The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


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Ancient Cross St Oswald’s Church, Guiseley, West Yorkshire

Photo credit (see below).

NGR: SE 19415 42151. The 13th to 15th Century parish church of St Oswald King & Martyr on Church Street, Guiseley, West Yorkshire, houses a 9th Century Anglo-Danish cross-shaft with some heavily worn carved decoration on its two faces, although the head, or rather a cross-arm, is obviously from another cross, and    one other fragment. This carved cross-arm shows a strange serpent-like creature which is Danish in design, while the shaft itself has the more typical Saxon cord-work interlacing and is perhaps earlier than the head. The sides of the shaft are now very eroded. There was a church here in the early 12th Century and perhaps even one before that? There is some fine Norman architecture in the south doorway and arcade, and Early English south transept, while the N tower and arcade are 15th Century Perpendicular. St Oswald’s church, which is Grade 1 listed, was extended and modified in the early 20th Century. St Oswald’s Parish Church is located on Church Street, just south of Queensway, at the northeastern side of the west Yorkshire town.

Photo: (see below).

At the west end of the church nave stands a rather blackened and worn cross-shaft set into a chunky stone base, and on top another fragment which is a carved cross-arm from somewhere else, and which together stand at almost 6 feet high; but the arm is obviously from another cross – the main part of that would now seem to be lost. The cross-shaft itself is made-up of fragments of carved stonework from the Anglo Saxon period, which, had earlier been found inside the church where it had been in use as a door lintel,  but did it originally stand out in the churchyard?  The front face, as it stands, has intricate cord-work interlacing formed into a sort of trellis – or, according to W. G. Collingwood, “a scimitile trellis”, and nice cord-work scrolls – although those at the top of the trellis are smaller; or are they spirals? Collingwood said there was a sword through the centre of the trellis. Above that (lower cross-arm) a smaller section of curving cord-work interlacing which is better than that below, and what is probably a line of knots? There is now very worn flat mouldings on the edges. See The Corpus of Anglo Saxon Stone Sculpture’ website, below.

The cross-arm (top) shows a dragon-headed serpent eating its tail. This is probably the ‘Midgard Serpent’ and likely to be 10th Century and Danish. Beneath the serpent is a half circle or archway. The opposite side (against the wall, and not visible) has a panel with similar carvings to the front, but damaged. There is a moulding on the left-hand side (edge). The cross-arm (top) shows a possible animal carving that is damaged. See ‘guiseleywithesholt’ website, below. Also see ‘The Corpus of Anglo Saxon Stone Sculpture’ website, below.

John & Caitlin Matthews (1988) say:Midgard Serpent (N) Also called Jormundgand. The monstrous son of Loki and Angrboda. He grew until his body encircled the earth and he could capture his own tail. Placed in the sea by Odin, he writhed so as to cause tempests. He will only be destroyed by Ragnorok, according to Crossley Holland (1980).  Please         note: (N) Norse.

Robert A Carter (1976) tells us St Oswald’s was: “Extensively restored in the second half of last century and much enlarged in 1910 by Sir Charles Nicholson. Nevertheless it retains Norman and Early English work. The pulpit and a pew in the south chapel with the initials of Sir Walter Calverley on the door are seventeenth century but most of the other Jacobean style woodwork is by Nicholson. Good woodcarving, including the rood beam erected in 1921, by the Italian artist Gulielimo Tosi. Fragments of Anglo Saxon sculpture. Two literary associations: Patrick Bronte married Maria Bramwell here in 1812 and this was the parish church of many ancestors of the American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.”    

Also of interest in the church below the arch (at the side of the entrance) can be found a large stone bearing a consecration cross; there were originally seven of these tiny crosses.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Photos are by Patrick John Leonard. Many thanks Patrick.

Carter, Robert A., A visitor’s guide to Yorkshire Churches, Watmoughs Limited, Idle, Bradford, West Yorkshire, 1976.

Matthews, John & Caitlin, The Aquarian Guide To British And Irish Mythology, The Aquarian Press (Thorsons), Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, 1988.

http://www.ascorpus.ac.uk/catvol8.php?pageNum_urls=91

More info here:  http://guiseleywithesholt.org.uk/our-churches/st-oswalds-church-guiseley/the-guiseley-cross/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Oswald%27s_Church,_Guiseley

https://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/YKS/WRY/Guiseley/PhotoFrames/GuiseleyStOswald

https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=16750

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.

 

  


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Chichen Itza, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, South America

Stepped pyramid of El  Castillo at Chichen Itza. Photo credit: James Stephen Strickland.

‘Temple of the Warriors’ at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, before all the trees were cleared away.

Latitude 20.684285. Longitude -88.567783. In the north of the Yu-catan Peninsula, Mexico, South America, lie the ancient ruins of the Mayan city of ‘Chichen Itza’ (meaning “at the mouth of the well of the Itza”), which is located in Tinúm Municipality (Yucatan State) some 38 kilometers (24 miles) to the west of Valladolid on the 180 road – just to the southeast of the village of Piste. This remarkable, and quite mysterious site, is a large complex of Mayan temples, halls, strange beast sculptures, human-figure statues (there is a reclining stone figure of Chac Mool at the Temple of the Warriors), and also carved walls, and, in the centre of the court-yard is the stepped pyramid of ‘El Castillo’ (also called the ‘Temple of Kukulkan’). The ruined buildings and temples are thought to date from the Pre-Columbian period 550 AD to 1250 AD and to span three historical Mayan periods: Late Classic, Terminal Classic and Post Classic. Today, this much-visited archaeological site, covering four-square miles, comes under the guardian-ship of ‘The National Institute of Anthropology and History’. Chichen Itza was by far the largest of all the Mayan cities. There are antiquities displayed from Chichen Itza in the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City.

Wonders Of The World (1930) says of Chichen Itza: “The city, as it stands to-day, consists of a group of six stone buildings which are more or less intact, and the remains of numerous other stone structures in various states of ruin. All authorities agree that these buildings were the palaces of chiefs and officials, temples for the worship of the Maya gods and religious establishments for the housing of the priestly castes, the abodes of the poorer classes being palm-leaf huts, which have long since disappeared, but which in all probability were built in the same manner as the natives erect them to-day. 

Temple of the Warriors at Chichen Itza, before the restoration work had taken place.

Stepped Pyramid of El Castillo at Chichen Itza. Photo Credit: James Stephen Strickland.

“The Eyes of Jade: The building which is the most magnificent is, to give it its Spanish name, El Castillo. This is a truncated pyramid faced with solid slabs of stone with a building on top. From the ground-level to the top of the building it is over one hundred feet high, while the base lines of the pyramid are round about two hundred feet each. The four sides all but face the four cardinal points, and on each of them is a gigantic stairway leading to the summit. The main entrance to this building is on the northern side, looking towards the sacrificial pool.  The doorway, which has now partly fallen, still bearing traces of its former magnificence.  It is twenty feet wide and the lintel was supported by two pillars carved in the pattern of snakes and ending at their bases with enormous, open-mouthed, flattened heads of these reptiles, the now empty eye-sockets being at one time filled with eyes of polished jade.                                                        

A carved stone serpent (snake). Photo: James Stephen Strickland.

The stone carved animal heads.

“The building was erected for the purpose of a temple, and inside the doorway is the Maya Holy of Holies which was used only for the per-formance of the most sacred rites.  Whether the ghastly sacrificial acts celebrated on the pyramids of Mexico, in honour of the God of War and the Sun Diety, were enacted in this temple is not known, but it would seem probable that those flattened heads of serpents on the platform of the pyramid  served another purpose than that of  an ornamental base for the door-pillars.  If it was a fact that human sacrifices similar to those performed in Mexico were practiced in Yucatan, then it was on the flattened heads of these serpents that the ceremony of tearing the palpitating heart out of the human sacrificial victim’s body was performed by the Maya priests, and the body, scarcely lifeless, was rolled down the side of the pyramid to be sacramentally eaten by the hundreds of worshippers congregated on the plain below.

El Castillo (Temple of Kukulkan). Photo: James Stephen Strickland.

“Home of the Rain God: From the northern base of El Castillo a forest path, showing traces here and there of the remains of a cemented roadway, leads to one of the grimmest pools in the world. It is one of the wells, or cenotes, from which Chichen takes its name. An enormous circular basin, two hundred feet in diameter, its sides drop sheer and perpendicular over one hundred feet to its limestone basin. As you stand adventurously on the brink and, clutching the branch of a tree for safety, gaze over its precipitous edge into the black water seventy feet below, you do not wonder that the ancient Maya saw in its sepia depths the home of their Rain God. In a report sent to Madrid from Yucatan, in 1579, the sacrificial ceremony of throwing human victims into the cenote to appease the wrath of the Rain God in times of drought was described, but for centuries there was nothing to verify this tale. In 1906 the dredging of the bottom of the cenote was commenced, and several human skulls and bones were brought to the surface. On closer examination these human remains proved without exception to be those of females of immature age, and this confirmed once and for all the truth of the early Spanish report.

“To the south-west, one hundred and thirty yards from El Castillo, is what is now known as the Tennis Court. Running north and south are two parallel walls twenty-five feet high, thirty feet thick, two hundred and seventy-four feet long and one hundred and twenty feet apart. The court was used for a ball game of which the ancient Maya were very fond. It was played by teams whose object it was to get a ball made of rubber through a hole in a stone disc jutting out from the upper part of the wall. 

Chichen Itza ‘Wall of the Skulls’. Photo: James Stephen Strickland.

“The Mayas at Play: One of these big stone discs, measuring all but an inch of four feet in diameter, pierced through its eleven and a half inches of thickness with a hole one foot seven inches in diameter, is still in position. The Spanish historian tells us that the ball was bounced from the hips of the players through the ring, and the winning team had the right to take as their prize all the clothes of the spectators. At each end of the court stand the remains of a small temple, and on the eastern wall at the southern end is a building called the Temple of the Tigers, which gets its name from an elaborately carved frieze design of these animals around the wall coping. On the walls of the interior of this building are the most remarkable Maya paintings that have so far been discovered. They depict the scenes of everyday life as it was lived by the Mayas before the coming of the Spaniards, in greens, reds, blues, and yellows. The designs are crude and out of proportion, but much can be gleaned of the life of the past inhabitants of Chichen.

The Nuns House (Casa de las Monjas) at Chichen Itza, Yucatan.

El Caracol or ‘The Observatory’ at Chichen Itza, in Yucatan.

