The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


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Stones of Stenness, Orkney Island, Scotland

Stones of Stenness, in Orkney Island, Scotland

NGR: HY 30683 12513. At the far south-western edge of Loch Harray – beside the B9095 (Brodgar road), on the Island of Orkney, Scotland, is the famous henge monument known as ‘Stones of Stenness’ or ‘Ring of Stenness’, which is considered to date from around 3,000 BC – the Neolithic age of prehistory. There used to be twelve tall standing stones forming the circle, but now there are only four (one of these having been damaged and is now only half the size) – the other stones apparently vanished into thin air or, more likely, they were toppled and broken up to be used for building material, though there are outliers close by: one in particular stands beside the road, while close to the centre of the henge there are two smaller stones and one large recumbent, which may have been a cist grave, or a hearth? The four stones are surrounded by a (slight) low bank or fosse and, a rock-cut ditch now filled-in. The thinking was that this monument was either a temple to the sun, a ritualistic place sacred to the Druids, or an astronomical site? Stenness is 5 miles northeast of Stromness, 5 miles west of Finstown and 1 mile southeast of the ‘Ring of Brodgar’, which is another Stone Circle, just to the north of Stenness.

Charles Tate (1999) tells us a lot about the site, saying: “The Standing Stones of Stenness……were originally a circle of 12 stones with a diameter of 30m and now comprises of 4 uprights, the tallest of which is over 5m high. The circle was surrounded by a rock-cut ditch 2m deep, 7m wide and 44m in diameter which has become filled-in over the years. Excavation has revealed a square setting of stones and bedding holes for further uprights, either stone or wooden.

“Remains of domestic animals , including cattle, sheep and dog bones as well as a human finger and sherds of Grooved Ware pottery were found in the ditch. Radiocarbon dating indicates that the circle was constructed about 3000 BC, which is older than many henge monuments further south in Britain.

Tate goes on to add, that: “Nearby, at the Bridge of Brodgar, stands the Watchstone, (HY 305128 – 5.6m). At the Winter solstice the sun sets into a notch in the Hoy Hills as seen from this stone, clearly marking the shortest day. A recent observation suggests that there is an interesting alignment from the Watch Stone at Old New Year – still celebrated in Shetland with Up Helly Aa. At this date at the end of January, the sun disappears behind the Hoy Hills just before sunset and then reappears from the other side, before finally setting into a notch in the skyline.

“This impressive menhir and the Barnhouse Stone (HY312122 – 3.2m), in a field near the main road, as well as the Stone of Odin, which was destroyed in 1814, must have had some connection with the stone circles and Maeshowe. Since so many stones are missing, interpretation of the remaining stones remains problematical. This of course serves to add to the mystery of the purpose of the monuments. Other standing stones at Stoneyhill (HY320158), Howe and Deepdale (HY272118) may also form part of this Neolithic complex.

“The stone destroyed in 1814 was used as lintels by the farmer at Barnhouse, who was incidentally an incomer. Apparently the part with the hole was used as the pivot for a horse mill but was destroyed after World War II. Luckily the selfish farmer was stopped from demolishing the rest of the Standing Stones, but only after he had toppled two more of the menhirs, one of which he broke up. The threat of Court action finally stopped this 19th century vandal, and the fallen stone was re-erected in 1906. Luckily the vast majority of landowners over the millennia have had great respect for our antiquities.

“The Odin Stone had a hole in it through which lovers clasped hands and swore their everlasting love. The Oath of Odin was then said and the contract was binding thereafter. The stone was also credited with healing powers, in association with the well at Bigswell (HY345105) and especially at Beltane and midsummer. Recently the probable sockets of both this stone and another were found between the Standing Stones and the Watch Stone.”

Timothy Darvill (1988) says: “Little now remains of the bank and ditch of this site which was originally 61m in diameter, but a single entrance lies to the north. Four massive stones remain of the ring of 13 slabs that once stood inside the monument. Cists and pits containing burials have been found in the henge, and radiocarbon dates suggest that it was constructed about 2900BC.”

Childe & Simpson (1959) tells us: “The Ring of Stenness is now a flat-topped mound or platform, encircled by a fosse with a bank outside it and traversed by a causeway on the northwest. On the platform four monoliths stand on the circumference of a circle, some 52 feet in diameter.

Stones of Stenness, Orkney Island. An early photo by T. Kent.

J. Gunn (1941) tells us that: “As regards the Standing Stones, a common theory has been that they had some connection with the religion of the Druids, and may have been places of sacrifice. Another theory is that they had some astronomical significance. Neither of those beliefs is now accepted by serious students of archaeology. On the other hand it is certain that such stones are in almost every case associated with graves and burial mounds, and in this connection they seem to have had a religious or ritualistic origin. It is probable that the religion of these circle-builders was some form of sun worship which had spread into Europe from the East. In Scandinavia there are many Bronze Age pictorial rock carvings which point to such a worship, and it has been thought that the practice of cremation, which became so general in Western Europe during that period, was due to new ideas regarding the persistence of the soul after death. In more southerly parts of Britain there is no doubt that fresh immigrations took place during this Bronze Age, but whether Orkney was affected by these to any extent we cannot tell. It may well be that the Stone Circles and Standing Stones were the work of the same racial stock, who had retained the megalithic tradition, and had found fresh forms of expression for it under the compel-ling influence of a new world of thought.” 

