The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland

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The Monk’s Well, Towneley Park, Burnley, Lancashire

The Monk’s Well in Towneley Park, Burnley Lancashire.

The Monk’s Well in Towneley Park, and the large water trough.

NGR: SD 8587 3054.  Hidden away in the woodland of Towneley Park, Burnley, Lancashire, is what at first glance looks like a tiny chapel, but it is, in fact, the now very crumbled ruins of a well-house.  In the 1930s it seems to have acquired the name “Monk’s Well”. The stonework and the archway that we see there today could date from the Victorian period, or perhaps the early 1900s?  It looks as though there used to be a spring issuing from the ground into the rectangular stone-trough and cistern that can be seen inside the tumbled down building, though this may have been capped off.  However, there was a trickle of water still running from the ground just in front of the arch when I visited the site in early October, 2020.  It would seem the water from the spring, here, was used for watering young trees back in the 18th Century but it was never used for anything else!  In the 1990s it was rebuilt in the style of a Gothic folly. The Monk’s Well is reached along a path through Thanet Lee Woods, 500m southeast of Towneley Hall, close by a wooden bridge. There are two carved wooden fairies in the trees, here, and another on the wooden bench opposite.

The Monk’s Well in Towneley Park (interior of the building).

Monk’s Well, Towneley Park, is now a tumbled down little building.

What’s left of the Monk’s Well is now a tumbled-down collection of walling around a wellhead and, at the front a rough stone archway that is still standing, which actually looks quite solid today, though some years back this lay broken on the ground. The large rectan-gular stone-trough and the cistern  (behind it)  with a connecting water channel and slab-covered outflow are in pretty good condi-tion, even though stonework from the walls has fallen into them. Rain-water fills the large, deep trough nowadays and trickles out from beneath stones in front of the archway. Way back in the 18th Century one of the Towneley family, Charles (1737–1805), seemingly discovered the spring and had the water trough, cistern and outflow constructed so that he could water his young trees, and then in the Victorian period a well-house was constructed around the spring/well from rough-hewn stones; the archway maybe built onto the front of the little building at a later date? No-doubt the spring, or the water filled trough, has been used by a succession of Towneley Estate gardeners down the years. Much of the present-day landscaping of Towneley Park is the result of Charles Towneley’s work in the late 18th Century.

Headley & Meulenkamp in their book Follies Grottoes & Garden Buildings (1999) say of Monk’s Well: “A pile of stones in Towneley, Park, Burnley, was rebuilt as a Gothic folly in 1992. It started life as a wellhead called the Monk’s Well, built by Charles Towneley. The British Trust for Conservation Volun-teers proposed to rebuild it at no extra cost to the local council, which nevertheless demurred, thinking of future maintenance costs. Then a happy compromise was reached — why not rebuild it as a ruin, which would need less supervision? Nice one.”

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Headley, Gwyn & Meulenkamp, Wim, Follies Grottoes & Garden Buildings, Aurum Press Ltd., London, 1999.

Woodcarvings in Towneley Park:

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.

The Giant’s Causeway, North County Antrim Coast, Northern Ireland

The Giant’s Causeway on the North Antrim Coast, Northern Ireland.

NGR: NR 1332 0335. On the north coast of County Antrim, 2½ miles northeast of Bush-mills, in Northern Ireland, is the mysterious rock formation known as The Giant’s Causeway, which is also a well-known tourist attraction and no doubt a must for any geologist! These strange hexagonal and polygonal-shaped columns of black basalt being grouped into colonnades that cover a four-mile wide area of the Antrim coastline, and there are thousands-upon-thousands of them! The legendary giant, Finn McCool, used the causeway as stepping-stones between the Irish coast and the Scottish coast. These basalt columns, towers and pyramid-shapes vary in size between very tall to quite small, and they have been smoothed by the pummeling waves from the sea and from weathering over thousands of years, though the rock formations date back 50 million years to the time of lava-spewing Volcanoes. There are other strange rock formations here that have, over the years, acquired strange names due to their shapes: The Giants’ Organ and The Camel’s Hump for instance. Take the Causeway Coastal Path (west) from Dunseverick for 4 miles along the cliff-tops, or from the visitor centre at Bushmills (check first to see if the centre is open at this time of Covid-19).

The Giant’s Causeway in Co. Antrim, N. Ireland.

Wonders of the World (1930) tells us that: “The Irish would not be true to the spirit of Celtic mysticism and poetry had they not woven around one of the wonders of the world, the Giant’s Causeway in the County of Antrim, a mesh of legend, folklore and romance. The existence of fields upon fields of gigantic, truncated pyramids of columns of varying polygonal sides had to be explained, as also that of the Porticoon and Dunkerry caves, into the darkness of which boats are rowed on the swell of the waves and in whose mysterious depths sounds reverberate as from the cannon’s mouth. Here, where the columns rise, forming, as it were, the back to a low step, is My Lady’s Wishing Chair; there were the basaltic mass takes a weird shape, are the Nurse and Child who were petrified by a giant because his wife had betrayed him — so runs the legend.  And, in a similar strain run hundreds of legends, the chronicling of which would constitute an epic poem of giants unparalleled in the literature.

“The giant Fin MacCoul, would be the hero, for he it was who is reputed to have built the Great Causeway across the sea to Scotland, so that his enemy, the Scottish giant, might step over high and dry to get the thrashing he so richly deserved. The Giants’ Amphitheatre, with its perfect tiers of broken columns overlooking the bay, was built by him to amuse his quests, and when he breathed heavily, the pipes of the Giants’ Organ, likewise formed of high columns, played a tune the exact notes of which have presumably been lost to us.

Giant’s Causeway.

“It would be impossible within the limits of a short paragraph to do justice to the strangeness and poetry of the Giant’s Causeway.  It is a honeycombed series of beaches without a grain of sand, flanked by the ruins of two castles, Dunseverick and Danluce, situated high above the sea on isolated crags. Nor must the Carrick-a-Rede be forgotten, that lonely rock island in the path of the salmon shoals.  To reach it during the season fishermen sling a rope bridge be-tween it and the mainland, eighty feet above the roaring waves.  A photograph gives but a passing impression of what is surely one of the unique spots on our globe.  Unfortunately it cannot do justice to the whole range of wonderful beach, for the very simple reason that no two spots resemble each other, but are as varied in form as are the legend or romance atta-ched to each.  The size of the columns and pyramids varies likewise, some attaining a height of thirty feet.  Now they are close-fitting, forming a level tessellated floor, now loose and irregular.

“At times their regularity is so perfect as to appear to be wrought by hand and to have been artificially grouped into colonnades of most exquisite harmony and design; at others, all is wild and broken and thrown about as though giants had really spent their time and their strength in destroying the very things they are reputed to have created.”

Romantic Britain (1948) says that: “On the Antrim coast is the Giant’s Causeway where a mass of once molten rock has cooled and solidified into innumerable columns of basalt, most of them of hexagonal shape. Fingal’s Cave in the Isle of Staffa, presents a similar formation and legend claims both these outcrops as remnants of a bridge built by an Irish giant. The Giant’s Causeway at Antrim is said to have been flung across the sea to Scotland by Fionn, to hasten his hostile encounter with a fearsome Scottish rival. Cloughmore (Big Stone) at Rostrevor, was hurled, it is said, by the Scottish giant at Fionn’s head and just missed it! Fionn retaliated with the Isle of Man which he pulled out of the space now occupied by Lough Neagh.”