Workers without Tools:  To the south of El Castillo stands a ruined building, known as the Caracol, from a ‘“winding staircase”’ by which the top is reached from the interior. The building is turret-shaped and stands on two terraces one above the other, the lower one measuring two hundred and twenty feet by one hundred and fifty feet. The top of the building was about sixty feet from the ground-level and on it was originally an observation platform, which was, it is believed, used for the study of the heavens and was possibly connected with sun and star worship. Only a short distance from the Caracol is another building which is a fine example of Mayan architecture. It is known as the Casa de las Monjas (‘“Nuns’ House”’), probably on account of its having been set apart for the housing of that body of young maidens who were known to have performed special services in the temples, and whose ultimate fate was in all probability the cenote. It has well withstood the elements for four centuries, and given a good idea of Maya architectural ornamentation.

“The other buildings standing to-day at Chichen Itza are: the Akad-zib (‘“House of Mysterious Writing”’), which gets its name from a series of Mayan hieroglyphics over the doorway; the Chichanchob (‘“Red House”’), in allusion to the remarkable, possibly symbolic, decorations on the interior walls, which take the form of a hand painted in red, which design is, curiously enough, found also in parts of Asia; and a small building close against the Casa de las Monjas.”

There is an article (1952) in the book ‘Gods, Graves, And Scholars’ by Ceram, recalling the expedition to Chichen Itza of Edward Herbert Thompson, the American explorer. The following is a part of that article, in which we are told that: “A full moon was shining down on the jungle. Accompanied only by an Indian guide, the American explorer and archaeologist Edward Herbert Thompson—fifteen hundred years after the Mayas had left their cities and made a break for the country farther north—was riding through the New Empire that they had built for themselves, which had collapsed after the arrival of the Spaniards. He was searching for Chichén Itzá, the largest, most beautiful, mightiest, and most splendid of all Mayan cities. Horses and men had been suffering intense hardships on the trail. Thompson’s head sagged on his breast from fatigue, and each time his horse stumbled he all but fell out of the saddle. Suddenly his guide shouted to him. Thompson woke up with a start. He looked ahead and saw a fairyland.

“Above the dark tree-tops rose a mound, high and steep, and on top of the mound was a temple, bathed in cool moonlight. In the hush of the night it towered over the tree-tops like the Panthenon of some Mayan acropolis. The Indian guide dismounted, unsaddled his horse, and rolled out his blanket for the night’s sleep. Thompson could not tear his fascinated gaze from the great structure………Steep stairs overgrown with grass and bushes, and in part fallen into ruins, led from the base of the mound up to the temple. Thompson was acquainted with this architectural form, which was obviously some kind of pyramid. He was familiar, too, with the function of pyramids as known in Egypt. But this Mayan version was not a tomb, like the pyramids of Gizeh. Externally it rather brought to mind a ziggurat, but to much greater degree than the Babylonian ziggurats it seemed to serve mostly as a stony back providing support for the enormous stairs rising higher and higher, towards the gods of the sun and moon.

“Thompson climbed up the steps. He looked at the ornamentation, the rich reliefs. From the top, almost 96 feet above the jungle, he surveyed the scene. He counted a dozen scattered buildings, half-hidden in shadow, often revealed by nothing more than a gleam of moonlight on stone. This, then, was Chichén-Itzá. From its original status as advance outpost at the beginning of the great trek to the north, it had grown into a shining metropolis, the heart of the New Empire. Again and again during the next few days Thompson climbed on to the old ruins. ‘“I stood upon the roof of this temple one morning,”’ he writes, ‘“just as the first rays of the sun reddened the distant horizon. The morning stillness was profound…..Then the great round sun came up, flaming splendidly, and instantly the whole world sang and hummed. The birds in the trees and the insects on the ground sang a grand Te Deum. Nature herself taught primal man to be a sun-worshipper and man in his heart of hearts still follows the ancient teaching.”’

Sacred Well of Sacrifice or (Cenote) at Chichen Itza, which was dredged by E. H. Thompson.

Ceram (1952) adds that: “In one respect at least, Edward Herbert Thompson was very much the Schliemann of Yucatan, for when he pushed forward to Chichén-Itzá he was staking everything on a book that no one but himself took at all seriously. Schliemann himself could not have acted more credulously. Thompson also brings Layard to mind, for like Layard, who set out on his first expedition with only £60 in his purse and one companion to guide him, he plunged into the depths of the jungle with the most meager backing. And when he ran into difficulties that would have cowed any other man, he reacted with all of Petrie’s stub-bornness. We have seen that when the world was excited by Stephens’s first discoveries, the question was hotly debated whether the Mayas were the descendants of the people of the lost Atlantis, one of the lost tribes of Israel, an offshoot of the primordial American Indian stock, or what not. As a budding archaeologist, Thompson defended the Atlantean theory of Mayan descent in an article published in 1879 in a popular periodical. This was one of his very first ventures into print. The special problem of origins slipped into the background of his critical consciousness, however, when he actually went to Yucatán in 1885. At this time he was twenty-five years old, the youngest man in the American consular service. Once on the spot, he had no time for theory. It was an instinct rather than a considered judgment that drew Thompson to Yucatán. He took a long chance on the validity of Diego de Landa’s reports. In one of the volumes written by the archbishop he discovered the story of the Sacred Well, the cenote of Chichén-Itzá. Basing his account on old Mayan stories, de Landa described how, in times of drought or disaster, processions of priests and common people went to the Sacred Well of Sacrifice to propitiate the angry gods who lived in the depths. The marchers brought offerings with them to appease the diety, including beautiful maidens and captive warrior youths. After solemn ceremonies the maidens, de Landa said, were cast into the well, which was so deep that no victim ever rose to the surface.

“But there was to be more to de Landa’s story.  It was a custom, he said,  to throw in rich offerings after the sacrificial victims—household utensils, ornaments, gold. Thompson had read that ‘“if this land once contained gold, the largest part of it must be in the Well.”’ Generally this description had been dismissed as a quaint old tale with a great deal of rhetorical flourish and little factual basis. But Thompson accepted it as gospel truth, and he was determined to prove the validity of his belief. When he looked down on the Way to the Well of Sacrifice from the pyramid platform, little did he know what toil was to be his before arriving at the goal.” 

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

All the coloured photos are by James Stephen Strickland. Many thanks James. 

Ceram C. W., Gods, Graves, And Scholars — The Story of Archaeology, Victor Gollancz Limited in association with Sidgwick And Jackson Limited, London, 1952.

Wonders Of The World (forward by Sir Philip Gibbs, K.B.E.,) Odhams Press & Hutchinson & Co. (Publishers) Ltd., London, 1930.

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

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

https://www.visitmexico.com/en/main-destinations/yucatan/chichen-itza

https://www.chichenitza.com/

http://www.haciendachichen.com/ruins.htm

More info here: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/06/science/chichen-itza-mexico-mayan.html

http://museu.ms/museum/details/16762/national-museum-of-anthropology

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/world-heritage/chichen-itza/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.

 

 

 


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Cup-And-Ring Stone in Museum Gardens, York, North Yorkshire

Photo: See below.

NGR: SE 5996 5209. In the Yorkshire Museum Gardens, on Museum Street, at York, North Yorkshire, there’s a very nice cup-and-ring marked stone with well-defined carvings (petroglyphs) that date from the Bronze Age. There were originally two carved stones here, but the other one has been lost; the other stones alongside (which people sit on) are not of any real interest. This rectangular block/slab of stone stands beneath a tree at the side of one of the main footpaths at the southwest side of the Yorkshire Museum. There are at least six small cups and a number of concentric circles, and one connecting groove carved on this rough hewn slab of stone. However, there is much uncertainty as to just where the stone came from. Some think it came from a larger block of rock on the north York Moors, to the north of Whitby, while another thinks that it came from the Ravenscar area on the east Yorkshire coast. Could it have come from a cist grave on the moors? And why, and how, did it come to be in the museum gardens at York? At least a couple of these questions cannot really be answered with any great certainty.

Having probably been hewn from a larger rock-face somewhere above Robin Hood’s Bay, or from the Ravenscar area, on the East Yorkshire coast in the late 19th Century – the stone was presented to the York Philosophical Society, who in turn in I would imagine, gave it to the Yorkshire Museum. But the carving should really be undercover inside the museum. There are six small cup-markings with several concentric rings around each of them, and the middle carving, which has four rings, has a groove running to the edge of another ring (where there is a break in the stone) and then out to the edge of the stone itself,  and there looks to be another ‘possible’ (shorter) groove running from a cup-mark and then out to the edge.  So, all-in-all, this is a very interesting panel of rock-art. The stone is also numbered ROB2A in Chappell & Brown’s ‘Prehistoric Rock Art in the North York Moors’ 2005 (PRANYM), according to the excellent website: stone circles.org.uk. See their website link, below.

Source / References & Related Websites:-

Photo is courtesy of Patrick John Leonard. Many thanks Patrick.

http://www.stone-circles.org.uk/stone/yorkmuseum.htm  

https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=16935  

https://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/7246/york_museum_gardens.html    

http://secretyork.com/tag/neolithic/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.

 


The Washington Family Coat-of-Arms Stone at St Oswald’s Church, Warton, Lancashire

Washington coat of arms, Warton Church by Karl & Ali (Geograph).

NGR: SD 49819 72316. On Main Street at the southwest side of Warton village, near Lancaster, Lanca-shire, is the 14th Century church of St Oswald, and housed inside is a heavily-worn stone plaque or shield which used to show the Washington family’s Coat-of-Arms; this very worn stone has become a place of pilgrimage for visiting American tourists. The stone was originally on the outer (west) wall of the church-tower, but because of the vulnerability to the carving from weather-related erosion in 1955 it had to be placed on the tower wall inside the church, and now has a glass cover over it. This, then, (the) Washington Family Coat-of-Arms is generally believed to be the source of the ‘Stars and Stripes’ emblem of the United States flag. Robert de Washington was (of a branch of the Washingtons of County Durham) and he settled in Westmorland in the late 15th Century, and later owned land at Warton.  It was from this branch of the Washington family that George Washington was descended.  Robert de Washington of Warton was a generous benefactor to the village church and also had the stone plaque   or shield placed on the exterior tower wall. 

Washington shield at Warton Church, Lancs.

