The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


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The Dragon Stone, St Mary And St Bega’s Church, St Bees, Cumbria

View of St Bees priory church, Cumbria, by Samuel & Nathaniel Buck (1739) Wikipedia.

OS Grid Reference: NX 9685 1210. In an alcove of the churchyard wall of St Mary & St Bega’s church at St Bees, Cumbria, is a huge carved stone lintel, which was thought to date back to the 8th century AD? The stone has a very beautiful, but also quite curious, Anglo Saxon carving of a dragon being killed by St Michael the Archangel, and not St George – as was usually the case! Below this lintel stone is a carved Medieval cross. The stone, which is called ‘The Dragon Stone’ for obvious reasons, is also known as ‘The Beowulf Stone’. Inside the parish church, which has grown out of the ruins of the near-complete priory nave, are more interesting carved gravestones and crosses. The Benedictine priory was dissolved in 1538. St Bega (Bee) was a Legendary 7th century Irish princess who came here in order to avoid an unwanted marriage; she founded a nunnery in AD 650 at or close to where the present parish church now stands. The priory church can be found beside the B5345 (over the railway line) at the northwestern side of the village – in the direction of Rottington. The village of St Bees lies 3 miles west of Egremont.

The Dragon Stone at St Mary & St Bega’s Church, in Cumbria.

The Dragon Stone or Beowulf Stone is in an alcove of the churchyard (courtyard) wall, opposite the beautifully carved west door of c.1160. It is a huge, long lump of carved stone bearing carvings that were thought to date from the 8th century, but they are now considered to be from the Norman period – the early 12th century AD, and probably came from a much earlier church that stood here. These carvings are very well-preserved, despite their age. A ferocious looking dragon with its long curled tail is depicted about to be killed by St Micheal, who is cowering behind it with his sword raised in readiness. There looks to be another strange beast, perhaps a dragon, with a long curled tail behind the main dragon, but also a dove of peace inside a circle, which sort of balances things out between good and evil. The strap-work design at the right-hand side seems more like Celtic or Saxon, and certainly not Norman; and at the left-side are two small circles with knotted (connecting) cords running through that look like crosses and, below them another section of knotwork with loops and links. Beneath the lintel stone a round-headed medieval cross with shaped depressions forming the arms. Also out in the churchyard part of a 10th century cross-shaft with Late Saxon carvings and a serpent.

Arthur Mee (1961), tells of more about the village, St Bega, and its church, saying that: “Deep in a valley near the sea it lies, a grey village of much antiquity and charm. Its church is the oldest and finest in West Cumberland; its school is ancient, and so is its bridge; but the oldest of all is its delightful story of St Bega (or Bee) and how she got her nunnery. “

The church has grown from the church of a rich priory which began about 1125 as an offshoot of St Mary’s great abbey in York. The priory was built where the nunnery has stood (from the 7th century until the Danes destroyed it in the 10th), and this church is carrying on its ancient tradition. But the most interesting possession of St Bees is a relic of the nunnery itself, a remarkable stone believed to date from the eighth century.

The Dragon Stone.

“We see it in the wall between the churchyard and the vicarage, where it forms the lintel of an alcove. It is carved with an ugly dragon turning to snarl at a tiny armed figure attacking it from behind. One end of the stone is decorated with plaitwork, and with the knotwork at the other end is a very curious carving which looks like a boar’s head. Standing in the alcove is another relic, a stout stone cross on which the bearers of a coffin would rest their load.

“The cross-shaped church with its fine central tower has been altered in modern times, but the greater part was built only a few decades after the priory. It has a magnificent Norman doorway without equal for many miles. The arch has four rich chevron mouldings, beak-heads of men and serpents, and a ram; and carved on one of the capitals is a figure swinging like a monkey from the branches. Three trefoils on stalks make an unusual decoration at the top of the dripstone, and are perhaps meant to represent the Trinity. The oak door is modern, and has decorated hinges. “

Among the stones kept here as relics are a stoup, a piscine, and a mortar, all of the 12th century. Others are probably parts of still older cross-shafts with primitive carving, and one is the upper part of a 10th century shaft decorated on each side with chain and scroll. There are coffin stones 800 years old, carved with crosses and swords and shears: a very fine one engraved with an archer drawing his bow, an elaborate 13th century stone, and another charmingly engraved with the portrait of 14th century Johanna Lucy in a graceful gown her hair in plaited coils.”

Arthur Mee (1961), goes on to tell of St Bega, patron saint of St Bees, saying that: “She was an Irish princess who lived in the 7th century. As a child she made up her mind to serve God and not to marry, and as a pledge of her determination she kept a bracelet said to have been given to her by an angel. But she was the most beautiful woman in the country, and her father betrothed her to a Norwegian prince. Bega (as she was often called) was guarded so that she should not run away, but on the eve of the wedding everyone joined in the merrymaking and she was able to escape, crossing the sea to Northumbria.

“Legend tells us that she was well received by a great lady there, who asked her husband to give her land for a nunnery. He jokingly said he would give as much land as was covered by snow on Midsummer day, and on that morning there was snow for three miles round. Snow has been known on Cumberland mountains on Midsummer day, and possibly the story grew up as an explanation of the irregular shape of the parish. Bega built her nunnery, serving food to the workers with her own hands. As abbess she cared for the sick and poor of the district and became greatly loved.

“Those who declare that there was no Saint Bega assert that the origin of her story is to be found in a ring keep at St Bees until the 13th century, venerated as the bracelet given to Bega by the angel. Actually this was a Norse ring from a pagan temple, taken into the Christian church and referred to as Sancta Bega, Latin for Holy and Anglo-Saxon for Ring; a misunderstanding of these words would account for belief in a saint named Bega. But it is likely that Bega was a real abbess, for the people of north-east England long looked upon her as the protector of the oppressed and the poor.”

Maxwell Fraser (1939), says that: “It has since been demonstrated that no St Bega had any connection with the site, although there was undoubtedly a pre-Norman church there.” W. T. Palmer (1939), adds to the legend of St Bega, saying that: “The place was Christianised by St. Bega, who had been promised all the land that snow lay on, on Midsummer morning. A space of 16 m. by 10 m. was clad in white, and had to be handed to her. In time monks took the place of nuns, and the Prior became one of the most powerful men in the North, though his church and estate were constantly being raided by Scots and by pirates.”

In recent times scholars and historians have considered Bega to be identical with Begu, a 7th century Northumbrian nun and friend of St Hilda. It was Begu who, looking out of her nunnery window at Hackness, had a vision of the soul of St Hilda floating (ascending) up into the night sky and heaven at the very same moment that the saintly abbess had died at Whitby mona-stery, on 17th of November, 680 AD, according to The Venerable Bede’s History. Her death also being recorded in ‘The Anglo Saxon Chronicle’. A passage concerning a bell being tolled for her passing is the first written mention of a bell in recorded history, according to Colin Waters (2003). David Farmer (1982), with regard to St Bee & St Begu being one and the same person, gives the feast-day of St Begu as 31st October. He also says that a sarcophagus containing the bones of St Begu was found at Hackness (c.1125) by the monks of Whitby – after it had been miraculously revealed to them. It was inscribed: Hoc est sepulchrum Begu. These relics were translated to Whitby Abbey where miracles were reported, but another set of relics was claimed by St Bees, says Farmer.

Sources & Related Websites:-

Bottomley, Frank, The Abbey Explorer’s Guide, Kaye & Ward, London, 1981.

