The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


Tunstall Park Glacial Boulder, Tunstall, Stoke on Trent, North Staffordshire

Tunstall Park Glacial Boulder, Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.

Tunstall Park Boulder, Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent, North Staffordshire.

NGR: SJ 86410 51380. Near the main entrance to Tunstall Park (also known as Victoria Park) on Queens Avenue in the town of Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent, in North Staffordshire, is a glacial erratic boulder, which is said to be many millions of years old, and, to weigh over six tonnes. The large 4½ foot high rock is to be found close to the Adams clock tower in what is a very well-kept suburban park in the Potteries. We know that the erratic boulder was dragged along by a retreating glacier some 13,000-15,000 years ago and then deposi-ted here; it was apparently dug out of the ground during some ex-cavations in the park. Did this huge rock come from the Lake District? or somewhere else? but there is a possibility that it could have come from the Pennines, or even Scotland, but that is much, much further north. There are other glacial erratic boulders scattered about the country, more especially in the north of England, and on exposed moorland in Yorkshire. The Tunstall park boulder is mostly made of granite but with a mixture of other types of rock too – all of which are not native to North Staffordshire, which is mostly Carboniferous – Limestone and Coal measures, and, also Devonian – Sandstone and Mudstones.

The Information Plaque

The Boulder and Plaque

The information plaque at the front of the boulder does give us a bit more to go on. It says: This rock originates from the Lake District where it was formed, around 450 million years ago, during an extensive period of volcanic activity. It was trans-ported by ice flows which covered the Potteries in the last Ice Age. The ice finally retreated about 15,000 years ago leaving boulders like this one which are known as “glacial erratics”.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2022.


Brink Ends Cairn, Near Wycoller, Lancashire.

Brink Ends Cairn, near Wycoller, Lancashire.

NGR: SD 9403 3786. On Dovestones Moor to the southeast of Wycoller, Lancashire, are the remains of Brink Ends Cairn, a kerbed burial mound dating from the Middle Bronze Age (roughly 1,200-600 BC). The site takes its name from Brink Ends Farm, which is 200 metres to the east. However, today only a few piles of stones arranged in a roughly circular fashion are the only surviving remnant of this former burial cairn. Excavations on the ancient mound were carried out by Mr Stanley Cookson and Mr Herbert Hindle in 1971 and 1972 but no funerary artefacts were found, though some artefacts showing signs of burning were exca-vated from what might have been a hearth, and, also a few flints. There was thought to be an Iron Age hut circle just to the south of the cairn, and, a possible ancient settlement somewhere in this area too. The site can be reached from Wycoller village by walking along the track that runs southeast beside Wycoller beck for a mile, and, then out onto the rugged Dovestones Moor and Brink Ends Moor for another mile and onto the shoulder of a hill, keeping Brink Ends Farm in front of you. You can also reach it from a footpath running southeast from the Panoptican on the Haworth Road.

Brink Ends Cairn, near Wycoller, Lancashire.

Peter Wightman writing in 1978 says of the Brink Ends Cairn: “The most recent discovery in this area is probably that of the late Stanley Cookson who uncovered a bronze age burial (c. 1500 B.C.) below Boulsworth.  This single grave was built on the shoulder of a hill, the cairn being 34 ft. in diameter and about 2ft. 6in. high at the centre.  No daggers, tools, or pottery were found but there were a few flint artefacts and all the stones were arranged as if there had been an urn.  Around the centre circle was an outer circle of stones six feet further away.  On what is presumed to be the hearth were charcoal and calcined bones.  There was also a small circular burnt stone with four sugar-lump sized pieces of coal charred only on the underside, and surrounding the hearth were lumps of a soapy-like substance, something of the nature of fat.  The inner part of the grave was laid very symmetrically but towards the outside less care seems to have been taken with the stones.  From the evidence we can only surmise the original use.  Mr Cookson’s theory was that it could have been the proposed burial site of a headman that never took place, or some token form of burial.  It could also be that a different burial rite had become adopted from that known to have been the custom of the bronze age people.  The practice of identifiable burials, with grave goods and pottery seems to have been abandoned at the beginning of the middle bronze age (c.1250 B.C.)  Possibly this grave is such.  Around this grave are curious growths of heather which might indicate the presence of other overgrown edifices, and looking down the valley towards Wycoller are innumerable other curious arrangements of stones that might have had some connection with this bronze age grave that overlooks them all.”

John Bentley (1975 & 1993) adds that: “A suspected Bronze Age burial mound at Brink Ends in Wycoller was excavated by Stanley Cookson in 1971 and 1972. Although no interment was discovered the remains of a fire was found in the centre of the mound with half-burnt twigs and coal. Some small cubes of coal stood on a fire-burnt stone yet the coal had only just begun to ignite.

“Boulder stone walls on the south side of Wycoller Beck suggest an Iron Age settlement and the occurrence of a clam bridge, the earliest and most primitive bridge in Wycoller, supports the theory. Stanley Cookson has strong suspicions that an Iron Age settlement existed in this area but only time and further exploration will tell.”

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Bentley, John, Portrait of Wycoller, first published by Nelson Local History Soc. in 1975. Later published by Wycoller Country Park Project, Townhouse School, Nelson, Lancs, 1993.

Cookson, Stanley & Hindle, Herbert, Wycoller, Hendon Publishing Co. Ltd., Nelson, Lancs, 1973.

Wightman, Peter, Bonnie Colne, Hendon Publishing Co. Ltd., Nelson, Lancs, 1978.

Also check out TNA website:

More info here on Wycoller Country Park:

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2022.


Woodhenge and Durrington Walls, Near Amesbury, Wiltshire

Curved section of Woodhenge, near Amesbury, Wiltshire.

NGR: SU 15068 43372.  A Neolithic henge monument consisting of banks and ditches sur-rounding six wood circles, 2 miles to the north of Amesbury, Wiltshire, dating from around 2,500 B.C. The Woodhenge site was originally known as Dough Cover. Whereas Stonehenge ‘has’ circles of stones, Woodhenge ‘had’ circles of wooden posts, or more precisely, six concentric ovals of wooden posts, which are today marked by ugly concrete markers. Just to the north of Woodhenge is Durrington Walls, an almost circular Neolithic henge monument with its associated hut settlement; and there are also burial mounds in this same area. Woodhenge was first identified from an aerial photograph taken by Squadron Leader Gilbert Insall, VC, in 1925, which was around the same time that an aerial archaeological survey of Wessex by Alexander Keiller and Osbert Guy Stanhope Crawford (of the Ordnance Survey) was also being undertaken. The Cunnington family excavated the site between 1926-28, and, further excavations took place there during the 1970s. This classic henge monument is to be found in a field beside Fargo Road at Larkhill, 2 miles north of Amesbury and ½ a mile southwest of Durrington village.