Sydney Moorhouse (1958) says that: “Here, on the outside of the western wall of the fifteenth century tower is a stone shield greatly worn by the weather, displaying the armorial bearings of the Washington family — “Arg. 2 bars, Gul, 3 mullions of the 2nd, with crescent for difference” which according to Lucus, the Warton historian of the early eighteenth century, ‘“is a plain indication that this family, ancient and yet creditable in the town, where the Rev. Laurence Washington has a good estate, have been largerly contributory towards the building of this fabric”’. It is generally believed that this coat of arms was the source of the Stars and Stripes emblem of the United States.

“The Washingtons originated from a small village named Wessington, in County Durham, and even to-day there are Old Washington and Washington marked on the maps of that county. A branch of the family settled in Westmorland and eventually came into the possession of lands around Kendal and in the vicinity of Warton. It was from the branch that George Washington was descended.

“Towards the end of the fifteenth century, one Robert de Washington, according to Mr. T. Pape’s excellent little publi-   cation on ‘“George Washington’s Ancestors and Their Memorials in England”’, held the lordship of Tewitfield in the    Manor of Warton by Knights Service and fivepence yearly instead of doing his duty at Lancaster. This same man owned fifteen burgages in Warton and ‘“in all probability the Washington Coat of Arms carved in stone on the outer western wall of Warton Church tower was a record of this Robert Washington’s generosity in the building of a Church”’.

Moorhouse goes on to say that: “It was the grandson of this Robert Washington who married a member of the Kitson family, who had large estates in Northamptonshire, and his son Laurence left Warton in the reign of Henry VIII for Northamp-tonshire and later settled at Sulgrave Manor. These were the ancestors of the illustrious George. Need I continue the story? I do so to show that the line of ancestry is unbroken and quote from a description of Sulgrave in ‘“English Country Houses”’ by Ralph Dutton and Angus Holden:

‘“Laurence Washington died in 1584 and was buried in the parish church. He was succeeded by his son       Robert, who in 1610 sold the Manor to his nephew, Laurence Makepeace.  It was in 1657, during the Commonwealth, that John Washington, great-grandson of Robert, sailed to America and settled at           Bridges Creek, Virginia, where the famous great-grandson, George Washington, was born in 1732.”’

“Although the main branch gravitated to Northamptonshire, some Washingtons remained in Warton until just over a century ago. Lucas refers to one in his History. The last was Thomas, who was vicar from 1799 to 1823 and is buried there. 

Maxwell Fraser (Miss) writing in 1939, says: “There is a closer link with America at Warton, about a mile from Carnforth which, although not actually in the Lake District, is within easy reach of Grange, either across the sands, or by the road round the head of the estuary. There was a branch of the Washington family settled at Warton centuries ago, and the arms of Robert Washington were carved on the tower of Warton church, where they are now protected from the ravages of weather and tourists by a sheet of glass. Lawrence Washington left Warton in the reign of Henry VIII for Northampton, and later settled at Sulgrave, but a branch of the family remained at Warton, and Thomas, the last of the Warton Washingtons, was vicar from 1799 to 1823 and is buried there.”

Miss Fraser adds that in St Martin’s church at Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria: “………every American visitor is attracted by the stained-glass panels in the east window (top) which show the arms of the Washington family.” This would be the crest/shield of George Washington, who became the 1st President of the United States of America in 1789, and whose ancestor one John Washington of Warton, had it placed here in the 15th Century.

And, finally, Pevsner (1979) tells us more about Warton church, saying: “St Oswald. The oldest evidence is early C14: the S chapel Sedilia (pre-1300?), the s arcade, if it represents original evidence (it is C19), and a S aisle window. Perp W tower, chancel, and N arcade . — In one PEW set-in shields — from older bench ends? — TWO BENCH ENDS, dated 1571 and 1612, are in the vestry.* — FONT. The base is typical of 1661, its date in the one elementary geometrical pattern. Also dated 1661 the lead interior, and this has much finer, indeed very delicate, patterns. — PLATE. Unmarked Chalice; Paten of 1716 by S.L.; Flagon inscribed 1802.”

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Fraser, Maxwell (Miss), Companion Into Lakeland, Methuen & Co. Ltd., London, (Second Edition) 1939.

Moorhouse, Sydney, Twenty Miles around Morecambe Bay — a Guide To Local Beauty Spots & How To Reach Them, The Morecambe Bay Printers Ltd., (Fourth Edition) 1958.

Pevsner, Nikolaus, The Buildings of England — North Lancashire, Penguin Books Ltd., Harmondsworth, Middlesex, (Reprint) 1979.

Photo (top) by Karl & Ali: https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/4555166

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warton,_Lancaster

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

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

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

https://www.lancashirelife.co.uk/out-about/places/the-george-washington-connection-to-the-north-lancashire-village-of-warton-1-2370404

More info here: https://bitaboutbritain.com/imagine-if-george-washington-had-been-lancastrian/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.

 


Lexden Burial Mound (Tumulus), Near Colchester, Essex

Old Map of Colchester and Lexden Areas with Tumulus & Celtic town.

NGR: TL 97537 24712. In the back gardens of a row of houses on Fitzwalter Road at Lexden, 1 mile southwest of Colchester town centre, in Essex, is an ancient barrow (tumulus) with trees growing out of it. The area where the mound is located was originally called Lexden Park. It was con-sidered by historians and antiquarians to date from the late Iron Age period of pre-history and, probably constructed just before, or at, the Roman occupation of 43 AD. Traditionally, it has also been thought that the mound was where the British prince, Cunobelinus, was buried, although whether there is any truth in that remains to be seen. Colchester was originally called Camulo-dunum after Cunobelinus, King of the Catuvellauni. To the north of the tumulus is the site of a Celtic cemetery and, further to the northeast at Sheepen Farm the site of the Celtic town, which would have been inhabited in the time of Cunobelinus. When the tumulus was excavated in 1924 many artefacts were dis-covered, some of which were bronze. The 4-5 foot high barrow with its outer ditch is at the far south-western end of Fitzwalter Road (Handford Place), just before St Clare Road.

Benham’s (1946) tells of the site, saying: “The Lexden Tumulus is a burial mound situated in what was formerly Lexden Park, and was excavated in 1924. It has long been a local landmark, in fact Dr. William Stukeley (1687-1765) had noted it in 1758 as ‘“Prasutagus’s grave,”’ a fanciful and unfounded ascription. Morant, though not mentioning the mound in his History of Colchester, left a plan of it with manuscript notes. The Rev. Henry Jenkins (c.1860) called it a ‘”Beacon,”‘ regarding it perhaps as a mount or mound in the vicinity so described in Speed’s Map of Essex (1610). Roman remains were found in the mound in 1860 (an amphora and pottery). Though surrounded (at some distance) by a circular ditch the mound itself was ovoid in shape.”      

Lexden Burial Mound (Tumulus) bronze artefacts.

Benham’s goes on to say that: “The excavation in 1924 indicated that the mound was the burial place of some noted personage, probably before the Roman Conquest in A.D. 43. The objects discovered included : (1) fragments of burnt human bones; (2) fragmentary pottery, described as ‘“pre-Flavian,”’ or, at latest, of the first half of the first century; (3) masses of iron, of which several portions are apparently parts of a litter; (4) iron chain-mail (many fragments); (5) a bronze table about 13 in. long by 9¾ in. broad and about 3¼ in. high, standing on four small ball-footed legs, and adorned with pendent scroll-work (it is thought that this table may have been the base of a standard lamp); (6) bronze pedestal about 3½ in. square and 2 in. high; (7) small bronze foot, sandalled (part of a figure of which the remainder was not found); (8) bronze figure of Cupid, holding a bird, found near the pedestal; (9) neck and head of a bronze griffin originally the attachment (or handle) for a bowl; (10) a small bronze bull, lying down; (11) a small bronze boar (tusked); (12) other bronze objects and fragments, bosses (with traces of red enamel), large numbers of bronze studs of various sizes, some of which are supposed to have decorated harness, a bronze palstave (an implement or weapon devised  to fit in to a wooden handle, dating from the late Bronze Age, already at least 900 years old at the time of burial), etc.; (13) remains of leather clothing, with a buckle; (14) fragments of horn; (15) remains of fine gold tissue; (16) many trefoil-shaped silver ornaments, remains of silver buckles and silver studs; (17) silver medallion with head of  Augustus (Gaius Octavius, 65 B.C.—A.D. 14) said to be identical with that on denarii issued 17 B.C., cut out from an actual coin and soldered on a silver disc, enclosed in moulded silver frame. It is inferred that this must have been the burial of a personage of importance, and it has even been supposed that it may have been the funeral mound of Cunobelinus, the British King. The absence of all coins of Cunobelinus is significant.”       

Benham’s adds more, saying that: “Colchester has claims to be the oldest recorded town in Great Britain. It occupies the site of the British Camulodunum, the ‘“fort of Camulos,”’ the Celtic war god, and the “‘royal seat”’ or capital of the British King Kunobellinos, according to the historian Dio Cassius. The coins of Cunobelinus, with their legends CAMV for Camulodunum and CVNO for Cunobelinus, found in hundreds in Colchester, are substantial evidence in conformation of this statement.

“Cunobelinus is the Cymbeline of Shakespeare, though beyond the name the poet borrowed nothing of his story—either legendary or historical. Cunobelinus resigned from about 5 B.C. till his death about A.D. 43. He is described on his coins as son of Tasciovanus, whose coinage is also plentiful, and who was perhaps descended from Cassivellaunus (Caswallon), who resisted Julius Cæsar’s invasion of Britain in the year 54 B.C. Cassivellaunus made terms with the Romans and continued to reign after there departure. He is reputed to have seized Camulodunum about 50 B.C., taking it from Man-dubratius, who was restored to his sovereignty by Julius Cæsar. These latter details, however, cannot be accepted as authentic.

“The Celtic settlement was discovered to be a large area of wattle-and-daub huts, dotted over the hill now occupied by Sheepen Farm, from the river marshes on the north up to the plateau towards the south, very much in the manner of native ‘“kraals”’ in Africa. Great quantities of pottery were found, as well as moulds for the striking of Cunobeline’s coins. The pottery included native (British) ware and Roman ware imported from the Rhineland, N. and S. Gaul, and Italy. Brooches and bronze objects and coins were also discovered. The coins were mainly of Cunobelinus, but one of his predecessor, Tasciovanus, was unhearthed. Over 50 Roman coins were found, ranging up to Claudius (A.D. 41—54). The evidence showed that the Celtic site had been occupied by the Roman soldiers for many months, or even a few years, before the Roman Colony had been established to the S.E., thus changing the position of the town to that which it now occupies on the hill adjoining.