Sources / References & Related Websites:

Childe, Gordon & Simpson, Douglas, Ancient Monuments—Scotland—Illustrated Guide, H. M. Stationery Office, Edinburgh, 1959.

Darvill, Timothy, AA Glovebox Guide—Ancient Britain, Publishing Division of The Automobile Association, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 1988.

Gunn, J., Orkney—The Magnetic North, Thomas Nelson And Sons, Ltd., London, 1941.

Tate, Charles, The Orkney Guide Book (Edition 2.1), Charles Tait photographic, St. Ola, Orkney, 1999.

The AA, Illustrated Road Book Of Scotland, The Automobile Association, London, 1963.

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

https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/stones-of-stenness-circle-and-henge/

https://canmore.org.uk/site/2105/stones-of-stenness

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2014/08/neolithic-orkney/

https://www.orkney.com/listings/standing-stones-of-stenness

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.


Hoarstones Stone Circle, Fence, Near Burnley, Lancashire

Boundary Stone-cum-gatepost, Harpers Lane, Fence, Lancashire.

OS Grid Reference: SD 8263 3764. For a long time now it had been thought that an ancient stone circle stood in the grounds of Hoarstones House at Fence, near Burnley, Lancashire. But it seems there never was ‘such a monument’ there and so it must be regarded as ‘a myth’. Indeed I am told that the whole thing ‘is a myth’. However, there are a number of boundary stones around the edges of that estate – some of which have been made into gateposts! These boundary stones might therefore be the ‘Hoarstones’ that gave the place its name? Originally the name was spelt: Whoarstones or Woarstones, I am reliably informed. Hoarstones has long been associated with the Pendle Witches with Pendle Hill being a reminder of those times a couple of miles to the northwest. The present-day Hoarstones House dates from about 1895 when it was rebuilt out of an earlier 16th century building. More recently an iron cross was discovered in the walls! The boundary stones-cum-gateposts are located beside Harpers Lane and Noggarth road at Fence near Burnley. Hoarstones estate is, of course, on “private land”. 

Large stone in the wall on Harpers Lane at Fence, Lancashire.

I was told by the owner of the house that the whole idea of there being a stone circle in the grounds was nothing short of ‘a myth’. So we can then rule out there ever being a pre-historic stone circle in the grounds of Hoarstones House, but there are, however, a number of former boundary stones that have been adapted as gateposts at the eastern edge of the estate. These stand beside Harpers Lane, with one large stone embedded into a wall, while another possible boundary stone-cum-gatepost is located at the side of Noggarth Road. It’s possible these stones and some of the stonework of the house came from the small quarry at the northwestern side      of the Hoarstones estate? The witches of Pendle did not, therefore, dance around or within the stone circle, but they “might” have visited, or been at, a more probable stone circle a mile or so    to the northwest. This was located in the fields below Faughs (Spen Brook) but it is “now” ‘a destroyed monument’ with very little to see now. There are a couple of ancient sites in Southern England that also have the same name ‘Hoar-stones’.

Boundary stone on Harpers Lane, Fence, Lancashire.

Boundary stone-cum-gatepost on Noggarth Road, Fence, Burnley.

The meaning of the word ‘Hoarstones’ and the place-name at Fence, Lancashire, which was first mentioned in 1547, would seem to be: ‘Stones or (a stone) designating the bounds of an estate, or a local landmark’. And could also be: ‘a stone used anciently to mark boundaries’ or, ‘a stone erected anciently as a memorial’ (as of an event). Whoarstones or Woarstones being Old Norse for ‘Idola-trous Stones’ or maybe even ‘Witches Stones’. This would seem very apt for Whoarstones at Fence being, as it might have been, associated with the Pendle witches, which now seems very tenous. The iron cross found in the walls of the late 19th century historic Hoarstones House may have been used as a defense against witchcraft, and would therefore have come from the original 16th century building, which back in 1633 was occupied by the Robinson family, according to John Dixon (1990). Hoarstones is mentioned in ‘Mist Over Pendle’ by Robert Neill (1951) but not apparently in ‘The Lancashire Witches’ by William Harrison Ainsworth (1884).

Walter Bennett (1957) tells that “Trouble was renewed in 1633 when Edmund Robinson of Wheatley Lane or Fence, a lad aged about twelve, came home late one night and told his father that he had been kidnapped by a witch and taken to a barn at Hoarstones, where he had seen about forty witches pulling on ropes to obtain milk, butter and “smoakeing  flesh,” but making such foul faces that he was glad to escape, only to encounter the Devil as he ran home. This tale was reported to two Justices, who sent the witches, said to have been at Hoarstones, to Lancaster for trial at the Assizes. Meanwhile, the boy and his father went to churches in the district, even as far as Kildwick, and singled out witches in the congregation. As a result it was reported in London in May 1634 that “A huge pact of witches had been discovered in Lancashire whereof it is said 19 are condemned and there are at least 60 already discovered and yet daily more are revealed; they had a hand in raising storms which endangered His Majesty (Charles I) at sea in Scotland.” 

Bennett goes on to say: “As a result of the royal enquiry, all the accused were acquitted. The boy, Edmund Robinson, confessed that his tales were all false and had been told in the first place in order that his father would overlook his action in going to play instead of fetching the cows to the barn as he had been ordered.”