Nicholson (1983) adds that the Giant’s Causeway is: “A rare and famous series of cliffs that resulted from gigantic outpourings of volcanic basalt in remote tertiary times. The rock cooled as a lower layer of thousands of regular hexagonal columns and an upper layer of slim uneven prisms like a crazy architect’s fantasy. This amazing piece of coast belongs to the National Trust.”

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Nicholson, Guide To Ireland — The Essential Touring Companion, Robert Nicholson Publications Limited, London, 1983.

Romantic Britain (Edited by Tom Stephenson), Odhams Press Limited, Long Acre, London, 1948.

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

More info here:

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.

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Spooyt Vane Keeill (Chapel), Near Kirk Michael, Isle of Man

Spooyt Vane Keeill, near Kirk Michael, Isle of Man.

NGR: SC 30750 88760. In woodland a little to the south of Glen Móoar and close by the Monk’s Road, ½ a mile southwest of Ballaleigh village, in Kirk Michael Parish, Isle of Man, is the Spooyt Vane Keeill, an ancient ruined Chapel of St Patrick (Cabbal Pherick), which is thought to date back to between the 8th-10th Centuries AD. At the side of the chapel, inside an enclosure, are   the remains of a hermit’s or priest’s cell, a boundary wall and burial ground. The foundations of this keeil, mainly boulders and turf, are now very grassed over, but it is still fairly easy to make out with an entrance at one side. 130 yards SE of the keeill can be found the spectacular ‘Spooyt Vane Waterfall’, a tourist attraction. The keeill site is 2 miles southwest of Kirk Michael. We don’t know when it was last used as a chapel but it is recorded that the last priest was found to have worked on the Sabbath Day, and for doing this he met with rather a bad end. To reach the site take the A4 Peel road SW out of Kirk Michael for 1½ miles, turning off onto Ballaleigh road, but just before the village take lane SE to Spooyt Vane carpark and Waterfall; the keeill site is in woodland to the SW. The chapel and waterfall are on private land, so it is best to get permission before you visit them.

Ancient keeill, Spooyt Vane. Photo: Jim Barton (Creative Commons).

The ruined Spooyt Vane keeill is situated on top of a hill above the river in the Glen Móoar woods. It is a very primitive ancient chapel and is rectangular-shaped in design with slightly rounded corners. It measures 23 feet x 13 feet with a narrow entrance at the W side. The walls are built rather roughly from unhewn stones, river boulders, rubble and turf, which are now very grassed-over but, in places, these walls still stand to between 30-40 inches in height (2ft 5“ to 3ft 3”). There are remains of a window at the E side. The stone altar which had stood at the E side was taken away for safety, while a thin cross-slab found recumbent on the ground in the entrance was taken to the church at Kirk Michael, again for safety reasons. At the southwest side is an enclosure with turfed bank and inside this there is a ruined Culdee cell at the corner – this being the primitive abode of a hermit or priest, and somewhat similar to a monastic cell. There is more information on the archae-ology of the site at: isle of website (below).

The Manx Museum And National Trust (1973) tells us: “The keeills were the small early Christian chapels built throughout the Island following the conversion of the Manx to Christianity.  Over one hundred and eighty such buildings are known to have existed (though visible remains of less than a quarter of this number survive today).  The sites are found in all parts of the Island, and it is thought that their distribution is probably related to the ancient Celtic land divisions known as treens, a keeill being found on almost every treen.  The earliest keeills were probably built of sods, or wattle and daub, and no trace of these now remains, but ruins survive of later examples, consisting of stone-faced walls, dating from perhaps the eighth to the twelfth centuries.  In a few late examples mortar has been used in their construction, but the more usual form is earth walls, faced with rough dry stone walling.  The keeills were small plain rectangular structures, usually measuring inter-nally about 15 feet by 10 feet; in some examples the base of an altar remains at the eastern end.  The keeill was often sur-rounded by an enclosure or burial ground, and in some cases traces of the priest’s small habitation cell may be observed.  The keeills probably had thatched roofs when in use.”

Andrew Jones (2002) says: The earliest keeils, being so small, could not have been intended for congregational worship but rather as places in which the first Christian missionaries could offer up their simple service of prayer and praise. Preaching would have been conducted out of doors, and so too would baptism, for a holy well is usually found near these old chapels. Many of the keeils that have been examined are known to have been built on sites that had been sacred for a long time previously, thus illustrating that respect for tradition which was a marked characteristic of Celtic Britain.” And The Viking Heritage (1979) adds that: “For centuries before the longships of the Vikings first appeared off our coasts, our Celtic forbears worshipped at tiny keeills or chapels, the remains of many of which are still to be seen in the countryside. The dedications of many are lost, but those which are known form an impressive monument to the founders of the Manx Church — Patrick, Brigid, and Columba among them. Greatest of all the saints of Mann were Germanus, disciple of St. Patrick, whose cathedral stands on St. Patrick’s Isle at Peel, and Maughold, a repentant brigand who was set adrift in a coracle by Patrick.”

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

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

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

The Viking Heritage — Isle Of Man — Millennium Of Tynwald, The Viking Heritage — The official pictorial souvenir to commemorate the Millennium of Tynwald, Shearwater Press, Douglas, Isle of Man, 1979.

Geograph (Creative Commons) photo (above) is by Jim Barton:

Keeills and Cake; Cabbal Pherick, Kirk Michael.

Check this out:

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.




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Rooley Moor Burial Mound, Near Rochdale, Greater Manchester

Burial mound on Rooley Moor. Photo copyright: Stephen Oldfield.

NGR: SD 8577 7952. On Rooley Moor to the north of Rochdale, Greater Manchester, and quite close to Rooley Moor Road, there is a Bronze Age burial mound (barrow), which actually looks more like a long barrow? However, this ancient mound has been missed by the archaeologists and the Ordnance Survey people, even though it is quite a prominent grassy mound with what looks to be a faint outer ditch. The barrow appears to have been damaged at one side, though whether it has been dug into, or robbed of what was contained inside it,  is not known.  The barrow is at the E. side of the moor some 50 metres to the west of Rooley Moor Road, and is not far from the scant remains of the Old Moorcock Inn, where two tall gateposts still stand like sentinels. Moorcock Inn was in its heyday in the 19th Century.  There are two footpaths going onto the moor from Rooley Moor Road: one running N.W. to Ding Quarry and Cowpe, another running S. to Reddyshore.

B/A barrow on Rooley Moor. Photo copyright: Stephen Oldfield.

