coast to Kent, we come to the Straits of Dover and off the coast near Deal lie the Goodwin Sands, grave for upwards of 50,000 mariners over the centuries. At  low tide the sands can be exposed to such an extent that it is possible to land on them.”

    “Named after Earl Goodwin, the sands were once the island of Lomea, so tradition tells us. Apparently the Earl neglected to maintain the island’s sea defences and, in the ‘Martinmas Storm’ of 1099, it was overwhelmed and never reclaimed.”

    “Core samples taken from the Sands  show that the ‘island’ is basically only a sand bar  with a bedrock of chalk much deeper than sea level. However, in the past, the rivers Stour and Wantsum emptied much more silt into the sea near here, possibly leading to the sustenance of a much more pronounced sandbank than exists today. If this is so, there may be a basis to the legends.”

    “What is factual beyond doubt, however, is the constant erosion  of this coast by the sea to a quite spectacular degree. The Isle of Sheppey, on the North Kent coast, is eroding at an alarming rate. On the north coast of the island is the town of Minster. During the Middle Ages this was situated in the centre of the island! Further north, all along the coast of East Anglia, lonely, windswept clifftops overlook dark, choppy seas where once human activity took place and spectral church bells supposedly toll.”

 Dunwich                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Ruin of All Saints Church, Dunwich, 1904 postcard (Wikipedia)

Ruin of All Saints Church, Dunwich, 1904 postcard (Wikipedia)

   “One ‘lost city’ here is very well documented: Dunwich, on the Suffolk coast between Southwold and Sizewell. It was once a prosperous port situated on the River Blyth and became the capital of Saxon East Anglia reaching its peak during medieval times. But in January 1326 disaster struck. In one night three churches and over 400 houses were swept away in a great storm and one million tons of shingle and sand banked up across the harbor mouth, cutting off the River Blyth and diverting it northwards.”

   “Dunwich died, its trade killed by this sudden lack of a harbour. The population declined as merchants moved away and its sea defences were neglected. By the mid 17th century the market place was awash and house after house, street after street, fell over the crumbling cliffs into the advancing sea. Now, all that remains is a church, a ruined priory, a pub and a few houses.”

Atland                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Map of Doggerland c8,000 BCE (photo credit: Max Naylor for Wikipedia)

Map of Doggerland c8,000 BCE (photo credit: Max Naylor for Wikipedia)

   “Travelling north eastwards across the North Sea brings us to the vicinity of the Dogger Bank, today the shallowest part of the sea between Britain and Scandinavia but at one time a large, populated island. Evidence for this has been found in the form of Mesolithic implements found in the material dredged from the Dogger Bank. The period during which a large island existed here would have been towards the close of the last Ice Age when the sea level was some 60-70ft lower than at present. However, there is a belief that a large island called Atland existed here until 2193BC when it was overwhelmed by tidal waves caused by volcanic activity.”

   “Atland is described in a mysterious book that appeared in London in 1876 called the Oera Linda Book and subtitled ‘from a manuscript of the 13th century.’ The original was in the Frisian language and told of Atland and its inhabitants, the disaster that overwhelmed them and the subsequent history of the survivors who, it is said, carried civilization across the world to, among other places, Egypt, Crete and Greece and were said to be the ancestors of the Celtic races.”

   “Experts thought the book a forgery dating back to about the 1730s. Certainly this is a distinct possibility, especially as some of the contents do not seem credible. For instance, the survivors of Atland did not found the civilization in Egypt; this was already well advanced by 2193BC. Also, why were only the Mediterranean countries settled by Atland survivors and not Britain, France and Holland which were much nearer? Furthermore, there has been no volcanic activity for many millions of years.”

Atlantis                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Athanasius Kircher's Atlantis Map (Mundus Subterraneus 1669) Wikipedia

Athanasius Kircher’s Atlantis Map (Mundus Subterraneus 1669) Wikipedia

   “None of this, however, prevented Robert Scrutton publishing the contents of the Oera Linda book in 1977 in his The Other Atlantis. Naturally parallels are drawn with Plato’s Atlantis which is thought to be the same place – after all the name is surely too similar to be coincidence? Maybe so but it is  equally likely to indicate a deliberate attempt to emulate the Atlantis account.”

   “Nevertheless, Scrutton draws attention to traditions of a major catastrophe of a flood-like nature in the northern hemisphere in times past, recorded in the Welsh Triads and, as we have seen earlier, there may be a basis of fact in those accounts.”

   “What is certain is that today’s sea level is higher than it was in the past and is still rising. Also, large tracts of land have been lost to the sea and, no doubt, given rise to many legendary stories around our coasts.”

   “What is also clear is that such disasters can happen at any time; the devastating East Coast floods of 1953 and 1978 are evidence of this. What has been may be again.”

[If you have found the above article interesting and would like to find out more about this particular topic, then please read the book ‘Lost Cities And Sunken Lands’ by Nigel Pennick, published by Capall Bann, 1997].

Sources:

Harris, Paul., ‘Beneath The Waves’ (article in Prediction magazine), June 1995, Volume 61, Number 6, Croydon, Surrey.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cantre%27r_Gwaelod

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cantre%27r_Gwaelod

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land%27s_End

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

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

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

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

                                                                                                                                                                                      


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The Saxon Shore Forts Of South-East England And East Anglia

Map of The Saxon Shore Forts (Wikipedia)

Map of The Saxon Shore Forts (Wikipedia)

   There were originally 10 or possibly even 11 ‘Saxon Shore Forts’ (Litus Saxonicum) commanded by an officer with the title of ‘Comes litoris Saxonica per Britanniam’ or ‘Count of the Saxon Shore’. Most were built in the late third century though others have an earlier origin. Richborough incorporates older buildings, as does Reculver. Dover was already a militarised site. Nine are referred to in the Notitia Dignitatum, a military text from the late 4th early 5th century. A 10th fort may have existed at Walton Castle, near Felixstowe, but this has now been lost to the sea.

   The forts are all similar in that they are located near sea harbours or river estuaries, suggesting that their purpose was to prevent sea-borne invaders getting inland. Each could support a substantial garrison either infantry or sailors. All are of a similar structure – massive walls with bastions for mounting ballistae and surrounding ditches and, ramparts for extra protection.

    A parallel defence system contemporary with the Saxon Shore Forts the Litus Saxonicum exists on the other side of the Channel from Mardyck near Calais to the estuary of the Garonne. However this system is not as close knit with five of these forts not on navigable rivers. Rather the issue here seems to be the defence of key positions rather then a shoreline.

    From the north we have Brancaster (Branodunum) OS grid ref: TF 7821 4404 located between Burnham Market and Hunstanton, covering 6 ½ acres of standard trapezoidal shape, and with walls 9 foot thick of which nothing now remains above ground.

Mid-19th Century Illustration of Burgh Castle (Wikipedia).

Mid-19th Century Illustration of Burgh Castle (Wikipedia).

   Then Burgh Castle (possibly Gariannonum) OS grid ref: TG 4745 0461 is now well back from the sea with walls 11 foot in width and in places still 15 foot in height enclosing 5 acres. Three sides of the walls remain. Six bastions appear to have been added at a later date after the fort was constructed.

    Further south in Essex lies Bradwell (OS grid ref: TM 0313 0810) on the Blackwater Estuary (possibly Othona) with sections of 3 walls originally surviving, one with a bastion.

    On the Watsum River in Kent lies Reculver (Regullium) OS grid ref: TR 2274 6930 which was once on a broad waterway between the Isle of Thanet and the coast, but now sadly eroded by the sea. The walls of this fort were 8 feet thick surrounding an enclosure of standard Roman shape and protected by a ditch and earth rampart. Much has been lost to the sea. Also of note at Reculver are the ruins of a church founded about AD 669 by Egbert, King of Kent. There was a nave 37 feet long and a chancel with an apse. The towers, which remain, were added in the 12th Century.

Richborough Roman/Saxon Fort (photo credit: Midnightblueowl for Wikipedia).

Richborough Roman/Saxon Fort (photo credit: Midnightblueowl -Wikipedia).

   Richborough (Rutupiae) beside the river Stour at (OS grid ref: TR 3245 6018) has perhaps the most imposing remains, and the longest history. It is possible that this is where the Romans landed in AD43 under the command of Aulus Plautius. Defensive ditches have been found enclosing a large area. And 40 years later a marble monument in the form of a triumphal arch 82 feet tall with a façade of Italian granite was erected ‘possibly’ to commem-orate the event. The foundations remain. There is also evidence of occupation in the 2nd Century, when it seems to have been a civilian settlement with temples, an amphitheatre and a mansio (hotel). A fort with earth ramparts with triple ditches remains of which are extent dates from the second half of the third century with a stone walled fort of standard Roman shape and bastions replacing it soon after. At this time also the monument was converted into a look-out post. Finds from archaeological digs are housed in the site museum.