James Dyer (1973) says: “Lying 91 m north of the great henge monument of Durrington Walls, which contained at least two timber circles, now under the main road, Woodhenge should probably be seen as part of the same complex. Discovered by aerial photography in 1925 and subsequently excavated by the Cunningtons, it was shown to consist of six concentric ovals of posts, enclosed by an irregular circular ditch 1·8 to 2·1 m deep and 3·7 to 4·9 m wide. At the north-east was an entrance causeway 10·7 m wide, whilst outside the ditch was a wide, low bank of earth. The positions of the internal wooden posts are indicated by concrete markers. At the centre of the structure was the grave of an infant about three years old, who had died from a blow on the skull. The position of the grave is marked by a cairn of flints. Grooved-ware pottery from the site indicates that it is broadly contemporary with Durrington Walls. 

“Timber circles, such as Woodhenge, were probably roofed buildings, used for religious purposes, the precise nature of which remains obscure. They may have had a central court, open to the sky. If this is the case there may have been a connection with the observation of the sun or moon. Alternatively, Woodhenge may, as was originally suggested, have consisted of free-standing circles of posts, some, perhaps, with wooden lintels, looking as its name suggests, like a timber version of Stonehenge. Or again, the posts standing alone, carved and painted like totem poles, might be considered.”

Jacquetta Hawkes (1975) tells us that: “Although Stonehenge must by comparison render any other site something of an anti-climax, before leaving the Plain the traveller should push northward, following the Amesbury-Marlborough road until about a mile and a half north of Amesbury, it passes a circular maze of concrete stumps, recalling those seen at Overton Sanctuary……This remarkable site was discovered by air photography, and subsequent excavation proved it to have been another sacred enclosure of the henge type monoliths with no less than six oval settings of posts, their long axis apparently orientated on the Midsummer sunrise. Looking at the concrete markers set in the former post-holes, one would hardly suspect, what was in fact the truth, that the excavators found near the centre of the sanctuary the skeleton of an infant with its skull cleft open—probably a dedication sacrifice. The post-holes probably represent a circular, roofed wooden temple, comparable to the sanctuary.

“A short distance beyond this temple (i.e. Woodhenge) lies the almost obliterated Durrington Walls, an earthwork which would hardly claim attention were it not that it constitutes the remains of another henge monument that was once of considerable size and importance. When excavated in the ‘fifties and ‘sixties it was found to date to the late New Stone Age and was thus roughly contemporary with the neighbouring sanctuary of Woodhenge. Indeed the surrounding area was a focal centre for early human occupation. Just a quarter of a mile to the northeast, close to the Stonehenge Inn, is a flint mine, and there are many early round barrows. Inside the bank and ditch, which were more extensive though much less massive than those of Avebury, there had stood two circular wooden buildings, the larger having features in common with Woodhenge.” 

Timothy Darvill (1988) says of Durrington Walls: “Durrington Walls is a large, roughly circular enclosure, constructed about 2500BC. The site is best viewed from the car park to Woodhenge.  When new, Durrington Walls was of comparable proportions to Avebury Ring…..but all that can be seen today are the denuded remains of the banks, and, when the fields are ploughed, a dark line around the inside of the bank indicating the position of the silted-up ditch.  However, much is known about the site as a result of excavations during the realignment of the A345 which runs through the enclosure. This work revealed that the ditch was 18m wide, 6m deep, and that the bank was originally about 27.5m wide and approximately 3m high. Inside the enclosure were several massive circular timber buildings each over 30m in diameter. Finds included much-grooved ware pottery, and the animal bones indicate that many pigs were consumed by the inhabitants or users of the site.” 

Woodhenge – the complete site – photo by GothamNurse (Creative Commons).

Woodhenge is in the care of English Heritage: while Durrington Walls is on land owned by The National Trust:


Sources / References & Related Websites:-

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

Dyer, James, Southern England: An Archaeological Guide, Faber And Faber Limited, London, 1973.

Hawkes, Jacquetta, A Guide To The Prehistoric And Roman Monuments In England And Wales, Cardinal (Sphere Books Ltd.,), London. 1973.

The AA, Treasures Of Britain — And Treasures Of Ireland, Drive Publications Limited, for the Automobile Association, London, 1968.

Photo here at:

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Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2022.


Pike Low, Near Briercliffe, Burnley, Lancashire.

Burial Robbed away cairn.

Pike Lowe burial mound and former beacon site near Briercliffe, Burnley. Photo: Stephen Oldfield.

On the summit of Pike Low with the destroyed barrow. Photo: Stephen Oldfield.

NGR: SD 8944 3422. On the summit of a low, grassy hill called Pike Low (or Lowe), near Briercliffe, Burnley, in Lancashire, are the re-mains of a Bronze Age bowl barrow or cairn circle. It is recorded as being a tumulus and has been robbed of its stone-work, though some of the stones that made up the cist burial can still be seen scattered around on what was the burial mound itself.  At some point in the past, the summit of Pike Low was the site of a beacon used at times of great national festivities, which then came to be known as Bonfire Hill. Some of the stones on the hill’s summit bear evidence of burning from this beacon, according to Stephen Oldfield. The Pike Low site is just to the north of the Swinden Reservoirs and 60 metres south of Shay Lane.

Another view of Pike Low. Photo courtesy of Stephen Oldfield.

A stone on Pike Low shows signs of burning and a possible carving.

We do know that the Bronze Age barrow here was excavated in the mid and late 19th century and some grave goods were found, but these items were, sadly, lost at some point along the way. Was Pike Low the burial site of a princess or (a well-to-do person) from the Bronze Age? There are several other interesting ancient sites within a few miles of Pike Lowe, including Beadle Hill, a Romano-British farmstead, or was it an Iron Age settlement? and, also nearby, is Twist Castle or Twist Hill, which could have been a Romano-British settlement, farmstead and enclosure, although there is a possible Bronze Age tumulus there. There are other tumuli in this area too. The Pike Low burial site is located just to the north of the Swinden Reservoirs and about 60 metres south of Shay Lane.

The Lancashire Archaeological Bulletin (1984) gives the following information: “Parish: Briercliffe. Site Name: Pike Low. N.G.R. SD 895 343. Primary Reference: Wilkinson 1857, No. 6. Wilkinson & Harrison 1893, No. 14. Disposition Of Finds: Lost. Damaged tumulus or earth Circle. Sometimes called Pike Low.” And with that the Referencers are given; “Wilkinson T.T. (1857) On the Battle of Brunanburh: and the probable locality of the conflict. HSLC 9 (1857) 21-42. Wilkinson T.T. and Harrison , W. (1893) pp. 156-161 in Proceedings, LCAS 11 (1893) 131-183. (Text summarises Wilkinson on a field meeting: map by Harrison).”

Sources / References & Associated websites:-

Many thanks to Stephen Oldfield for the use of his photos, above. Thanks Stephen – much appreciated.

Edwards, Margaret & Ben, Lancashire Archaeological Bulletin, Vol. 10, No. 2/3, Preston, May & July, 1984.

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2022.

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Glastonbury Lake Village in Somerset.

Glastonbury Lake Village, Somerset, a reconstruction.