“The Celtic cemeteries were on the south side of the main settlement, many burials having been found in the Lexden Park area. Several lines of massive earthworks, including Gryme’s Dyke, protected Camulodunum on the west, running from the river Colne in the north to the Roman river in the south, thus cutting off the peninsula formed by those two rivers.”

Hawks (1975) regarding Colchester, says: “The town stands, as it were, at the junction of British history with prehistory. Cunobelin or Cymbeline, who united south-east Britain into a single powerful kingdom during the early years of our era, established his capital here in about 10 A.D. He chose a slope above the Colne just to the south-west of the present town at a place where now there is little for the visitor to see beyond a huge notice by which the Corporation have obligingly announced that this is the site of Camulodunum, capital of King Cymbeline. The outer dykes defending the settlement —comparable to those we have seen at Chichester and St. Albans……are still visible within the area of Lexden Park. These long lines of bank and ditch are typical of Belgic military ideas in contrast with the enclosed hill-fort of their immediate predecessors. The faint remains of the scattered city of Camulodunum are now under fields, houses and roads on the outskirts of Colchester. Excavation showed that Cunobelin, and after him, no doubt, his ill-fated sons ruled there until the time of the Roman conquest.” 

Darvill (1988) telling of the inhabitants of Camulodunum, says: “The Lexden Tumulus………contained the burial of one of their leaders, possibly King Addedomaros. Accompanying the cremation were many ritually broken objects including fine tableware, wine amphorae and jewellery. Following the Roman Conquest, Camulodunum became an important colonia for retired Roman army veterans.”

Priestley (1976) tells us Colchester is: “One of the earliest Roman towns to be founded in Britain. Colchester has a great deal to show the visitor. In days before the Roman conquest, Cunobelinus (Cymbeline) King of the Catuvellauni ruled the whole of SE England from his capital here. It was situated on flat land to the W and NW of the modern town and defended by an elaborate system of earthworks and dykes between 2 and 3 miles (3.2 and 8 km) distant from the town. Traces of these may still be seen and followed with the aid of an Ordnance Survey map.”

There is a second tumulus, though this one is not so well known, 665m to the northwest of the Lexden burial mound, on a grassy area in the middle of a modern housing estate (Marlowe Way) at NG: TL 96877 24882. This tumulus, known as ‘The Mount’, probably dates from around the same time as the one at Fitzwalter Road, Lexden.

Sources / References & Related Websites: 

Benham’s, Benham’s Colchester — a history and guide, Benham And Company Limited, Colchester, 1946.

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

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

Priestley, Harold, The Observer’s Book of Ancient & Roman Britain, Frederick Warne & Co Ltd., London, England, 1976.

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

https://colchesterheritage.co.uk/monument/mcc1356

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1019967

https://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=MEX34083&resourceID=1001

https://megalithix.wordpress.com/2009/12/20/lexden-tumulus/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.


Ditchley Roman Villa, Near Charlbury, Oxfordshire

A typical Roman villa in England, although Ditchley was smaller.*

NGR: SP 39932 20104. In a field about ½ a mile southeast of Ditchley Park, near Charlbury, Oxfordshire, are the visible earthworks of a Roman villa. This grassy, rectangular-shaped earthwork is to be found just to the east of a wooded area (Harry’s Plantation) in the location known as Watts Wells Field – northeast of Lodge Farm. Although it has always been called “Roman villa” more than likely it was a Roman farmstead, which had a boundary ditch (dyke) enclosing it and an entrance at the south side; but because it was still inhabited into the 5th century AD, ‘Romano-British’ farmstead seems more appropriate. The rectangular earthwork is said to be 330 x 300m. Nearby are remains of a Roman bath-house, ancient field system and Grim’s Dyke, and 1½ miles south is the Roman road (Akeman Street). 1½ miles northeast of Charlbury at the B4437 (Woodstock Road) take the lane north to Lodge Farm, then follow the footpath northeast and then east to the next field – the villa (site) is in this field, just a little to the south of the footpath.

The Wikipedia website has the following: “It was a collonaded house with outbuildings, threshing floors, and a granary with capacity for the produce of about 1,000 acres (400 ha) of arable land. It was surrounded by a rectangular ditch 360 yards (330 m) by 330 yards (300 m). The site is less than 2 miles (3.2 km) north of the course of Akeman Street Roman road and is one of a number of Roman villas and Romano-British farmsteads that have been identified in the area, apparently associated with the territory bounded by Grim’s Ditch. The villa site was identified by aerial archaeology in 1934 and excavated in 1935. It was found to have been first settled in about AD 70 with a set of timber-framed buildings, which were replaced in stone in the 2nd Century. In about AD 200 a fire severely damaged the stone buildings and the site was abandoned. The site was reoccupied early in the 4th century, and occupation on a more modest scale than before continued until the end of that century.” (See the link, below).

Ground plan of Ditchley Roman Villa, Oxfordshire (after Oxoniensia vol.i,p.28).

Richmond (1963) tells us that: “At Ditchley (Oxfordshire), the timber posts which formed the first version of the earliest house plainly indicate the simplest kind of structural beginning, comparable with the now rare but once common timber arcades of Norman domestic architecture, of which carpentry made a delightful thing. The first stone-built Ditchley house differed little from Lockleys or Park Street, and it is probable that only a loft-like first floor was provided, if at all. But about the turn of the first century A.D. there were added a new stone-built veranda and projecting end rooms which gave to the establishment both privacy and a new elegance. There was now room for re-creation and entertainment in what had been previously a workaday farm, wherein the whole house had lived together. Socially speaking, the new plan divided the household and accentuated the position of master and mistress. In Britain this type of house became widespread, and it brought the new province into touch with the mainstream of contemporary West-European domestic archi-tecture. For in Gaul or the Rhineland the design was generally common, and went with a sizeable farm. And so it was in Britain, for on the basis of its granary accommodation the Ditchley villa has been related to an estate of five hundred acres. This supplies, then, a kind of yardstick, however rough, by which the size and standing of different kinds of villas can be gauged. Even allowing for the fact that, on the ancient system of crop-rotation, one-third of the arable lay fallow each year, it becomes clear; that by this standard the numerous  bigger villas must have been related to very substantial estates indeed. Not enough is known about the social organization of such larger estates to say whether they were run by slaves or by crofter-labourers. But where a resident staff of labourers appears, their accommodation nearly always takes the form of a barn-dwelling, frequently ranged on one side of a farmyard or court. This structure, convenient for so many purposes, is planned with nave and aisles divided by timber columns. As in Friesian farm-houses today, the nave served for stores, tools, and livestock, while the aisles or the whole of one end of the building were partitioned to house the workers. In the form of a subsidiary building essential to the working of a farm this type of house was so general, even in the largest establishments, that its prototype has been sought in the pre-Roman days. But no proof of such antecedents has yet appeared, and it may well be that this type is borrowed from the Italian villa rustica. There are some villas also in which this type of house is the only domestic accommodation present, as for examples Clanville (Hampshire) or Denton (Lincolnshire). These represent either small tenant farms or bailiff-run establishments, where the distinction between tenant or supervisor and workers was less sharply defined. Some, as at Castlefield (Hampshire), are so primitive in their arrangements that any distinction seems out of the question.”

Hawkes (1975) with Roman villas in general, says: “These range in size and dignity from large “country houses” to quite modest farm-houses. They were most numerous and prosperous in the Home Counties, but frequent enough right across southern England, with noticeable concentrations in Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and the Cotswolds. The most elaborate villas were built round a courtyard; others had a main block with wings, very many consisted only of a single block with rooms opening on to an arcaded corridor. Their remains often include foundations of brick or stone walls, mosaic floors, small column bases, hypocaust columns from the central-heating system, and, of course, the usual Roman litter of bricks, tiles and potsherds. The buildings seem often to have been enclosed with an outer boundary ditch or wall, and the estates attached to them must sometimes have been extensive.” 

The Wikipedia websites also tells us that: “Some time before the villa was discovered, a hoard of 1,176 bronze Roman coins was found between Box Wood and Out Wood, about 600 yards (550 m) to 700 yards (640 m) northeast of the villa site. The coins range in date from about AD 270 onwards and seem to have been buried in a ceramic pot about AD 395, towards the end of the Roman occupation. The hoard was transferred to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford in 1935.

Grim’s Ditch, which passes through the present park and estate, is an ancient boundary believed to have been constructed during the Roman occupation of Britain in about the 1st century AD. The toponym ‘Ditchley’ is derived from a compound of two English words, meaning the woodland clearing (“-ley”) on Grim’s Ditch.” (See the Wikipedia Link, below).

Sources / References & Related websites:

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

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

*Liversidge, Joan, Then And There Series—Roman Britain, Longman, Green And Co. Ltd., London & Harlow, 1969.

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

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1009420

https://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=334570

https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/oxon/vol1/pp306-324

https://www2.rgzm.de/transformation/unitedKingdom/villas/VillaeLandscapes.htm

More information here Ashmolean Museum

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.

 


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The Multangular Roman Tower And Defensive Walls at York, North Yorkshire

The Multangular Roman Tower, Eboracum (York)

NGR: SE 60012 52072. At the east side of York city centre, just off Museum Street (A1036), and in the Yorkshire Museum’s gardens (at the north side) overlooking the River Ouse is the famous ‘Multangular Tower’, a defensive structure (with 10 sides or angles) belonging to the western corner of the Roman fort of Eburacum or Eboracum, which was built around the year 300 AD during the reign of Constantius I (Chlorus). The lower section of the tower with its nice, neat stonework is the Roman part whereas the top section with the larger stonework and arrow slits is 13th century. It is certainly the finest, and the best preserved, of all the Roman defensive structures in the city; and also there is a well-preserved 76 foot section of Roman wall (early 3rd century and still 17 feet in height, but without its parapet) running northeastwards from the Multangular Tower through the museum gardens toward Bootham Bar; along this section of wall there is the stump of an interval tower. Access to the York-shire Museum Gardens (close by Lendal Bridge) is from either Museum Street or Marygate. Also look out for the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey and St Leonard’s Hospital.