    Dover (Dubris) OS grid ref: TR 3193 4133 lies buried under the modern town (Queen Street) and is more famous for its Pharos (lighthouse) explored elsewhere on this web site. The Fort dates from the 2nd Century – being reused later as part of the ‘Saxon Shore’ defence.

    Lympne (Portus Lemanis) lies on Romney Marsh (on private land) OS grid ref: TR 1170 3420 and is marked by a few walls tilted at odd angles and, an east gate. The fort appears ho have been constructed as an irregular pentagon rather than of the usual trapezoidal shape.

Pevensey Castle Roman Walls (photo credit: Mortimer - for Wikipedia).

Pevensey Castle Roman Walls (photo credit: MortimerCat – for Wikipedia).

   Pevensey (Anderida) OS grid ref: TQ 6388 0504 lies at the mouth of the River Ashbourne in Sussex. Excavations here have shown evidence of wooden buildings. Pevensey is unusual in that the walls defer from the usual square plan into an irregular oval enclosing some 10 acres. The 12-foot thick walls initially look Medieval, but are in fact largely Roman. Bastions were placed at intervals around the wall and still look very imposing today. Not only did the Normans reuse the castle building, a keep on the south eastern side, but it was again reused in the second world war; a pair of machine gun posts can be seen as can a ‘pillbox’ on top of one of the bastions.

    Porchester (Portus Adurni) in Hampshire. On Verne Hill overlooking Portland Harbour OS grid ref: SU 6242 0452, completes the group. Of a square shape the walls have gates on the west and east and a defensive ditch surrounding them. There were originally 20 bastions and 14 survive. Archaeological evidence shows that a high status Anglo Saxon residence was established later within the walls. Again the building seems to have impressed the Normans. They resurfaced the walls and built a keep in the northwest corner. Other buildings followed in the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries. In the Southwest corner there is also a large church – part of an Augustan Priory built in 1133.

    For most of the 19th and 20th Centuries two theories held sway over the reasons for the development of the Saxon Shore defences. The first was that they were there to control an existing settlement of Saxon migrants (there is some evidence of Saxon settlers in the archaeological records), the second to prevent Saxon marauders from plundering that part of the coast. Whilst this was probably the case with the second half of the 4th Century, it was not really the case with the 3rd Century, and archaeological evidence (coins) now suggests they were built in the late 3rd Century when the Saxons were presenting as troublesome pirates rather then invaders intent on plunder. It is more likely that they were established by the Gallic Emperor Cariusus – mentioned elsewhere on this website. It has also been suggested the forts were established to protect the supply of goods back and forth from and to the continent. All four theories may have merit at different times during the 3rd and 4th Centuries.

Antoninianus Carausius Coin (photo credit: Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. - for Wikipedia).

Antoninianus Carausius Coin c 290 AD (photo credit: Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. – for Wikipedia).

   Carausius reigned from 286 to 293. According to the 4th Century writer Eutropius Carausius was of Belgic origin, had joined the fleet and had rapidly risen through the ranks bringing him to the attention of the Tetrarch – the two emperors and their two assistant Caesars who ruled the Roman world. He was put in charge of dealing with the Saxon Pirates but allegations were made against him that he had been allowing the Saxons to continue their piratical activities apprehending them and seizing their loot for himself. Recalled and fearing the worst he set himself up as Emperor in Northern Gaul and Britain. This theory suggests the forts were built by Carausius to defend his territory against the might of Rome. But the Tetrarch’s resources were stretched and Cariusius was tolerated instead. In 293 the Tetrarchy recovered Northern Gaul weakening Carausius’ position and leading to his assassinated by his Chief Minister, Allectus. Constantius Chlorus took his time but recovered Britain for the Empire in 296/7; Allectus being defeated and killed near Farnham.

    Archaeological evidence shows that during the 4th Century the forts continued in use probably supplanted with a series of signal-stations, which could have provided warnings of incursions, using fire and smoke. When Rome withdrew from Britain at the beginning of the 5th Century the forts fell into disrepair. Internal buildings were mainly of wood so they disintegrated leaving just the walls as a reminder of what had been. 700 years later the walls were still standing and some of the forts were requisitioned by the Normans as defensive positions, as status symbols and, as accommodation for the elite of the new invaders.

Sources: Cottrell, Leonard., ‘The Roman Forts of the Saxon Shore’, HMSO, 1964.

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

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

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

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


Weyland The Smith – An Article by David McGrory

Volundr (Weyland the Smith) - an illustration. (Wikipedia)

Volundr (Weyland the Smith) – an illustration. (Wikipedia)

   Looking through some of my old ‘Prediction’ magazines I came across an excellent historical article by David McGrory. This article appeared in the June 1995 edition of the magazine and is all about the mythical Norse god Weyland the Smith, also known as Volundr. I thought that other people might like to read this and so here it is “quoted” in full.  The author says:

   “By an ancient ridgeway that passes through the Uffington White Horse, Oxfordshire, a Neolithic long barrow constructed at least 5,ooo years ago stands amid a circle of trees. The barrow with its large entry stones is known as Wayland’s Smithy, taking its name from the Teutonic demi-god, Weyland the Smith, also called Volund, for the first Saxons to see the mound thought it had been constructed by a god or giant”.

  “According to legend, anyone who passed this barrow with a horse that needed shoeing need only leave a silver coin then retreat; on his return, the coin would be gone and the horse shod. Similar tales are to be found in ancient Greek mythology concerning the classical smith god, Vulcan”.

Wayland Smith Long Barrow (photo credit: Msemmett for Wikipedia).

Wayland Smithy Long Barrow entrance (photo credit: Msemmett for Wikipedia).

   “Because the ‘smithy’ lay on the boundary of two Saxon estates it is the only ancient monument to be named on an Anglo-Saxon charter; dating to before the Norman Conquest, the conveyance charter referrs to the barrow as ‘Welandes Smiththan'”.

  “Teutonic beliefs brought here by the invading Saxons during the 5th century inform us that Weland was the youngest of three sons fathered by the demi-god Wade. As a child Weland was entrusted into the hands of dwarves who lived amid the metals in the mountains and taught him the magical art of the smith, thus he became skilled in forging, making weapons and jewellery”.

  “In his Iceland homeland Weyland spent much of his time out hunting with his two brothers. The three finally settled in a place called Ulfda where, one day, they saw three beautiful Valkyrier (nymphs) swimming naked in a lake, their ‘elf garments’ left lying on the shore. The brothers seized the magical clothes and the women who they took to be their wives”.

  “All lived contentedly together for eight years, then the Valkyrier became bored with domesticity and one day fled with the brothers were out hunting . Discovering their loss, two of the brothers went in pursuit, leaving Weland behind tending his forge. Anticipating the wives’ return, Weland wrought three golden rings which he strung on a willow wand”.

  “One day, while Weland was out hunting, King Niduth of Sweden who was searching for a smith entered Weland’s empty hut, saw the golden rings and took one for his daughter, Baudvild. Weland returned that night and, while roasting a piece of bear meat, noticed that one of the rings was missing. This caused him great joy as he imagined that his wife had returned, so sat awaiting her arrival and soon feel asleep”.

  “But instead of his wife, King Niduth returned, had Weland seized and carried to the palace. Then, by the Queen’s command, Weland was hamstrung, placed on a small island and compelled to work for his royal couple. Not surprisingly, Weland sought revenge and a suitable opportunity soon arose”.

  “King Niduth’s two greedy sons approached Weland demanding to see the tresure and were told it was kept at his forge (Wayland’s Smithy, Oxfordshire, was probably raided for treasure early in its history). Having seen the treasure, Weland told the brothers that if they returned the following morning he would give it to them”.

  “So they returned the next day and as they entered Weland slammed the door shut, decapitated them with one blow and buried their bodies. But the skulls he fashioned into silver-plated goblets for the King’s table; from their eyes he produced gems for the Queen; and the princess received a pearl necklace made from their teeth. Weland took further revenge on the princess who he raped when she came to him secretly to have repaired the golden ring given her by her father. As a result of this unwilling union a daughter was born who would herself become part of a later Teutonic mythology”.

  “Weland then escaped his island prison by taking flight, using a pair of magical wings he had wrought in metal. He landed on the palace wall, called the King and Queen forth and told them of the terrible fate of their two sons and the violation of their daughter. His revenge complete, Weland took to the air and was never seen on Earth again”.