There are other ancient features on the moors around here including an enclosure, a cup-marked rock, and a bit further away to the east at Bagden Hillocks, a cairn. Bagden Hillocks is just inside the boundary with Rossendale. Rooley Moor used to be called Shore Moor and Rooley Moor Road used to be Catley Lane; it is nowadays known as ’the Cotton Famine Road’ and, in Medieval times, it was the packhorse route between Rochdale, Whalley Abbey and Clitheroe. Hamer Hill has some recumbent stones which archaeologists had thought were part of a stone circle, while Hunger Hill has possible burial mounds at its northern side. The moor is scattered with mines, quarry pits and mounds dating from the time of the Industrial Revolution, and sometimes these can, perhaps, be mistaken for ancient burial mounds, but this particular mound does appear to be a prehistoric barrow of Bronze Age date. 

The Damaged barrow by Stephen Oldfield.

Stephen Oldfield, who told us of this site, gives directions to finding the burial mound, saying: “You will see a small rectangular wall which was the perimeter for the Old Moorcock pub. The cairn is at the north corner of this. Unmissable. Head about 100m due north-east and you hit the superb Bagden Hillocks cairn. Both are lined up with the north-east/south-west axis of Knowl Hill.” Stephen goes on to say that: “Just behind the ruins of the old Moorcock Inn on Rooley Moor Road is a Bronze Age burial mound lined-up exactly with the prehistoric site of Knowl Hill to the west.  It appears to have been dug into in the past.  The alignment cuts through a ’henge feature’ too and my guess is they are aligned with sunrise at the equinoxes but I’ll have to check this out,” he adds.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

I would like to thank Stephen Oldfield for the use of his photos (above) and for his input with further information on the site and its surroundings. Thanks mate. All photos are Copyright © Stephen Oldfield 2020.

Photo of the Old Moorcock Inn:

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.



Broch of Mousa, Island of Mousa, Shetland Isles, Scotland

Broch of Mousa on the Island of Mousa in the Shetland Islands.

NGR: HU 45730 23660. At the far western side of the Island of Mousa (south island), in Shetland, and overlooking the Sound of Mousa, stands the well preserved ‘Broch of Mousa’, dating from the late Iron Age; but these brochs have often wrongly been called Pictish towers by some historians, though the building of brochs had almost certainly ended by the 2nd Century AD, so it would seem the Picts merely took them over and lived in them as they were very strongly built and fortified. This particularly fine example of a broch has thankfully not been robbed of its stone-work and still stands to a height of nearly 44 feet or 13 metres, and is the only broch to have survived to its original height. The broch is a bell-shaped fortress-like tower, or round-house, that is built with thick drystone blocks of stone and has a double inner wall with a stairway – while on the outside there is a stonework surrounding wall forming a courtyard. To reach the uninhabited Island of Mousa you will need to take the motor boat from Sandsayre pier at Sandwick, 2 miles to the west. [Check first to see whether the boat is operational at this time of Covid-19].

Broch of Mousa, Shetland (exterior).

Broch of Mousa, Shetland (Interior).

Gordon Childe & Douglas Simpson (1959) tell us that: “The Broch of Mousa stands on the shore of a small rocky island, yet was defended on the landward side by a wall, now much dilapidated. It has often been taken as the most typical broch, so only diver-gences  from  the ideal  norm  need  be  mentioned.  The solid  “ground-floor” wall  is  exceptionally  high,  12   feet 4  inches. Immediately  above  the  present entrance there was once an entrance passage, but its mouth was built up in 1919. Again the entrance to the stairhouse cells in approximately on a level with the floor of this upper passage and some 6 feet above the primary floor, but just below the second scarcement. Below it are three intramural cells entered by descending steps. At the bottom of the court is a rock-cut cistern that is doubtless original. On the other hand the present hearth, a radial wall, and a low wall, concentric with and inside the main wall, seem to be secondary additions to the original plan.

“According to Egil’s Saga an eloping couple from Norway took refuge in the broch about A.D. 900, and, a similar incident about 1153 is recorded in the Orkneyinga Saga.” 

Timothy Darvill (1988) says of Mousa Broch, that it is: “Set on the tiny island of Mousa to the east of mainland Shetland, this great stone toweris built straight on to the rock overlooking Mousa Sound. Undoubtedly the best-preserved broch in Scot-land, it still stands over 12m high and is constructed of dry-stone walling of the very highest standard. The broch tower has an external diameter of 15.2m at the base, but tapers inwards slightly towards the top. To withstand the gales and high winds that blow in from the North Sea the wall is over 6m thick.

“Opening off the central courtyard are three large corbelled cells with low doorways. There are three wall-cupboards in the side of the inner court. Two ledges representing supports for upper floors or galleries can be seen. The upper ledge may have supported the roof. The inner wall-face also contains sets of openings or voids which may have been to allow light into the galleries contained within the walls. A stair rises clockwise inside the wall allowing access to the galleries. It is unlikely that these galleries were ever lived in, although they could have been used for storage. Judging from its superior design and craftsmanship, this broch was probably constructed fairly late in the tradition of broch building.”

Janet & Colin Bord (1984) add similar information, saying: “This broch now stands over 40 feet high, taller than most other brochs, and has been restored at various times. The only opening in the thick external wall is the doorway, and inside a passage leads to a central chamber. All round the walls, right to the top of the broch, are small chambers, and a stairway winds gradually to the top of the building.”

The Rough Guide (2000) informs us that these Iron Age brochs were: “Concentrated along the Atlantic coast and in the northern and western isles, the brochs were drystone fortifications (that is, built without mortar or cement often over 40ft in height.  Some historians claim they provided protection for small coastal settlements from the attentions of Roman slave traders.  Much the best-preserved broch is on the Shetland island of Mousa; its double walls rise to about 40ft, only a little short of their original height.  The Celts continued to migrate north almost up until Julius Caesar’s first incursion into Britain in 56 BC. 

“At the end of the prehistoric period, immediately prior to the arrival of the Romans, Scotland was divided among a number of warring Iron Age tribes, who apart from the raiding, were preoccupied with wresting a living from the land, growing barley and oats, rearing sheep, hunting deer and fishing for salmon.  The Romans were to write these people into history under the collective name Picti, or Picts, meaning painted people, after their body tattoos.” 

There is a second broch over on the east coast of Sandwick, a couple of miles to the west of the Island of Mousa, overlooking the Sound of Mousa at (NG: HU 44687 23214). This is known as the ‘Broch of Burraland’, Leebitten.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

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

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

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

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

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

The Rough Guide (Humphreys, Reid & Tarrant), Scotland, The Rough Guides Ltd., London, 2000.

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.


Belas Knap Long Barrow, Cleeve Common, Near Winchcombe, Gloucestershire

Belas Knap Long Barrow on Cleeve Common, near Winchcombe, Gloucestershire.

Plan of Belas Knap Long Barrow, Gloucestershire.

NGR: SP 02093 25434. Standing at the western side of Humblebee Wood on Cleeve Common, 1¾ miles south of Winchcombe, Glou-cestershire, is the ancient Megathlic monument known as ‘Belas Knap Long Barrow’,  a Neolithic chambered tomb of the Severn-Cotswold type and dating from 3,800 BC. The monument can be found on the Cotswold Way footpath – with Cleeve Hill over to the northwest. It is certainly the best known of all the Cotswold long barrows and, now that it has been restored, it is an amazing sight with its 51m long wedge-shaped mound, and its height of 4.3m. There are four burial chambers, three of these along its sides, and the fourth chamber at the south side. The N. end has a false entrance (portal). These chambers, excavated in the 1860s and 1920s, were found to contain the bones of at least 31 people. From Winchcombe in the N. take the B4632 road SW., then      the country lane S.E. over river Isbourne (watch out for signposts to Belas Knap) toward Corndean Hall, and then a steepish climb S. through the woodland to meet the Cotswold Way path heading E. to the ancient Long Barrow on a ridge of land.