The Wikipedia website gives the following: “A low plinth or skirt extends out from the lowest course. It stands almost 30 feet (9.1 m) tall, has an external diameter of 48.5 feet (14.8 m) at the base and 46 feet (14 m) above the skirt. Length of each side varies from 7.5 feet (2.3 m) to 11 feet (3.4 m) on the inner face. The tower projects beyond the curtain wall to a distance of 36.75 feet (11.20 m). The foundations are concrete, atop which the tower extends having a rubble and mortar core between faced courses of small magnesian blocks. At 15 feet (4.6 m) a scarcement reduces the thickness of the wall from 5 feet (1.5 m) to 3.25 feet (0.99 m), which continues for a further 4 feet (1.2 m) before being capped by 11 feet (3.4 m) of 13th century masonry in which arrowslits can be seen”, according to Wikipedia. (See the Link, below).

Herman Ramm (1979) says that in: “About AD 300: The defenses were again rebuilt except for the section from the south-east to the north-east gates which includes the east corner. The new wall was similar to the old except that the facing was bonded to the core by a tile band and had a tile cornice. This can still be seen at the west angle where there is also the stump of a great projecting tower, the Multangular Tower, matched by another (not now visible) at the south angle. Along the south-west side, facing the Ouse, were six only slightly less imposing interval towers and a great gritstone gatehouse.

“The reasons for these changes are not always certain……but “is often said to be the result of another similar disaster, but the new architectural frontspiece added to the river front of the fortress suggests that it had attained a new dignity, probably that of becoming the seat of the new Dux Britanniarum, commander of the land forces of all Britain.

Herman Ramm goes on to say that: “Inside the fortress timber buildings have been found, for example near St. William’s College and off Blake Street, which must relate to the timber defences. The headquarters building was first built in stone in the early 2nd century (Trajan-Hadrian), but its next reconstruction in the early fourth century was Constantinian rather than Constantian. It was not demolished until the ninth century.”

Tom Garlick (1988) tells us that: “In the early 4th century the fortress was again strengthened by Constantius Chlorus following the troubles of 296. The river façade was now equipped with two fine polygonal angle towers, six close set interval towers and a new impressive towered gateway. These alterations made York one of the strongest defended and imposing fortresses of the Roman Empire. The south-west corner tower — the ten sided Multangular tower faced in small ashlar blocks — still survives in the Museum Gardens. Once fronted by ditches, its upper storey held powerful catapult artillery.

“Constantius I died at York and his son Constantine was proclaimed Emperor there. In the administrative reorganization of the 4th century, York became the headquarters of the Duke of Britain, a new military cavalry commander. In the third and fourth centuries Whitby jet was manufactured into rings, pins, necklaces and portrait medallions in the town and mar-keted in the Rhineland. By the late Empire there were Christian churches in the colonia and a bishop of York attended the church council in Arles in France in 314. The legionary garrison was evacuated in the late 4th century but town life seems to have continued into sub-Roman times and the Dark Ages.”

The Multangular Roman Tower at York (photo).

Mr Garlick adds more, saying that: “Today the fortress area, canabae and colonia lie buried beneath the modern city. The main lines of the camp’s streets are still preserved in Stonegate and Petergate, and the Minster stands over the Roman headquarters. Visitors can still inspect sections of the Roman defences. The Multangular tower is the finest survival, together with 35 feet of adjacent wall surviving to a height of 13 feet. Inside, the position of barracks is known, as is a bath house under the Mail Coach Inn in St. Sampson’s Square and the legionary head-quarters crosshall under the Minster. Modern buildings cover the canabae and the site of the presumed amphitheatre. No traces survive above ground of the colonia but its street plans and some of its buildings are known from excavation and chance finds. The cemeteries were extensive and lined the town’s approach roads. Visitors should establish the line of the Roman fortress and town walls as compared with the later medi-eval city walls and visit exposed Roman defences. The Yorkshire Museum contains an extensive collection of inscriptions and finds from the city which throw interesting light on the history of Eboracum and its inhabitants during the four centuries of Roman rule. In 1971 the city celebrated the 1,900 anniversary of its founding by Cerialis.” 

Richmond (1963) tells us: “At Eburacum (York) literature similarly records a shrine of Bellona, the Goddess of War, and there is a noble head of Constantine* as Caesar or newly-proclaimed Emperor.” *The head of Constantine can be seen in    The Yorkshire Museum.

Richmond goes on to tells us about jet, saying that: “Solinus describes British jet with interest, as a substance heated with water but quenched with oil and magnetic when rubbed. These paradoxical qualities endowed jet with almost magical esteem, and it became a favourite material for ornamental jewellery, much of which was manufactured at Eburacum (York). Hair-pins, spindles, finger-rings, and bracelets were made in great variety, some bracelets and many necklaces being ingeniously articulated in minute component pieces. Elaborately carved pendents and medallions, including family groups executed to order, and teddy-bears, represent either profitable lines of production.”

Sources / References & Related Websites:

Garlick, Tom, A Dalesman White Rose Guide — Roman Yorkshire, The Dalesman Publishing Company Ltd., Clapham, 1978.

Ramm, Herman, Roman York From A.D. 71, Yorkshire Architectural and York Archaeological Society, York, 1979.

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

The AA, The Illustrated Road Book Of England & Wales, The Automobile Association, London, 1962.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/York_city_walls#Multangular_Tower

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

Check out this website: https://yorkcivictrust.co.uk/heritage/civic-trust-plaques/roman-fortress/

http://www.historyofyork.org.uk/themes/roman-empire-governed-from-york/the-multangular-tower

https://historicengland.org.uk/services-skills/education/educational-images/multangular-tower-and-wall-museum-gardens-7913

http://secretyork.com/multangular-tower/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.

 

 

 

 

 


Wavertree (site of destroyed tumulus) in Liverpool, Merseyside

Collared cremation urns from destroyed tumulus at Wavertree. (After Ecroyd Smith) 1868.

NGR: SJ 391 893. In July 1867 while digging at the place then called Victoria Park in Wavertree, Liverpool, Merseyside, workmen in the process of building two new houses came across at least eight ancient burial urns in a tumulus or cemetery; however, they destroyed at least six of these without due care and attention, and only two were dug up and still in a reasonable state of preservation, and so they were given over to the guardianship of Liverpool museum for further safe-keeping. These collared funery urns, and a few other fragments, were later examined and found to date from the Bronze Age. However, the workmen who discovered the urns had at the same time “destroyed” the grave (tumulus) in which the urns had lay. The site where this destruction took place is today semi-detached housing on North Drive, Wavertree, a suburb of Liverpool, but, there are no signs whatsoever of a tumulus or mound, if there ever had been one, which contained the funery urns. North Drive is 2 miles east of Liverpool City Centre, at the north side of High Street (B5178), and just to the east of Wavertree Playground (known locally as the Mystery).

Wavertree Bronze-Age Collared Urns (After J. A. Picton) 1868.

The site entry (No 56) in the ‘Lancashire Archaeological Bulletin’ (1984) gives the following information as: “Parish: Liverpool. Site Name: Wavertree. N.G.R. SJ 391 893. Primary Reference: Smith 1868 Picton 1868. Eight urns found in building operations 1867. Six destroyed. No. 1. 13″ high; 11″ greatest width; 9″ diam at mouth. Inverted on sandstone. Contents sand wood bone ashes, charcoal, clean calcined bone & two worked flints. Nearby a light-coloured  flint arrowhead, two scrapers and a core. No. 2. 6¾” high; 6″ broad; 5½” diam at mouth. Upright, mouth covered by a flag. Cont. ashes, sand, bone frags. These two went to Liverpool Museum.  Illustrations from Picton 1868, Plate I. These are at different scales the right urn being No. 1 above. Better illustrations accompany Smith 1868 where this urn is called No. 6 and the left urn is called No. 7. The first six found (and destroyed by workmen) were numbered 1-5 and 5A.”   

Further to that the following is given: “Picton, J. A. (1868) Prehistoric Remains in Lancashire. Arch. Camb. 314 (1868) 206-208.  Smith, H. E. (1868) An Ancient British Cemetery at Wavertree. HSLC 20 (1868) 131-146.” 

Sources / References & Related Websites:

Barrowclough, David A., Prehistoric Lancashire, The History Press Ltd., Cheltenham, 2008.

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

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

http://wavsoc.awardspace.info/dhw/page46.html

https://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/mol/visit/galleries/history/burial-urn.aspx

https://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/mol/collections/

Further local history: https://historic-liverpool.co.uk/wavertree/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.

 


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Church Well (St Mary’s Well), Thornton-in-Craven, Lancashire

Church Well / St Mary’s Well, at Thornton-in-Craven, Lancashire.

NGR: SD 90135 48324.  At the southwest side of St Mary’s parish church (on Church Road) at Thornton-in-Craven, Lancashire, is ‘Church Well’ or ‘St Mary’s Well’. The octagonal wellhouse enclosing the spring was built by Henry Richardson, rector of St Mary’s in 1764, but the spring itself dates to far earlier times maybe the pre-Christian period (the site being not far from a Roman road). Later, the well was almost certainly being venerated by the 7th Century AD but with the tenuous link and dedication to St Oswald, the King and martyr, who was beheaded (654 AD). There is an interesting Latin inscription running around the top of the wellhouse. St Mary the Virgin parish church, which is situated above the well, was built in the early 16th Century but it stands on the site of an earlier 12th Century church and, possibly a Saxon building before that? St Mary’s Church and holy well are on the Lancashire side of the north Yorkshire border on Church Road (Skipton Road) opposite the lane to Thornton Hall, some 2 miles east of Barnoldswick and 6½ miles south-west of Skipton. An iron gate gives access to the churchyard and the wellhouse, which is over to the left.

Church Well / St Mary’s Well (close-up view).

Derek D. Clabburn  (2007) says: “We have no means of discovering why Richardson should have chosen to build an octagonal random stone cover over the well in Thornton churchyard. As far as can be deduced, the waters from the well possess no medicinal properties such as found at Harrogate or Bath or the nearby sulphur wells at Broughton and possibly near Crickle Hall at East Marton. Richardson’s Account Book reveals that he suffered from gout as early as 1748 and there are frequent references to remodeling or repair of a ‘gouty shoe’ and for administrations from a Dr. Kitchen, but it seems unlikely that the covering of the well was prompted by medical considerations, nor was it likely to be a source of water for any dwelling in the vicinity of the church. The well being situated in a hollow some 12 to 15 feet below the level of the main burial ground on the south side, the likelihood of water contamination is possible, although this would have been virtually unrecognized by scientific minds in the mid eighteenth century. If it was to provide ease of access for watering his livestock on his adjoining glebe lands, then the act of covering the well makes sense.