  “His new role, apparently, was to act as armourer to the gods and our ancestors believed that Weland kept a doorway open into their world at Wayland’s Smithy; certainly there is some evidence of worship at this site”.

Source:

McGrory, David., ‘Weyland The Smith’ (article in Prediction magazine), June 1995 Volume 61 Number 6, Croydon, Surrey.

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wayland%27s_Smithy


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London’s River 1- From The Cotswolds To Teddington – by J. R. L. Anderson

Map of the River Thames (Cotswolds to Teddington).

Map of the River Thames (Cotswolds to Teddington).

Here quoted “in full” is the brilliant and very comprehensive article from ‘The Illustrated LONDON NEWS’ magazine of July 1971, written by J.R.L.Anderson. In the forward to the article we are told that: “The Upper Thames no longer carries commercial traffic, though it remains a fine inland waterway for pleasure cruising. In the first of a two-part article the author, who lives in the Thames, describes the non-tidal stretch of the river and recalls some of its history and two of its enigmas – the continuing controversy over its source and the origin of its name.”

    “The Thames is London’s river, but it would be more exact to say that London owes its existence to a geological freak, a little ridge of hard Corallian limestone near Oxford left by the Jurassic seas that covered most of southern England about 140 million years ago. This little ridge, noticeable enough in the days when people walked from Oxford to Cumnor, is taken by the motor car in its stride. You may, perhaps, have to change gear if you are held up by a lorry, but otherwise there is nothing to tell you that you are climbing a hill that changed the course of the Thames, and with it the course of English history.”

    “The Thames rises in the Cotswolds and flows easterly towards the North Sea. But for the Cumnor ridge it would have gone on flowing eastwards, trending a little north to skirt the Chilterns, and forming its estuary somewhere between Aldeburgh and Clacton. But for the Cumnor ridge, Ipswich or Colchester would have been the capital of England.”

    “The ridge checks the easterly flow of the Thames. To get round the ridge the river makes a great bend to the north and then turns south again, gathering the Cherwell at Oxford. Instead of flowing on east, it runs more nearly south – a little east of south – towards Reading. Just before its gets to Reading the Thames meets another barrier, the ridge of chalk forming the Berkshire Downs and the Chilterns. The river deals with this decisively, cutting a path for itself through what is called the Goring Gap. From here it returns to a generally easterly course to London and the sea.”

    “London came into being as a settlement at about the sea-tide coming into the river up the estuary, a good place for crossing the river. There were shallows where, at low tide and when the Thames itself was low, the river might be fordable, though the crossing on foot or on horseback would always have been risky. But it would have been easy enough by boat, a good place for a ferrypoint before the river widens into its estuary. A good place, too, for beaching larger craft bringing cargoes from the Continent, a snug haven after those vicious, short, steep seas of the passage  from Norway, Denmark or the Low Countries. So London came into being as the pulsing heart of England, with the Thames its artery.” 

    “For a river with so much history so long studied, the Thames still presents a surprising number of enigmas. No one has yet satisfactorily determined what its name means, or where it comes from. The Romans found it called (phonetically) “Tems”, and  latinised this into “Tamesis”. The “h” in the modern spelling is a ludicrous intrusion. It occurs in no very early charters, although it is occasionally to be found in late medieval documents as “Thamisa”. The silly “h” became fashionable in the seventeenth century when it was considered the thing to go in for “antiquities” – it is a fake. It has remained with us ever since.”

    “But what does “Tems” (or “Thames”) mean? It has no obvious root in the Celtic or Gallic tongues spoken in England before the Romans came. Dr Eilert Ekwall, author of the great Oxford Dictionary  of English Place-Names, suggests that it may derive ultimately from the Sanskrit “Tamasa”, meaning “dark”, perhaps through the Old Irish “Temen”, also meaning “dark”.  Some early people speaking in Indo-European language certainly came to Britain and they may have called the Thames “dark water” in their tongue. It is a singularly inappropriate name for the Thames as it has been these past 2,000 years, for it is a silver stream rather than a dark, brooding one. But when our remote ancestors came the Thames valley was thickly wooded, and the river under the trees may have seemed strikingly dark. No one knows. “Thames” may be a link with our first Indo-European forebears, or it may mean something completely different in some completely unknown tongue.”

    “I should like here to denounce another affectation in the name “Isis” occasionally presented as an alternative name  for the Thames above Oxford, and regrettably sanctioned as such by the Ordnance Survey. The “Isis” is a non-existent river, and the name was unheard of before the fourteenth century. Some unknown scribe seems to have conceived the idea that “Tamesis” was a compound of the names “Thame”, a tributary which joins the Thames just below Oxford, and an imaginary “Isis”. This is absurd. No one living by the Upper Thames has ever called the river anything but “Tems”, of which “Tamesis” is simply the latin form.  “Isis” has gratified some uncritical literary fancies, but it is as bogus as the “h” in “Thames”. That “h”, I fear, is too long established in orthodox spelling to be shifted now, but the map-makers ought surely to abandon “Isis”.” 

   

Seven Springs on the River Churcn (photo by David Stowell - for Geograph)

Seven Springs on the River Churn (photo by David Stowell – for Geograph)

    “Another enigma of the Thames is that its source – in well-surveyed, civilized England! – remains in dispute. The Ordnance Survey accepts the source as a spring (commonly dry in summer) at Trewsbury Mead, about 3½ miles SW of Cirencester and just to the N of the old Roman road (Fosse Way) between Cirencester and Tetbury. This is accepted, too, by the Thames Conservators, the official body responsible for the river, and the site has been adorned by them with a statue of a river god (Old Father Thames?) that once lived in the old Crystal Palace. But there is a rival source, about 11 miles farther north at Seven Springs, near Coberley, on the outskirts of Cheltenham. Here there is a better spring, in a dell with water in it, and a Latin inscription on a stone, recording:

            Hic Tuus,  O Tamesine Pater,  Septemgeminus Fons,  (Here, O Father Thames, is thy sevenfold source).

    “The matter was even discussed in Parliament (in 1937), when the supporters of Seven Springs tried to get a ruling giving official recognition to their source. Mr Chamberlain’s Government was unmoved, sticking to Trewsbury Mead, and arguing that the river which rises at Seven Springs is not the Thames, but the Churn. The Churn, howver, is a tributary of the Thames, which it joins at Cricklade. Its source is farther from the sea than Trewsbury Mead: should it be regarded as the main river down to Cricklade, and the stream from Trewsbury Mead as a tributary? This is like the arguments that go on about the Mississippi and the Missouri; it will never be settled.”

    “The Thames has always been navigable, though not always easily, from the sea to Lechlade, and at times, when barge-traffic was important, as far as Cricklade. Until the coming of railways the Thames was the main route for merchandise from London to Windsor, Maidenhead, Reading, Wallingford, Abingdon, Oxford, Lechlade and Cricklade, and for the products, mostly agricultural, of Oxfordshire and Berkshire sent to market in London. Cheeses from the Vale of the White Horse, shipped by river, helped to feed London before the Conquest. Until the Angevin kings stopped the trade (because they wanted revenue from the vineyards in France) there was a considerable river trade in wine from Abingdon and Reading. It was not the climate but politics that put an end to grape-growing in the Thames valley – an end, that is, commercially, for grapes can still be grown well by the Thames and I have drunk an excellent light wine from grapes grown near Pangbourne. Cotswald stone for building the first St Paul’s Cathedral was brought by the Thames to London, and Sir Christopher Wren  turned again to Burford for stone and to the Thames for transport when he built the present St Paul’s. By Wren’s day, however, Portland stone  by sea was cheaper than Burford stone brought to London by river, so he used Burford stone only for parts of his cathedral, where he wanted its special qualities.”

    “Had railways been invented a few decades later a splendid system of canals, based on the Thames, would have linked London to Bristol and the Midlands : there might even have been a ship canal from the Bristol Avon to the Thames. The canals exist but the railways killed them before they could be developed for modern traffic. It is no use crying over spilt canal-water, but one can still be angry that so much of it remains spilt. Many people hold that these canals could – and should – be restored and modernized, to the great relief of overcrowded roads.”

“If commercial traffic has gone from the Upper Thames it remains one of the finest inland waterways in Europe for pleasure cruising. The Conservancy maintains a dredged channel for 124 miles of non-tidal river from Teddington to Lechlade, and the channel is being extended to take small cruisers well above Lechlade. All locks on the Thames are manned, and most of them now are power-operated. There are fleets of cruising craft for hire or charter, and good facilities for privately-owned boats. From the Thames, too, you can get on to the Oxford Canal, a beautiful eighteenth-century waterway, and thence to the canal network of the Midlands – wonderful territory for inland cruising. Many of the old canals are still navigable by small boats, though you may have to work the locks yourself. But this is good exercise for a crew of strong sons and daughters, while the skipper goes off to replenish  stores. If you time your arrival rightly at the right places, stores replenishment can be indeed a congenial task.”