NGR: ST 49286 40757. Near Backwear Farm (on Great Withy Drove) which is about 3 miles to the northwest of Glastonbury, Somerset, is the archaeological site of Glastonbury Lake Village, a late Iron-Age man-made island (crannog) that was constructed in the swampy land there, and which was still in existence during the Romano-British period. It was discovered in the late 19th century by the Glastonbury antiquarian, Arthur Bulleid, and was considered to be the best-preserved lake village in Britain. The excavated site of the village was close to where the River Brue originally used to flow, on the Somerset Levels, near Godney. The island cran-nog was raised up on wooden posts (stakes) that were dug deep into the swampy, marshy ground, and there was a jetty. A wooden palisade would have run around the sides of the crannog, and on the structure’s platform up to eighty roundhouses all built within the inner part of the raised island; the walls and floors of these wood-built houses became evident to the excavators between 1892-1908, and inside each roundhouse, a hearth for cooking. A dug-out canoe was excavated at the site. Finds from the crannog and its vicinity can be seen in the nearby Glastonbury Lake Village Museum in the High Street, and The Museum of Somerset in Taunton Castle. There was another Iron-Age village at Meare, 4 miles to the west, at OS Grid Ref ST 446423.

A typical Iron-Age lake village or settlement similar to those at Glastonbury and Meare, in Somerset.

Jacquetta Hawkes (1975) says of the two Somerset lake villages – Meare and Glastonbury:- “If I am to remain true to my intention never to lead those who follow me to any of the faint and uncon-vincing marks of prehistoric life where either faith or expert knowledge are needed to find any signi-ficance to a few banks and hollows,  I must not stay long at the lake villages.  Nevertheless, just be-cause they were set among meres and not on hill-tops, these two villages have been able to show in unique detail the material background of the life of the  Celtic  Britons of the Iron Age,  of a people related in varying degrees with the builders of the hill-forts which everywhere attract us with their striking architecture and fine positions. The reason for this is simply that the moisture and peat which formed over the deserted villages has preserved many of the possessions which elsewhere have perished. The excavators of Glastonbury (which lies about a mile north of the present town) found the logs and faggots which had formed the artificial island on which the huts were built, they found the stakes of the enclosing palisade, the floors of the round huts, some sixty in number, which had often been remade again and again as the foundations sank slowly in the underlying mire. They found complete hurdles, indistinguishable from those of to-day, fragments of well-built carts, dug-out canoes which the villagers used to come and go from their hand-made island. Where normally we recover only potsherds, Glastonbury and Meare yielded baskets and beautifully turned wooden bowls; where at best we expect to find only the metal parts of iron knives, saws, bill-hooks, these villages put them into our hands complete with their wooden hafts gracefully shaped and serviceable. Those who know how to let sentiment take command over reason may like to visit the uneven fields which to-day mark the sites of Glastonbury and Meare, but let everyone go to the Castle Museum at Taunton where all the finds are admirably displayed. Here they will see not only the perishable things which I have described, but the famous decorated pottery, and objects which prove the wide trading activities of the villagers—tin from Cornwall, lead from the Mendips, Dorset shale, glass beads and amber, and quantities of iron, thought to have been imported from the Forest of Dean. This iron was used not only for a great range of tools, but also for the clumsy iron currency bars which were the medium of exchange throughout south-western England before true coins came to displace them. Undoubtedly these villages were prosperous, but there is no reason to suppose that they were very exceptionally so; looking in the cases at Taunton may give a new idea of the very tolerable standard of living which had been achieved by the Britons at the end of prehistoric times. Glastonbury and Meare were probably established by about 150 B.C., and were still inhabited until just before the Roman Conquest.”  

Glastonbury Lake Village, Somerset (Illustration).

James Dyer (1973) tells us more about the site. He says:  “Flat meadows, dykes and willows are all that remain at this classic site excavated at the beginning of the century. When the sun is low in the early morning or late evening a series of low mounds can be made out covering a triangular area of about 1·4 ha. A careful recent study of the Glastonbury excavation reports and finds has led Dr. E. K. Tratman to suggest that the village was of two quite distinct occupations by two different groups of people. The first built square or rectangular timber-framed houses in oak, supported on piles. They had walls of hurdle work, and the whole structure stood a few metres above the ground, or water, at the lake edge. The inhabitants were clearly excellent carpenters and constructed carefully-jointed looms and lathes, ploughs and carts. In spite of the lake there was sufficient dry ground nearby for cultivation. Possibly beginning about 150 B.C. the village was abandoned by 60 B.C. Shortly afterwards the empty houses were destroyed by newcomers who constructed crannogs, or artificial islands, made of layers of brushwood and clay. On these round huts of rather flimsy type were built, with walls of wattle and daub, and floors of clay with central hearths. Much pottery decorated with beautiful flowing linear patterns belong to this later village. The inhabitants found it necessary to defend their settlement with a palisade. After only about ten years the village was peacefully abandoned, perhaps due to flooding caused by a local rise in the water level, or even an outbreak of malaria, a disease still prevalent in the area a hundred years ago.”  

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Airne, C. W., The Story of Prehistoric & Roman Britain − Told In Pictures, Sankey, Hudson & Co. Ltd., Manchester.

Dyer, James, Southern England: An Archaeological Guide, Faber And Faber Limited, London, 1973.

Hawkes, Jacquetta, A Guide To The Prehistoric And Roman Monuments In England And Wales, Cardinal (Sphere Books Ltd.,), London, 1975.

More info here

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.



Legananny Dolmen, County Down, Northern Ireland

Legananney Dolmen, a Megalithic Tomb in Co. Down, Northern Ireland.

Irish Grid Reference: J 28900 43400. Legananny Dolmen can be found beside a footpath in a farmer’s field between Legananny Road and Dolmen Road on the southwestern slopes of Slieve Croob Mountain, near the village of Leitrim, 3 miles northwest of Castlewellan and 4 miles south of Dromora, in County Down, Northern Ireland. It is also called a Tripod Dolmen (as its huge coffin-shaped capstone is precariously perched upon three upright tripod stones), a Portal Dolmen, and Cromlech. The name Dolmen is derived from “stone table”. This quite amazing prehistoric chambered-tomb monument, dating back 5,000 years to the Neolithic, was probably the burial place of a tribal chieftain; although there is not much left of the mound that once protected and covered the burial chamber. This very graceful-looking monument, which is in State Care, is signposted from Leitrim village, and, it can be reached along a footpath going northwards for 50m uphill from Windy Gap car park on Dolmen Road. Legananny Dolmen has become a much-photographed ancient monument.

Resting on three upright stones, one, in particular, being L-shaped, the over three-metre long capstone points slightly downwards at an angle and rests on the smaller of the three uprights – looking as if it might slide off at any moment! But it is quite safe. It is noticeable, too, that the capstone has straight edges as do the uprights; the taller one being very odd-shaped and wider with an L-shaped cut-away notch.

Reader’s Digest (1992) says: “Legananny Dolmen/Lag an Eanaigh. On the south face of Cratlieve, 850ft above sea level, is a dolmen with a special view of the Mourne Mountains to the south. This is megalithic stonework at its most impressive. Whereas many dolmens are only semi-structured groups of fallen boulders, here the great capstone, 10ft by 4ft by 2ft, stands clear of the ground supported on three stones 7½ft high, looking like a huge tripod.