Timothy Darvill (1988) tells us that it is: “Perhaps the most well known of all the Neolithic long barrows constructed on the Cotswolds, this site lies on a windswept ridge above the town of Winchcombe.  Now fully restored, Belas Knap displays many classic features of barrows constructed in the Cotswold-Severn tradition. The wedge-shaped mound, now grassed over, measures more than 50m long and stands nearly 4m high. At the north end is a deep forecourt between two rounded horns, and in the back of the forecourt is a false portal resembling the H-shaped setting at the front of a portal dolmen. The dry-stone walling in the forecourt is partly original Neolithic workmanship; only the upper portions have been subject to restoration.

“Three chambers, all of which can still be entered, open into the mound from its long sides, while a fourth chamber which lacks a roof opens from the narrow southern end. Although heavily restored, the three side chambers still preserve the gloom and dampness that must have pervaded them when in use. The remains of about 30 people were found in the burial chambers during excavations which took place early this century. The name Belas Knap derives from the Old English words bel meaning a beacon and cnaepp meaning a hilltop. In addition to Belas Knap itself, a small round barrow is visible in the ploughed field to the west of the site.” 

Belas Knap Long Barrow near Winchcombe from above in black & white.

Belas Knap Long Barrow in black and white and seen from above.

Jacquetta Hawkes (1973) tells us that after Notgrove Long Barrow: “The  second  notable long  barrow  is  called  Belas Knap  (it is worth noting that not very many of the Cotswold barrows have folk names attached to them) and it lies far to the west of the rest, about two miles south of Winchcombe and not more than half a dozen miles from the centre of Cheltenham. Luckily the mound is well preserved and judicious restoration has made a monument which gives at least some idea of what these tombs and holy places  looked like four thousand years ago.  It shows well the oblong form of the mound held within a low retaining wall of fine drystone masonry and it possesses the characteristic ‘horns’ or recessed forecourt at the larger end. This court makes the approach to a dignified megalithic portal with a pair of large jambs, transverse slab or door stone between them, and a large lintel across the top. But whereas at Notgrove an entrance in just this position must have led into the gallery and its cells, this construction at Belas Knap is a sham, it is built against the solid mass of the barrow and has never at any time given access to anything. It is, in fact, a classic example of the ‘false entrance’ for which we have already seen close parallels in the south-west and

Belas Knap Chambered Long Barrow. Entrance to the chambers.

in Kent. The true burial-chambers open from the long sides of the mound and are infinitely smaller and meaner than the central chambers of the Notgrove, Hetty Pegler and Nympsfield kind.  Some have compared these dummies to the false entrances to Egyptian pyramids, claiming that they, too, were made in an attempt to mislead tomb-robbers and keep the burial chambers; others have attributed the device to human laziness, seeing them as a degenerate form which kept the portal, essential for ritual purposes, but shirked the construction of a large and complex megalithic chamber. For myself I do not find either explanation satis-factory; primitive peoples do not violate their own sanctuaries and here in the Cotswolds there is no evidence to suggest the presence of alien invaders in any force at a time while long barrows were still being built; nor were these New Stone Age peoples in the habit of burying precious grave-goods with the dead which could provoke cupidity. On the other hand if the builders were still willing to raise tons of stone and earth to make the mounds.  I cannot think that the small amount of extra labour needed to make the dignified central chamber would have been found burdensome enough to promote such a radical change of plan. I believe that the false entrance was intended to mislead not human beings but supernatural creatures—spirits—but more than that I will not attempt to guess.”

Harold Priestley (1976) says Belas Knap is: “A very good example of a barrow with a false entrance and with entries to its chambers in the sides, reached by means of short passages. The barrow, more than 170 ft (51.8m) long, is orientated N–S; it had a revetment, a false entrance and a forecourt with two horn-like extensions at the N end. This may have been designed either to ward off evil spirits or to fool possible tomb robbers.  Two of the chamber entrances are let into the E side, one half-way along the W side and a fourth at the S end. The barrow had a revetment of stone all round it.”

A few miles to the northwest on Cleeve Hill (NGR SO 9847 2659), near Woodmancote, there is the ‘Ring Settlement’ which was probably an Iron Age or Romano-British village and, below the hill at the southeast side, is the ‘Cross Dyke’ earthwork. 

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

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

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

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

Wood, Eric S., Field Guide to Archaeology, Collins, London, 1968.

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.


Tooter Hill, Sharneyford, Near Bacup, Rossendale, Lancashire

Possible Bronze Age Ring Cairn on Tooter Hill, Sharneyford. Photo Credit: Stephen Oldfield

NGR:  SD 8903 2387. Tooter Hill  at Sharneyford, near Bacup, in Rossendale, Lancashire, was probably first settled in the Neolithic period of prehistory, but also, too, in the Bronze Age. There is evidence of an ancient field system at the western side of the hill and also a “possible” ring cairn type of burial on the summit. There must have been an ancient settlement or enclosure upon the hill because there have been many interesting finds over the past century or so, some of these archaeological finds being found by local people traversing the windswept hill, and quite a few deposited and displayed in the N.A.T.S. museum in the nearby town of Bacup. However, there are many quarry mounds and quarry holes upon the hill’s summit so it is not always easy to say just what-is-what; and there was mining up there in the 19th century, but there are a few other earthwork-type features, too, and these could have ancient origins? There are at least three footpaths running off Limers Gate Lane and one from the A681 (Todmorden Road) at Holden Gate; these foot paths all tend to skirt the periphery of the hill from around the N. E. and S. sides.

Tooter Hill (I have heard it called Toot Hill) is 430 feet (131.64m) in height, and is about 1 mile southeast of Sharneyford village on the A681, near Bacup. There may have been a Neolithic settlement on the summit, but more likely it was inhabited during the Bronze Age. There is a “possible” ring cairn at the northern side of the hill – if that’s what it is because there are many more recent mounds and depressions up there due to quarrying and mining, which took place in the Victorian period.  Many in-teresting ancient artefacts have been dug up from beneath the peat on Tooter Hill over the past century or so. A tanged and barbed arrowhead with serrated edges (probably an archery weapon) dating from the Neolithic period (4,500BC-2,500BC) was excavated along with an arrowhead from the Bronze-Age (2,500BC-700BC), and also a tranchet-shaped arrowhead (its date unknown). These are housed in the N.A.T.S. museum on Yorkshire Street, in Bacup, 1½ miles to the southwest. There is also a collection of small flint implements from the hill including a flint scraper, flint adze and a flint borer; but more recently flints have been found on the hill by local people.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

(Many thanks to Stephen Oldfield for the use of his photo).

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.