The River Thames at Wallingford Bridge (photo credit: Roger Templeman - for Geograph).

The Thames at Wallingford Bridge (photo credit: Roger Templeman – for Geograph).

    “But you need a lifetime properly to explore the Thames itself, and its magic hinterland. It is good to travel by boat, but you need not, for all the Thames-side towns and villages can be reached by car, though you will want a good map, and will have to make considerable detours as the river winds. The centuries unfold with particular vividness as you make your way along the river, if you go with a map to a library beforehand and work out the meanings of the place-names on your route. The Thames is a boundary as well as a highway. It brought prehistoric man to the good upland country where he could flourish, and protected his little settlements. Later it brought  the early Saxons  to the heart of their kingdom of Wessex – Hinksey, now part of modern Oxford and once an island in the river marshes, means “Hengist’s Island”, commemorating a very early Saxon name. The Thames bounded the ancient kingdom of Wessex, and when it was beset by enemies the river line held. King Alfred and his sons took particular care to guard the crossings at Cricklade, Oxford and Wallingford, and the invading Danes were checked by the Thames. Later it was the dividing line in the south of England between the area where the old Saxon laws prevailed and the Danelaw, where Viking traditions were recognized.”

    “William the Conqueror secured his hold on England by holding the Thames. His great castles at London, Windsor, Wallingford and Oxford not only controlled the river but dominated the routes leading to and from places where it could be crossed. The wars between Stephen and Matilda were fundamentally struggles to control these castles, and it was Stephen’s final failure to take Wallingford Castle, which held out for Matilda, that ended the war in the treaty securing the succession  of the throne of England to Matilda’s son, afterwards Henry II. It was through Henry II that the blood of the old Saxon Royal House was restored to the English throne, a link that has never since been wholly severed, save in the interregnum of the Cromwellian Commonwealth (1649-60). Thus it can be held with truth that it was the defense of the Thames at Wallingford in the twelfth century that not only gave England one of her greatest monarchs in Henry II but ensured that a descendant of Egbert, king of Wessex in the ninth century and the first ruler to style himself “King of the English”, occupies the throne of England still, in our present sovereign Queen Elizabeth II.”

The River Thames above Teddington (photo credit: Philip Halling - for Geograph).

River Thames above Teddington (photo credit: Philip Halling – for Geograph).

    “At Teddington the Thames meets the tide from its estuary and begins to mingle with the sea. Above Teddington the Thames is an inland waterway: below, it starts to have an ocean feel about it. One of the lost hopes of the first post-war Labour government was a plan to establish a Thames-side Walk, all the way from London to the source. That went the way of many dreams of a brave new world. It would be nice to revive it, but such a riverside walk would be expensive to construct, for what was once the towpath has often vanished in the encroachments of houses and gardens, particularly near London. On the upper river there is still a good deal of towpath, but there are awkward gaps that would require long detours or expensive bridging to restore a walk along the river’s length. One day, perhaps……..”

   “Meanwhile, there is enough access to the Thames to give infinite pleasure in return for very little trouble. Below Henley the towns become more and more suburban, but the river remains beautiful, with magic reaches by Kingston and Hampton Court. The best sailing reach on the whole river is the stretch from Marlow to Bourne End. From Reading to Oxford towns and built-up areas are fewer. Abingdon is the most considerable town and still retains patches of medieval beauty in spite of some horrible commercial development. Wallingford is a gracious little place – its size does not match its  history. Above Oxford there is next to nothing but water-meadows and peace. A week on a boat proceeding gently from Oxford to Lechlade is to be transported in time as well as space, to a world remote from motor roads, where the landscape has changed little since Parliament men and the Royalist troops fought over bridges in the Civil War, when Charles I made his capital at Oxford.”

    “The centuries sit lightly on the Upper Thames. Yet it is always London’s river, feeling the force of social and technological change pulsing out of London in many subtle ways, some hurtful, some making for its betterment. I shall discuss these in the August issue of the ILN, and describe what I call the ocean-Thames, whose ships go out to the farthest seas of the world by that nursery of seamen the Thames Estuary,” so says the author of this magazine article J. R. L. Anderson back in 1971.

Sources:

Anderson, J. R. L., ‘London’s River 1 – From The Costwolds To Teddington,’ The Illustrated LONDON NEWS, Vol 259, No 6876, Holborn Hall, 100 Grays Inn Road, London WC1. July 1971.

http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2929575   © Copyright David Stowell and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2813784   © Copyright Roger Templeman and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2592231   © Copyright Philip Halling and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

                                                                                                     


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The Old Frontier (Hadrian’s Wall), Scottish Borders, United Kingdom

A section of Hadrian's Wall (photo by Moldovian1 for Wikipedia)

A section of Hadrian’s Wall (photo by Moldovian1 for Wikipedia)

In the Autumn 2008 edition of the magazine ‘Beautiful Britain’ there is an excellent article by the author Jock McKinnon called ‘The Old Frontier’. In this article the author tours Hadrian’s Wall, the ancient Roman frontier that stretches from the Tyne in the east to the Solway Firth in the west, a distance of 80 Roman miles (73 normal British miles!), and he uncovers the history behind the Roman wall and its stones. Here I have “quoted” in full the article which appears in the magazine. Hadrian’s Wall (Latin: Vallum Aelium), also called the Roman Wall, Picts’ Wall, or Vallum Hadriani, was a defensive fortification in the Roman province of Britannia, according to Wikipedia.

   “Standing on the stretch of Hadrian’s Wall west of the remains of Housteads Roman fort, it is still possible to imagine a Roman sentry shivering in the cold. Squinting into the distant landscape, he must have wondered what on earth he was doing in such a ‘gods-forsaken’ place, so far from the centre of his ‘civilized’ world. It is an image that has been handed down to British schoolchildren for generations. But who really were the people who built and guarded the Wall? And why was it built? The answers, if they exist at all, lie buried in ancient records as well as in the stones and soil around the Wall.”

   “The story begins with just one line of Hadrian’s biography, which describes the Emperor as ‘the first to build a wall, 80 [Roman] miles long, to separate the Romans from the barbarians’. In 117 AD, Hadrian succeeded the Emperor Trajan, whose conquests had stretched the Roman empire to its furthest reaches, from Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) in the south-east to Scotland in the north-west. It was clear to Hadrian, however, that the empire had just reached its limits. With military resources and communications stretched to their maximum, Hadrian decided to consolidate Roman hegemony by withdrawing wherever necessary to manageable borders. He knew it was more important to be able to control what the empire had conquered rather than attempt to stretch its frontiers further. And so he began a tour of the empire, including Britain, to see the problems for himself.”

McKinnon goes on to say: “Although much of Britain had been subjugated, and revolts by local tribes – such as Boudicca’s – had been brutally put down, it was clear that there was still trouble ‘up north’ caused by ‘insurgents’, to use a modern term, from the northern tribes. Although we do not know the nature of such warfare – no detailed accounts of the fighting exist – we do know that the building of the Wall began immediately after, or even during, Hadrian’s visit to the province, from 122 AD onwards.”

Section of Hadrian's Wall (photo by Velela - for Wikipedia)

Section of Hadrian’s Wall (photo by Velela – for Wikipedia)

    “Stretching 73 miles from Wallsend on the Tyne in the east to Bowness-on-Solway in the west, the Wall and its forts were built from locally quarried stone and made good use of natural features such as Whin Sill, a lengthy rocky outcrop forming a north-facing cliff. A long line of forts also stretched west, down the coast of Cumbria. Wall inscriptions show that construction was mostly undertaken by troops from three legions, one of which – the Six Victrix – had come to Britain with Hadrian himself. The construction project may well have served the additional purposes of keeping the troops occupied and boosting competition and morale, as well as indicating to the locals that the Romans were deadly serious about imposing their will on the region.”

   “Conceived as a wall up to 15 ft high and 10ft thick, with a forward ditch to make attack more difficult, the design was changed before completion, with later sections adopting a much thinner width, in places only 7ft thick. It is not known why there was this change of plan; perhaps it was to make more efficient use of the materials, or simply to speed up construction. Either way, it suggests that the need for the barrier was pressing. Indeed, it is believed that territory to the south of the Wall was just as troublesome at the time.”