Arthur Douglas (1978) adds to the above, saying: “Then there is the matter of the feasting witches. Over the years the feast at Hoarstones has become confused with the so-called great assembly and feast of witches at Malkin Tower. The one is not the other, but the two are so alike as to consign the whole of Edmund Robinson’s evidence irretrievably into the copy-category.”

John A Clayton (2007) tells that: “Baines confounds Malking-Tower with Hoar-stones, a place rendered famous by the second case of pretended witchcraft in 1633. John also tells of a walled-tree, an ancient holly, existing in the Fence area of Hoarstones. He says there is a similar walled-tree near Malkin Tower (Blacko), a place that was long associated with the Pendle witches, who had gathered there in 1612, at the home of Old Mother Demdike, or so we are told.  

Thomas Sharpe (2012) has a map showing the Hoarstones stone circle and the one at nearby Faughs in relation to other (sacred) Pendle landmarks. 

Just recently a lost standing stone or boundary stone has been re-discovered at Spurn Clough (OS grid reference: SD 8249 3685), just across the Padiham by-pass, and only a few hundred metres from Hoarstones Lodge. This old standing stone used to stand in the field but had been cast down into the stream. The owner of Hoarstones House recently told me that that particular field used to belong to them! See the Link, below. 

Sources and related websites:

Bennett, Walter, The History Of Marsden And Nelson, Nelson Corporation, Nelson, Lancashire, 1957. 

Clayton, John A, The Lancashire Witch Conspiracy — A History of Pendle Forest and the Pendle Witch Trials, Barrowford Press, 2007. 

Dixon, John & Mann, Bob, Historic Walks Around The Pendle Way, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1990.

Douglas, Arthur, The Fate of the Lancashire Witches, Countryside Publications Limited, Brinscall, Chorley, Lancashire, 1978.

Sharpe, Thomas, The Pendle Zodiac, Spirit of Pendle Publishing, 2012.

See also ‘Merriam-Webster’ website and ‘Your Dictionary’ website.

https://megalithix.wordpress.com/2017/09/17/spurn-clough/

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=17457

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fence,_Lancashire

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheatley_Lane,_Lancashire

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2018.


Lundin Links Standing Stones, Fife, Scotland

Lundin Links Standing Stones, in Fife.

Lundin Links Standing Stones, in Fife.

    OS grid reference: NO 4048 0271. On the third fairway of the Lundin Links Ladies Golf Course, in Fife, Scotland, there are three very tall prehistoric standing stones which are arranged in a sort of circle. They are located just 120m to the north of the Old Manor Hotel, off the A915 (Leven road) at Lundin Links Golf Course, and directly opposite Pilmuir Road. There is an entrance to the site on Woodielea road, a further 500m along the Leven road (at the east-side of the golf course), where you will need to ‘ask for permission’ to visit the stones. They can’t really be missed though as they stand out quite clearly on the greens of the third fairway. The village of Lower Largo is 1 mile to the east along the A915 (Leven road).

    The three very tall sandstone pillars, originally there was a fourth, stand like ancient sentinels over the green lawns of the golf course. They stand close together in a sort of circle, or a rectangle of 100 feet x 30 feet, in what is called a ‘four-poster circle’. The tallest and most oddly-shaped stands at a very tall 17 feet, while the other two are 15 feet high and 13 feet high respectively; the smaller stone being pointed at the top and the middle-height stone having a broad girth. In the early 1700s a cist grave was excavated here which yielded a number of human bones. A fourth stone had originally stood at the NE side but this had apparently fallen down, or had been broken and knocked down at the end of the 18th century, maybe due to vandalism. These standing stones are said to be aligned with Comrie Hill, Perth & Kinross, but there may also be an alignment with Largo Law to the east?

Sources and related websites:-

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=24405

https://megalithix.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/lundin-links/

http://www.ancient-scotland.co.uk/site/108

http://www.scotlandsplaces.gov.uk/record/rcahms/32656/lundin-links-standing-stones-lundin/rcahms

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

The AA, Illustrated Road Book Of Scotland, The Automobile Association, London, 1963.


Worsthorne Hill Stone Circle, Near Burnley, Lancashire

Worsthorne Hill Stone Circle.

Worsthorne Hill Stone Circle, near Burnley, in Lancashire.

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

Worsthorne Hill Stone Circle, near Burnley.

Worsthorne Hill Stone Circle, near Burnley.

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

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

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

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

Sources:-

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

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


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Newgrange Passage-Tomb, Co. Meath, Southern Ireland

Newgrange (photo by Shira - for Wikipedia).

Newgrange (photo by Shira – for Wikipedia).

    OS grid reference O 0073 7272. The ancient megalithic tomb complex of Newgrange in Co. Meath stands in the middle of a field, just north of the River Boyne (Bend of the Boyne), 3 miles south-east of Slane, and is said to date from the Neolithic period over 5,000 years ago. The tomb is surrounded by a large stone circle of a similar age, though many of the stones are missing. It can be reached on country lanes from the N51 Balfeddock road, east of the village of Slane, and via Knowth, where there is another megalithic tomb – along with a third ancient site at Dowth – they are all linked together and known as ‘the Boyne Cemetery Complexe’ (Brú na Bóinne). But the passage-tomb here at Newgrange is of great interest due to the many prehistoric rock carvings/petroglyphs – both inside and outside of the monument. Although the megalithic tomb has been partially restored to its original shape, it is still a big tourist attraction with up to 200,000 visitors coming from all over the world each year. The town of Drogheda is 5 miles to the east. Newgrange is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Entrance To Newgrange in 1905 (QuartierLatin1968 - for Wikipedia)