Caer Llugwy Roman Fort, Capel Curig, Conwy (Bwrdeistref Sirol), North Wales

View of Roman fort at Caer Llugwy by Peter Mitchell. (Wikimedia Commons).

NGR: SH 74583 57237.  On a flat area of grassy land beside the Afon Llugwy and surrounded by woodland at the west and eastern sides are the almost rectangular earthworks of Caer Llugwy Roman fort. It was a minor posting fort – the site of which is now on private land a few miles east of Capel Curig – in the Conwy district of North Wales.  The nearly 4 acre earthworks of this Roman fort lie just southeast of the A5 road in the Llugwy Valley; and it is also called Bryn-y-Gefeiliau, taking its name from a nearby farm. It dates from 90 AD when it was built of earth and wood, but was extended on the E side, and built of stone around 120 AD whereas the western part was then annexed. This western section had a mansio-type building, which was like a lodging house or country hotel! There were excavations at the site back in 1861 and between 1920-22 but the fort was first recognized as such in the mid 17th Century by Lhuyd. To reach the site head west out of Betws-y-Coed on the A5 for a couple of miles until just before Pont-y-Pair Bridge where you turn left onto a lane for ½ a mile – the Roman fort (site) is on the right-hand side opposite Cae Awr woods. The earthworks are on private land. 

The Roman military machine marched into the Llugwy Valley towards the end of the 1st century AD in order to consolidate their hold on the north of Wales, in particular the Conwy Valley, and to build a small fort on level ground beside the river Llugwy (the course of which might have been different at that time). The first fort they built in 90 AD was of earth, turf and wood, and was at the western side of this flat area of land just where the river takes a large loop around; then in about 120 AD they added a second, smaller section of fort on the east side of the earlier section, which was built of stone; the western section was then annexed and a mansio with a courtyard built; the foundations of this building still stand 3 feet in height in the clump of trees. Roman auxiliaries would have built the fort. The fort and its annex were surrounded by an almost square-shaped defensive stone rampart and double ditch, which were rounded at the corners as was the norm for Roman forts. It’s sad that much of the stone-work has been robbed-away to build walls and farm buildings in the local area, and now only foundations remain of the mansio building. Caer Llugwy Roman fort is a ‘scheduled’ ancient monument.

Map showing Roman forts, camps and roads in North Wales.

A cohort of 500 auxiliary soldiers would have been stationed here by the early to mid 2nd Century AD. However, around 155-158 AD the fort beside the river had been abandoned and the soldiers sent to the north, probably to help strengthen and guard Hadrian’s Wall, or the Anto-nine Wall, or some other outpost. Or was the Llugwy Valley and the surrounding high ground to inhospitable? The “presumed” Roman road north from Tomen-y-Mur to Caer Llugwy and then north to Caerhun (CANOVIUM) would be extremely difficult in bad weather; and to compound this – the Ordovices tribe were still a major irritation to the Romans in the north-west of Wales. It would seem, however, the fort may have been re-occupied in some way during the 3rd and 4th Centuries AD.

There was a mansio at Caer Llugwy Roman fort. The word ‘Mansio’ comes from the Latin ‘mansus’ meaning a place to stay for rest and refreshment. A Mansio was an official stopping place on a Roman road maintained by the government for the use of officials and those on official business. It was essentially an Inn. The Mansio structure was similar to that of a standard villa design built with three wings arranged around a courtyard, but more specific with rooms for the traveller, stables for horses, and often a small bathhouse and a latrine. There may have been underground heating systems (hypocaust) built into these buildings, making for an almost cosy place to stay! Caer Llugwy had one! 

It is widely known that the Romans were mining for metals in the north of Wales. The copper mines were certainly being exploited by them and also gold and lead were being dug; and we also know they were looking for pearls in the river beds, especially the Afon Conwy! The fort at Caer Llugwy was almost certainly used as a base/station for these mining operations, which is borne-out by the name Bryn-y-Gefeiliau – Hill of the Smithies.

Christopher Houlder (1978) says: “The Roman road from Caerhun ……..southwards kept mainly to the hills, but where it dipped across the Llugwy valley at Bryn y Gefeilau (746 572) a minor fort was set up in the I century, possibly as a mining station.”     

Michael Senior (1984) tells us: “The Romans Arrive: They launched their first attack into North Wales under the leadership of Suetonius Paulinus, from the legionary headquarters at Chester, in the year 61 A.D. It is likely that the road across the hills originates from that expedition, and that a small field fort would have been established in the valley. Their purpose was to invade and subdue the island of Anglesey, which, Tacitus tells us, “was feeding the native resistance”. This first invasion however met with failure. With the Roman general and a large part of the army so far away, the Britons of the south-east, under their famous queen Boudicca, took the opportunity to revolt. Suetonius had hardly reached Anglesey when the news came, and the army in Wales had to withdraw at once and set out on that effective system of routes on the long march south.

“It is probable that the more substantial fort (Caerhun) at the river crossing dates from the second, more extended campaign. In the late summer of A.D. 77 he tribe whose territory was North Wales, known to the Romans as the Ordovices, ambushed and massacred, somewhere near our area, an outpost of Roman cavalry. This was a serious blow to Roman morale, and demanded action.

“The new Roman governor of Britain, Agricola, took the courageous decision of marching into North Wales late in the year, risking a winter campaign in the mountains. He pursued the Ordovices, perhaps taken off-guard, into their strongholds, and to ‘cut to pieces’, Tacitus says ‘almost the whole fighting force of the nation.’ To consolidate this victory he decided to carry through the earlier abortive attempt to occupy Anglesey.  One of the key elements in a strategy involving moving men between Chester and Anglesey was the protection of the crossing of the Conwy river, particularly as this point could also be supplied by sea. The crossing place which the Romans chose was a little upstream of later ferries and bridges, and would no doubt have been the junction of the lowest possible fording point with the highest navigable tidal water at that time. It lies at Caerhun, near to the present church and hall of that name (776703).”   

Mr Senior (1984) goes on to say that: “Part of the explanation for this Roman presence on the bank of the Conwy may possibly be the importance to Rome of British pearls. A Latin historian records that Julius Caesar himself was impressed by their size. It is known that Conwy’s pearl industry, which took place up the river until modern times, was extremely ancient. The pearls grew in the large fresh-water ‘horse-mussels’, which some people claim may still be found in the Trefriw area.  Whatever the reason for their coming and remaining, there is no doubt that the effect of it was to put North Wales on the map. The existence of that road set the pattern for future communications, and facilitated movement into and out of the area from then on. The existence of that Roman community at Caerhun gave an impetus to a settlement pattern within the valley, and no doubt stimulated activity which helped to stir the valley from its long sleep.”     

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Houlder, Christopher, Wales: An Archaeological Guide — the prehistoric, Roman and early medieval field monuments, Faber And Faber, London, 1978.

Senior, Michael, The Conwy Valley — Its Long History, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Capel Garmon, Llanrwst, 1984.

The BBC,  Roman Britain, The British Broadcasting Corporation, London, 1966.

Check out this Link:

Link to Cadw:,14

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.