  “The Wall was therefore more than a defensive barrier to keep out northern raiders. In certain spots along the route of the Wall, such as at Heddon alongside the B6318, you can still make out large earthworks. Known as the ‘vallum’, these works consisted of a flat-bottomed ditch south of the Wall, about 20ft wide and deep, flanked on either side by mounds 20ft wide and 10ft high. The vallum often diverts around the forts, showing that it was built around the same time. Crossings were built opposite the forts, through the ramparts and across the ditch, with a gate. This indicates that the system of earthworks was used to control the flow of traffic through the Wall.  So it seems that another purpose of the Wall was quite literally to divide and rule, and to control the cross-country movement of people and goods.”

The author asks: “So what do we know about the soldiers who manned the Wall? From inscriptions on the Wall and at nearby forts, it is clear that, although the legions – which consisted of men with Roman citizenship – helped with the construction of the Wall, and fought in the area, often manning forts to the north and south of the Wall, they did not form its main garrison. This was the job of auxiliaries – infantry and cavalry units of non-citizens recruited from all around the Roman empire. Amongst the remains of the fort at Chesters is a stone reused as a step on which in inscribed the name of the First Cohort of Dalmations, infantrymen originally from the region which is now Croatia. Other inscriptions record the presence of troop units from France and Germany.”

   “Chesters is a good place to begin to take in the skill of the military engineers. Because of the layout of the site, the fort is difficult to imagine, but the bath-house, with walls still reaching up to 10ft high, and the monumental foundations of the bridge that carried the Wall and traffic across the Tyne, are impressive. Also worth a visit is the small museum, which contains many of the most important inscriptions found along the Wall.”

   “Chesters was one of a series of large forts that were constructed every six to eight miles along the Wall, sometimes after its construction, to house troops. These were in addition to the much smaller milecastles, which were built  into the south side of the Wall once every Roman mile, and turrets. The purpose of the turrets and milecastles was to provide look-outs and to aid communication from fort to fort.”

   “Housesteads was another large fort and its remains are imposing even today. It occupies a commanding position, on a south-facing slope, with its north side abutting the Wall and overlooking Whin Sill. Here it is possible to see the remains of gates, granaries, a headquarters building and the commanding officer’s house.”

Hadrian's Wall from Housesteads Fort (photo by Jamesflomonosoff - for Wikipedia)

Hadrian’s Wall from Housesteads Fort (photo by Jamesflomonosoff – for Wikipedia)

   “There are still also visible remains of cultivation terraces outside the walls of Housesteads, and excavations have revealed the streets, workshops and shops that clustered around the forts of Chesters and Vindolanda. Local tradesmen would have supplied the armed forces and the expanding local civilian economy that would have gravitated towards the troops and military to serve their various needs.”

   “Amongst the most remarkable finds from Hadrian’s Wall are the famous tablets of Vindolanda. Painstaking archeology has pieced together fragments of military records and personal letters which were inscribed on the wooden tablets at the fort and then discarded, left to decay in wet, clay soil. Fortunately for us, they were miraculously preserved by the anaerobic conditions, and the retrieved texts now provide tantalizing glimpses of the everyday.”

The author, Jock McKinnon, in his article makes mention of the other Roman frontier, the Antonine Wall, about 100 miles to the north. He says of this: “Another frontier, this time of earth banks, ditches and wooden palisades, was built about 100 miles further north 20 years later, during the reign of the Emperor Antoninus. The purpose of this second barrier may have been to create a controllable ‘neutral zone’ to Hadrian’s Wall further south, indicating that there was still a threat from unrest, but it would have doubled the military forces needed to patrol both frontiers and the region and it was abandoned by about 170 AD.”

   “Hadrian’s Wall itself was finally abandoned much later, not until the late fourth century, although finds at Birdoswald fort show that it continued to be used by a community, probably as a defensive enclosure, into the fifth or six centuries, long after the Romans and Hadrian had become a distant memory. Subsequently, much of the stonework was dismantled and reused for building work, and it’s only the remote stretches of the Wall and forts that can be seen today.”

   “It is sobering today to stand on the Wall, where that imagined soldier once stood, knowing that although it was obviously important at the time to emperors, their troops and local people – whether they supported it, hated it, or earned money as a result of it – it really matters little now whether the Wall was successful or not. All the time, money and manpower spent to quell a distant province proved fruitless. Except, that is,  for what the Wall can still tell us about our distant past.”

Sources:

McKinnon, Jock., The Old Frontier, Beautiful Britain, Vol 3 Number 3 Autumn 2008, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, 2008.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hadrian’s_Wall

http://www.hadrians-wall.org

 

 

 

 


The Mysterious Disappearing Boulders, Moeraki Beach, Otago, South Island, New Zealand

Moeraki Boulders, South Island, New Zealand (Photo credit: Karsten Sperling) (Wikipedia)

Moeraki Boulders, South Island, New Zealand (Photo credit: Karsten Sperling) (Wikipedia)

Latitude: -45.348199. Longitude: 170.827305. Strewn along the Moeraki beach, Koekohe Beach and Shag Point, in the Otago region, at the far south-eastern side of South Island, New Zealand, are many strange oval and spherical-shaped boulders – resembling, perhaps, giant potatoes – indeed the very name ‘Moeraki’ means “potatoes” in the Maori language of New Zealand. There is an interesting legend, to say the least, which attests to this strange curiosity. Many of these boulders are often half submerged in the sand and bed-rock, but when the tide comes in they mysteriously disappear, obviously, (or do they) and, after the tide goes back out they are seen to be not submerged ie ‘completely whole’ or fully uncovered of sand. These large boulders probably date back 60-65 million years. They are located in the south-eastern part of the South Island, in New Zealand, some 35 km (22 miles) south of Oamaru, between Moeraki and Hampden, and 80 km (67 miles) north of Dunedin. Access to the boulders is from highway 1 (Hampden-Palmerston road), just half a mile south of Hampden town, to the Moeraki Boulders Visitor Centre and car-park.

Broken boulder at Moeraki (Photo credit: William M. Connolley for Wikipedia)

Broken boulder at Moeraki (Photo credit: William M. Connolley for Wikipedia)

These curious grey boulders are literally strewn along the beach, often in clusters, and some in smaller groups of two or so. They vary in size but generally they are somewhere between 1 foot 7 inches and 7 foot 2 inches in circumference and in height between 2-8 feet; some are damaged and broken up due to constant erosion from the pounding waves, many others are wonderfully smooth-shaped and ‘naturally patterned’ with unusual circular, diamond and oblong shapes, said to be somewhat similar to ‘the eyes in potatoes’, but with connecting lines. The boulders are made of hardened mud, silt and clay, and they are cemented together with calcite which is often quite weak at the core and hard at the outer rim, which might account for some of the boulders cracking apart! Seamus P. Cahill writing in ‘Ireland’s Own’ magazine says that these “Huge stones appear on the sand at Otago, New Zealand, and then disappear – only to be replaced mysteriously by new ones!”.

In the colourful and informative book ‘The Beauty of New Zealand’ by Errol Brathwaite  we are informed that: “Moeraki Beach is named after the potato which ancient Polynesian voyagers brought with them in their double-hulled, ocean-going canoe. The canoe, so the olden legend goes, capsized near Shag Point, at the end of the beach, and the moeraki potatoes and some gourds which she was carrying were strewn by the tide along the beach, and were later transformed into boulders. Today, these septarian stones lie half buried in sand, a geological oddity, rusty-red or yellow inside, with crystalline cores”.

But we know that in geological terms they date back 60-65 million years and apparently lay on the sea bottom for much of that time, until the sea-levels began to fall some 15 million years ago. But the fact that “they” disappear and then reappear is simply an over-active (vivid) imagination from more recent times. The boulders are now something of a tourist attraction, and visitors (and geologists!) come here from all over the world to see these strange and curious rock formations. The boulders are sometimes called Araiteuru after the legendary Polynesian voyager sailing canoe which was said to have brought them here hundreds of years ago when they were apparently, and with much imagination – large potatoes! It is recorded that the Araiteuru also carried a cargo of calabashes, barracudas and eel baskets, and so I am minded to say that it must have been a very, very large canoe to carry such a large amount of items!

Sources:

Brathwaite, Errol., The Beauty of New Zealand, Golden Press Pty Ltd., Avondale, Auckland, New Zealand, 1982.

Cahill, Seamus P., (Just Imagine), Island’s Own, Wexford, Ireland, (various dates).

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

http://www.kuriositas.com/2010/09/mysterious-moeraki-boulders.html

http://www.leeduguid.com.au/blog/new-zealand-south-island/


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Grave of St Nicholas, Newtown Jerpoint, Co. Kilkenny, Southern Ireland

Tomb of St Nicholas (Santa Claus). Photo Credit: Wikipedia.