Farmer, David, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford University Press, 1982.

Frazer, Maxwell, Companion Into Lakeland, Methuen & Co. Ltd., London, 1939.

Jennett, Seán (Editor), The Travellers Guides — The Lake District, Darton, Longman & Todd, London, 1965.

Mee, Arthur, The King’s England — Lake Counties — Cumberland And Westmoreland, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1961.

Palmer, W. T., The Penguin Guides (Edt. by L. Russell Muirhead), Lake District, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, 1939.

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

https://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/101336027-church-of-st-mary-and-st-bega-st-bees#.WwSbT7uG9jo

http://www.stbees.org.uk/churches/priory/index.html

https://www.stbeghschurch.co.uk/Articles/249205/St_Beghs_Priory/About_us/History/Father_Gregory_Holden/BENEDICTINES_IN_WHITEHAVEN.aspx

https://www.visitcumbria.com/wc/st-bees-priory/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2018.


Pompey’s Pillar And Sphinxes, The Serapeum, Alexandria, Egypt

Pompey’s Pillar and Sphinx at Alexandria in Egypt.

Latitude:31.182515  Longitude:29.896394. On the rocky hill called ‘The Serapeum’ near the center of Alexandria, Egypt, are three monuments dating from the Roman period. The ornate granite ‘triumphal pillar’ or monolithic column (over 20m high) has wrongly been called ‘Pompey’s Pillar’ (it was probably erected to honour the Emperor Diocletion (297-300 AD) when he saved the city from famine. The pillar is also known as Awud as-Sawari (The Horseman’s Pillar). The two monuments (at either side) are Roman copies of the Sphinx, although much smaller than the more well-known Great Sphinx at Giza. Both are made from pink granite and of an earlier date than the pillar; they show the body of a lion and the head of a man. The Serapeum, at the south-west side of the city, on Shari Amûd al Sawari, northeast of the Catacombs of Kom al Shuqqafa, was the site of the Temple of Serapis and the Sanctuary and Library buildings, which were built either by Ptolemy I or III, the ruins of which are now the Acropolis Archaeological site. The  city of Alexandria was conquered by Rome in 30 BC. Pompey the Great was murdered in Egypt (48 BC).

Old Postcard showing Pompey’s Pillar at Alexandria, Egypt.

The Insight Guide – Egypt (1988) says of the site that: “Long before Alexander arrived on the scene, this hill was the citadel of Rhakotis, dedicated to the worship of Osiris. The Ptolemies in their turn built a temple of Serapis on its summit. Here, with a collection of 200,000 manuscripts given to her by Mark Antony, Cleopatra endowed the second great Alexandrian library, which was to remain attached to the Serapeum until the temple itself was destroyed by a Christian mob; and thus here, for 400 years, was the most learned spot on earth. Today not much of the Serapeum remains: some tunnels in the rocks with crypts and niches and a few marble pillars. What the Christians wiped out in 391 A.D. later vicissitudes have put paid to. But the principal attraction, a solitary 72-foot (22 meter) high pillar of pink Aswan granite, seems to touch the sky defiantly and when European travelers arrived in the 15th century it caught their attention. No scholars they, but since they had heard of Pompey, they named the pillar after him and said his head was enclosed in a ball at the top. It actually has nothing to do with Pompey: according to an inscription on its base, it was dedicated to the Emperor Diocletian in 297 A.D. and it may once have had an equestrian statue on top, which would explain its Arabic name. Even less is left of the temple to Isis that once stood on the hill than of the Serapeum. You can see a statue of Isis Pharia, found near the site of the Pharos, as well as two granite sphinxes.”  

Alice Taylor (1964) adds to that that: “Among the best-preserved remains of the Roman period in Alexandria are Pompey’s Pillar and the sphinx. The red granite pillar, eighty-five feet high, was erected by Diocletian in 297 A.D. Excavations here have unearthed dozens of fragments of other Roman objects and buildings, but they are only fragments.”

And Taylor (1964) also says that: “In the last years of the Ptolemaic era a succession of rival rulers, constantly at war with each other, fell under the rising power of Rome. Cleopatra VI, the last of them, a woman of remarkable ability, tried her best to save the dynasty.”

And further to that Alice Taylor adds with regard to Egypt that: “Most of the Roman rulers, like the Greek, considered Egypt a “”cow to be milked””, although at times the people appear to have been fairly prosperous. Gradually, despite persecutions, Christianity gained converts. Many sought refuge in the harsh lonely desert, where they created the world’s first Christian monasteries. Later, Christianity became the official religion, known as the Egyptian (Coptic) Church, and the non-Christians in turn were persecuted.”

View of Pompey’s Pillar c 1850. (Wikimedia).

Edith Flamarion (1997) writes regarding Pompey the Great that: “One man especially became the champion of Egyptian independence: the roman imperator (commander) Pompey the Great, wreathed in glory after suppressing a revolt in Rome, clearing the Mediterranean of pirates, and crushing the powerful Asian king Mithradates. In 64 BCE he over-threw the Seleucid kingdom; the following year, he reduced Syria to the status of a Roman province—thereby creating a Roman stronghold in the Middle East, at the gates of Egypt—and took Jerusalem. Auletes made an alliance with Pompey, sending him 8,000 cavalry for his wars and many gifts, among them a heavy gold crown. 

In 60 BCE, though, the pharaoh had reason to tremble, for Pompey allied himself with Julius Caesar, who became consul the following year. The Egyptian king sent to Rome the huge sum of 8,000 talents, which brought him official acknowledge-ment of his authority. Julian law declared Ptolemy XII Auletes “”an ally and friend of the Roman people,””  which made him, in reality, a vassal.

“The looming military presence of Rome may have alarmed the Alexandrians, who rebelled against the ruler. Driven out by his subjects, Auletes fled Egypt for Rome. There, beginning in 57 BCE he launched a campaign of politicking and corruption, seeking to regain the throne of Egypt and to rally to his cause every powerful citizen of the Roman capital. Auletes bribed senators, spending so much that he was obliged to borrow from Rabirius, a wealthy Roman financier. 

“In the meantime, the Alexandrians put his eldest daughter, Berenice IV, on the throne, and sent a delegation to Rome to request the Senate to arbitrate the conflict between father and daughter. While Rome hesitated, equivocated, and consulted sacred texts, Auletes simply arranged to have a number of the delegates assassinated. But Rome was reluctant to commit a large armed force to returning Auletes to power. In despair, the deposed pharaoh left Rome for Ephesus, in Asia Minor. Cleopatra, then about ten years old, remained in Alexandria, where her half-sister now reigned.

“It was then that Rome decided upon a military intervention. One of Pompey’s lieutenants, Gabinius, governor of Syria, marched on Egypt at the head of a mighty army—an expedition in which the ten thousand talents promised by Auletes undoubtedly played a part. Leading the cavalry was a fiery twenty-four-year-old officer named Mark Antony. Gabinius took Pelusium, then Alexandria; Archilaus, Berenice’s husband, died in combat. Auletes entered the Egyptian capital as its conqueror, and immediately had his daughter executed.

“With the pharaoh back on the throne, Gabinius quit Egypt, leaving behind a military guard composed in the main of German and Gallic mercenaries. The Roman Rabirius, Auletes’ creditor became his prime-minister in Egypt.”” And the rest ‘they’ say is History! 

Sources & Related Websites:

Flamarion, Edith, Cleopatra – From History to Legend, (New Horizons), English Translation – Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, 1997.