The Entrance To Newgrange in 1905 (QuartierLatin1968 – for Wikipedia)

    The Newgrange passage-tomb is said to date from the Neolithic – around 3,300 to 3,200 BC, or according to some historians 2,500 BC, while the stone circle surrounding it ‘probably’ dates from about the same time, though some archaeologists have suggested 2,000 BC. The grassy, drum-shaped mound covering the chambered tomb is a staggering 250 feet (80) metres in diameter and 49 feet (15) metres high – originally it would have stood much higher than this, maybe up to 150 feet. Around the edge of the mound there are 97 large, revetted kerbstones, many displaying symbolic carved geometric designs: spirals, diamonds, lozengers, cup-and-ring and sun motifs, on all their faces. Author Rodney Castleden in his article ‘The Ring of Stone’ for ‘Exploring The Supernatural’ magazine says: “Can we claim this continuous wall of giant stones as a stone circle? Do we ignore it because it is the containing wall of a burial mound?

The Newgrange Decorated Entrance Stone.

Newgrange Decorated Entrance Stone.

    At the entrance to the tomb there is a highly decorative carved stone. This huge entrance stone is 10½ foot long and 4½ foot high and has beautiful spirals carvings; this is regarded “as one of the finest achievements of European Neolithic art”, according to Cathal Coyle in his article on ‘Famous Landmarks’ for the ‘Ireland’s Own’ magazine. Above the entrance a huge, flat slab-stone ‘seems’ to holds up the above facial walling. The authors Janet & Colin  Bord in their acclaimed work ‘Mysterious Britain’, say of Newgrange passage-tomb:

   “The mound consisted of a cairn of pebbles, with white quartz stones on the outer surface. The designs on the stones are probably symbolic, not just decorative, and the spirals may represent the maze of life.

   “The kings of Tara were buried here, according to the legend. Newgrange, which is one of the many burial mounds in the pagan cemetery of Brug-Na-Boinne, also has associations with the Tuatha de Danann, ancient rulers of Ireland, of whom Dagda, Lug the Irish sea-god, and others were buried in this important and remarkable area.”

Plan of Newgrange.

Plan of Newgrange.

    The passage-way leading into the tomb chamber is 60 foot (18.2 metres) long and is surrounded on all sides by large slab-stones, some of which are decorated with geometric symbols: triangles, chevrons and lozenges. This leads on into a cross-shaped chamber with massive stone basins that would have held offerings, or burials; above the chamber is a corbelled roof. No mortar was used, and the chamber is still waterproof – even after 5,000 years! But in fact there are three small chambers inside the mound. Author Cathal Coyle says that in order to construct this roof: “the builders overlapped layers of large rocks until the roof could be sealed with a capstone, six metres above the floor.” The corbelled roof contains the famous ‘triple spiral stone’ carved onto one of its stone slabs; the authors Janet & Colin Bord in (Ancient Mysteries of Britain) call these spiral-carved stones – ‘labyrinthine in concept’.

   “At dawn on the Winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and for a number of days before and after, a shaft of sunlight enters the chamber through an opening in the roof box and penetrates the passage, shining onto the floor of the inner chamber. The beam illuminates the inner chamber for just 17 minutes. To the Neolithic culture of the Boyne Valley, the winter solstice marked the start of the New Year – a sign of nature’s rebirth and promising renewed life to animals and humans” – (Coyle, 2015).

   Outside the tomb and surrounding it there is a circle of 12 stones, there would have originally been 35, and two of these lost stones would have stood at the south-side, opposite the tomb entrance, at either side of the so-called ‘surviving Great Circle stones’, and the others at the NW, N, NE and SE sides although there is great uncertainty about the exact number of missing stones. This circle of stones was probably built about 3,300 BC though some archaeologists suggest it dates from 2,000 BC. But is it a “true” stone circle? Author Rodney Castleden says of the circle:-

   “O’Kelley, who excavated the mound thought that some of the stones, missing from the circle, had been re-used in the ring of kerbstones, although he could not prove it. Maybe there was a change of plan and the Great Circle was never completed; there is a lot of uncertainty about the missing stones.

   “As far as we can tell this huge ring of stones at Newgrange, a hundred metres in diameter, is the earliest one of all. Most of them have not been radiocarbon dated, but from the evidence available the Newgrange Great Circle seems to be the ancestor of the British stone circles.

   “The custom of building stone circles spread rapidly as the country-wide trade in stone axes got under way. Axes made of distinctive and rare rocks can be traced back very precisely to the Neolithic factories where they were made. We can tell, for instance, that some axes used at Stone-henge were imported from Cornwall and that some came from Snowdonia and that others came from Great Langdale in the Lake District.”

    Author Cathal Coyle gives us more on the legends and myths of Newgrange. He say’s that: “According to the ancient mythology, the Tuatha Dé Danann (the People of the Goddess Danu, who according to tradition ruled Ireland before the coming of the Celts) were said to have built New-grange as a burial place for their chief, Dagda Mór, and his three sons. One of the sons, named Aonghus of the Brugh. It is believed that he was owner of the Brugh land, and that a smaller mound between Newgrange and the Boyne was owned by the Dagda.