Tomb of St Nicholas (Santa Claus). Photo Credit: Wikipedia.

Irish grid reference: S 5679 4042. In the old churchyard at the west-side of the ruined medieval church of St Nicholas at Newtown Jerpoint, Co. Kilkenny, stands the medieval carved gravestone, reputed to be where the remains of St Nicholas of Myra (yes, the original Santy, St Nick, Santa Claus or Klaus), were laid to rest here back in the year 1300 and, a beautifully carved graveslab was placed over the saintly bishop’s remains. The legend says that St Nicholas’ remains were brought back to Ireland from Bari in Italy by two knight-crusaders of Irish/Norman birth, although [the] church dedicated to the saint was already established at Newtown Jerpoint at that time. There is also a holy well named after the saint. St Nicholas’ ruined church with its famous medieval gravestone is located (on private land) 2 miles south-west of Thomastown, just west of the Little Arrigle river and the N9 (R448) road, at Jerpoint Park. The monastic ruins of Jerpoint Abbey are about half a mile to the east; while sadly the village of Newtown Jerpoint was abandoned in the 1680s and the church left to fall in to ruin and decay. Kilkenny town is 13 miles to the north-east.

The story goes that in the 13th century two Irish knights (both known as De Fraine) on their ‘retreat’ back from the crusades in the Holy Land stopped off at Bari in Italy and managed to secure some of St Nicholas’ holy remains; these remains were brought back to Ireland (by way of Normandy) and then buried in the churchyard adjoining the church of St Nicholas of Myra in Newtown Jerpoint; the two knights thought this to be a safe place for which to bury such a saintly personage. The family of De Fraine had a beautifully carved gravestone placed over the grave of the saint – the date being either 1200 or more likely in 1300 as the church had been established for some time already (1172), being built by William Marshall, earl of Pembroke and ancestor of the De Fraines’ family. Marshall, the son-in-law of Strongbow (Richard Fitzgilbert de Clare) also established the “new town” of Nova Villa Juxta Jeripons situated opposite the mid-12th century Cistercian abbey of Jerpoint, in 1200, at which time he also built the little church dedicated to his favourite and esteemed patron saint, Nicholas of Myra.

The grave of St Nicholas and the adjoining church became a place of pilgrimage from the 13th/14th century onwards, as was the saint’s holy well close by the churchyard; however, in c1680 the village of Newtown was abandoned and   the little church with its famous grave left to fall in to steady decay and ruin – its ruined tower, walls and gallery now almost obliterated by trees and foliage – the gravestone of St Nicholas cracked across the middle. But its beautiful carvings survive. The bishop or cleric on the large, cracked gravestone wears a robe that is shaped like a crusader shield, while at the top two carved heads at either side of the saint’s head are thought to be the knights who brought the remains from Italy to Ireland. At the upper left-side a carving of a boat and at the opposite (upper right-side) a sun carving; there is also a carved cross with more intricate stuff around it and what may be a French fleur de lis. A Latin inscription can also be seen on the stone.

The age-old legend of St Nicholas (Santa Claus) is known to most people. He was bishop of Myra (Mugla) in Lycia, Turkey, during the 4th century AD, and was well-known for his charitableness to the poor and the under-privileged, especially towards children; so much so that he came to be regarded as a “miracle-worker”. He is said to have died in 320, 342 or 350 AD, and his relics later (1084) translated to Bari on the Italian coast. According to the legend, Nicholas “reputedly gave three bags of gold to three girls for their marriage dowries” (Farmer, 2004). These dowries were tossed through an open window, or maybe down a chimney! and that is, perhaps, where the idea of Santa Claus putting gifts down a chimney comes in to its own. Another legend says that he ‘raised to life’ three boys who had been drowned in a brine-tub by a butcher” (Farmer, 2004).

The author Colin Waters in his work ‘A Dictionary Of Saints Days, Fasts, Feasts And Festivals’ says of St Nicholas: “In early Europe it was traditional for people to leave gifts for others without saying who they were from on St Nicholas’ Eve (5th December). This was said to have been started by St Nicholas (also Klaus, Klass etc) when he was bishop of Myra in Lycia.” Waters goes on to say: “He is also patron saint of all prisoners and of all travellers, merchants and those overtaken by sudden distress or danger. His emblem is three balls, indicative of the gold he so freely gave away as a rich man. Panbrokers adopted his symbol. He is represented by three children in a tub.” St Nicholas is patron St of Russia and of Galway city. There are many churches dedicated to him in Ireland, including the medieval collegiate church of St Nicholas in Galway city which dates from c1320 – said to be the largest parish church in Ireland.

The grave of St Nicholas at Newtown Jerpoint, Co. Kilkenny, has been mentioned by many Irish antiquarians and historians, including Canon Carrigan and Owen O’Kelly in his esteemed work ‘A History of County Kilkenny’. And interestingly, this tale has appeared regularly in the ‘Ireland’s Own’ magazine, being authored by Gerry Moran.

Sources:

Farmer, David., Oxford Dictionary Of Saints, Oxford University Press, New York, USA, 2004 

Moran, Gerry., ‘Santa Claus is buried in Kilkenny’, Ireland’s Own, Wexford, Ireland, (various dates).

http://omniumsanctorumhiberniae.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/saint-nicholas-irish-connection.html

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

O’Kelly, Owen., A History of County Kilkenny, Kilkenny Archaeological Society, Kilkenny, Ireland, 1969-70.

Waters, Colin.,  A Dictionary Of Saints Days, Fasts, Feasts And Festivals, Countryside Books, Newbury, Berks, 2003.

 

 

 

                 

 

 


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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.


London Stone, Camden, Greater London

London Stone (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

London Stone (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Os grid reference: TQ 3267 8090. Hidden-away in a recess at the front of what was the Bank of China on Canning Street, Camden, London, close to the Cannon Street Underground Station, is the so-called London Stone, a relic perhaps of Roman Londinium. Sometimes also called ‘the Brutus Stone’ or ‘Britto Stone’ after the Celtic leader of the same name who was hailed as king of what would become London, according to The Legend. It is actually a squat round-shaped stone that is now much diminished in size and which may, in fact, have been a 15th century boundary stone? The stone’s location is close to the corner of St Swithins Lane and nearly opposite Bush Lane. St Paul’s Cathedral is 1 mile to the west while the river Thames and London Bridge are about a quarter of a mile to the south of Canning Street.

London Stone and its former stone surround (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

London Stone and its former stone surround (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

At the front of the W.H.Smith building at no.111 Canning Street in a specially designed stone recess stands the curious ‘London Stone’, a round-shaped stone that could be part of a Roman altar that was dedicated to the goddess, Diana, so says Geoffrey Ash in his great work ‘Mythology Of The British Isles’. It was apparently set-up by Brutus, grandson of Aeneas of Troy, a self-styled king of what would become “London”. Brutus is said to have had a palace on the site of the present Guildhall about 1 mile to the south-west, beside the river Thames. The stone is 1 foot 5 inches high by 1 foot 9 inches wide and is made of Limestone that was quarried in Rutland, though it has been suggested that it is Bath stone? It sits securely behind a decorative iron grill, fronted by a very nicely-carved outer recess made of Portland stone, at the top of which there is an information plaque; the inner recess is surrounded by thick glass for extra security.

The stone originally stood at the north-side of Canning Street – where it was set into a niche in the south wall of St Swithin’s Church, close to the Mansion House, according to Janet & Colin Bord ‘Mysterious Britain’. St Swithin’s church was demolished after it suffered from being bombed during the 2nd World War; the stone was moved to the Guildhall museum, then eventually to its present site in Canning Street.

According to documentary evidence the stone was in existence in 1100 and 1188, and in the 16th century it was mentioned again by the antiquary John Stow, who was to describe it as: a great stone called London Stone, fixed in the ground very deep, fastened with bars of iron, and otherwise so stronglie set that if carts do runne against it through negligense the wheeles be broken, and the stone itself unshaken”. In the work ‘Mysterious Britain’ the Bords say that: “Although there is no tradition of it being used as a stone of initiation, the London Stone is of great intiquity and was held in veneration by the citizens who would make binding pacts across it and issue proclamations from it”.

It would appear, therefore, that over many hundreds of years folk, maybe travellers and pilgrims, have been chipping away and breaking pieces off the London Stone to take away as a relic in case it possessed some sort of magical healing power – it may well have done so – and if that be the case it would have originally been a much bigger block of stone, maybe even some sort of pagan altar in the time of the Romans, or maybe from ancient Britain, long before the Romans ever came to Britain but, Brutus who was a Celtic leader – had set his eyes on our shorline! If he did ever come to Britain and reside at London, then it would have been roughly 1100 BC?