Sources/References & Related Websites:-

Reader’s Digest, Illustrated Guide To Ireland, Reader’s Digest Association Limited, London, 1992.

The AA, Illustrated Guide To Britain, Drive Publications Limited, London, 1968.

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Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.


Maen Llia Standing Stone, Powys, Wales

Maen Llia Standing Stone in Powys, Wales.

NGR: SN 92416 19188. On the windswept moorland of Fforest Fawr above the Llia Valley in the Brecon Beacons National Park, Powys, Mid Wales, is a very large standing stone called Maen Llia or The Stone of Llia. The diamond-shaped monolith that resembles a very tall cloaked figure, probably dates from the Bronze Age, and, is a landmark for many miles around in this remote area as it stands to a height of 12 feet and no doubt weighs quite a lot too. It probably marked ancient trackways over the high ground and was a sort of marker stone for directional use for ancient people traversing the moorland, and its shadow used as a sundial! It points in a N-S direction. There is recent graffiti on the stone though this is not easy to make out in certain light. Local legends say the stone goes down the hill to drink in the river, or that it had been picked up and thrown by a giant, but, you tend to get those legends with some of the larger standing stones. The menhir is made of Old Red Sandstone; and is situated near a country road crossing over the moorland towards Ystradfellte, 2 miles south of Heol Senni. You can’t really miss seeing this standing stone! There is another standing stone, Maen Madoc, 1½ miles to the south and close to Sarn Helen Roman road at (SN 918157). This stone has a carved inscription in memory of Dervacus.

Wendy Hughes, writing about the Bronze Age in Brecknock, in 1995, says: “Perhaps another feature of their religious rituals were the solitary standing stones, or Maenhir (long stones), found throughout Wales. In Brecknock we can see a number. One of the three largest in the area is Maen Llia between Sennybridge and Ystradfellte. It is 12 ft tall and 9 ft wide, and must leave many a visitor puzzling at the physical strength of these people to raise a stone of that size. Why did they spend so much time erecting such magnificent stones? Were they placed as some sort of marker, like a pilgrims way to a long-forgotten religious centre? Were they huge sacrificial tables to some pagan god? Sadly the questions remain unanswered.”  

Barber & Williams (1989) tell us: “Maen Llia, a large standing stone above the Afon Lia (SN 924193). It is marked as Maen Llia on the Ordnance Survey maps of 1831, 1920, 1925, 1947, 1952, 1953 and 1967. The History of the Vale of Neath, by D. Rhys Phillips (Swansea, 1925), p.29, states that Maen Llia is 11 feet 2 inches high and 8 feet 4 inches in breadth. On p.743 it says that legend avers that Maen Llia loves fresh water and goes to drink in the River Nedd whenever it hears the crowing of a cock.”  

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

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

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

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.


The Noggarth Ridge Stone, Near Wheatley Lane, Lancashire

Standing Stone on Noggarth Ridge above Wheatley Lane.

NGR: SD 81786 37861. A standing stone-cum-boundary stone located on the Noggarth Ridge above the village of Fence (Wheatley Lane) near Padiham, in Lancashire. The 6 foot high gritstone boulder is situated beside a footpath and is roughly halfway between Croft Top Lane and the Pendle Forest Television transmitter at Noggarth, on the ridge above Spen Brook. It seems the standing stone is not in its original position having been moved a short distance along the ridge. It has some weathering marks on it at one side, which suggests it is an ancient stone, so could it perhaps be from a nearby stone circle that was built back in the Neolithic age. Today the standing stone seems to mark the boundaries of Old Laund Booth and Goldshaw Booth. There is a pile of broken stones opposite the boulder, one, in particular, a shaped pillar tapers at the top and looks very old, although it may have been used for something more recently. From the A6068 (Padiham bypass) head up Guide Lane, then turn right onto Croft Top Lane. Where this lane bends to the south go through the wall-style into the field. Walk along the footpath to another wall-style and continue along the footpath (passing near OS trig point to your left) to reach the standing stone, which is now straight ahead of you.

The Noggarth Ridge Standing Stone from a different angle.

Local archaeologist and Historian John Clayton (2014) mentions the standing stone on the ridge. He says that “Another stone from the Pendle Ridgeway. This menhir measures almost two metres in height and sits on a parish boundary. However, the stone does not appear to remain in situ having reportedly been moved by the farmer from its original position near to the stone in Fig P126. A ditch marking the parish boundary runs south from the possible ridge-top at C and within 100 metres is a pile of very large stones. The very large upright we saw in Fig P128 now stands close to this pile, having been moved by the farmer from its original home a few hundred metres to the east. As was the case with the upright in Fig P128, the stones within the pile are field clearance. Within the group is a circular flattish stone that would have originally measured around 1.5 to 2 metres across with a thickness of 30cm. There is also a former 1.5m upright, the broken top of another large stone similar to that in Fig P128, and numerous other large flat and rounded stones. The stones within this collection are very similar in size and form to those found within Neolithic burial mound chambers and it is worth asking the question as to whether they have been moved here from the site of a burial monument?” [See John’s book to view photos of this site.]

There is a similar standing stone at The Watermeetings (SD 856 411) at Barrowford, Lancashire, which is called the Cock Hill Stone.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Clayton, John A, Burnley And Pendle Archaeology — Part One — Ice Age to Early Bronze Age. Barrowford Press, Spring 2014

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.

St Mary’s Well, Clitheroe, Ribble Valley, Lancashire

St Mary’s Well, Clitheroe, Lancashire.

St Mary’s Well seen from the other side.

NGR:- SD 74503 42170.  On Well Terrace, Clitheroe, in Lancashire, stands a rectangular-shaped, walled stone structure locally known as St Mary’s Well. It is to be found just around the corner at the far end of Church Brow, close to a bus shelter, and downhill from St Mary Magdalene’s Church.  There are, in fact, three wells in the Ribble Valley town of Clitheroe: St Mary’s, Hield Well and Stocks Well, though they are not used today and have not been since the mid 19th century when water started to flow through pipes, but before that, though, these wells would have supplied water to various parts of the town. St Mary’s Well is obviously the ‘church well’ taking its name from St Mary Magdalene, but, whether it was ever a holy well is not known, though it could have been originally. The well could date back to Medieval times which makes it the oldest of the three wells. St Mary Magdalene’s Church dates from the 1820s; the church there before that was 15th century, but, there is likely to have been a Norman church as far back as the early 12th century, so perhaps the well dates from around that time?

St Mary’s Well interior.

St Mary’s Well interior

The rectangular well structure is surrounded by a wall that looks quite old and some of the coping stones are well-worn. There are two entrances opposite each other with well-trodden steps that lead down into the inner part of the well which has a raised, flag-ged bed or gangway that has a water channel running across and, opposite that, a lower, flagged area (pool) for water, and, in the centre a large square-shaped stone. But what was the stone used for; was it for someone to sit on or maybe wash clothes on? Beside one of the entrances is a small, shaped stoop stone. There is a rusty iron hole sort of thing which the water obviously flowed through, but it looks as though there has not been any water in this well for a long time. On the side of the wall there is a brass plaque which says: THIS WELL WAS ORIGINALLY ONE OF THE THREE PUBLIC WELLS  WHICH FORMED THE WATER SUPPLY OF THE BOROUGH UNTIL THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE WATERWORKS ON GRINDLETON FELL UNDER THE WATERWORKS ACT OF 1854 – Soroptimist International 1992. The well is a Grade II listed building.