Ancient Cross at St Lawrence’s Church, Eyam, Derbyshire

Eyam Parish Church, Derbyshire, by C. Daniel.

NGR: SK 2178 7639. At the south side of St Lawrence’s parish church at Eyam in the Peak District, Derbyshire, there is a beautifully sculptured 8 foot-high Saxon cross which is said to date from either the 8th Century or the 10th? It is also known as a Mercian Cross. Some of the design-work on the shaft and head bears some similarity to Celtic design. In the 8th Century Christian missionaries (from the north) set up the cross at Crosslow to the west of Eyam. The cross-shaft was originally a couple of feet taller than it is at present but, despite that, it is one of the best-preserved of all the Mercian crosses in the Midlands. St Lawrence’s church (site) is possibly a Saxon one and a church from that time may have stood where the present building now stands and, with that in mind, the font inside the church was thought to date from the Late Saxon period, though it would seem more likely to be 11th-12th Century Norman, and to have come from Hathersage!  The present church is a mixture of 13th to 15th Century architecture and is located in the centre of the village of Eyam on Church Street, near Eyam Hall. Eyam is 9 miles southeast of Chapel-en-le-Frith.

Eyam Cross by C. Daniel.

Clarence Daniel (1966) informs us that: It is scarcely necessary to draw attention to the Saxon Cross—the most venerable landmark in the village. For over a thousand years it has stood shelterless and bareheaded, exposed to the ravages of wind and rain, the wayside witness to an unperishable story. Perhaps this simple translation of the Gospel was being wrought out of living stone about the same time that a spark inspiration kindled the emotions of Caedmon at Whitby. Fortunately it escaped mutilation when Puritan zealots were authorised by an act of Parliament passed in 1643 to remove and destroy ‘“all crosses in an open place’”, although the top portion of the shaft has since been broken up and used for cobble stones. Until the visit of John Howard, the prison reformer, it lay almost smothered by weeds in a corner of the churchyard, but his concern for the preservation of such a valuable relic inspired its erection in a more prominent position.

“Mercia was evangelized by missionaries from Lindisfarne, or Holy Island, and the Eyam cross resembles in certain characteristics the type for which Iona is famous. Upon the head and arms, figures of angels are sculp-tured in relief; whilst the upper portion of the shaft is adorned with a representation of the Virgin and Child, beneath which a figure holding a trumpet, or bugle-horn. Below these pictorial panels in an elaborate tracery of scroll-work woven into three circles. The carving on the reverse of the shaft consists of five foliated scrolls in each of which a trefoil design is cleverly triplicated.

Neville T. Sharpe (2002) says: “To the west of Eyam there is Crosslow House and a cross once stood on the opposite side of the road at SK20677. Another possible site is the open piece of ground in the middle of the village opposite Eyam Hall where the stocks stand, which is still called ‘“The Cross.”’ Wet Withins at SK225790 on Eyam Moor, a site of pre-Christian worship, has also been put forward. The first of these three sites stands beside the road from Eyam to Foolow where one might expect to find a wayside cross, but an ornate cross like the one in the church-yard would have looked well in the centre of the village.

“The front of the head facing west has four angels holding sceptres on their shoulders; one is in a circle in the middle of the head and one on each of the arms. On the top of the front of the shaft are two enthroned figures in panels with arched tops; the lower figure is holding a horn in front of his body. The remainder of the front of the shaft below is decorated with circular interlaced work. On the opposite side of the head are four angels; the centre one holding a sceptre and the other three blowing trumpets. The whole of the back of the shaft is decorated with foliage, the stems of which form five bold spiral coils, with leaves and bunches of grapes in the centre of each, and leaves and buds filling up the spandrels at the sides. On the end of the north arm of the cross is a figure holding a book, and on the end of the south arm an angel. The north and south faces of the shaft are covered with interlaced work composed of knots. Believed by some to date from the eighth century, this cross has much in common with those at Bakewell and Bradbourne.” 

Sharp (2002) adds that: “On the south wall of Eyam Church is a sundial made by William Shore, a local stone mason in 1775. It is a source of wonder to watch visitors gaze at this sundial for a few moments before checking     its accuracy with their watches, and finding to their amazement that it is correct. The cross stands beside the path through the churchyard on the south side of the church and it was in this position prior to the restoration of the church in 1872. The shaft is 6 feet high of an octagonal cross-section and badly pitted due to the elements. It stands on a base mounted on three square stone steps. It is certainly much older than the 1656 inscribed on it. A plaque on the base reads: “AD 1897 This ancient churchyard cross was restored in loving memory of Charles Lewis Cornish Priest Vicar of this Parish 1841-46.”’ There is another cross built into the exterior west wall of the vestry which formerly was on the gable of the chancel. Could this be the original head of the cross in the churchyard?  

Daniel (1966) also adds that: “In the vestry is a Saxon font, but this is a comparatively recent acquisition from Brookfield Manor, Hathersage, where it did service in the garden as a flower bowl. The Norman font was shorn     of its antiquary interest and value by an unimaginative mason who planed away the carving from its bowl when instructed to clean it of paint. It will also be noted that there is no drain; a fact which recalls those days when the water was only blessed twice a year and was kept under lock and key regardless of its possible contamination.”     

Sources / References & Related Websites:-   

Clarence, Daniel, The Story of Eyam Plague – with a Guide to the Village, Cratcliffe, Eyam, near Sheffield, 1966, with Illustrations by the author.

Sharpe, Neville T., Landmark Collector’s Library – Crosses of the Peak District, Landmark Publishing Ltd., Ashbourne, Derbyshire, 2002.

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.


Cowpe Lowe, Near Waterfoot, Rossendale, Lancashire

Possible Burial Mound on Cowpe Lowe, in Rossendale. Photo  copyright: Stephen Oldfield.

NGR:- SD 8265 2067. Recently a friend, Stephen Oldfield, has brought to my attention that there are two “possible” Bronze Age burial mounds (barrows) at the southeastern side of Cowpe Lowe, near Waterfoot, Rossendale, Lancashire. One of these mounds looks more like a long barrow – while the other a bit further along is a smaller, circular mound. There is also evidence of early human activity on the summit of Cowpe Lowe from as far back as the Mesolithic, with a number of finds coming to light in recent years, which would suggest, then, that there was a settlement on the summit of the hill.  The hill itself is 440m high (1,444 feet), and is just a couple of miles southwest of Waterfoot and overlooks the town of Rawtenstall in the Rossendale Valley. Some      of the finds from Cowpe Lowe were deposited in The Whitaker Museum, Rawtenstall. Stephen Oldfield gives directions, saying to: “Follow the fence (keeping it on your right) from the ‘nick’ between Black Hill and Cowpe Lowe and climb upwards onto Cowpe Lowe and you will pass it [the mound]. There is another smaller one further on.”  

Possible Burial Mound on Cowpe Lowe. Photo Copyright: Stephen Oldfield.