The author James MacKillop says in his ‘great tome’ ‘Dictionary Of Celtic Mythology’ says that Brutus was a progenitor of the British people. He was leader of the Trojans and had “dreams” of the Temple of Diana beyond the setting sun. After invading the island [Britain] he defeats the mythical giant Gogmagog and then establishes law upon the land named for him – Britain (Prydain). But actually Gogmagog was killed by being hurled over a cliff by another giant called Corineus of Cornwall who was a champion wrestler of great strength and valor – Reader’s Digest ‘Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain’. Very gruesome-looking stone effigies of Gogmagog and Corineus stand inside the Guildhall in King Street. Geoffrey of Monmouth mentions the legend of Brutus and the giants in his work ‘History of the Kings of Britain’ (1136). More likely than not London Stone was a ‘Milliarium’, a stone that was used to measure road distances in both Roman times, and long after that. And there is the famous saying: ‘So long as the Brutus Stone is safe, so long shall London flourish’.

Sources:

Ash, Geoffrey., Mythology Of The British Isles, Methuen, London, 1993. 

Bord, Janet & Colin., Mysterious Britain, Paladin (Granada Publishing), London, 1984.

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

Photo Credits:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Stone

Reader’s Digest,  Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain, ( Second Edition), Reader’s Digest Association Limited, London, 1977.

The Megalithic Portal:  http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=8349


The God Stone, St Luke’s Churchyard, Formby, Merseyside

The God Stone, Formby, Merseyside.

The God Stone.

Os grid reference: SD 2800 0671. At the western side of the town of Formby, Merseyside, close to the seashore and just along St Luke’s Church Road, stands the parish church of St Luke and, almost hidden in the churchyard (west side) is The God Stone, a small oval-shaped stone that is inscribed with a thin cross standing upon some steps. It is also known as The Corpse Stone or The Cross Stone. The present 19th century church stands on a pagan site, but probably from about the early 10th century it was settled by Vikings from Ireland or perhaps the Isle of Man; the stone being placed there at that time, or maybe earlier? Also of interest in the churchyard is the wooden cross, and in the church porch the 15th century gravestone of a local giant! The seaside town of Southport is 6 miles to the north on the A565 while Crosby is 5 miles south on the same road. Liverpool city centre is 10 miles to the south.

The God Stone stands at the west-side of the churchyard beneath some trees. It is 1 foot 6 inches high and is oval in shape, but below ground it becomes a short stumpy shaft which tapers away. It was apparently moved to its present position in 1879. In the early 10th century Formby (Fornebei) was a Viking settlement and a pagan one, but by about 960 the site was Christianised and, later in the 12th century a chapel was established, which would become St Luke’s. There were at least two churches on this site previous to the present-day church, which was built in 1855. It would, therefore, seem that the God Stone became a sort of marker or “rebus” to which the newly converted could ‘congregate around’ and be baptised “at” by Christian missionaries. At some stage, maybe a few centuries later, a Calvary cross was carved onto the stone by missionaries (as a representation of Christ). The curious little stone with its steps below a thin incised cross which has a circle or orb at the top (perhaps a Norse runic symbol) that ‘might’ signify commitment to Christ and ‘the climb up the steps to the cross’, and the nearness to heaven and then ‘eternal life’ (the afterlife).

In the Middle Ages and more recent times, and also to some extent in pre-Christian times, corpses were ceremononially carried around the stone three times, or maybe more in order to contain the spirit of the departed and prevent it from coming back to haunt the relatives, according to Kathleen Eyre in her book ‘Lancashire Legends’. She goes on to say that: “The practise of carrying the corpse three times around the churchyard was witnessed by an English traveller to Holland a few years ago”.  Though the author does not say who that traveller was!

Also in the churchyard there used to be an old wooden cross of uncertain age (encased in zinc) and standing upon tiered stone steps (there is now a more modern wooden cross in its place), and also the 18th century village stocks. In the church porch there is the cracked 15th century gravestone of a local giant. Actually he was none other than Richard Formby, a local man and one of the ancient family of Formby’s, who was the armour-bearer of King Henry IV (1399-1413) and who died in 1407. His tombstone was brought to St Luke’s from York Minster where it received its crack when a wooden beam fell onto it during a fire at the minster in 1829. Apparently Richard was seven feet tall. An inscription on the gravestone reads: “Here lies Richard Formby formerly armour-bearer of our Lord and King, who died on the 22nd Day of the month of September in the year of our Lord 1407. Upon whose soul may God have mercy”- Kathleen Eyre ‘Lancashire Legends’. Housed inside the church is a crude 12th century font which came from the first building on this site. 

Sources:

Eyre, Kathleen., Lancashire Legends, The Dalesman Publishing Company Ltd., Clapham, North Yorks, 1979.

Fields, Kenneth., Lancashire Magic & Mystery, Sigma Leisure, Wilmslow, Cheshire, 1998.

http://stlukes.merseyside.org/history.html


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Rough Castle Roman Fort, Bonnybridge, Stirlingshire, Scotland

Rough Castle Roman Fort (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Rough Castle Roman Fort (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Os grid reference: NS 8435 7985. About halfway between Bonnybridge and Tamfourhill in the Falkirk region of Stirlingshire, in what “was” the ancient kingdom of Dumnonia, are the very well-defined earthworks of Rough Castle Roman Fort, a 2nd century Roman military site attached to the Antonine Wall (south side), which is ‘said’ to be one of the best preserved forts in Scotland, and certainly one of the most notable in Britain, according to the work ‘Ancient Monuments Scotland’, an HMSO guide. Although it was only a temporary fort it was well endowed with a number of military buildings and, at the east-side a bath-house, the foundations of which were discovered during a number of Archaeological excavations in the early 1900s. The fort was built upon a north-facing and very commanding escarpment, beside a ravine into which the Rowan Burn flows, which no-doubt aided the security of the fort somewhat. The town of Falkirk is 1 mile to the east and Larbert is 2 miles north.

Antonine Wall near Rough Castle (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Antonine Wall near Rough Castle (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

The fort stands at the south-side of the Antonine Wall (part of the north-west frontier) and, in particular, the section behind the fort (north and north-west side) with its deep-ditch and rampart is one of three that are extremely well-preserved, although the actual Roman wall itself, or what constituted as a wall at the time, has mostly disappeared leaving only the earthworks as a reminder. The Antonine Wall, built about AD 143, is actually a V-shaped ditch which was 15 Roman feet wide with a rampart of turf on a stone base, a military way that ran for 36 miles (40 Roman miles), linking the Firth of Clyde at Old Kilpatrick in the far west, to the Firth of Forth at Bo’ness in the east. It was built soon after AD 143 to a planned line, earlier set out by Julius Agricola (c 80 AD), by the legate Lollius Urbicus and named after the emporer at the time, Antoninus Pius; but militarily it was nothing like Hadrian’s Wall, although it was called ‘a permenent frontier’ at the time of building, and that’s what it was to remain – in the landscape at least.

Rough Castle For, a drawing by William Roy 1755 (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Rough Castle Fort, a drawing by William Roy 1755 (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

The Rough Castle fort covered about 1 acre, so fairly small compared to some of the forts in England and Wales. It was called a ‘wall fort’ because it abutted up against a Roman wall, in this case the Antonine Wall. Typically it was square-shaped with curved corners but with no lookout towers, although there were the usual four side entrances at the N.S.E.W. Built around 142 AD as a temporary fort, spaced at a two mile interval with its near neighbours – Seabeg to the west and Watling Lodge to the east; at Watling Lodge there is another well-preserved section of the Antonine Wall. But Rough Castle only lasted for just over 20 years, and by 163-4 AD the wall and its 19 small forts and 14 temporary forts were abandoned, Hadrian’s Wall further to the south being occupied instead! However, for a short period around 210-11 AD Rough Castle was re-occupied. The double ditches and ramparts of the fort, and its annexe are well-preserved, especially at the east, south, and western sides, that at the north-side being the much deeper defensive ditch and steep rampart of the Roman wall.

During Archaeological excavations in 1902-3 the foundations of numerous buildings were discovered within the fort and, in the annexe a bath-house, including: an headquarters block, barrack block, commandant’s house and a granary; also a series of defensive pits (lilia) outside the Antonine ditch on the left front of the fort were found, according to the work ‘Ancient Monuments Scotland’, which goes on to say that: “Two inscriptions identify the garrison, the 6th Nervian cohort”, one of six infantry units of up to 500 men from north-eastern Gaul who were honoured with the title ‘Brittanica’, according to the very excellent work of I. A. Richmond ‘Roman Britain’. Further excavations took place at the fort in 1932, 1957 and 1961.