Ingram, David, (Insight Compact Guide), Egypt,  APA Publications GmbH & Co. Verlag KG Singapore, (Reprint 2008).

Taylor, Alice, United Arab Republic, (Around The World Program), Nelson Doubleday, Inc And Odhams Books Ltd., 1964. 

Youssef, Hisham & Rodenbeck, John, (Insight Guides – First Edition Reprint), Egypt, Hans Johannes Hoefer, APA Publications (HK) Ltd., 1988.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pompey%27s_Pillar_(column)

https://www.ask-aladdin.com/Alex-Travel-Information/PompeyPillar.html

http://brewminate.com/serapea-of-ancient-egypt/

http://tvatravels.com/adventures/egypt/alexandria-city-lost-glory/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2018.


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

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

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

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

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

From Howard Williams website: Archeodeath)

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

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

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

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

Sources and related websites:- 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2017.


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The Blowing Stone, Kingstone Lisle, Berkshire (Oxfordshire)

Blowing Stone at Kingstone Lisle, Berks.

   OS Grid Reference: SU 32408 87078. A strange and curious stone standing inside a fenced-off area next to a row of quaint cottages on Blowingstone Hill, at Kingstone Lisle, formerly in Berkshire, now Oxfordshire, is the so-called ‘Blowing Stone’, a squat-shaped lump of ancient rock with deep holes in it that is ‘said’ to have originated on White Horse Hill nearby, when it was a perforated sarsen stone. It has a number of myths and legends attributed to it from the time that it was known as the King Stone; the village taking its name from this. The stone also figures in a well-known book that was read by many-a school-boy. This apparent ‘curiosity of geology’ is located just to the south of the village itself and the B4507 road, between the towns of Swinden and Wantage. Kingstone Lisle Park is over the road on the opposite side of the lane from where the stone is now a resident ancient monument, though it used to stand in the garden of the cottage close by, which used to be the village inn!

   The Blowing Stone, also known as King Stone, is in fact a sarsen stone that was originally to be found upon White Horse Hill, 3 miles to the southwest, but was moved to its present location in the mid-18th century. It is curious lump of stone with many geologically-formed perforations, maybe the result of fossilized plants or ancient tree branches falling out of the stone leaving holes; some quite large holes or perforations that go all the way through from one side to the other. But it is not a particularly large stone being just 3 feet in height and about the same in width.

   The stone featured in the famous novel of 1857, ‘Tom Brown’s School Days’ by Thomas Hughes (1822-1896) – when it was referred to as the ‘Blawing Stwun’. Local legend has it that by sounding a note through the largest hole, or by blowing and bellowing through the holes, the sound made by doing this is audible as an echo up to 3 miles away – and that King Alfred the Great summoned his Saxon army into battle against the Danes at nearby Ashdown by doing just that, in the form of a trumpet call! It is also claimed that anyone sounding a high-pitched note through the Blowing Stone (that can be heard on White Horse Hill to the southwest), will be, or would be, a future king of England, or so The Legend tells us. Something similar, perhaps, to the legend of King Arthur, although he supposedly pulled a sword out of a rock. 

Sources of information and related websites:-

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

The AA, The Illustrated Road Book Of England & Wales, The Automobile Association, London, 1961.

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

http://www.berkshirehistory.com/archaeology/blowing_stone.html

http://www.kingstonlisle.net/the-blowing-stone/

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=6963

                                                                                   © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2017.


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The Bridestones, Near Todmorden, West Yorkshire

Bride Stones, west Yorks (Sphinx- like formation).

Bride Stones, west Yorks (Sphinx- like formation).

Bridestones, near Todmorden, west Yorks (OS trig point no: S4501)

Bridestones, near Todmorden, west Yorks (OS trig point no: S4501)

    OS grid reference: SD 9334 26750. Close to the Long Causeway and just east of Todmorden, West Yorkshire, are the Bridestones, outcrops of millstone grit rocks and boulders which are ½ a mile long. Amongst these rocky outcrops are a number of odd-shaped formations that have been caused by weather-related erosion over thousands, if not millions of years.  One huge boulder in particular, known as ‘The Great Bridestone’ is fantastically shaped at its base, looking like an up-turned bottle, as if it might topple over at any moment. There are a number of myths and legends associated with The Bridestones, many of these going back to the mists of time. More recently, perhaps, there are a number of local traditions that have become connected to the place and its many, strange-shaped rocks and boulders. The Bridestones are located about ½ a mile north-east of Eastwood Road – where a footpath runs across the often boggy moor to the outcrops. Another path connects the north-side of the outcrops from Kebs Road, and from just opposite Orchan House Farm at Fast Ends – it runs in a southerly direction across Bridestones Moor.

Bridestones (human face rock formation).

Bridestones (human face rock formation).

Bridestones, west Yorkshire (the anvil-shaped rock)

Bridestones, west Yorkshire (the anvil-shaped rock)

    At over 1,400 feet above sea-level the Bride-stones on the windswept moors to the east of Todmorden and the Calder Valley, there is a ½ mile long escarpment of Millstone Grit outcrops that stand like rocky sentinels keeping watch over the Pennine moorland. These rock forma-tions have been made by the ‘ravages of time’ – wind and rain over thousands of years weathering away the soft grit-stone into strange and curious shapes, and there are indeed some strange-shaped rocks – some looking like human heads and faces (the sphinx), while others look like prehistoric birds, a giant tortoise, and a bear, and there’s even a huge anvil-shaped rock.

Bridestones, west Yorkshire (the rock-house).

Bridestones, west Yorkshire (the rock-house).

Bridestones, (a "possible" cup-marked rock).

Bridestones, (a “possible” cup-marked rock).

    There is even a ‘rock-house’ at Fast Ends above Bridestones Farm at (OS grid ref: SD 9277 2690). Local legend says that Nan Moor and Jack Stone lived at the rock-house a few hundred years ago as ‘guardians of the stones’, and they were proba-bly married there, too. They are said to have lived in a wooden structure or homestead that was connected between the two large rocks; one of the oblong-shaped rocks having square-shaped openings in its side, which must have taken a great deal of time to carve out. This wooden structure was dismantled in recent times. Just above the rock-house there are some large, flat rocks which look to have ancient cup-marks but there are also larger, circular depressions that are naturally-formed by rainwater – although it’s sometimes difficult to tell which are natural and which are man-made! And there are many interesting rock basins to be seen.

Great Bride Stone stands like an up-turned bottle.

Great Bride Stone stands like an up-turned bottle.

Great Bride Stone (from a different sideways angle).

Great Bride Stone (from a different sideways angle).

    The name ‘Bridestones’ might be derived from Bridia, Brighid, or Briga, the pre-Roman (Iron Age) diety who is more often known from history as ‘Brigantia’, goddess of the Brigantes tribe of northern England – just prior to, and up to, the Roman Conquest. Or they “might” perhaps take their name from bride as in ‘bride and groom’ at a wedding ceremony, which harks back to times, long ago, when weddings supposedly took place on the moor where the outcrops of rocks now known as ‘Bridestones’ are located. Indeed there is a 15 foot high oval-shaped, weathered rock called ‘Great Bride Stone’ and beside it a smaller rounded rock called ‘the groom stone’. But undoubtedly the Bridestones was a sacred, magical place, and no-doubt a few thousand years ago it was the abode of druids who worshipped heathen gods and also officiated in ritualistic and sacrificial ceremonies, but aside from that they were also poets, historians, magicians, physicians and astronomers.