Church Well (an inside view of the well-house)

“But why lavish an enigmatic Latin commemorative inscription around the frieze of the building? Its manifest purpose eludes us nearly 250 years after it was erected. Another curiosity of the building is its capping formed from a large millstone. Its grooving is clearly seen as the ceiling within the cover. The axle shaft hole at its centre is capped by a turned sphere, which is kept in place by its own weight and forms a plug to the roof cover. The construction at the base of the octagonal cover forms a square some 3 feet deep with steps descending into the well proper. The depth of water within the well is controlled by a wooden plug in the well floor, which when removed drains away the stored water. When in place, the water depth rises to a point where it flows out in a channel beneath the doorstep and fills a drinking stoup. Hereafter the water drains away to supply the Rectory Farm on a regular daily basis.

Mr Clabburn goes on to adds that: “The Latin inscription reads: Fontem hunc salutiferum et perantiquum Tecto munivet Anno Aerae Christianae MDCCLXIV. Quod Publicae Sanitate bene vortat H. RICHARDSON RECTOR. (One translation reads: That it might prove of benefit for the health/salvation of the community, H. Richardson, Rector, built a covering for the health/salvation-giving and most ancient font/spring, in the year 1764 of the Christian era.” 

John & Phillip Dixon (1990) say of St Mary’s Church: “The embattled Perpendicular tower dominates the edifice, the south face of which bears an inscription and arms that I cannot make out along with a date, 1510. The inside of the church holds no hidden delights, but of interest is the churchyard draw well.”

Sources / References & Related Websites:

Clabburn, Derek D., Henry Richardson 1710-1778 — Life and Legacy of a Thornton Rector, Earby & District Local History Society, 22 Salterforth Road, Earby, Barnoldswick, BB18 6ND, 2007.

Dixon, John & Phillip, Journeys Through Brigantia Volume One: Walks in Craven, Airedale and Wharfedale, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1990.

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

https://britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/101167634-church-of-st-mary-thornton-in-craven#.Xf0VVlJCdjo

https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=28058

http://www.thorntonincraven.co.uk/st-marys-church-thornton-in-craven/

https://www.achurchnearyou.com/church/6930/page/6047/view/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.


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Maeshowe, Orkney Island, Scotland

Maeshowe chambered cairn, in Orkney Island.

NGR: HY 31830 12762. At the southeastern edge of Loch Harray (north side of the A965 Strom-ness to Kirkwall road) on Orkney Island, Scotland, stands ‘Maeshowe’ or ‘Maes Howe’, a well-preserved Neolithic chambered cairn and passage-grave from 2800 BC, which is the largest megalithic tomb in Orkney and the finest of its kind in the British Isles; the masonry in this tomb being far better than any of the prehistoric burial monuments in the rest of Europe! This large and imposing grassy mound is around 24 feet high, over 100 feet in diameter, and is surrounded by a ditch that is more than 40 foot wide. At the southeast side of the mound there is a slab-built entrance with a long passage-way leading inside the monument to the inner chamber that is over 12 feet in height. Inside the chamber there are 30 runic inscriptions and other carvings. Mawshowe is located about 1 mile east of ‘Stones of Stenness’ and 4 miles west of Finstown. A footpath leads of the A965 road (opposite Tormiston Mill) in a northwesterly, then northeasterly direction, for 300m to the monument.

Maeshowe Chambered Cairn, Orkney Island. (Photo: T. Kent).

J. Gunn (1941) on his visit to Maeshowe tells us: “We enter the mound by a low and what seems a very long passage, at first barely2½ feet high, but for the second half over 4 feet, and are glad to reach the central chamber, where we can stand upright once more. The floor of this chamber is 15 feet square. The walls are vertical for the first 6 feet of their height, and then begin to curve inwards, not by an arch structure but by each course of the masonry over-lapping the previous one, and so producing the effect of a vault, until at the height of about 13 feet only a small opening is left to be covered by a single slab. The angles of the building are strengthened by heavy buttresses of stone. In the wall opposite the entrance, and on either side, are recesses some 3 feet above the ground, built as if for burial chambers.

“The mound was broken into, perhaps in search of treasure, by the followers of Earl Rognvald II., who wintered in Orkney in 1151 before setting forth on his famous pilgrimage to Jerusalem. In 1861 it was reopened and carefully examined, the passage was opened out, the interior cleared of rubbish, and the roof restored.” 

Gunn goes on to say: “The mound which covers and protects the building is still some 35 feet in height, and 300 feet in cir-cumference. It stands on a level platform of nearly three times this diameter, surrounded by a trench about 40 feet wide, and from 4 to 8 feet deep. The entrance passage to the chamber is fully 50 feet long. Regarding the builders of the chamber, its purpose, and its date, nothing is known.” And Gunn goes on to say “There is thus no doubt that their original purpose was sepulchral, and this is true also of Maeshowe itself, as is shown by the fragments of human skulls which were found in it when it was examined in 1861.” 

Burial recess & blocking stone

Childe & Simpson (1959) tell us that: Maes Howe covers the finest “megalithic tomb” in the British Isles, the masonry of which is surpassed nowhere in Western Europe. The tumulus rises from a flan plain at the south-east end of the loch of Harray, and belongs to a great complex of monuments to which we shall return. The imposing mound is 115 feet in diameter and still 24 feet high. It is encircled, 50 feet to 70 feet from its base, by a great penannular ditch, 45 feet wide. From the south-east edge of the barrow a passage now over 36 feet long leads to a chamber 15 feet square and now 12 feet 6 inches high. (The original corbelled roof is preserved to that height only, the gap being covered by modern vaulting). In the middle of each side wall save the southern rectangular “window” some 3 feet above the floor gives access to a small rectangular cell, 3 feet 6 inches high, and roofed by a single lintel slab. These cells, the actual depositories of the deceased, could be plugged with stone blocks, still lying near them on the chamber floor.

“The masonry of the passage and chamber is of outstanding excellence. Most of the stones used have been dressed. The walls and roof of the inner part of the passage are formed of monoliths, on an average 18 feet 6 inches long, 4 feet 4 inches wide and 7 inches thick. The joints are so finely adjusted that it is impossible to insert a knife-blade between them. Projecting piers in the chamber’s four corners, ingeniously designed to support the corbels, are each faced on one side with upright monoliths that attain a height of 9 feet 8 inches. 

“Maes Howe was presumably designed as the burial place of a potent chief and recalls in several details some famous tombs on the Boyne. It was opened by Farrer in 1861, who found he had been anticipated  by Vikings in the 12th century. These had left nothing of the original burials nor their furniture, but a record of their violation in the form of Runic inscriptions and engravings of a lion, a walrus, and a serpent-knot. The inscriptions mention the removal of treasures and record various visits by Christian Vikings and crusaders about A.D. 1150.”   

Bill Anderton (1991) says of the Maes Howe Tomb: “Near Stromness, on the island of Orkney can be found the remains of a magnificent chambered tomb. The tomb lies beneath a 7-metre-high mound of clay and stones, the entrance being through an 11-metre-long passage lined with huge slabs of stone. The chamber of the tomb measures 4½ metres square. The wall opposite the entrance and the two side walls each have a recess leading into the body of the earthern mound. Burials may have been placed within these recesses. The tomb was sealed in about 1500 BC, and remained thus until AD 1150 when it was broken into by some Norse pirates who were spending the winter on the island. Nothing was left in the tomb except for some runic inscriptions testifying to their presence. These inscriptions were carved by Vikings over 800 years ago, but the beautifully constructed cairn is dated to about 2750 BC. It is orientated so that the mid-winter sun shines down the 11-metre-long entrance passage to light up the inner beehive chamber. Among the carvings on one of the uprights is the famous Maes Howe Dragon.”    

Further to that Charles Tait (1999) says: “Maeshowe has the distinction of having one of the largest groups of runic in-scriptions known in the world. Inscribed artefacts are common all over Scandinavia and the Norse colonies, with the earliest dating from about AD 200. The younger futhark was developed about AD 700 and was the form of runes used by the Vikings. Many inscriptions are on artefacts and tell who carved the runes while runic memorial stones are also common, often using existing boulders. These epitaphs often commemorate the exploits of the dead.

“The Vikings left much runic graffiti, but none have so far been as rich and interesting as in Orkahaugr – the Norse name for Maeshowe. These runes were carved in the 12th century and are a development of the characters used by the earlier Vikings. Runes developed as a simple way of carving letters into wood, bone or stone using a blade or similar implement. They represent most of the Latin alphabet as required by Old Norse. There are many variations in the runic alphabet, but most of the characters have Latin equivalents. Runes were used throughout the Germanic lands, but probably developed in Scandinavia.

“At Maeshowe there are about 30 inscriptions, many of which are of the style “Thorfinn wrote these runes”. Some gave their father’s name, or a nickname, some are by women and one intriguing inscription says “these runes were carved by the man most skilled in runes on the Western Ocean with the axe that killed Gaukr Trandkill’s son in the south of Iceland”. This rune carver may have been Thorhallr Asgrimassom, Captain of Earl Rognvald Kali’s ship when they returned in 1153 from the Crusades. Clearly the Vikings were interested in Maeshowe and left inscriptions on at least one other occasion, when stories about treasure were being told, as in “Haakon singlehanded bore treasures from this howe”. Women were also discussed, as in “Ingigerd is the most beautiful of women” and “Ingibiorg the fair widow”, or “Many a women has come stooping in here no matter how pompous a person she was”’.

Charles Tate adds that: “Some of the runes are cryptic tree runes which are easily deciphered by a numeric code based on the futhark – the runic alphabet. Little could the Viking graffiti writers of 1153 have realised how interesting their runes would be today! In the magnificent setting of the 5,000 year-old tomb, the Viking visitors seem not so distant.”

Sources / References & Related Websites:

Anderton, Bill, Guide To Ancient Britain, W. Foulsham & Co. Ltd., Slough, Berkshire, 1991.

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

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

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

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

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

https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/maeshowe-chambered-cairn/

https://canmore.org.uk/site/2094/maes-howe

https://stonesofwonder.com/maeshowe.htm

http://www.orkneyjar.com/history/maeshowe/index.html

https://sites.google.com/a/umich.edu/from-tablet-to-tablet/final-projects/runic-graffiti-at-maeshowe-orkney-katie-rokakis-13

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.


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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.


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The Triskele Stone, St Michael’s Church, Iselgate, Cumbria

The Triskele Stone from photo at St. Michael’s church.