   ” The highly renowned author, Geoffrey Ashe, in his great work ‘Mythology Of The British Isles’, says of the Tuatha De Danann that:-

   “The king of the Tuatha De Danann was Nuadu. He is the Irish equivalent of Nudd, Gwyn’s father, and, like him, is an embodiment of the Celtic god whom the Britons called Nodons. When the Tuatha De Danann fought their forerunners the Fir Bolg, Nuadu lost a hand in battle, It was replaced by a silver one, so that he became Nuadu Airgetlam, Nuadu of the Silver Hand. Later he had to contend with the sinister Fomorians as they inflicted various disasters. Their chief was Balor, who had an evil eye. To defeat them Nuadu temporarily resigned power to Lug, a hero of rare versatility and resource. Lug overwhelmed the Formorians with magic. Balor, however, had slain Nuadu in the battle. It was after this that the Milesians occupied Ireland, and the Tuatha De Danann faded into the Otherworld and the realm of faerie.”

Newgrange (Richard Gallagher 2003 - Wikipedia).

Newgrange (copyright Richard Gallagher 2003 – Wikipedia).

   Cathal Coyle goes on to say that: “Newgrange was ‘re-discovered’ in 1699 by the removal of material for road building. The landowner, Charles Campbell, needed some stones and asked his workers to carry some stones away from the cairn. When those stones were moved, the entrance to the tomb was uncovered. An extensive archaeological excavation took place at Newgrange from 1962 until 1975, and the roof was was re-discovered in 1963.” And, says the author: “An interesting phenomenon associated with Newgrange is the discovery of Roman coins over the past four centuries. Many have been found at the site, the first recorded find of a coin was in 1699. These Roman coins were still being found in the 1960s when Newgrange was being excavated — some of them in mint condition. Whether they were buried here by native Irish worshippers or pilgrims from the Roman world, remains a mystery” – (Coyle, 2015).

Sources:-

Ashe, Geoffrey., Mythology Of The British Isles, Methuen, London SW3, 1993.

Bord, Janet & Colin., Mysterious Britain, Paladin Books, London W1X, 1984.

Bord, Janet & Colin., Ancient Mysteries of Britain, Diamond Books, London, 1994.

Castleden, Rodney., Ring of Stones – Part 1 Key To An Ancient World, Exploring The Supernatural, March 1987.

Coyle, Cathal., Famous Landmarks, Ireland’s Own, Wexford, Ireland, (November, 2015, No 5,523 & various dates).

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?lat=53.69167&lon=6.47472

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newgrange#/media/File:Newgrange.JPG                                                                                                                               Photo Credit: Shira∼commonswiki (Creative Commons 2.5 Attribution).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newgrange#/media/File:Newgrange_ireland_750px.jpg                                                                                                            Photo credit: copyright Richard Gallagher 2003.

 

 

 


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Meir ny Foawr, Knocksharry, Isle of Man

Os grid reference: SC 2758 8495. The prehistoric site of Meir ny Foawr, near Knocksharry, at the far western-side of the Isle of Man, is a former Bronze-Age stone circle – however not much of it has survived – and some of its quartz boulders may have been robbed away over the centuries. This collection of boulders in a sort of part circle is located on the side of the hill called Lhergy Dhoo Uplands and is nearly half a mile south-east of Lhergydhoo house, in Kirk German parish. It can be reached on footpaths to the east from Switchback road, and the stones can be seen for many miles around. However there is a dearth of information regarding the site. The little village of Knocksharry is 1 mile to the north on the A4 road, while the town of Peel is 2 miles to the south-west along the same A4 coastal road, overlooking the beautiful Doon Bay.

Meir ny Foawr stone circle is also known locally as ‘the Devil’s Fingers’ or ‘the Giant’s Fingers’ indeed many Megalithic  monuments in the Isle of Man are in some way associated with the devil, or some mythical giant. The structure covers an area of around 30 feet (9.4 metres) and is formed by five large white quartz boulders in a sort of horseshoe shape, rather than a circle, though it may originally have been a circle? Three of the stones lean over at the north-side, while that in the centre is 7 feet high and may represent the altar; the three leaning stones are considered to be part of the original burial chamber. When the site was excavated some Bronze-Age urns were dug up. On the periphery there are a couple of smaller stones known as outliers. So, infact, we might consider calling this a ring cairn or cairn circle? We must assume, therefore, that there was at one time an earthen-mound covering the stones here at Meir ny Foawr?

The area around Knocksharry is rich in ancient remains. There is the prehistoric site of Crosh Mooar about 1 mile to the north-east of Meir ny Foawr – this was a Bronze-Age burial mound – but sadly it was almost destroyed in the early 1900s. And there are several cairns and tumulus’ dotted around the immediate area; at Knocksharry there is a Bronze-Age cemetary which is located close to the ruins of an early Christian chapel. Here three badly damaged funery urns were excavated.

Sources:

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

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

http://www.isle-of-man.com/manxnotebook/iomnhas/v035p446.htm

http://www.isle-of-man.com/manxnotebook/fulltext/pn1925/gn.htm


Drombeg Stone Circle, Glandore, Co. Cork, Southern Ireland

Drombeg Stone Circle, Glandore, Co. Cork (Photo credit: Aaro Koskinen, WIkipedia).

Drombeg Stone Circle, Glandore, Co. Cork (Photo credit: Aaro Koskinen, WIkipedia).