    Local author John Billingsley in his work ‘Folk Tales from Calderdale’ – Volume 1, says that: “The Bridestones are first mentioned in local documents in 1491, and Smith in his ‘Place-names of the West Riding’ does not quibble with the derivation from ‘bryd’, a bride….. John Stansfeld, however, in 1885, suggested that Danish ‘bred’ and Icelandic ‘bryddr’ married well with Gaelic ‘braidh’ and modern ‘bride’ in meaning ‘edge of the top of the hill’; whether today’s etymologists feel this explanation is defensible or not, the descriptive does fit this location rather well.”

    Billingsley goes on to point out that: “Taylor [Ian Taylor, 1993], has suggested an identification of Bride with ‘the Old Wife’ or Gaelic Cailleach, a traditional spiritual denizen of wild places more usually associated with the Irish goddess Danu; a local appearance of this hag figure may well be the Old Woman.

    “The Bride has also been locally known as the Bottle Neck. Other rocks have been given names, too, arising from one perception or another. Modern climbers have named rocks themselves, like the Indian’s Head and Spy Hole Pinnacle, as well as giving equally vivid names, like the Obscene Cleft, to specific routes. F.A Leyland cites names known in the nineteenth century, like Table Rock and Toad Rock.

    “John Watson knew of the Bride and Groom in 1789, but does not give details of the legend, other than saying the Groom had been “thrown down by the country people”. In keeping with the spirit of the time, however, he saw the rocks as the natural haunt of “a large settlement” of Druids – “a vast variety of rocks and stones so scattered about the common, that at first view the whole looked something like a temple of the serpentine kind”.

    And another local author, Geoff Boswell, in his book ‘On The Tops – around Todmorden’, says: “We know that the early Britons lived in Todmorden. We have the exhibition of objects dug from the bronze age barrow in the library. Perhaps the name Bride is very old and derives from the early British Breiad, the Gaelic Braidh, the Icelandic Bryddir and the Danish Bred. All of which have similar meanings of “the edge , or margin, at the top of a mountain”. It is a sobering thought that the names  of our prominent rocks can derive from very early times and are far older than any written records we have.”

    Author Paul Bennett in his work ‘The Old Stones of Elmet’, says of the Bridestones that it is: “A beautiful, remarkable and powerful site of obvious veneration. First described in local deeds as early as 1491, there are a great number of severely weathered boulders all round, many like frozen giants haunting a magickal landscape.

    “Dedicated to Bride, goddess of the Brigantine people, like her triple-aspect we find a triple-aspect to the outcrops here: to the west are the Bride Stones; to the east, the Little Bride Stones; with the Great Bride Stones as the central group, surveying everything around here. The goddess’ divine qualities were those of healing, smithcraft, poetry, and mother-hood. There is no attendant lore here that relates to any of these elements.

    “Although local history records are silent over the ritual nature of these outcrops, tradition and folklore tell them as a place of pagan worship. People were said to have married here, although whether such lore evolved from a misrepre-sentation of the title, Bride, is unsure. In the present day though there have been a number of people who have married here in recent years.

    “If the Brigantian goddess was venerated here, the date of the most active festivities would have been February 1-2, or Old Wive’s Feast day as it was known in the north.”

Sources and related websites:-

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

Billingsley, John, Folk Tales From Calderdale, Volume 1, Northern Earth, Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, 2008.

Boswell, Geoff, On The Tops – around Todmorden, (Revised Edition), Delta G, Hollinroyd Farm, Todmorden, 1988.

http://www.hebdenbridgehistory.org.uk/folklore/bridestones.html

https://megalithix.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/great-bride-stones/

http://www.mypennines.co.uk/south-pennines/walks/301113.html#sthash.AKhGBLJg.dpbs

                                            © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities.


Les Causeurs Menhirs, I’le de Sein, Finistere, (Bretagne) Brittany

Les Causeurs Menhirs (photo credit: portalix - Wikimedia).

Les Causeurs(photo credit: portalix – Wikimedia).

    Latitude: 48.038149. Longitude: 4.851246. On a grassy mound at the south-west side of St Guénolé’s church on the I’le de Sein (Sein Island) – five miles off the Finistere coast at Pointe du Raz (Bretagne), Brittany, are two tall granite standing stones (menhirs) that are said to date from the Neolithic. These two standing stones may originally have been part of a stone circle. There are a number of myths and legends associated with these menhirs, and also the surrounding area in which they stand. The island, known as Enez Sun in Breton, is also steeped in pre-Christian myths and legends associated with druidic ritual. The standing stones can be seen on a low, grassy mound at the south-western side of St Guénolé’s Church (Eglise Saint-Guénolé) on the Place Francois-Le-Sud – just to the west of Port du Men-Briel.

    The two menhirs (long stones) are also known in the Breton language as Ar Brigourien – the Talkers, and Ar Fistillerian – the Orators or Gossipers, and sometimes Ar Predicateurs – the preachers. The smaller stone seems to lean toward the taller one – hence the name “The Talkers”. They stand on a low grassy mound which long ago may have supported a circle of standing stones – these two are all that remain of that, but where the other stones went to is not known. Or maybe they originally formed part of a stone row or sacred way. It is thought they were erected here in the Neolithic period of prehistory (6,000-2,500 BC). Les Causeurs menhirs stand respectively at 2.8m (9 ft 3′) and 2.3m (7 ft 6′) in height. The church of Saint Guenole (alias St Winwaloe) was obviously built close to the stones to Christianise what was, long ago in the island’s dark past, a pagan ritualistic site associated with the druids and, mysterious pagan priestesses called “The Senes” – the island taking its name from them

    The Breton author Henri Queffelec in his work ‘Un Recteur De L’ile De Sein’, tells us more about the island’s dark past. He says that: “In early times, the île de Sein was thought to be the haunt of supernatural beings. In the first recorded mention of the island in 43 A.D., in the work of the Roman geographer, Pomponius Mela, we are told that the Insula Sena possessed an oracle which was served by nine vestal virgins who had the capacity to control the elements and cure the apparently incurable. This tradition is later exploited by Chateaubriand in book IX of Les Martyrs (1809) in his description of the sacrificial activities of the Celtic druidess Velleda some of which take place on the “île de Sayne, île venerable et sacrée”. In the Middle Ages, the île de Sein is caught up in the Arthurian legends and according to some storytellers, is the birthplace of two of the most accom-plished magicians, the wizard Merlin, and Morgan La Fée.”

    Queffelec goes on to inform us about the legendary ville d’ Ys, which was the kingdom of King Gradlon: “the ville d’ Ys, according to legend, was once the kingdom of King Gradlon in the sixth century A.D. situated somewhere between the Point du Raz and the île de Sein, and protected from the sea  by a system of dykes. King Gradlon’s daughter, Dahut or Ahès, was captivated by the charms of a handsome young man who was really the devil in disguise; as a proof of her love for him, he ordered her to get the keys of the dykes from Gradlon, her father. Once in possession of the keys, the devil opened the dykes and the town of Ys was submerged for ever. Gradlon managed to escape and went to Quimper where his statue can be seen on the cathedral; Ahès was changed into a siren, the Marie Morgane who lures unsuspecting sailors to their end. The story of the submerging of the ville d’ Ys is related by Queffelec in his novel, Tempête sur la ville d’ Ys, published in 1962.”