Even today people from the local area and beyond, you might call them modern-day pilgrims, still come to visit St Mary’s Well and maybe look over the wall into the well and try to imagine what it looked like when the pool had water in it, and was in use.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

More local info here:,_Clitheroe

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.


The Ring of Brodgar, Stenness, Orkney Island, Scotland

Ring of Brodgar Stone Circle and Henge at Stenness, in Orkney.

NGR: HY 29456 13361.  The Ring of Brodgar (or Brogar) is a Late Neolithic stone circle and henge monument situated on a narrow spit of raised land (Ness of Brodgar) between the Lochs of Stenness and Harray, just east of the B9055 road, in Orkney. The monument lies in the Parish of Stenness and is roughly halfway between Hestwall and Stenness. There used to be 60 standing stones forming the huge circle which has a diameter of 340 feet, but today less than half the stones remain standing; some of the fallen stones were recently re-erected. It is almost circular in design and is surrounded by a rock-cut ditch, the circle and outer ditch probably built in sections, rather than all at once. The monument dates from 2500-2000 BC. Whether the monument was built as a site for Druidic worship is not certain, but that would seem to be the case here, and, with that in mind, there are several burial cairns in the vicinity, and, also nearby are the equally impressive ‘Stones of Stenness’ and ‘Ring of Bookan’ which are all part of a ceremonial complex which also in-cluded Maeshow. All-in-all, then, the Ring of Brodgar was, and still is, a very sacred, magical and mystical place. From Hestwall take the B9055 road southeast to Wasbister, then continue southeast along the same road for a few miles in the direction of Stenness to reach the Ness of Brodgar – the stone circle soon coming into view on your right.

A part of the Ring of Brodgar Stone Circle at Stenness, in Orkney.

Childe & Simpson (1959) tell us: “The Ring of Brogar, on the isthmus between the Lochs of Harry and Stenness is one of the great complex of monuments of which Maes Howe is also a member. The ring stands not quite on the crest of the ridge separating the two lochs. It now consists of 27 upright slabs, set with their broad faces tangential to a circle 340 feet in diameter. Some stones are clearly missing. Many of the survivors are mere stumps and others are badly weathered. The tallest now stands 15 feet above the ground, and none is likely to have been less than 8 feet high. It is thought that the slabs have been brought from an ancient quarry on Vestra Fiold, some 6 miles away. On one upright on the north is cut an undeciphered runic inscription and a cross.  The stones stand on a gently sloping space, 10 feet to 12 feet from the inner lip of the enclosing fosse. This seems on an average 30 feet wide, but has never been excavated. It is spanned by a causeway on the north-west and south-east, but no trace of bank is visible outside it.

“The adjacent fields have yielded quite a harvest of flint arrowheads and broken stone mace-heads of Bronze Age type. To the north, just across the boundary of Sandwick Parish, is a ruined chamber tomb and close by, the Ring of Bookan, an irregular area surrounded by a fosse. Nearer to Brogar are several large earthen barrows, most probably heaped in the Bronze Age. There is a similar concentration of Bronze Age barrows round Stonehenge.  South of Brogar a series of five Standing Stones may be the remnants of an alignment or even an avenue leading across the narrow isthmus called the Bridge of Brodgar to another sacred enclosure.”  

Some of the standing stones that make up The Ring of Brodgar.

Charles Tait (1999) says: “The Ring of Brodgar (HY294133). One of the finest stone circles any-where, this great henge monument is superbly situated on the Ness of Brodgar, in a confluence of water and sky, surrounded by the agricultural heart of Orkney. The feeling of spaciousness is enhanced by the size of the circle which is 103.7m or 125 megalithic yards in diameter. Of the original 60 stones, 27 remain standing, varying between 2m and 4.5m in height. The site is laid out very accurately in a perfect circle, with the stones approximately 6 degrees apart. One on the North side is inscribed by some cryptographic Norse tree runes, thought to stand for “Biorn”.  The surrounding rock-cut ditch is 10m across and more than 3m deep, though now half silted up. Radiocarbon dating from the excavation of this ditch places the building of the ditch in the third millennium BC. Despite the size of the ditch there is no trace of a surrounding earthwork, and an estimated 4,700 cubic metres of rock must have been shifted to complete the excavation. All this implies an organised society with a united belief in some form of cosmology or religion.

“Nearby is an isolated menhir, the Comet Stone, set on a platform beside the stumps of two other stones. Several other stones stand between this and the Bridge of Brodgar. There are also several large mounds and smaller tumuli in the area, which are probably Bronze Age, as well as another circular mound to the north-west called the Ring of Bookan (HY284145). It seems that theBrodgar area remained important during the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC. at least, and today it still has a magnetic attraction.” 

Tait adds more, saying: “There are a variety of astronomical alignments which may have been intended by the builders of the Standing Stones. While many stones are missing, simple observation suggests many possibilities. These relate to the solstices and the equinoxes as well as times such as Beltane (Old May Day). At winter and summer solstices the sunrises and sunsets align with the stones and notches in the hills. Other outlying standing stones may be markers for specific times of the year also. At spring and autumn equinoxes, viewed from the Comet Stone, the sun sets just glancing of the westernmost stone.”  

Reader’s Digest (1977) adds: Stenness, Mainland Orkney. Couples in the parish (Stenness) once made betrothal vows among the two famous stone circles in the district. They then swore constancy at the Odin Stone (a monolith destroyed in the 19th century) by joining hands through the hole in the stone’s centre.” The AA (1968) also tells us: “Stenness Mainland, Orkney. The Ring of Bookan is really a cairn of the Maes Howe type, but has been largely destroyed. The great surrounding ditch, however, is still in existence. Half a mile to the north-east is the Ring of Brodgar, a henge monument. The external bank has now disappeared, but the circling ditch still exists and encloses an area of 370 ft across, with two entrances.” 

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Childe, Gordon & Simpson, Douglas, Ancient Monuments — Scotland — Illustrated Guide Volume VI,  H.M.S.O., Edinburgh, 1959.

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

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

The AA, Treasures of Britain And Ireland, Drive Publications Limited, London, 1968.

More info here:

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.



William Walker’s Stone, Far Slippery Ford, Newsholm Dean, Near Oakworth, West Yorkshire

William Walker’s Stone at Far Slippery Ford, Newsholm Dean, near Oakworth, West Yorks.

Close-up of William Walker’s Stone at Far Slippery Ford, near Oakworth.