Sources:

Bedoyere, Guy de la., The Finds of Roman Britain, B.T. Batsford Ltd., London, 1989.

Breeze, David. J., Historic Scotland, Batsford Ltd., London SW6, 1998

Canmore/Rcahms Site Page  http://canmore.rcahms.gov.uk/en/site/46803/details/rough+castle/

H. M. Stationery Office, Ancient Monuments Scotland, Illustrated Guide, Volume VI, Edinburgh, 1959.

Photo Credits (nos 1&3)  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rough_Castle_Fort

Photo Credit (no 2)  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Antonine_Wall_near_Rough_Castle_Fort.jpg

Richmond, I. A., The Pelican History Of England 1 Roman Britain, second edition, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, 1963.

 

 


The Rock Cones Of Urgup, Cappadocia, Turkey

Urgup in Cappadocia (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Urgup in Cappadocia (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Latitude 38.660046 & Longitude 34.853611. On the Anatolian Plain in the Zelve region of Cappadocia, some 140 miles south-east of the capital city Ankara and 2 miles north-east of Goreme, stand the famous Rock Cones of Urgup, with hundreds of naturally-formed rock citadels: pinnacles, cones, domes, columns and pyramid-shapes, resembling giant mushrooms, which are known locally as Fairy Chimneys.

Since the 4th century Christian ascetics have sought sanctuary in some of the larger rocky structures and carved out churches and chapels from them, indeed some of the rock faces, nearby, have some quite astonishingly ‘beautifully’ hewn-out places of refuge and worship, while underground there are literally hundreds of subterranean cave-like dwellings, with passage-ways linking rock-cut rooms and buildings, many on different levels, with boulders that could be rolled into position across doorways in case of attack. But going further back – in the 1st century AD St Peter the Apostle is said to have brought Christianity to Anatolia, and then in the 4th century St Basil, bishop of Caesarea (now called Kayseri, 50 miles to the east), urged monks and hermits who were fleeing from persecution to follow an ascetic life on the Plain of Urgup and the Goreme Valley, nearby.

Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

There are many hundreds of rock pinnacles, resembling lofty chimneys that seem to nearly touch the sky in places, which have been shaped by erosion and the softer rock around them gradually worn-away over millions of years to form the alien, moon-like landscape of today; many of the pinnacles being over 100 feet high (30-40 metres) and having windows and doorways, many even being joined together to form communities of people, with many more having churches and chapels built inside them. And below ground there are vast cavenous-like structures: tunnels, galleries, and passage-ways, with several different levels of underground buildings and rock-cut rooms. The main entrances have large boulders standing ready in position so that they could be rolled across in case of an attack from the outside, and if any would-be invader did get inside they would find the maze of passage-ways bewildering, if not down-right dangerous, and they would be dealt with in due course! A few of the larger, more interesting churches still retain their original medieval frescos, a lasting tribute to the monks and hermits who painted them many centuries ago.

A Rock Church in Cappadocia (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Rock Church,  Cappadocia (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

These underground towns, cities, and communities of people would have been largely self-sufficent; they even had their own stables attached – both above and below ground, and also their own water supply through pools and large stone tanks. However, by the 13th century the rock chimneys of Urgup were being abandoned, and only a few solitary hermits and priests continued to live here in an equally solitary residence, but the man-made rock churches and chapels did continue to be ‘in use’ until more recent times, and today they are a tourist attraction, with some 600 or so churches surviving both at Urgup and at nearby Goreme – including the churches of St John the Baptist, St Barbara, St Basil, Church of the Apple and Tokali.

The geography of the Urgup and Goreme area is summed up as being: these strange rock formations were shaped over 8 million years or so to form what we see today. The cones or pinnacles have survived because they are formed from a much harder rock than the soft rock plateau that had originally surrounded them -which has worn away to leave the strange chimney-like shapes and, at the top of each cone a bulbous lump of basalt and small boulders has fused together, providing protection to the lower rock structure itself, looking like a sort of top-knot, perhaps, and giving each cone a chimney-like appearence – hence the local name ‘fairy chimneys.’

In the Reader’s Digest book ‘Strange Worlds Amazing Places’ the geography of this region is outlined in detail: “The process that shaped this unique landscape began when the volcanoes of Cappadocia erupted about 8 million years ago. They deposited countless layers of ash, lava, debris and mud, raising the altitude of the land by more than 1000 feet (300m) to form a prominent plateau.”

“Millions of years of compression turned the volcanic ash into a soft, pale rock called tufa. This was overlaid by a thinner layer of dark, hardened lava known as basalt. As the basalt cooled, it contracted and split, laying itself open to the erosive action of the weather. Streams and floods crisscrossed the plateau, cutting ever deeper, and earthquake shocks and winter frosts helped break up the layers of tufa and basalt.”

“Today the process of erosion continues, slowly wearing down the pinnacled landscape and exposing the multi-coloured layers of earth. These range from the palest tufa, through tones of ochre, russet and deep chestnut (caused by mineral impurities), to the black of the basalt.” Another Reader’s Digest publication ‘Book of Natural Wonders’, tells a similar story.

Sources:

Reader’s Digest, Strange Worlds Amazing Places, The Reader’s Digest Association Ltd., London W1X, 1994.          

Reader’s Digest Book Of Natural Wonders, The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., New York, 1980.

Michael’s Guide Turkey, (series editor: Michael Shicor), Inbal Travel Information Ltd., Tel Aviv, Israel, 1990. 

Photo Credits:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cappadocia

http://www.turkeytravelcentre.com/blog/cave-churches-cappadocia/


The Calderstones, Allerton, Merseyside

The Calderstones (Photo Credit: Sue Adair (Geograph)

The Calderstones  (Photo Credit: Sue Adair (Geograph)

Os grid reference: SJ 4052 8757. Inside the palm house of the Calderstones Park Botanical Gardens at Allerton, Merseyside (originally in the county of Lancashire), stand 6 prehistoric megaliths known as The Calderstones, or the Caldwaye Stones, which are said to have come from a burial mound in the Allerton area back in the 1840s, although there is a record of them as far back as 1568 when they were being used as boundary markers and, at that time there were only three of them on view; the other three stones were excavated in the mid-19th century. These stones are thought to have ‘once circled’ the low mound which apparently had a burial chamber, or possibly a passage-grave at its centre. They are of interest, also, because they have carvings (rock-art) on them. The six standing stones, as they have always been referred to, were eventually brought to the Palm House in Calderstones Park, having stood near the entrance on Calderstones road (A562) and, opposite the aptly-named Druids Cross road. Liverpool city centre is 1 mile to the east.

The Calderstones, Allerton (1824)

The Calderstones, Allerton (1824)

The six stones range in height between 3-8 feet and probably date from the Bronze-Age. They are made of a hard sandstone. Of great interest are the carvings on them, there are a number of cup-and-ring marks on each one as well as spirals, and some other carvings that are more uncertain. When the mound at Allerton was excavated clay urns containing cremated bones and other artefacts were found, according to Mr W.A.Herdman in his work ‘A Contribution To The History of The Calder Stones near Liverpool’ (1896), adding credence to the probability that this was a burial chamber or passage-grave, but it could well have been a cairn circle due to the very fact that ‘these’ six megaliths had been discovered here; the stones would have almost certainly surrounded the chamber within the low burial mound (tumulus).

In 1845 the six Calder Stones were re-erected at the entrance to the park, and in 1864 they were examined by Sir James Simpson who declared them to be ‘part of a stone circle’; it was Sir James who identified the cup-marks and spirals and also wrote about them in 1865-7. In 1964 the stones were re-housed inside the Palm House (also called the Harthill Greenhouses), and here they stand as a fitting tribute to the antiquarians who discovered them back in the Victorian age. The stones have recently been re-sited in a special glass exhibition building in the Harthill Greenhouses buildings.

Sources:

Photo credit:  Sue Adair (Geograph) © Copyright Sue Adair and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Geograph: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/401915

Fields, Kenneth., Lancashire Magic & Mystery, Sigma Leisure, Wilmslow, Cheshire, 1998.

Herdman, W.A., “A Contibution To The History of The Calderstones, near Liverpool”, Proceedings & Transactions of the Liverpool Biological Society, volume 11, 1896.

Simpson, James., “On the cup-cuttings and ring-cuttings on the Calderstones, near Liverpool”, Proceedings & Transactions of the Liverpool Biological Society, Volume 17, 1865.

Please see Paul Bennett’s very interesting, enthusiastic and in-depth site-page on The Northern Antiquarian: http://megalithix.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/calderstones/