    The Insight Guide ‘Brittany’, says of: “the fabled, drowned city of Is, [it was] the legendary capital of the kingdom of Cornouaille (echoes of Cornwall here).” It goes on to say that: I’le de Sein was the: “last refuge for the druids in Brittany.”

Sources and related websites:-

Insight Guide, Brittany, (First Edition), APA Publications (HK) Ltd., 1994.

Queffelec, Henri, Un Recteur De L’ile De Sein, George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd., London, 1972.

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Causeurs                                                                                                                                      (Photo displayed under the Licence Creative Commons 3.0).

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=8863

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

http://www.lafermedekerscuntec.fr/peninsulas-islands-brittany.htm

http://www.brittanytourism.com/discover-our-destinations/quimper-cornouaille/unmissable-sites/sein

The Ile de Sein

 


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Robin Hood’s Stone, Near Riddlesden, West Yorkshire

Robin Hood's Stone at Holden Gate, near East Riddlesden.

Robin Hood’s Stone at Holden Gate, near  Riddlesden.

    OS grid reference SE 0620 4446. A large pointed stone shaped like the head of a dinosaur, or maybe a dragon, stands below a rocky outcrop on Pinfold Hill, close to Holden Lane at Holden Gate, near Riddlesden, West Yorkshire. It is locally called ‘Robin Hood’s Stone’ but whether the legendary outlaw of Sherwood Forest ever visited it we don’t know, although there is also a Robin Hood’s Wood about ¼ a mile to the north-east of the stone. To make the stone look more interesting some bright-spark has painted eyes and teeth on it! It can be reached by travelling north along Holden Lane to the north-west of Riddlesden, and is about 450m further along the road from Holden Gate, and just after the footpath on the right. You can’t really miss it!

Robin Hood's Stone (with possible cup-marks).

Robin Hood’s Stone (with possible cup-marks).

    A curious stone this is mainly because of its strange shape. It looks as if it has, at some point, slid down the hillside from the rocky outcrop above on Pinfold Hill, when there was a perhaps a Geological earth movement here. Or could it be a glacial erratic boulder? But it doesn’t look like an erratic boulder to me because it seems to be very well embedded into the ground. It stands at a crazy, precarious angle and because of that it looks as if it could slither down the hillside at any moment! The large pointed stone has taken on the look of a dinosaur’s head, or could it be a dragon’s head, or a bird’s head! Some bright-spark has painted eyes and teeth on the stone to make it look like that maybe. On the flat, sloping side of the stone there are some “possible” prehistoric cup-marks, or were a few of these round holes made by climbers who often practice on the rock?

Robin Hood's Stone (looking up at the stone).

Robin Hood’s Stone (looking up at the stone).

    Legend says that Robin Hood the outlaw of Sherwood Forest came here and took shelter beneath the stone; well he wouldn’t have had too far to travel from Kirkless, near Leeds. And Robin was maybe born in Wakefield! And just up the hill to the north-east of the stone we have a Robin Hood Wood. Paul Bennett of ‘The Northern Antiquarian’ has suggested that the stone was moved here in the Victorian period from near Barden Tower (Bolton Abbey way), and he goes on to say that Robin Hood’s Stone was once nearly broken up and taken away for building material – had it not been for local people who objected to its removal. He also thinks the stone “was” a meeting place at the pagan festival of Beltane (1st May). Check out TNA website (below).

Sources and related websites:-

https://megalithix.wordpress.com/2009/06/14/robin-hoods-stone-riddlesden/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bradford/content/articles/2006/09/20/robin_hood_wakefield_feature.shtml


St Chad’s Church, Rochdale, Greater Manchester

St Chad's Church at Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

St Chad’s Church at Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

    OS grid reference: SD 8964 1313. St Chad’s parish church stands upon a lofty ridge overlooking the River Roch and the town of Rochdale, Greater Manchester. The church is a very imposing edifice standing high above the equally imposing Victorian town-hall and its famous clock tower. There was a church here in either the late Saxon period, or more likely just after the Norman conquest – the mid 11th to early 12th centuries – although that is open to question. There is a well-known legend that says there were problems with the siting of the first church which was being built on lower ground on the other side of the river, and that it had to be re-sited to the higher position that we see it today. The church can be reached from opposite the Town Hall carpark and by climbing the steep 124 steps up to Sparrow Hill.

    Author Dennis Ball in his interesting book ‘Lancashire Pastimes’, says that: “A Saxon thane, Gamel, Lord of Rochdale, decided to build a church to St Chad on the banks of the river Roche. The foundations were dug and all the materials taken to the site. All the materials mysteriously disappeared and reappeared at the summit of the steep hill on the opposite side of the river. Gamel was very annoyed and blamed his workmen. He made them take all the materials back to the original site. This took the whole of the next day. That night they were again moved back to the top of the hill. But this time the culprits were seen by some of the workmen. They were goblins.”

    Another, more lengthier interpretation of the legend, from the 19th century is given by J. Harland & T. T. Wilkinson in ‘Lancashire Legends’, which is published in ‘The Secret Country’ by Janet & Colin Bord. They say: “Towards the close of the reign of William the Conqueror, Gamel, the Saxon thane, Lord of Recedham or Rochdale, being left in the quiet possession of his lands and privileges, was ‘minded, for the fear of God and the salvation of his immortal soul, to build a chapel unto St Chadde’, nigh to the banks of the Rache or Roach. According to Mr Roby, in his ‘Traditions’, a place was set apart on the north bank of the river, in a low and sheltered spot now called ‘The Newgate’. Piles of timber and huge stones were gathered in profusion; the foundations were laid; stakes having been driven, and several courses of rubble stone  laid ready to receive the grouting or cement. In one night, the whole mass was conveyed, without the loss of a single stone, to the summit of a steep hill on the opposite bank, and apparently without any visible signs of the mode of removal. The Saxon thane was greatly incensed at what he supposed to be a trick of some of his own vassals, and threatened punishment; to obviate which, a number of the villeins and bordarii with great difficulty and labour con-veyed the building materials back to the site for the church; but again were they all removed in the night to the top of the hill. Gamel having learned the truth, sought counsel from Holy Church, and it was thereon resolved that the chapel should be built on the hill-top, as the unknown persons would not permit it to be erected on the site originally selected. This explains the chapel or church of St Chadde, still standing on a hill so high that one hundred and twenty-four steps were cut to accomplish the ascent, and enable the good people to go to prayers.”

Statue of St Chad on Rochdale Parish church.

St Chad’s statue, Rochdale Parish church.

    St Chad to whom Rochdale parish church is dedicated was a 7th century northern churchman who became abbot of Lastingham in Yorkshire, and for a while he was bishop of York until St Wilfrid returned from France. Later, he was made bishop of the Mercians at Lichfield. He died in 672 AD and his feast-day is held on 2nd March (Colin Waters ‘A Dictionary Of Saints Days, Fasts, Feasts And Festivals’). The town of Chadderton near Rochdale is probably named after St Chad.

    There are no antiquities of great age within St Chad’s, although the Tudor pews are of some notable interest and parts of the church tower are ‘thought’ to date back to the late Saxon age, or more likely the early Norman period. The statue of St Chad high up on the outer south wall is particularly fine. The Lancashire poet John Collier (Tim Bobbin) 1708-86 is buried in the churchyard.

Sources:

Ball, Dennis, Lancashire Pastimes, Burnedge Press Limited, Royton, Greater Manchester, 1987.