Irish grid reference: W 2468 1185. Drombeg Stone Circle (An Drom Beag) is a very attractive ancient monument set in an equally lovely landscape, close to the south coast of County Cork. Originally known as ‘The Druid’s Altar’, the circle is located on a hillside, just west of Cregg Lane, near the minor road (R597) almost two miles east of Glandore in the townland of Drumbeg, south of Reanascreena. Although a few of the circle’s stones have now disappeared it is still a reasonably well-preserved monument, which is said to date from the Bronze-Age (2,000-3,000 BC). 40 metres to the west there are a couple of hut circles, a causeway, and a prehistoric settlement with a cooking area (fulach Fiadh) that ‘may’ have continued to be in use at least up until the 5th century AD? The winter soltice can be viewed from the Drombeg circle, indeed there is a very good alignment here. Reanascreena is 6 miles due north, Rosscarberry is 4 miles east, and Skibbereen is 10 miles to the west.

The Drombeg circle covers an area of around 9 metres (30 feet) and, there are 13 stones made of a hard sandstone standing in what is an almost perfect circle; originally there were 17 stones. Two of the stones very sadly went missing and so small boulders were placed into their socket holes. The heights of the stones varies ‘roughly’ between 1 foot 6 inches high to just over 7 feet. The two axial (portal stones) at the west-side are a little over 7 foot high, while the recumbant axis stone (the altar) at the southwest side is 6 feet 3 inches long and has two oval-shaped cup-marks, one having a concentric ring surrounding it. This particular stone has a levelled top which is slightly bevelled, making the surface angled down towards the interior of the circle, and is held in place with wedging stones, according to the 2000 edition of the booklet ‘The Stone Circles of Cork & Kerry’ by Jack Roberts. From this stone the rays of the setting sun fall at the winter soltice (Eyres & Kerrigan ‘ Ireland – Landmarks, Landscapes & Hidden Treasures’ 2008). Originally there was a burial pit in the centre of the circle, but this is now covered-over with chippings and gravel, just as it was originally. The axial orientation or azimuth of this circle is recorded as being: 228 degrees and near to 225.50 (Roberts ‘The Stone Circles of Cork & Kerry’).

An Archaeological excavation by Prof. E.M. Fahy in the late 1950s examined the construction methods of the circle in some detail, but a more interesting find was a burial pit at the centre of the circle. The author Jack Roberts in his work ‘The Stone Circles of Cork & Kerry’ says: “A burial pit was found near the centre of the circle which contained a broken pot and some cremated bone. Other burial pits in and around the circle were found to contain strange mixtures of broken stone and pottery all as carefully deposited as the human burial in the circle. These curious burials were found at other circles excavated in the area and it appears to be a characteristic of the rites attached to the circles. The interior of the circle was originally paved with small flat pebbles and appears to have been kept clear of growth for some considerable period after construction and Fahy remarked upon the careful tidiness of the site, a factor which accentuated the sanctity of the site.” There may have been a single standing stone at the centre of the circle, but by the turn of the century this had disappeared.

The author Jack Roberts ‘The Stone Circles of Cork & Kerry’  referring to the winter solitice alignment at Drombeg says: “It is possible that a deeply etched mark on the north-side Entrance Stone is the marker for such observations and the stamped earth at the Entrance also contributes to the possibility that this is a position that the observer would have stood to make the annual observations.

40 metres to the west stands an ancient settlement that could date from the Iron-Age, if not earlier, but the most interesting aspect to this site is the classic “cooking place” known as a (filuch fiadh). There are two hut circles that are interconnected, and a stone trough with what would originally have been a well, all being linked together by a stone causeway. Water collected from the well and, also food stuffs including meat, would have been boiled and cooked with heated stones in the trough. The causeway would have enabled the ancient people to come to this site over rough, boggy ground. This cooking area and settlement as we said earlier may have been in use during the Iron-Age and, perhaps up until the more recent Celtic period (the Dark Ages).

Sources:

Photo Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drombeg_stone_circle

Roberts, Jack., The Stone Circles of Cork & Kerry,  Bandia Publishing, Drumfin, Co. Sligo, Ireland, 2000.

Eyres, Kevin & Kerrigan, Michael., Ireland – Landmarks, Landscapes & Hidden Treasures, Flame Tree Publishing, Fulham, London, United Kingdom, 2008.

Reader’s Digest, Illustrated Guide To Ireland, (First Edition), The Reader’s Digest Association Limited, London, 1992.


Gray Hill Stone Circle, Llanfair Discoed, Monmouthshire (Sir Fynwy)

Gray Hill Standing Stone (Photo credit Paul Sheppard/Geograph)

Gray Hill Standing Stone (Photo by Steve Sheppard)

Os grid reference: ST4380 9352. On the southern ridge of Gray Hill* (Mynydd Llwyd) 260 metres (854 feet) above sea-level and overlooking Penhein, Shirenewton, Caerwent and the Bristol Channel, in southern Monmouthshire, stands Gray Hill Stone Circle, a Bronze Age monument said by some historians to be older than Stonehenge! This ancient monument is best reached from Wentwood reservoir, then by ‘climbing up’ the hill and along the eastern ridge, and then dropping down the south-side of the hill to where there are some ancient quarry workings and, just below stands the circle of stones, quite a few of which now lie recumbant. There is another single standing stone over on the north-west side of the hill and another stone to the east on Mynydd Alltir-Fach (also known as Money Turvey Hill) which is aligned with Gray Hill Stone Circle. Llanfair Discoed is 1 mile to the south of the hill, Penhein is 2 miles to the south and the Roman town of Caerwent is 2 miles south-east. Caldicot is about 3 miles to the south-east. [*Gray Hill can also be spelt as ‘Grey Hill’].