NGR: NY 16240 33314. The Church of St Michael at Iselgate, half a mile southeast of Isel village, in the Derwent Valley, Cumbria, used to house the famous ‘Triskele Stone’, a Celtic symbol of motion, but sadly it was stolen from this 12th Century Norman church in 1986. Only a photo survives. However, there are still two large fragments of an Anglo-Saxon cross-shaft. The Triskele is a pre-Christian symbol or motif consisting of a three-armed carving similar to the Manx symbol (Three Legs of Man) which might represent the Holy Trinity? although the symbol goes back thousands of years to the Neolithic, and was used in ancient Greece; this particular stone, however, had Viking origins, being associated with the Norse gods, Thor and Odin. The stone also had carvings of a sun-snake and a four-armed swastika (or fylfot – the symbol of Freya). The hamlet of Iselgate is a few miles northeast of Cockermouth, whilst St Michael & All Angels’ Church is just off Blindcrake Lane – beside the river Derwent, not far from Isel Hall.

Stanley Kingsnorth (1984) in a magazine article tells us a lot about the Triskele Stone, saying: “The Triskele Stone came to light in 1812 when the bridge of 1691 spanning the river Derwent was rebuilt.” Mr Kingsnorth continues, saying it: “takes its name from the three-limbed design which appears on two faces, a variation of this sign is well known to us as the three-legs of Man. This strangely sculptured stone, now placed in front of one of the chancel windows, is about twelve inches high and has been closely studied by scholars. It is described in some detail by the Rev. W. S. Calverley, a former vicar of Aspatria in his paper presented to the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archeology Society in 1885. 

“Each of the four faces of the stone shows designs in relief, those in the upper panels being different on each side, while the lower panel of all sides displays the “‘Sun-Snake”′ sign resembling a double ended hook on its side, which is to be found in the relics of many early cultures. Three of the upper panels depict the emblems of the principal pagan Norse gods. The symbol for Thor is the thunderbolt or hammer device and appears in strong relief on one face. Another side is adorned with an unsymmetrical triskele sign with two limbs to the left and one to the right and which is attributed to Odin, or in the alternative spelling, Woden. 

“On the third face a four-armed swastika appears, being the symbol of Freya the god of fertility and peace, while the re-maining side shows a balanced triskele having all three arms turning to the right, that is, with the sun. This sign is held to represent the Trinity of the Christian faith, and is the most significant dedication if the stone is, as so many suppose, part   of an early stone cross which stood on the site..”  

Stanley Kingsnorth goes on to add: “The other two stones now to be found near the south door are clearly fragments of the main shaft of a pre-Norman cross probably of a later date than the Triskele Stone. They were discovered in the walls of the church during the major restoration which took place just over 100 years ago. One is worked in relief on two sides and the other on all four faces with a variety of spirals and whorls, typical Christian designs of the Celtic post-Roman period. But again the pagan influence has persisted, as at the bottom of the fully patterned stone there is a boldly carved broad arrow or spearhead pointing downward. In his study of 1889, Calverley identified this as the sacred emblem of Woden as descri-bed in the old Norse sagas, where the unfortunate sacrifice has his breast marked with the point of a spear and is offered to Woden, after which he is hanged.

“In heathen ritual, the gallows was in the form of a cross, usually of ash, so it can easily be understood how the Cross of Christ and the symbolic ash cross of the Nordic peoples came to have an over-lapping meaning to the diverse inhabitants of this remote area during the confused and changing times between the withdrawal of the Roman legions and the arrival of the Normans. 

Lawrence E. Jones & Roy Tricker (1992)  say that Isel church has: “A perfect setting by the river Derwent for St Michael’s small and simple towerless church. (The nearby hall is much more spectacular, and has a pele tower). It is a Norman church of c1130 (with a fine chancel arch), but there are three Saxon stones with very interesting carvings, including a swastika and a triskele, also Saxon cross fragments. One 15th century chancel window has three Mass-dials carved in          its stonework.”

Arthur Mee (1961) tells us: “The church was chiefly built by the Normans, and has still their doorway, their chancel arch, and several of their little windows. Another window pierced in the 15th century has three sundials on it. There are two stones carved before the Normans came, and one being part of a 10th-century cross and the other having the rare three-armed symbol called the triskele, one of the earliest devices found on Christian monuments.” 

Sources / References & Related Websites: 

Jones, Lawrence E. & Tricker, Roy, County Guide To English Churches, Countryside Books, Newbury, Berkshire, 1992.

Kingsnorth, Stanley, Storied Stones At Isel — A Visit to St. Michael’s Church, (Magazine Article in Cumbria – Lake District Life, May, 1984), The Dalesman Publishing Co. Ltd., Clapham, Lancaster.

Mee, Arthur, The Kings England — Arthur Mee’s Lake Counties — Cumberland And Westmorland,  Hodder And Stoughton Limited, London, 1961.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Michael%27s_Church,_Isel

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

https://www.explorechurches.org/church/st-michael-all-angels-isel

https://www.ancient-symbols.com/symbols-directory/triskele.

Check this out: https://mythologian.net/triskelion-triskele-symbol-celtic-spiral-knot-meaning/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.

 


St Columba’s House, Kells, Co. Meath, Southern Ireland

Irish Grid Reference:- N 73908 75963. At the side of Church Lane, opposite the monastic site, in the town of Kells (Ceanannas Mór), Co. Meath, Southern Ireland, there is a curious little ecclesiastical building that is called ‘St Columba’s House’ or ‘the House of Columcille’ (Teach Naomh Cholumba), which dates back to the 9th-11th Centuries AD, although its sloping roof was probably rebuilt in more recent times. The chapel/oratory was probably built by one of the abbots. Traditionally, it was here that the famous illuminated gospels known as ‘The Book of Kells’ was written by a monk from St Columba’s Abbey in 800 AD and, the body of the Irish saint, may have been housed in this very building (or one before it) after being brought from Iona in Western Scotland in the late 9th Century. The monastic enclosure and graveyard on the other side of Church Lane has a 100 foot-high round-tower, and three sculptured Celtic high crosses, of the early Medieval period; and the Market Cross in the market square. Legend attributes the founding of the abbey at Kells to St Columcille (550 AD), although there has always been some uncertainty about that. 

St. Columba’s House, Kells, in Co. Meath, by Peter F. Anson

Peter F. Anson (1952) tells us about St. Columba’s House, saying that: “It is quite possible that in this curious little building with an upper chamber hidden away above the barrel vaulting of its roof, was written the famous Book of Kells, the great treasure of the library of Trinity College, Dublin. Who wrote this and illuminated this most perfect expression of Christian art which has survived the centuries of war and strife in Ireland ? Tradition has it that the artist was an unknown monk of the abbey of Kells, in Meath. Anyhow, whoever he was he must have been one of the greatest book illustrators and masters of penmanship the world has ever known, and for this reason I had always wanted to make a pilgrimage to Kells. When this marvelous work of art was being produced in what is now no more than a sleepy little country town, ‘London was a haunted Roman ruin on a hill with the brambles over London Wall and the camp fires of the East Angles shining on the marsh beyond the city which they were afraid to enter,’ writes Mr. H. V. Morton, ‘Paris was a desolation and the sun was setting over Rome.’ But Ireland, thanks to her isolation, remained a stronghold of learning and culture. What is left to-day of the ancient glories of Kells? There is this little building, known as St. Columba’s House, a dreary neglected churchyard containing some magnificent Celtic crosses, and that is all.”

The Wikipedia website says: ‘St. Columb’s House is today thought to mostly date from the 10th century. It is named after Columba (Colm Cille), whose relics it may once have housed. The roof was modified at a later date. The house was used by monks to say the Liturgy of the Hours, or possibly as a shrine church or burial place of an abbot. It once contained a large flat stone called “St Columb’s Bed”, possibly a grave slab. His relics were brought to Kells in 878, and moved to Skryne Church later before finally going to Downpatrick, according to Wikipedia. See Link, below.

Katharine Scherman (1981) says regarding the Book of Kells that: “Argument, often stormy, surrounds the history of the Book of Kells, there being strong claimants for its generation in Ireland, Iona, Lindisfarne or other insular foundations of Irish origin and mixed personnel. The answer will probably never be known, though some experts reason that evidence favours its inception at Iona in the late eighth century and subsequent removal to Kells, where it was completed in the first quarter of the ninth century.

“In 795 Iona was pillaged by Norse raiders; in 801-802 they came again and burned the monastery to the ground; returning in 806 they murdered sixty-eight monks….. In 807 the abbot, Cellach, with the remaining monks, moved to Ireland taking with them the bones and other relics of St Columba and whatever valuables they had managed to hide from the ravag-ers—among them, presumably, the unfinished manuscript. They went to the site of one of Columba’s monasteries at Kells, County Meath, and built there a new monastery, to be the headquarters of the league of Columban houses.

“Kells, being inland, was considered safe from the marauders, who, in the early years, limited their invasions to hit-and-run assaults on the monasteries immediately accessible by sea. But Kells was struck the year after its founding and its church destroyed. A new church was completed in 814 and the monastic village, probably fortified, succeeded in fending   off subsequent attackers. Undoubtedly, also, successive abbots paid tribute for the privilege of being left alone. At any rate, the monastery of Kells had years of peace in the early ninth century — time enough for the production of the great book. For the creation of such a complex, profound and subtle work of art is a luxury that presupposes a number of conditions: security from outward disturbance; wealth to afford the years of dedicated specialization of a corps of scribes and painters; a scholarly intimacy with the Christian thought of the time; and a large library of books from abroad, which, being rare, would take years to accumulate. The scriptorium at Kells, fortunate in its relative tranquillity, could meet these conditions and finish — though it was never absolutely finished — the work that had begun at Iona. But the monastery was not permanently inviolate. The Norse sacked it in 919, 950 and 969, and in the following century it was raided repeatedly by the Irish themselves. In 1170 it was burned to the ground by the Anglo-Normans at the instigation of their Irish ally, Diarmait Mac Murrough.

“Despite the brutal history of Kells, the manuscript survived almost intact. In 1006 it was stolen, and turned up two and a half months later buried “under a sod” with the gold of its wood-and-metal cover wrenched off. The inside pages were unscathed, though some missing leaves at the beginning and the end may have been torn off at this time.

Andrew Jones (2002) tells us that: “The first probable record of the existence of the Book of Kells is an account of the theft of ‘the great Gospel of Columkille, the chief relic of the western world’ from the great stone church of Kells in the year 1007. The book was found buried in the ground almost three months later, and presumably remained at Kells until it was brought to Dublin and presented to Trinity College by Henry Jones, Bishop of Meath, some time after the year 1661. It has been in the College Library ever since as its greatest treasure.”