Bord, Janet & Colin, The Secret Country, Granada Publishing Limited, St Albans, Herts, 1980.

The Automobile Association, The Illustrated Road Book Of England & Wales, London WC2, 1961.

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


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Wookey Hole Caves, Mendip Hills, Somerset

Wookey Hole Cave River Axe (photo credit: Pierre Terre (Wikipedia)

Wookey Hole Cave River Axe (photo credit: Pierre Terre (Wikipedia)

    OS grid reference: ST 5320 4796. The Somerset village of Wookey Hole, 1 mile west of Lower Milton, at the southern side of the Mendip Hills has become famous for its deep caves which have, over the past two-hundred years, yielded up many archaeological finds from prehistoric times, but  the caves here at Wookey have been a tourist attraction from as far back as the 15th century. It is here that the River Axe emerges from beneath the caves and then flows southwards towards Haybridge. An interesting Wookey Hole Caves Museum is located at the site.

    Twenty-five underground chambers have been discovered by archaeologists and cave explorers, the most famous having names such as: ‘the kitchen’, ‘the Parlour’, ‘the Oast Office’ and the Great Cave itself, which has the eerie, calcified figure of a woman called ‘Witch of Wookey’, and in the entrance an image of a man called ‘the Porter’ – (Dunning, 1980). Adjoining the caves is a rock shelter called ‘Hyena Den’ and it is here that most of the finds from prehistoric times have been excavated, many artefacts in fact dating back ‘many’ thousands of years to the Palaeolithic Age. And above ‘Hyena Den’ there is yet another famous cave known as ‘the Badger Hole’, whose inhabitants were indeed “badgers”! 

    The caves of Wookey Hole are located just to the north of the village beyond a number of mills and workings from the industrial age, along a footpath up to the southern escarpment of the Mendip Hills and the ravine where the caves are to be found. The town of Shepton Mallet lies some 3 miles to the south-east and the city of Wells is just under 3 miles in the same direction.

    The first phase of archaeological excavations was carried out in 1859-74 by William Boyd Dawkins and, later continued by Herbert E. Balch between 1904-14; the work continued between the years 1938-54, then again 1946-9, and then 1954-57 and, more recently in 1972.

Wookey Hole Cave Entrance (illustration).

Wookey Hole Cave Entrance (illustration).

The limestone caves at Wookey Hole were occupied roughly between 250 BC and 450 AD, before that there would perhaps have been habitation by wild animals along with ‘some’ human company, but more likely the animal bones that have been found were simply thrown into the caverns, or placed inside as a form of ‘offering’, or brought inside by other wild animals. Hyena Den was very likely the home of local hermits, and others, up until more recent times – at least the Middle Ages. Archaeologists in the 19th and 20th centuries have excavated the “bones of lion, mammoth, bear, woolly rhinoceros, wild horse, dear, fox and hare, nearly all chewed by hyenas who occasionally had to share their home with Palaeolithic men, who left behind them some flint tools and broken marrow bones” (Dunning, 1980). From more recent times 250 BC-450 AD “pottery, weaving equipment, coins, part of a horse’s bridle, and evidence of   the use of coal and of storage of grain show how the caves were home to generations; but evidence of human sacrifice suggests not only an origin  for the Witch Legend but also points to the abrupt end of the Great Cave as a dwelling in the 4th century”, according to Robert Dunning, ‘Somerset & Avon’. But, says Dunning:-

“even all this evidence is small compared to the bones found in an adjoining rock shelter, called Hynena Den; bones of animals dating back to the Palaeolithic age, perhaps 5,0000 B.C.”

   The author Jacquetta Hawkes in her work ‘A Guide To The Prehistoric And Roman Monuments In England And Wales’, gives us a somewhat different but very informative view of Wookey Hole Caves. She says:-

“We are concerned with three caves in the ravine, all of them occupied by troglodytes though at very different periods. The first is the Hyaena Den, a small cave in the right-hand side of the ravine approached across a rustic bridge. The Hyena Den was first discovered in the middle of the nineteenth century and digging was begun there, almost in the year of the publication of the Origin of Species, under the direction of Sir William Boyd Dawkins, who was himself so much concerned in the struggle which led to recognition of the hitherto undreamt-of antiquity of man. It proved to contain vast masses of animal bones which had been lying there between twenty and a hundred thousand years. There in the heart of Somerset, Victorian gentlemen unearthed the remains of cave lion, cave and grizzly bears, mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, bison, Irish elk, and many other species including great numbers of hyaenas. These last unpleasant beasts had been responsible for dragging in many of the other species, either as prey or carrion: but not all of them, for the ashes of camp fires, burnt bones and implements of flint and chert told of the use of the cave by Old Stone Age hunters. Whether the human families had actually to expel the hyaenas before they could claim the shelter of the cave who shall say, but the place must have been foul and fetid enough with the rank smell of the dogs and their  putrifying mid-dens. On the other hand, any cave was welcome in glacial winters and at Wookey the water supply was excellent. Certainly hunting parties returned to  the place from time to time over a great span of years, though all within the last phase of the Old Stone Age when the glaciers having ground their way southward for the last time, alternately melted back during a slightly warmer spell or advanced again with the intensifying cold—the minor oscillations which preceded the end of the Ice Age.

“Wookey Hole itself is a high, narrow entrance just above the spot at which the Axe glides out from under the precipice at the head of the ravine. It is far more spacious than the other caves, with three open chambers hung with stalactites through which the Axe flows and widens to a lake. It is now flood-lit and makes a pretty spectacle for those who like such places. More caves stretch deep into the rock below the water, and divers have already discovered seven of them—dangerous exploration which has had its fatalities.

“Here in Wookey there was no Stone Age occupation, but the chambers made a home for Celtic Britons of the Late Iron Age, poor cousins of the villagers of Glastonbury and Meare. It remained the home of their descendants long after the Roman conquest. There is a tradition that in the Middle Ages Wookey Hole was the lair of a troublesome witch, and her body, turned to stone by an exorcizing monk, now stands in the cave as a large stalagmite. It seems not altogether impossible that this represents the vague memory of a tragedy which in fact overtook its British occupants. Excavators found that the outer part of the cave had been used as a stable for goats—it contained their dung, and charred stump of a tethering-post, a pot probably used for milking and the bones of two goats.”

    The author Robbert Dunning ‘Somerset & Avon’ goes on to tell us more about the recent industrial past of Wookey Hole and the surrounding area. He says:-

The industrial buildings at Wookey Hole may be something of a surprise; and their contents even more so. At least since the early 17th century the emergent Axe has been harnessed to make paper, and the present buildings were put up by Hodgkinson family from the mid 19th century. High-quality hand-made paper was made here until 1972, and the whole property was sold in 1973 to Madame Tussaud’s. Since that time there have been notable changes: part of the mill houses Lady Bangor’s famous collection of fairground objects, themselves made between 1870 and 1939, including organs, gallopers from roundabouts, cars from scenic railways, and many other pieces of now almost vanished culture, resplendent in the colours and detail that could hardly be studied when the fairground was at work at night, and often at high speed.

“Another part of the mill has become the working store-room and studio for Madame Tussaud’s exhibition. Heads, bodies and limbs of those whose fame has faded, and costumes and crowns, ready to take their place again in Baker Street, are there arranged neatly on shelves, together with the plaster negative moulds of those of current fame.

“Paper is again made on the premises by hand, bringing industry back to this remarkable site which offers such a range of the evidence of man’s activity in so small a compass ………..the flint tools in the Hyena Den are at least a comfort to ordinary mortals.”