The two grassy mounds (possibly Bronze Age barrows) are situated some 280 metres along a footpath to the northeast of the OS Trig Point (SD 82349 20639) on Cowpe Lowe’s south side. These mounds do not appear on any maps and would be easily missed if you didn’t know what you were looking for because there are many quarry mounds on the hill’s summit. Nor are they mentioned by archaeologists so obviously they have not been examined or excavated and, with that being the case, nothing is known about them, despite the many finds of flints and arrow-heads on the hill’s windswept summit. But are they actually burial mounds from the prehistoric age?, or just grassed-over quarry mounds that are now long forgotten?  Stephen Oldfield says regarding the possible barrows: “these two are isolated lined-up E.W. and facing the High Point of Top Leach – and the ground where my uncles found scores of arrowheads in the 1960s.”   

References & Related Websites:-

Many thanks to Stephen Oldfield for the use of his two photos and comments etc. Thanks mate.

More info here:

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.






The Tarr Steps, Exmoor National Park, Somerset, England

The Tarr Steps bridge over the River Barle, in Somerset.

NGR:- SS 86770 32113.  The Tarr Steps are an ancient Clapper Bridge that spans the river Barle in Exmoor National Park, about 4 miles northwest of Dulverton and 2½ miles south of Withypool, in Somerset. The slab-stone bridge could be prehistoric in age and date back 3,000 years to the Iron Age; however, some historians now consider the Tarr Steps to be Mediaeval in age and only dating back to the beginning of the 15th Century. The Tarr Steps slab bridge is 135 feet in length from bank to bank though Dr Sweetapple-Horlock (1928) said its length across the river was 180 feet. The stone slabs or clappers are between 6-10 foot long and the larger slabs are estimated to weigh between 1-2 tons; they lie on pillars with one or two slabs on top. Writing in 1924 Sir William Boyd Dawkins was the first to suggest prehistoric origins for the clapper bridge, or the earlier trackway over the ford, that crossed the river Barle, and its links with the Bronze Age round barrows (dating back to 2,500 BC) over to the west on Fyldon Ridge – while another trackway heads northeast from Tarr Steps bridge to the ‘Caratacus Stone’, an inscribed standing stone on Winsford Hill.

The Story of Tarr Steps by Michael Harrison (1985).

Michael Harrison (1985) says regarding the Position of Steps  The theory adduced by some writers is that it is a link track between the ridgeway over Winsford Hill (note the wam-barrows and Caratacus Stone), presumably to harbours in the Bristol Channel, with the other ridgeway over Molland Common via Anstey Barrows, White Post and over Fyldon Ridge (the present County Boundary) and on to Barnstaple. The significant point in common is that both tracks have Bronze Age Round Barrows alongside which date them around 2500 B.C., making the bridge seem comparatively modern and the ford across the river of very ancient origin.  Whether the original trackway went up the hill to the Church or whether it went up Hardway to Pennycombe Brook, which was the more direct line and not quite so steep, to White Post and the Ridgeway, must be a matter for speculation. The former route would meet the way over Hawkridge ridge coming up from the woods, where the Danesbrook joins the Barle guarded by the Iron Age earthworks of Mounsey Castle and Brewers Castle. showing that this track must have been of importance in very ancient times.  The writer apologizes for this diversion in the story of the Steps, but it must relate to the question of why the trackway was made there by the people who lived in these parts so many years ago. The answer is presumably because the river was easily fordable there, and the bridge later constructed to enable travellers to cross dryshod. 

Tarr Steps, Somerset. Description by Clery Welch.

“Description Of Steps  Back from the wilds of Exmoor let us return to Dr. Sweetapple’s Guide and a description of the Bridge, which consists of 17 spans, the covering stones laid flat without mortar or cement of any kind, on pillars of rough stone placed directly on the river bed. The pillars are from 4ft to 6ft apart, 3ft to 4ft high and about 3ft in breadth. Most of the pillars are spanned by one stone only but some have two laid side by side and one has three. The great slabs are from 6ft to 8ft long. One is over 10ft in length, nearly a foot thick, and estimated to weigh two tons or more. One stone about the centre of the Bridge is laid crosswise and is said to mark the boundary between the Parishes of Dulverton [now Winsford] and Hawkridge. This last mentioned stone seems to have been left out in one of the later reconstructions.

The Tarr Steps (illustrated by Clery Welch).

“At each pillar a long stone is slanted lengthways, one end resting on the river bed with its higher end projecting just above the flat stones of the bridge (the present writer’s theory on this aspect of the construction is that this was to allow tree branches and other debris to slide up the sloping stones in times of flood and be washed over the flat stones rather than pile up against them and risk damage to the bridge). The sloping stones were also to break the force of the water against the pillars.  The Bridge is 180ft long according to Dr. Sweet-apple and Grinsell, but the actual length from bank to bank, is about 135ft. The discrepancy     is accounted for by the stones lying flush with the surface of the ground on the Hawkridge side, which, if included, come to approximately 180ft.  The writer discovered, during a conversation with Mr. A. Oakes, who was tenant of Tarr Farm for many years, that originally a branch of the river ran under these stones and across the present meadow leaving a large island. Dr. Sweetapple had the old channel under these stones and across the meadow, filled in to make the present much larger and more useful field.  

“Building Of The Steps  The position of the bridge was evidently carefully chosen as the pool above is one of the longest and stillest in the river, and the flow of the water would be slowed before it reached the bridge. “‘The labour of building such a bridge must have been colossal’”, says the Guide, “‘in an age when machinery was un-known and it is hardly to be wondered at that local tradition ascribes the work to the devil. As he was bringing         the stones in his apron the string broke and the large square stone thus dropped can still be seen between the holly trees on the left bank making a useful seat’”. This stone is now below the island having been carried there in the Lynmouth flood. 

“The devil seems to have been held responsible on a number of occasions on Exmoor for rocks and stones in un-usual places, but why he should have built anything so useful as a bridge remains another mystery.  In the case      of Tarr Steps he is said to have built it in one night, saying it was for his exclusive use and that he would destroy the first creature crossing it. An unfortunate car attempted it and was torn to pieces, in one account, or struck by lightning in another. This appears to have broken the spell, for a Parson then crossed in safety, exchanging com-pliments with the builder. “‘The devil called the Parson a black crow, to which the Parson replied that he was not blacker than the devil’”. 

“Name Of The Steps  The Bridge and its name is another chapter in the Guide. Signposts to the steps varied between Torr and Tarr. Dr. Sweetapple points out that Torr means a boulder or rock outcrop, never stones such as could be used for bridge building. It seems more likely to be derived from the Celtic ‘toucher’ anglicised to ‘toher’ meaning a causeway, and the word ‘Steps’ added at a later date when they had been built. The other suggestion is that it may have taken its name from the family of Tarr connected with the district for many years. L. V. Grinsell, mentioned earlier, speculates in more detail in his book. Certainly all the earlier writers on Ex-moor—Collins, the Rev. Jack Russell, and MacDermot, call it Tarr Steps. Maps made in 1782 and 1822 show the form Tar Steps.

“The Guide [Dr. Sweetapple’s] itself mentions that occasionaly, after a combination of heavy rain and melting snow, the river overflows the bridge and that fifty years ago it was rare for the water even to cover the bridge, but this was before the moors were drained and in consequence the flow of water was more constant. Also the river was wider and deeper. Since drainage grants came in with the Second World War, the run off from the uplands has been greatly accelerated and this in turn causes flash floods of greater violence and more often than in the old days, bringing down driftwood and even trees which crash into the structure with great force, breaching it on several occasions in recent times.  The unforseeable happening was the Lynmouth flood……….” 