NGR: SD 99905 40664.  In the middle of a farmer’s field next to a drystone wall at Far Slippery Ford, Newsholme Dean, near Oak-worth, in west Yorkshire, there is a large glacial rock which is locally called William Walker’s Stone. The rock takes its name from a local farmer who had farmed the fields around here. After his passing in 2002 an inscription to his memory was carved onto the bottom of the rockface; there are a few more recently carved inscriptions on the rock. Also of interest: there are several faint cup-marks on the top surface of the rock and a partial ring with cup-markings inside it, but these are now very faint and difficult to make out when the light is not good, although when its raining these carvings are more visible to the eye. There are other cup-marked rocks and boulders 730 metres to the east at Greystones Farm. These erratic rocks and boulders, known as earth-fast, were deposited by the retreating glacier moving southwards 13,000-15,000 years ago; then coming forward in the late Neolithic and early Bronze Ages our distant ancestors carved these cup marks onto the smooth rock faces. From the A6068 at Cowling take Oakworth Old Lane (past the graveyard), Piper Lane, Buckstone Lane, Dick Lane, Long Gate, then Far Slippery Ford Lane to Walker’s Farm (on your left); here take the gated trackway (opposite) for a while until you see the boulder up against the wall in the field over to the SW.

Close-up of the partial ring carving on William Walker’s Stone.

Cup-marks and a ring carving on William Walker’s Stone.

William Walker’s Stone is around 6 feet high and lies on its own here against a drystone wall. There are, though, other similar earth-fast rocks and boulders over to the east at Greystones and, further to the north on Sutton Moor, there are the Buck Stone, Hitching Stone, Kid Stone and Quicken Stone. But William Walker’s Stone is the only stone of those to have definite prehistoric cup-and-ring markings, which are also known as petroglyphs. There are said to be perhaps up to twenty cup-markings (circular depressions) on the top of the stone and a very worn ring can just be made out next to a small and shallow rock basin. The partial ring has several cup-markings around its edge and within it, which almost make it look like a face. There are maybe a few other cups with rings in a line on the upper side of the rock, though these might be more recent. There are also some curious grooves on the top of the stone but these might be naturally-formed features caused by weather-related erosion. The Northern Antiquarian discovered the rock carvings on William Walker’s Stone back in 2006, and, they also noted what might be a boundary mark with the letters “I W”, although the stone does not appear to have ever marked any such boundary!

Near the bottom of the eastern face of the stone can be found an inscription or epitaph to the memory of a local farmer, William Walker. The inscription is difficult to read now due to moss growing in the lettering, but it looks to say: William Walker Farmed here 1963 to 2002. The Walker family still farm here and their farmhouse is on the opposite side of the lane from the gated trackway. And another inscription, possibly to another farmer, reads: F. Allen 1958-63.

On your way back to the track/footpath you will notice a nice little well in the grassy field. I don’t know anything about how old it is but obviously the spring is very ancient. Water issues out of a plastic pipe and into a rectangular stone basin, which is flat to the ground. There is a channel allowing the water to overflow out of the basin and into a stony area at the front and then downwards into the field. The water looks very clear coming out of the pipe.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

William Walker Stone, Keighley Moor, West Yorkshire | The Northern Antiquarian (

William Walker Stone (Keighley Moor) [IAG0b] Rock Art : The Megalithic Portal and Megalith Map:

Greystones Farm Cup-Marked Rocks, Near Newsholme Dean, West Yorkshire | The Journal Of Antiquities

Slippery Ford :: Survey of English Place-Names (

Copyright © Ray Spencer, THe Journal of Antiquities, 2021.


Lowlands Well, Wycoller, Lancashire

Lowlands Well at Wycoller. Only these stones now remain.

NGR: SD 9317 3944. The location of Lowlands Well was at the side of Wycoller Beck, 25 metres to the northwest along the farm track from Lowlands Bridge, on the grassy verge opposite Lowlands Farm. However not much remains of the well today, apart from two large recumb-ant stones, or is it just one complete stone, on the grassy area beside the beck – one stone having a deep groove through it and the other stone a shorter niche carved into it. At the front of these stones stood a large stone water-trough. You can still make out the depression in the grass where the trough used to be. A pipe that came across the beck from a well at the bottom of Lower Pepper Ing Field on the other side of the beck was very precariously sup-ported in the middle of the flowing water; the spring water then flowed through the pipe which went through a round hole in a long flat stone slab standing upon the two recumbant stones. The trough was originally covered over with a wooden lid in order to stop anything from dropping into the water. The well water was then collected by the family at the farm and by other residents in the village of Wycoller, near Trawden in Lancashire. However in more recent times when the trough and its piped-water supply was not needed it was taken away, but when did it go? and where did it go to? Maybe another local farm took the water trough?

Lowlands Well, Wycoller from E. W. Folley’s Romantic Wycoller 1949

There were a few other water troughs in Wycoller village; indeed one other trough had three stone steps inside and was 7 ft 6” long x 4 ft 6” wide and was made from a solid piece of gritstone; it was dragged on rollers by seventeen pones, from Wycoller Hall to a farm at Nelson, so the legend goes, according to Cookson & Hindle in their 1973 book Wycoller, though Lowlands Well was always the main source of drinking water there. Looking at the two remaining recumbant stones, opposite Lowlands Farm, it would seem the water pipe was originally positioned lower down and coming through the middle of these stones where the groove is, but the black and white photo from Ebenezer W. Folley’s Romantic Wycoller in 1949 shows a lady collecting water at the well, and in this old photo we clearly see the pipe higher up and coming through the long slab, so there must have been a problem with the beck flooding, and the water-pipe having to be raised to a much higher, safer position; and there have been some very bad floods in Wycoller Dene back in the past. Lowlands Farm, opposite the well, dates from between the 17th and 19th centuries, and was the home of the Wilkinson family in the 1900s. It was Alfred Wilkinson who wanted to purchase the Wycoller Estate in 1972 but nothing came of it and soon afterwards Lancashire County Council came in with the Wycoller Country Park scheme which took off the following year, says John Bentley in his 1993 book Portrait of Wycoller. 

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Bentley, John,  Portrait of Wycoller, Wycoller Country Park Project Townhouse School, Nelson, Lancs., 1993.

Cookson, Stanley & Hindle, Herbert, Wycoller, Hendon Publishing Co. Ltd., Hendon Mill, Nelson, Lancs, 1973.

Lowlands Farmhouse, Trawden Forest, Lancashire (

Lowlands Well, Wycoller, Lancashire | The Northern Antiquarian (

The Three Ancient Bridges, Wycoller, Lancashire | The Journal Of Antiquities

Wycoller – Wikipedia

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.

St John The Evangelist, Escombe, County Durham.

Escombe Church near Bishop Auckland. Photo is courtesy of Anne T.

NGR: NZ 18929 30139. The well-preserved little church of St John the Evangelist, Escombe, stands on Saxon Green in the middle of the village of Escombe, in Co Durham, and is 2 miles to the west of Bishop Auckland. There has been a church on this site since 670-75 AD and there is still much early Saxon work to be seen inside and outside the present church, in-cluding some Anglo-Saxon crosses, which date from the 7th-10th centuries AD, but St Bede does not mention it. Some Roman inscribed stones built into the outer walls obviously date from several centuries before the actual church. The churchyard is roughly circular so this little church must stand on a sacred site. Much of the stonework of this 7th-century building came from the nearby Roman Fort of Binchester (VINOVIUM), which stood on the bank of the River Wear. St John’s has seen various periods of restoration, particularly in 1875-80, when the roof had to be restored. At the SW side of Bishop Auckland take the B6282 for a couple of miles. Stay on this road S and then W, then take the country road heading N to the village of Escombe – St John’s Church is near the centre of the village on Saxon Green.