Two Standing Stones on Gray Hill (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Two Standing Stones on Gray Hill (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

There are at least 13 stones ranging in height/length between 1.5 and 2.3 metres in a resonably well-defined (albeit broken) circle that is 32 feet (9.8 metres) in diameter, but there are also a few outliers; the stones are ‘said’ to have come from the quarries back up the hill. The circle is broken, miss-shapen at the west and east sides, the stones from these sides having been robbed-away in the mid 19th century. Only two of the thirteen stones are now standing, these are at the north and north-east of the circle, while a third stone has fallen over; one outer stone is still up-right, while another is recumbant. The outer up-right stone may well line-up with the Midwinter sunrise; the north-east stone and the fallen inner stone could also line-up with the Midwinter sunset. The two standing menhirs, which may be part of the cove, are rather jagged and ridged on their tops, one being quite tall, the one other small, but all the stones here are very sturdy and very substantial. It would have been quite a sight when they were all standing in the circle. A sort of ‘processional way’ to the second (outer) standing stone and barrow cemetary are evident at the east side of the circle, according to authors George Children & George Nash in their work ‘Prehistoric Sites of Monmouthshire’ 1996. Aubrey Burl described the monument as a cairn circle in 1977. So, with that in mind it’s plausable to say that there may have been a burial in the centre of the circle.

Fred Hando in ‘Hando’s Gwent’ 1987 seems quite passionate about the monument and informs us about his own theory regarding the circle and says: “when the ancient observers saw their stones in line with these horizon sunrises and sunsets they were able to advise their agricultural tribesmen what the seasons were. Such knowledge was power!”

Authors George Children & George Nash in their work ‘Prehistoric Sites of Monmouthshire’ mention that there is a ‘second possible stone circle’ to the west on Garn Wen at SO2803 2553 which is over 500 metres above sea-level and overlooks the Afon Honddu Valley and, and they go on to say there is a barrow cemetary at ST4410 9320 and a field system in the area of Gray Hill. Children & Nash say that “Gray Hill is regarded as one of the most important Bronze Age landscapes in the whole of Monmouthshire.”

An amusing end piece to this site is given by the author Chris Barber in his book ‘Mysterious Wales’  1987 in which he says: Historian W.H.Greene, in 1893, claimed to discover not one stone circle, but “acres of them” on Gray Hill. He recalled “that the hill was covered with prehistoric monuments and that the number could be counted in thousands.”

Sources:

Photo Geograph:  Copyright Steve Sheppard and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Photo Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gray_Hill,_Monmouthshire

http://www.ggat.org.uk/cadw/fun_rit/english/stone_circles/sc2.html

Children, George & Nash, George., Prehistoric Sites of Monmouthshire, Logaston Press, Almeley, Herefordshire, 1996.

Hando, Fred., Hando’s Gwent, ed. Chris Barber, Blorenge Books, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, 1987.

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

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

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

 


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Ysbyty Cynfyn Stone Circle, Powys, Wales

St John's Church, Ysbyty Cynfyn (Photo credit: Geograph)

St John’s Church, Ysbyty Cynfyn (Photo credit: Geograph)

OS grid reference: SN 7520 7910. The little hamlet of Ysbyty Cynfyn is located in The Valley of Afon Rheidol between Devil’s Bridge and Ponterwyd in the parish of Llanbadarn Fawr, and in the shadow of the Rheidol and Plynlimon Ranges, western Powys. It is a 19th century church, but its sacred churchyard stands inside a prehistoric stone circle; the actual churchyard itself is partly circular which strongly suggests this is, and has been, a sacred site for thousands of years, and is often referred to by historians and antiquarians alike as Ysbyty Cynfyn Stone Circle. In the middle ages a monastic hospice run by the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem stood on the site of the present-day church, which is dedicated to St John the Baptist, though there isn’t much to see of that today – but hence we still have the place-name “Ysbyty” meaning ‘hospittum’ (hospice). The hospice cared for pilgrims making their way to St David’s. This must undoubtedly be seen as a something of a compromise between the Christian Church and the pagan world of standing stones, temples, ritual and magic – something the church had wanted to banish, but here the two ‘quietly’ came together and so, we have a church within an actual pagan stone circle, even if there’s not a great deal to see, only five stones remaining, today. Or could it be that the stones were just too big to move so the churchyard wall was built around them! Aberystwyth is 12 miles to the west on the A44 and Devil’s Bridge is 2 miles south on the A4120 road.