    William Worcester, the highly acclaimed 15th century antiquarian, visited the Somerset caves and as usual had something to say about the place:-

“…….a certain narrow entry where to begin with is the image of a man called the Porter. One must ask leave from the Porter to enter the hall of Wookey, and the people carry with them ….. sheaves of reed sedge to light the hall. It is as big as Westminster Hall and stalactites hang from the vault which is wondrously arched over with stone……. the passage through which one enters the hall is about half a furlong in length ……. between the passage and the hall is a broad lake crossed by 500 stone steps …….. and if a man goes off the steps he falls into the water.”

Sources and websites used:-

Dunning, Robert., Somerset & Avon, John Bartholomew & Sons Limited, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1980.

Hawkes, Jacquetta., A Guide To The Prehistoric And Roman Monuments in England And Wales, (Published for Cardinal by Sphere Books Ltd., London, 1975.

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

Worcester, William., (ed. Harvey, J. H.) Itineraries (1969).


The Ebbing And Flowing Well, Giggleswick, North Yorkshire

Ebbing and Flowing Well, Giggleswick (photo credit: Humphrey Bolton for Geograph)

Ebbing and Flowing Well, Giggleswick (photo credit: Humphrey Bolton for Geograph)

   OS grid reference SD 8039 6538. The Ebbing and Flowing Well is, perhaps rather annoyingly, located at the side of the busy B6480 (old Clapham road) out of the village of Giggleswick, about two-thirds of the way up the steep and ‘often very busy’ Buck Haw Brow, opposite Settle Golf-course. It’s about 1 mile north-west of Giggleswick and one-and-three-quarter miles from the town of Settle. The rocky and tree-covered Giggleswick Scar, formed from the South Craven Fault, towers above the curious holy well, which has long been famous for its abilities to “ebb and flow” though this does not occur as much as it used to do – due probably to the mining that now takes place over and on top of the scar, or some other atrocity. I should point out here that ‘it is quite dangerous to stand and view the well’ as there is a constant flow of vehicles rushing past the site and, it is therefore very difficult, if not dangerous to attempt to take photographs – so please “be warned” and do please stay very safe.

   The well has been famous over the centuries for its strange and curious ability to ‘ebb and flow’, indeed so much so that in the past local people have tried to dig down below the well in order to find out ‘why it does this’, though probably without actually establishing what causes such a thing to take place, if it really does, and now on rare occasions. We take the word “ebb” to mean flow back, fall, drain and subside, and the word “flow” to mean issue forth, pour forth, pour outward, refill and well-up. So is that what the well does? When the well does flow it flows under the road to emerge in a wet, muddy mess, on the opposite side of the road and, sometimes flows over the road itself, but mostly it simply wells-up to fill its square-shaped stone chamber, and then without much warning drains-away and ‘goes back’ into the limestone scar – probably from one of the deep caves that is undoubtedly linked-up with the well somewhere along the way. Author Brian Spencer in his book ‘The Visitor’s Guide To The Yorkshire Dales, says of this strange phenomana:

“On the rare occasions that the well functions, it rapidly drains, and then after a pause refills itself. This is due to a unique double chambered cave somewhere behind the well which causes a sudden syphoning effect inside the hole and temporarily cuts off the flow of water.”

   In the much acclaimed tome ‘Folklore Myths and Legends of Britains’, by Reader’s Digest, we are given a more Folklore-ish angle to this:

“Near to Giggleswick Scar is an oddity of nature, the Ebbing and Flowing Well. An explanation for its behavior is that a nymph who was being chased by a satyr prayed to the gods for help. They turned her into a spring of water, which still ebbs and flows with her panting breaths. 

The 17th-century highwayman, John Nevison, is said to have evaded capture by letting his horse drink at the well. The water gave the horse strength and Nevison escaped by leaping from the top of a cliff, still known as Nevison’s Leap.”

   In the past a few historians have tried to associate the Ebbing and Flowing Well with a local north-country saint – in this case St Alkelda – who is still venerated at the church in Giggleswick and, also at the church in Middleham, north Yorkshire, where she is said, according to the legend, to have been murdered by two Danish women in c 800 AD, or maybe in the 10th century so say some. Alkelda was an Anglo-Saxon princess and also a ‘devout’ Christian. One day she was approached by two pagan women who murdered her with a ‘thick scarf’ which they pulled tightly around her neck; this terrible crime probably took place where the church of Sts Mary & Alkelda now stands, or ‘maybe’ beside the well that is also named for her; and the church houses some fragments of a 15th century stained-glass window which depicts the saint’s martyrdom.

   The church of St Alkelda at Giggleswick apparently still uses water from the Ebbing and Flowing Well in its baptism services and, “a 19th century stained-glass window depicts the spirit of the well in the form of an angel hovering above the waters. This is a Christianised version of the pagan water-spirits, called undines”, according to author Bill Anderton in his work ‘Guide To Ancient Britain’. But did St Alkelda even exist because her name could simply be a corruption of the Old English words ‘Hal Keld’ (Halig Keld) – meaning “holy well”. The renowned author Jessica Lofthouse explains this in her book ‘Lancashire Countrygoer’, she says:

“Ghikel was probably a Norseman whose “wick” or farm was here. Also the ebbing and flowing well, not so far away, was a “gugglian” or bubbling spring: the wick by the gurgling well could be a derivation. But who caresor whether or no there was a Saxon Princess martyred at the hand of pagan Danes to give St. Alkelda’s its name. Or was the well where the Celts worshipped a spirit of water, later sanctified as a holy well, and as the “helig keld” did it give the first church its unusual name?”

   Authors Janet & Colin Bord in their renowned work ‘Sacred Waters’, have little if anything to say about the well only that: “Sadly the well no longer ebbs and flows.”

Sources:

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

Bord, Janet & Colin, Sacred Waters, Paladin Books, London W1X, 1986.

http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/925879   © Copyright Humphrey Bolton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

https://megalithix.wordpress.com/2008/09/12/ebbing-flowing-well-giggleswick-north-yorkshire-holy-well/

Lofthouse, Jessica., Lancashire Countrygoer, (second edition), Robert Hale, London SW2, 1974.

Reader’s Digest, Folklore Myths And Legends Of Britain, (Second Edition), The Reader’s Digest Association Limited, London, 1977.

Spencer, Brian., The Visitor’s Guide To The Yorkshire Dales, Hunter Publishing Inc., Edison, NJ, USA, 1986.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        


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Llangorse Lake And Crannog, Powys, Wales

Crannog on Llangorse Lake (photo credit: Pam Fray - for Geograph)

Crannog on Llangorse Lake (photo credit: Pam Fray – for Geograph)

   Os grid reference: SO 1287 2689. About 37 metres from the northern shoreline of Llangorse Lake (Llyn Safaddan), Powys, also known as “Savaddan Lake and Lake of Brycheiniog” (Bord, Janet & Colin, 1986), lies the tiny man-made island of Ynys Bwlc, which is in fact a crannog, a Dark Age island settlement, dating probably from about the beginning of the 10th century, or maybe earlier, which would have once supported a royal residence for the king of Brycheiniog. The lake is said to be the second largest natural lake in Wales, being formed at the last Ice-Age many thousands of years ago; the River Llynfi (Afon Llyfni) enters at the far south-eastern side of the lake and then, rather strangely flows out of the lake at the far northwestern side, close by the caravan park. The lake is 1 mile long and 5 miles in circumference.