Nigel & Mary Kerr (1982) tell us that: “The little church of St John is an excellent example of early Anglo-Saxon work. Standing tall and austere in an almost circular churchyard, its majestic antiquity is unmarred by the tasteless modern houses which sur-round it. This is one of the best-preserved Anglo-Saxon churches in England and, apart from a short break during the last century, worship has probably continued here for 1,300 years.  Nothing is known of the foundation of the church, and the dedi-cation is unhelpful. The main fabric is of 7th-century date, and some have claimed that its simplicity shows continuity from Celtic timber buildings. The Venerable Bede makes no mention of the church in his History of the English Church and People which was finished in 731. This has led some to question the early dating, but Bede only mentioned churches germane to his narrative, so the omission is not critical.

“The gables of the nave have been restored; the ‘crow step’ pattern may therefore be later. The walls are over two feet (61 cm) thick and 23 feet (1 metre) high. Huge quoin-stones, some  nearly two feet (61 cm) high and three or four feet (1 metre) long, are set on edge and extend along each wall alternately; hence the name ‘side alternate’ quoins. Many of  the stones show character-istic Roman diamond tooling and were doubtless taken from the nearby fort at Binchester. A steeply pitched roof line, perhaps of a porch, can be seen on the west wall. The blocked doorway in the north wall of the chancel led into a small chapel, called a porticus, which was excavated in 1968. The present south porch is later. Just to the east of it, high up in the wall, an original sundial may be seen, decorated with a carving of a serpent.

“Internally, the lofty nave is complimented by a tall chancel arch, a further example of re-used Roman work. The small chancel has a simple Saxon carving behind the altar. The four Saxon nave windows, round-headed on the south side and square on the north, are strongly splayed internally to admit more light. They are now glazed, but vertical grooves for wooden shutters show the original arrangement; some window glass was found during the excavation of the north porticus, however. A small section of early cobbled flooring is preserved at the west end of the nave.  As Escombe is older than St Lawrence’s at Bradford-on-Avon and Odda’s Chapel at Deerhurst, it is the earliest largely complete Anglo-Saxon church in England, and well worth a visit.”  

Arthur Raistrick (1972) says that: “Escomb church stands one and a half miles to the west of Bishop Auckland, on the south bank of the Wear. It is the only parish church of the seventh or eighth century, in this country, still surviving in its entirety. It is small but very high and plain, and achieves a great dignity. The nave is long and high, with a nearly square chancel beyond it, separated by a chancel arch of carefully fitted well-cut long and short work. These very large blocks are probably taken from the Roman fort of Vinovia, Binchester, not far away. The windows are very small and very deeply splayed on the inside, two on the north side with straight heads, and two on the south with round  heads. A few later windows have been inserted to light the building. 

Escombe Cross. Photo: Anne T.

In the church porch there’s a beautifully carved section of a cross-shaft which is said to date from the late 7th to early 8th century AD, and might have been part of a taller preaching cross that once stood outside the church, while located behind the altar is an incised cross-slab, or was this a grave cover, from the 9th century AD; this may have originally stood outside the church and to have been part of a preaching cross, or the preaching cross itself? There is also a stone with an eagle carved onto it that is dated to the 9th century AD and is also to be found inside the porch. There are other fragments of Celtic and Anglo-Saxon carvings in St John’s. On the gable end of the south porch can be seen a very interesting sundial from the 7th or 8th century AD.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Many thanks to Anne T for letting me use her two photos which are copyright © Anne T.

Kerr, Nigel & Mary, A Guide to Anglo-Saxon Sites, Paladin Granada Publishing Limited, St Albans, Herts & London, 1982.

Raistrick, Arthur, The Pennine Dales, Arrow Books Ltd., London, 1972.

Escomb Cross Ancient Cross : The Megalithic Portal and Megalith Map:

Escomb Saxon Church | Official Website for one of the most complete Saxon Churches in Europe

THE SAXON CHURCH, Non Civil Parish – 1292122 | Historic England

Escomb Church – Wikipedia

Anglo-Saxon Sites in County Durham and Northumberland – Keys To The Past

Some Surviving Churches – Wilcuma

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.

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Childe the Hunter’s Tomb, Dartmoor, Devon

Childe’s Tomb on Dartmoor by P. H. Rogers (1826) – Dartmoor – A Descriptive Poem by N. T. Carrington

Childe’s Tomb on Dartmoor. (Photo by Herbythyme (talk | contribs). Creative Commons.

NGR:- SX 62579 70302.  On the south-eastern side of Fox Tor Mires, 500 metres to the north of Fox Tor, on Dartmoor, in Devon, is a solitary late 19th century stone cross known as ‘Childe the Hunter’s Tomb’ or ‘Childe the Hunter’s Cross’. There are some local legends attached to this cross and what lay beneath it – because we know there was an ancient burial tomb or Kistvaen with an outer kerb. In the 11th century a Saxon nobleman or thane called Ordulph was out hunting on his horse upon the moor but he became lost in a snowstorm and eventually died in the freezing conditions; his body was buried by the monks of Tavistock with a cross erected on that very spot, although the burial tomb beneath the cross predated Childe the Hunter and was of prehistoric origins. There are many other ancient burial cairns in this area. Originally the cross stood on blocks of granite which formed the tiered steps, but, these are now in a rather sorry, jumbled state and a lot of the stones were, sadly, robbed-away to build a nearby farmhouse in the early 19th century.  In the west at Blowing House near Burrator Reservoir, Southern Dartmoor: take the trackway heading E onto the moor for 4 miles to reach Whiteworks, then, take the path SE across Fox Tor Mires for a few miles towards Fox Tor – the 1.3 metre high cross can be seen over to the NE, but there’s no proper footpath leading to it.

Crispin Gill (1976) tells us: “Legend has it that Childe the Hunter was buried here. Overtaken when hunting on the Moor by a snowstorm he slew his horse, disemboweled the animal and used it as a shelter from the storm. But he froze to death, leaving a message that whoever gave his body Christian burial would have his lands of Plymstock. The monks of Tavistock found the body and were carrying it across the Moor when the people of Plymstock sought to bar their way by blocking the bridge over the Tavy. So the monks threw a bridge across the river further up, and gave his body burial. It must be said that Tavistock Abbey, and the Dukes of Bedford who acquired the land after the dissolution of the monasteries, did own Plymstock, and a bridge east of Abbey Bridge at Tavistock is still called Guile Bridge. 