Churchyard at Ysbyty Cynfyn (Photo Credit Penny Mayes, Geograph)

Churchyard at Ysbyty Cynfyn, Powys.  (Photo Credit: Geograph)

Ysbyty Cynfyn church is located about 80 metres west of the A4120 road, beside Temple farm. Today only five stones remain of the former circle set on a low earthen bank that is said to date from the Bronze-Age, around 1,500 BC; however the remaining stones seem to blend in well with the churchyard wall, indeed two thin slab-stones now act as gateposts at the eastern entrance and, there is at least one recorded account that says there is a faint ‘Christianised’ carving on one of these? A large lump of quartz-stone on the top of the wall next to the gateposts looks interesting! The other two stones, also at the eastern-side, are very big in many ways both in height and girth, but whether they are in their originals positions is open to question? Two large, quite bulky standing stones fit ‘nicely’ into the wall surrounding the churchyard, while a third one stands at the back of the church (north-side) adjoining the wall and gravestones and is 3.4 metres (11 feet) high and about half as much in width; this particular stone would seem to be in its original position. Almost without a doubt there were other standing stones here long-ago, forming a proper circle, the site of what may have been, perhaps, a pagan temple used by druids for the purposes of ritual and magic. There are apparently a few ‘lost’ recumbant stones in the nearby fields – maybe these came from the stone circle?

In the little church of St John there’s a curious carved wooden font (1850) and on the wall a brass plaque in memory of local men who fell in the 2nd world war. The church dates from 1827. Over by the carpark there is a round-shaped well with a ‘warning notice’ saying: “this water is not for drinking.” Could this well have been used by the knights of St John and did it once have healing properties? To the north of the church upon the Rheidol, opposite Bryn Bras, are the remains of an old lead mine that was called Temple Mine and, 1 mile to the west close to Parson’s Bridge, at Dolgamfa, a Bronze-Age cairn circle can be seen.

Sources:

Gregory, Donald., Country Churchyards In Wales, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Capel Garmon, Llanrwst, Gwynedd, Wales, 1991. 

Gregory, Donald., Wales Before 1066 – A Guide, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Llanrwst, Gwynedd, 1992.

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

Barber, Chris., Mysterious Wales, Paladin (Grafton Books), London, 1987.

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=1375

Photo Credit: © Copyright Penny Mayes and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Photo Credit:© Copyright Penny Mayes and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1389503


Ring Stones Hill, Catlow, Nelson, Lancashire

Ring Stones Hill Farm, near Catlow.

Ring Stones Hill Farm, near Catlow.

OS grid reference: SD 8933 3670. On the tops above Nelson, Lancashire, to the east and about halfway between Delves Lane and the hamlet of Catlow there is a farm called Ring Stones Hill, where up until about 1856 there stood a large stone circle, or maybe a cairn circle, but sadly there is no trace of this ancient monument today – the stones having been robbed-away to build walls and some perhaps incorporated into the out buildings of the farm. Nothing much has been recorded about this prehistoric stone circle, only the name survives. However there may be stones belonging to this ‘now lost’ Bronze-Age monument in nearby walls, and one or two having being put into use as gateposts! Ring Stones Hill Farm, whose barn is ‘thought’ to be built over the stone circle, is situated roughly between Delves lane and Crawshaw lane to the south-west of Knave Hill. There is nothing to see, only fields, although on closer inspection there is a scattering of stones buried in the ground in a sort of circular fashion in the field just to the east, close to Pathole beck. Catlow is about half a mile from here along Crawshaw Lane, Walton Spire (Walton’s Monument) which is partly a Dark Age monolith, dating perhaps from the 10th century, stands just to the north, while the town of Nelson is 1 mile to the west.

Recumbant Stone, near Ring Stones Hill.

Recumbant Stone, near Ring Stones Hill.

In the book ‘Historic Walks Around The Pendle Way,’ 1990, local authors John Dixon and Bob Mann give an interesting insight into Ring Stones Hill saying: “Nestled above Pathole Beck is the whitewashed farmstead of Ringstones Hill, a 17th century building displaying many fine mullioned windows. Up to around 1850 a large circle of stones stood next to the house, sadly the circle was dismantled when the present barn was built with only the name to give memory to the former monoliths.” A large stone on the ground below the wall-still which gives access to the field from Delves lane is of interest. Could this be one of the stones that formed the stone circle? Maybe. Just to the right of this path on the shoulder of the hill there is a very faint earthwork of what is possibly an ancient burial mound. Authors John Dixon and Bob Mann mention this in their book ‘Historic Walks Around The Pendle Way’. They go on to say: “What could be a burial mound is sited in a field above the farm at SD 89263693. This is in the form of a small mound, 3m. in diameter.”

Site of burial mound near Ringstones Hill Farm.

Site of burial mound near Ringstones Hill Farm.

The origins of the name Catlow are somewhat confused. Cat could be an Old British word ‘catu’ meaning ‘war’ or ‘battle’, and similarly the Celtic word ‘catt’ also meams ‘battle’, whereas ‘low’ is usually taken to mean mound or henge; so here we have ‘battle at or near the henge’. And ‘cat’ might also refer to ‘feral cats,’ oddly enough! Over the years there have been a number of archaeological finds in and around Catlow Quarries and also in the vicinity of the ancient hamlet. In 1854 two decorated cremation urns were dug up by quarry workmen and, in 1845 a Bronze-Age tanged spear or dagger was excavated in Catlow, and in 1954 a third cremation urn was discovered to the south of the quarries; these were of the Pennine type that are called ‘collared’ urns, dating from the middle to late Bronze-Age. There have also been a few finds of Roman coins in this area and also at Caster-cliffe, about 1 mile north of Catlow.

Sources:

Dixon, John & Mann, Bob., Historic Walks Around The Pendle Way, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1990.

The Northern Antiquarian:  http://megalithix.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/ring-stones-hill/