    Llangorse lake and crannog can be reached on a country lane to the west of Llangorse village, heading south close to the caravan park, which brings you out at ‘The Welsh Crannog Centre’. A few miles to the south is the village of Llansantffraed while the town of Brecon lies some 4 miles to the west and, at the south-side of the lake stands the ancient church of St Gastyn at Llangasty Tal-y-Llyn. The place-name Llangorse is nowadays ‘often’ shortened to Llangors.

Llangorse Lake viewed from Mynydd Llangorse (photo credit: Velella for Wikipedia)

Llangorse Lake viewed from Mynydd Llangorse (photo credit: Velella for Wikipedia)

And the lake is also the setting for a number of myths and legends – including one that says the lake is the location for the submerged Roman city of Loventium, but in early medieval history it was known as ‘Brecenenmere’. In 1925 a 25 foot-long wooden dug-out canoe was excavated from the mud near the northern shore of the lake, and in 1990 a second dug-out boat was excavated from close by. These have been dated from between the 8th and 11th centuries AD. In the 12th century Gerald of Wales (Giraldus Cambrensis) visited the lake and made mention in his great work ‘The Journey Through Wales/The Description Of Wales’ of the abundance of fish and also how miraculous it was and, the numerous strange colours that the lake water takes on at certain times. And the lake has long been associated with fairies, very large eels, and a witch who lived beside the lake and was known to frighten-away naughty children!

   Giraldus, who was a medieval historian, claimed that birds living around the lake would only sing ‘when a rightful prince returns to rule the area’. At this time the area was ruled over by King Henry I of England. One day the king was walking along the lake’s shoreline in the presence of two Norman lords and the Welsh prince Gruffydd ap Rhys, but he noticed that all the birds were silent. He then commanded them to sing – they ignored him, but when Prince Rhys asked them to sing – they sang merrily! Near the southern shores of Llangorse lake, near Bwlc, can be found the crumbling remains of Blaenllyfni Castle, a 12th century Norman foundation.

   “The tiny man-made island was first identified as a crannog in 1876 by E.N. Dumbleton”, according to Chris Barber in his work ‘More Mysterious Wales’. The almost round-shaped tree-covered crannog at the northern side of Llangorse Lake is thought to date from c890 AD. It was probably destroyed in either 911 AD or 916 AD possibly by King Alfred’s daughter Ethelflaed (Lady of the Mercians), when according to legend, they “took the king’s wife and thirty-three others prisoner” (Hughes, Wendy, 1995). However, some historians and archaeologists believe it could, in fact, be of an earlier date, maybe 7th-9th century? There is, however, some reason to suspect an Iron Age ‘crannog’ here, artificially improved with stakes as a lake-dwelling like those at Glastonbury and Meare in Somerset (Houlder, Christopher, 1978).

   According to legend a palace is said to lie beneath the waves. Long ago a ruthless princess ruled at the palace; she married a poor man from the town, but the agreement was that ‘he would bring her lots of gold’. In sheer desperation the man robbed and killed a rich merchant. When he returned to the palace with his spoils the princess immediately married him, but then shortly afterwards the murdered man’s ghost began haunting the place and, later warned the newly-married couple that their crime would be avenged, and this would fall heavily on the ninth generation of their descendants. However the princess and her husband became even more greedy and wicked – their lust for wealth being unceasing. The warning eventually came true and the palace was inundated by a deluge of water from the nearby hills which had been triggered by an earthquake – drowning both palace and town – the ninth generation of the family including the princess and her husband were killed, according to “the” legend.

   Local people claim to have seen the foundations of submerged buildings when the water-level is low in drought conditions and, they also claim to have heard the eerie sounds of church bells ringing out from below the waves in very stormy conditions when there is a heavy swell on the water.

   At the north-side of the crannog there is a sort of stone jetty which indicates where a wooden causeway once existed – linking the island to the shoreline. The artificial island measures ‘roughly’ 50m x 55m and is “set upon a base of stones and brushwood” (Figgis, N. P., 1995), and built of willow branches and reeds – with sturdy wooden piles sunk up to 7 metres down into the lake bed. It would ‘probably’ have been defended with a double row of wooden palisades. “Fragments of pottery, implements and animal bones” (Hughes, Wendy, 1995) have been found beneath the crannog during recent archaeological excavations, including the one by Time Team in 1993, and earlier in 1991 a few fragmentary metal parts from a small portable house-shaped reliquary/shrine were found during underwater excavations at the crannog; and there are also apparently traces of hut circles on the island.

Dead Men's Boats by N.P. Figgis (Atelier Productions), 1995.

Dead Men’s Boats by N.P. Figgis (Atelier Productions), 1995.

   In 1925 a 25 foot-long wooden dug-out canoe was excavated from the mud at the northern edge of the lake at (OS grid ref: roughly SO 132 269) which ‘was’ considered to be of a early medieval date, maybe 8th-11th centuries, and so a bit more recent than the lake crannog? The dug-out canoe can be seen on display in the Brecon Museum and a replica is at The Welsh Crannog Centre on the lake’s north-western shoreline, close by the crannog. And then in 1990 second similar dug-out boat was excavated from the lake near where the first had been found. But these dug-out boats have their origins in the Iron-Age. The canoe was eventually radio carbon dated to centre on 814 AD, so there is a strong possibility that the sample dates from somewhere between the years AD 754 and 874 AD, according to author N.P. Figgis.

   The dug-out canoe was excavated 1 metre down in the mud by a local man Mr Thomas Jenkins, and his sons. Author N.P. Figgis in his book ‘Dead Men’s Boats’ says: “The boat they brought ashore was a long, thin dug-out canoe. Her prow had broken off, and one side had caved in, and the stern was a step-shaped, heavy block; she was not like any modern craft”.

   Christopher Houlder in his excellent archaeological guide book: ‘Wales: An Archaeological Guide’, with regard to the dug-out canoe says that: “Though of primitive type it may be only medieval in date, used for access to the island near the N. shore for fishing and similar purposes”.

At the south-side of Llangorse Lake is the hamlet of Llangasty Tal-y-Llyn (OS grid ref: SO 1331 2613) and a mid-19th century church (on the site of an earlier medieval foundation) dedicated to St Gastyn. The churchyard looks to be almost circular in shape, indicative of a sacred site. St Gastyn was a Celtic hermit who founded the first “llan” here in the mid-5th century AD and was apparently the tutor to some of the many children of the saintly King Brychan, who ruled ‘this’ area, which became known as Brecknock (Brycheiniog).

Sources:

http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1823433 © Copyright pam fray and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

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

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

Bord, Janet & Colin., Sacred Waters, Paladin, London W1X, 1986.

Dumbleton, E.N., On a Crannog, or Stockaded Island, in Llangorse Lake, near Brecon, Archaeologia Cambrensis, 4th series, vol 1, part 3, 1870.

Figgis, N. P., Dead Men’s Boats, Atelier Productions, Machynlleth, Wales, 1995.

Gerald of Wales., The Journey Through Wales/The Description Of Wales, Penguin Books Ltd., London WC2R, 1978.

Houlder, Christopher., Wales: An Archaeological Guide, Faber and Faber Limited, London WC1, 1978.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/kJyO0xSbTlCmDBtWr3cnsQ

Hughes, Wendy., The Story of Brecknock, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Llanrwst, Gwynedd, Wales, 1995.


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

                                                                                                                                                                                      


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