Greenwood, Connolly, Hawkins & Wallis (1999) tell us a lot about the Kells monastic site, saying that: “The Round Tower in the churchyard is known to have been here before 1076, for in that year Murchadh Mac Flainn. who was claiming the High Kingship, was murdered within the tower. It’s a little under 100ft high, with five windows near the top, and missing only its roof.

“Near the tower is the South High Cross, the best and probably the oldest of the crosses at Kells, carved as ever with scenes from the Bible. Here you’ll see, on the south face, Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel; then the three children in the fiery furnace; then Daniel in the lions’ den. On the left arm of the wheel Abraham is about to sacrifice Isaac, and on the right are SS. Paul and Anthony in the desert; at the top is David with his harp and the miracle of the loaves and fishes. There are two other complete crosses in the churchyard, and the stem of a fourth (behind the church back-entrance door) with the inscription Oroit do Artgal, A prayer for Artgal. This has several identifiable panels. The near side shows the baptism of Christ, the marriage feast at Cana, David with his harp again, the presentation in the Temple, and others to worn to make out. On the other side are a self-conscious Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, and others hard to identify accurately. There are sculptured stones embedded in the walls of the bell tower.

“In the central market square there’s another fine high cross, discoloured by traffic fumes, said to have been placed here by Jonathan Swift. In 1798 it served as the gallows from which local rebels were hanged. Yet again, it is liberally festooned with fine stone carving. The base shows horsemen and animals in a battle scene; on the west face are the adoration of the Magi, the marriage at Cana and the miracle of the loaves and fishes, all surrounding the Crucifixion in the centre of the wheel; on the east are Christ in the tomb, Goliath, Adam and Eve, and Cain and Abel, with Daniel in the lions’ den occupying centre stage.”

Sources and related websites:-

Anson F., The Pilgrim’s Sketch Books — No. 4 — An Irish Pilgrimage, Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., London, 1932.

Greenwood, Margaret, Connolly, Mark, Hawkins, Hilda & Wallis, Geoff, Ireland — The Rough Guide, Rough Guides Ltd., London, 1999.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Columb%27s_House

Jones, Andrew, Every Pilgrim’s Guide To Celtic Britain And Ireland, Canterbury Press, Norwich, 2002.

Scherman, Katharine, The Flowering of Ireland — Saints, Scholars & Kings, Victor Gollancz Ltd., London, 1981.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Columb%27s_House#/media/File:St._Columb’s_House,_Kells_2018-07-24_

http://www.megalithicireland.com/Kells%20Monastery,%20Meath.html

http://irelandsholywells.blogspot.com/2013/06/saint-columbas-well-kells-county-meath.html

http://www.heritagetowns.com/kellslarge1.shtml

http://www.archaeologicalconsultancyservices.com/index.php/archaeological-consultancy-services-blog/47-archaeologist-from-acs-ireland-at-st-colmcilles-house-kells-co-meath

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.

 

 

 


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Halangy Down Ancient Village, St Mary’s, Scilly Isles

Halangy Down Ancient Village, St Mary’s, Scilly Isles (photo: F. Gibson).

NGR: SV 90983 12379. The ancient village/settlement of Halangy Down is situated about 1 mile north of Hugh Town on St Mary’s Island, in the Scilly Isles, and is close to the sea-shore between Toll’s Porth and Halangy Point; it is just a little down the slope from Bant’s Carn Burial Chamber, while a bit further to the south is the golf course at Carn Morval from which there are quite exceptional panoramic views of all the Scilly Islands. This ancient site was probably occupied originally in the Bronze Age, but the village itself was established in the late Iron Age and, continued to be occupied through the Roman period, and on into the Romano-British period. There are some well-preserved remains of a complex of buildings including circular huts, inter-connected structures, courtyards and stone drains, all of which seem to be well looked after. To get to St Mary’s take the ferry-boat from Penzance, Cornwall. It’s then a case of walking the footpaths and road (northwards) at the western side of the island from Hugh Town, keeping to the coastline, and passing Porthmellon, Porthloo, Seaways, the golf course, and Toll’s Porth, to reach Halangy Ancient Village.

Circular hut at Halangy Down Ancient Village, St Mary’s. (F. Gibson).

F. Gibson tells us quite a bit about this site, saying: “There is an extensive complex of stone built huts here, developed and modified during the course of some half-millennium. A courtyard house is the uppermost, with buildings lower down which were all inter-connected. A system of stone drains led under the main entrance of the house and beneath the courtyard. It is probable that both the house and the courtyard were roofed; roofing spars supported in the middle by posts would have supported a thatch of reeds or straw, held in position by straw ropes weighted down by boulders. During excavation a number of quartz implements were found; they were crude choppers, rounded blocks, rough scrapers and axe-like points. There were also a wide range of heavy tools and equipment made from the local granite, as well as numerous querns of the saddle, bowl and rotary types.

“The earliest inhabitants are considered to have arrived about 2000 B.C. and they sought sustenance from the sea. Shellfish were collected, and fish, birds and mammals were caught; whilst at the same time the land was not neglected, cereals being brought to the islands, where clearances were made to grow them. It would seem from the middens however that limpets were the main source of protein in their diet.” 

Gibson also adds that: “Evidence of the Roman period can be found in the islands. Ancient villages of this period are at Halangy Down on St Mary’s and on Nornour. The site at Halangy is on the higher slopes of a much larger settlement which reaches down to the Porth. The lower slopes were probably abandoned on encroachment of the sea. The people who lived there were growing grain, keeping cattle, pigs and sheep; and eating fishand limpets in vast quantities. From evidence of finds the economy appeared well adjusted to island life.”

Timothy Darvill (1988) with regard to Bant’s Cairn on St Mary’s, tells us that: “Nearby are the foundations of round and oval houses of a small Iron Age and Romano-British village.” Lord Harlech (1970) tells us much the same as Timothy Darvill (1988) apart from saying it……“was occupied in the middle of the Roman period.”

Nearby, just up the slope, at NGR: SV 90994 12302 is ‘Bant’s Carn Burial Chamber’, a Bronze Age tomb dating from around 2000 BC. There are four large capstones resting above a rectangular chamber with an entrance leading into it, and there is an inner and an outer wall of large slab-stones; the whole structure with its grassy mound being quite well-preserved. Close-by is a small section of ancient field terraces which were begun in the Bronze Age but, later, in the Iron Age and Romano-British periods – these field systems were obviously re-used by the occupiers of the Halangy Down Ancient Village.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Darvill, Timothy, AA Glove Box Guide — Ancient Britain, Publishing Division of the Automobile Association, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 1988.

Gibson, F., Visitors companion to the Isles Of Scilly, (publisher unknown, and date unknown).

Harlech, Lord (the late), Southern England — Illustrated Regional Guide to Ancient Monuments No. 2, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1970.

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

https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/bants-carn-burial-chamber-and-halangy-down-ancient-village/history/

https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=6333313

https://www.citizan.org.uk/interactive-coastal-map/#zoom=10&lat=6435646.73888&lon=-700072.42535&layers=B00000TF

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/antiquaries-journal/article/excavation-of-a-homestead-of-the-roman-era-at-halangy-down-st-marys-isles-of-scilly-1950/4676994F35C2F26A377B817179CFED2F

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.


The Old Man of Gugh Standing Stone, Isle of Gugh, Scilly Islands

The Old Man of Gugh Standing Stone (by F. Gibson).

NGR: SV 8904 0848. At the east side of the little Island of Gugh (below Kittern Hill, south-east side) which is connected by a sand bar (tombolo) to the larger St Agnes Island, in the Scilly Islands, is a tall granite standing stone (menhir) called ‘The Old Man of Gugh’, that is thought to date from the Bronze Age. This odd-shaped pillar stone is 9 foot high and is slender and jagged, and leans at an angle towards the east. It is aparently ‘the only’ standing stone in the Scilly Islands, but there are 17 other prehistoric monuments close by, on Kittern Hill, including ‘Obadiah’s Barrow’. The standing stone was first recorded in 1756, but it was not excavated until the beginning of the 1900s at which time nothing much was found. Coming over from Penzance, Cornwall, one is able to reach the Island of Gugh, firstly, by ferry-boat to St Mary’s, the main island of the Scillies, and then the local boat service must be availed of to get you to St Agnes Island, and then [“at low tide”] walk along the sand/shingle bar to the Isle of Gugh, following the main footpath across the island, to reach the standing stone, at the east side, close to the sea cliffs.

F. Gibson tell us that: “Gugh has many Megalithic remains. Unfortunately none are cared for by the Ministry of the Envi-ronment, as on St. Mary’s, but they can be seen amongst the bramble and bracken…….. In the centre of the island is a single stone monolith, considered to have been placed there in the Bronze Age. It is about nine feet high. This is the Old Man of Gugh. It is an interesting fact that this monument stands on the southernmost point of the British Isles, and that a similar stone stands on the most northern point in the Shetland Isles.”

Dixe Wills (2018) says with regard to the sea-birds nesting on the island’s cliffs and their angry calls, that ……“you can strike up an altogether less frenzied acquaintance with the Old Man of Gugh, a 9ft-high leaning menhir (or standing stone). Etched with long grooves and placed here sometime during the Bronze Age, he may have served as a memorial or merely as a territorial marker. Apparently, there are over a dozen ley lines radiating from the Old Man, but when the ground around the stone was excavated no further clues were found.” 

Wills goes on to say that: “A walk around the island is like a trip in a broken time machine, hunting its occupants backwards and forwards apparently at random. Head towards the heather-strewn hillock at the southern end of Gugh and you’ll come upon the Carn of Works Civil War Battery. Built by Cavalier troops to hold two guns that would defend the southern approaches to the Isles of Scilly, the battery’s designers appear to have pressed an ancient entrance grave within its walls into use as a magazine, which one would have thought was an act of sacrilege. Perhaps such matters matter less in times of war.” 

The Historic England monument list no. is: 1014791.

Sources / References & related websites:

Gibson, F., Visitors companion to the Isles Of Scilly, (publisher not known, and un-dated).

Wills, Dixe, Tiny Islands — 60 Remarkable Little Worlds Around Britain, AA Publishing, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 2018.

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1014791

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

https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=6333302

http://www.cornwallinfocus.co.uk/history/ancientsites.php?r=IO

http://scillypedia.co.uk/PhotoOldManGughl.htm

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.