“But when Childe’s Tomb is examined it is found to be a kistvaen, a prehistoric grave, overlaid with slabs of stone and surmoun-ted by a clearly-modern cross. There was an earlier cross surmounting a monument, mentioned early in the seventeenth century, which was thrown down and the stones used to build Fox Tor Farm in 1812. The ruins of the farm can be seen north-east across the River Swincombe. Childe’s Tomb was restored as we know it in 1885, with a new cross, but why the kistvaen was chosen is a mystery. The story is confused, but the late H. P. R. Finberg in Devonshire Studies pieces together the story of a giant Devon landowner buried at Tavistock Abbey, to which he left much land, and who was in his day a great hunter. ‘Childe’ he points out was a title of honour (like Childe Roland) in the eleventh century, the time of this giant. The story that has come down to us in Finberg sees as ‘an almost perfect specimen of folk-lore based on facts'”.

“On Fox Tor there is a 10th-century Saxon noble’s memorial called Childe’s Tomb. Lost in a blizzard, the nobleman cut open his horse and crawled inside for warmth. Before he died, he wrote his will in the horse’s blood on a nearby rock”, according to Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain (1977).

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Gill, Crispin, David & Charles Leisure & Travel Series — Dartmoor, David & Charles  (Publishers) Limited, Newton Abbot, Devon, 1976.

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

Childe’s Tomb – Wikipedia

Childe the Hunter / Childe of Plimstock (Roud 23155) (

Wayside cross 1120m ENE of Childe’s Tomb, Dartmoor Forest, Devon (

Childe’s Tomb Cross | Legendary Dartmoor

Childe’s Tomb (

Childe’s Tomb – Academic Kids

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.

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The Discovery of Roman Shrines on Scargill Moor, County Durham

Head of  Silvanus crowned with pine by Carole Raddato. (Creative Commons).

NGR: NY 9987 1030. In 1945 two Roman shrines about 15 metres apart were discovered by a shepherd on the bleak Scargill High Moor, in County Durham, about 3 miles to the south of the Roman fort of Lavatrae (Bowes). Inside these stone structures were altar-stones with inscriptions to the Roman god Vinotonus, also known as Silvanus, who was the god of the countryside, the moorland, the woodland, and animals. The two shrines were built at the western side of the East Black Syke, a stream which runs off the larger Eller Beck, and due to this the little buildings have suffered from erosion from the stream and some of the stonework having been washed away. Both shrines were set-up by Roman officers of the Thracian Cohort who were stationed at nearby Lavatrae (Lavatris). A year after the discovery of the shrines County archaeologists exca-vated and removed the altars and other artefacts, and deposited them in the Bowes Museum. From Gilmonby head S then SE on country lanes to The Rigg, then take the track heading SSE for a few miles to link up with a track heading W and then S onto the moor; this track heads down the East Black Syke beck on the opposite side from where the shrines were discovered. The Bowes Museum is on Newgate in Barnard Castle, while Bowes Roman fort lies under the Castle and St Giles’ Church on The Street in Bowes.

Arthur Raistrick (1972) tells us more about this, saying: “During 1945 two shrines were found on the side of a small stream, East Black Sike, just above its junction with the Ellerback. This is on the wild Scargill Moor about two miles south of the Bowes fort, at NY 998105. One shrine is a small rectangular building 12 ft 8 in. by 6 ft 3 in. inside, with walls 2 ft thick built of partly-dressed grit stones, and still standing in part to more than 3 ft high. The wall towards the stream has been destroyed by erosion. The floor was flagged and the burnt remains of a thatched roof covered it. The second shrine was of similar structure but was circular, 17 ft in diameter. At the middle of the back wall of each was an altar, and in the circular shrine the bases and fragments of six other altars, with some coins and pottery. The altar in the rectangular shrine has an inscription:                                                                                                                                              VINOTONO                                                                                                                                                                                                                  SILVANO. IVI                                                                                                                                                                                                              SECUNDVS                                                                                                                                                                                                                  COH.I.THRAC.                                                                                                                                                                                                           V.S.L.L.M.                                                                                                                     and this can be translated: ‘To Vinotonus Silvius Julius Secundus Centurion of the First Cohort of Thracians gladly and willingly fulfilled his vow’. The inscription on the altar of the circular shrine can be read: To the God Vinotonus, Lucius Caesius Frontinu prefect of the First Cohort of Thracians from Parma, gladly, willingly, and deservedly fulfilled his vow’.

“Silvanus was the god of the wild uncultivated land and of the wild creatures in it. At Scargill, the first altar identifies him with Vinotonus, the god of stream and place. The altars belong to the early part of the third century and the pottery suggests that the shrines were used intermittently into the fourth century, when the Roman officials felt like thanking the gods for a successful hunt. 

Raistrick writing in 1972 adds to the above, saying: “In the wild moorlands of Bollihope, tributary to the Wear valley, an altar was erected to Silvanus Invictus by Gaius Tetius Veturius Micanus, prefect of the Sebosian cavalry regiment, who gave thanks ‘after catching a lovely boar which previous hunters had hunted in vain’. In Weardale at Eastgate (the gate-house of the Bishop of Durham’s hunting park some centuries later), Aurelius Quirinus, a prefect of the first cohort of Ligonians, and commandant at Lanchester, erected an altar to Silvanus between A.D. 234 and 244. It may well be that natives found employment or were con-scripted into the hunt, driving, carrying, tending horses, and acting as general followers, or possibly by their local knowledge and skill contributing to the success of the hunt.”  

Richmond (1963) tells us that: “More romantic relics of ancient hunting are the shrines of Silvanus which sprang up in lonely cloughs on the high moors of the Pennines. These were erected by the commandants of Roman forts, wealthy men, mostly on the first rungs of their careers in the Imperial Civil Service, to commemorate successful hunting expeditions. Two are attested by altars only: one stone dedicated by Aurelius Quirinus, commandant at Lanchester (Co. Durham) and found at Eastgate in Weardale; the other erected by Sibinianus, commandant of a cavalry regiment, in remote Bollihope, ‘after catching a lovely boar which previous hunters had hunted in vain’. The third, boasting both altars and shrines, lay higher still, on the Eller Beck, south of Bowes (Yorkshire), 1,275 feet above sea-level. There the local commandant, Caesius Frontinus, and one of his centurions set up separate shrines to Vinotonus, a stream-god whom the centurion identified with Silvanus. The temples were simple structures, one round and the other rectangular, with stone walls and thatched roofs. Their ruins still half buried the altars when they were first observed by a shepherd.”   

More recently a flat stone, possibly a Roman tablet, was found in the East Black Syke stream near the shrines, but this was without any inscription, or maybe it has been eroded away by the water. Other fragments of stones and altars from the two shrine structures were deposited into the Bowes Museum, although some of them were probably washed down the stream.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Johnston, David E., Discovering Roman Britain, Shire Publications, Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire, 2002.

Raistrick, Arthur, The Pennine Dales, Arrow Books Ltd., London, 1972.

Richmond I. A., The Pelican History of England — Roman Britain, Penguin Books Ltd., Harmondsworth, Middlesex, 1963.

File:Head of Silvanus crowned with pine, Centrale Montemartini, Rome (21952718528).jpg – Wikimedia Commons

1602 ‒ Scargill Moor Roman shrines | Roman Inscriptions of Britain

RIB 732. Altar dedicated to Vinotonus Silvanus | Roman Inscriptions of Britain

Roman shrine on Scargill Moor, Scargill – 1002317 | Historic England

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