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Harrison, Michael, The Story Of Tarr Steps, (with illustrations by Clery Welch), 1985.

More info here at:

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.

The Charing Cross (Eleanor Cross), Westminster, London E.C.2

The Charing Cross or The Eleanor Cross.

NGR: TQ 30197 80498. On the forecourt of Charing Cross Railway Station on the Strand, in Westminster, London E.C.2., is the sculptured monument known as ‘The Charing Cross’ or the ‘Eleanor Cross’ which        is a replica of the original one that stood nearby, and one of only four such crosses to remain, although the other three are originals. It was named after Queen Eleanor of Castile, the wife of King Edward I, and was erected as a memorial to her in 1291 the year after her death at Harby in Nottinghamshire at the age of 49. Queen Eleanor was buried in Westminster Abbey. However, this 70 foot (21 metre) high richly decorated monument dating from 1865 is made of granite and Portland stone. But it is said ‘not to be as good’ as the original, which was pulled down and broken up about 1647. A statue of King Charles I on horseback was erected where the original Charing Cross used to stand, near Trafalgar Square. The present Charing Cross was recently restored. Charing as a place-name is thought to be derived from ‘cerring’, an Early English word meaning “bend or turn in the road.” The monument is Grade II listed.

Arthur Mee (1949) says that: “…….in the courtyard of Charing Cross Station is the lovely Eleanor Cross, a copy of the last of that pathetic series set up by Edward the First to mark the resting-place of his Queen Eleanor on her last ride through our countryside. She came from Harby in Notts, the village where she died, and rested nine nights on the way. Three of the nine crosses remain in the country; this is a copy of the old one destroyed in 1647. It stood where Charles Stuart sits on horse-back a little way off,  and this copy of it was designed by Edward Barry and sculptured by Thomas Erpe.  The cross is seventy feet high and rises in two stages surmounted by a spire. Below are coats of heraldry, and above are eight statues of the queen with a kneeling angel at the foot on each statue. The figures are all under canopies, and four show Eleanor as a sovereign and the others as a gracious lady.”

Eleanor Cross, Charing Cross Railway Station.

Mary Fox-Davies (1910) says that: “You know, I expect, the story of these crosses: how King Edward I. brought the coffin of his dead queen, Eleanor, from Nottinghamshire to her burial-place in Westminster Abbey, and on each spot where the coffin was placed to rest during the long, weary journey the King erected one of these crosses, and the little village of Charing was the last halt on the way. The original Charing cross stood nearer to White-hall, on the spot now occupied by the statue of Charles I.; it was removed in 1647, when the copy was placed in its present position. Ten of these ”Eleanor Crosses“ were erected by King Edward, but only three now remain — one at Geddington, one at Northampton, and one at Waltham Cross.” 

Garry Hogg (1968) tells us the locations of the other Eleanor Crosses, saying the: “Eleanor Cross, Geddington, Northants, three miles north-east of Kettering. Only three of the original eleven memorial crosses erected by Queen Eleanor’s funeral cortege between Hardby, Lincolnshire, and West-minster Abbey survive today (the third is at Waltham, Essex). Eleanor Cross, Hardingstone, Northants, on the A50, one mile south of Northampton. The earliest one, carved in 1291 by John Battle.”  Please note there is an error by the author: it should read Harby, Nottinghamshire, not Hardby, Lincolnshire. 

The HE (Historic England) List No is:- 1236708. See the Link, below.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Fox-Davies, Mary, London — Shown To The Children, T. C. & E. C. Jack, Ltd., London And Edinburgh, 1910.

Hogg, Garry, Odd Aspects of England, David & Charles (Publishers) Limited., Newton Abbot, Devon, 1968.

Mee, Arthur, The King’s England — London, Hodder And Stoughton Limited, London E.C.4., 1949.

More info here:

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.

St Patrick’s Well, Heysham, Lancashire

St Patrick’s Well or Church Well at Heysham, Lancashire.

NGR: SD 41093 61591.  At the corner of Main Street in Heysham, Lancashire, and just down the slope from St Peter’s Church is St Patrick’s Well (also known as Church Well). It is built into the wall at the side of the street at the bottom of the rectory garden (Glebe Garden).  However, it would seem that it has never been a holy well despite being named after the Irish patron saint, but merely ‘a spring’ that was used by the local church, St Peter’s, and its rectory.  Perhaps it should be called St Peter’s Well. The village, it would seem, needed the divine help of a great saint such as St Patrick and, after all the ruined Saxon chapel on the headland above the parish church already bore his name. Today, in the rectangular-shaped arched walled recess above two stone steps and pebble-filled basin there is a hand-operated pump contraptiuon, but whether this still pumps water is anyone’s guess – though it might do!? The present structure only dates from the early 1900s but it stands in the place of an earlier 18th Century well that had collapsed. It is Grade II listed.  Heysham is a very attractive village situated about 1¾ miles to the southwest of Morecambe on the A589.  

The ‘British Listed Buildings’ website has the following information: “Well head. Possibly C18. Well set in a roughly semi-circular recess in a rubble retaining wall, spanned by a lintel.  The kerb stone at the front of the wall is level with the top     of a second lower wall which contains a recess with two steps in front of the well.” See their website:

Eileen J. Dent (2003) says of St Patrick that: “The popular myth that St Patrick came to Heysham can be discounted by his “Confessions” written towards the end of his life:

“‘Wherefore then, even if I wished to leave them to go to Britain–and how I would have loved to visit my country and my parents and also Gaul in order to visit my brethren and to see the face of the saints of                my Lord. God knows it that I desired it, but I am bound by the Spirit, who gives evidence against me if                       I do this, telling me that I shall be guilty; and I am afraid of losing the labour which I have begun – nay,                not I but Christ the Lord who bade me come here and stay with them for the rest of my life,  if the Lord             will, and will guard me from every evil way that I may not sin before Him.”’   

“This was St Patrick’s reply to his fellow bishops who had criticised him for remaining in Ireland and not evangelizing abroad.”

Ken Fields (1987) tells us that: “A saint whose name has become linked with holy wells is the patron of Ireland, Saint Patrick. Little is known about his early life before he rose to become the great missionary, but we have a tradition that an important episode in his youth occurred on the north-west coast.

St Patrick’s Well at Heysham, Lancashire (b/w photo view).

“Patrick was born about AD385 of noble stock at a place named Banavem Taberniae, which some people say is the village of Bewcastle near Carlisle. The story of his capture by pirates while still a boy, and his imprisonment in Ireland is well docu-mented. Just how he managed to escape by sea and was subsequently ship-wrecked is less well known and his landing place is not documented at all.  Some historians claim it was Gaul, but others disagree, pointing to what is now part of the Lancashire coast as a likely spot.  It is at a point close to lovely Hey-sham Village that the young Patrick is said to have landed; a stony bank visible only at low water is still known as St Patrick’s Skier. The ruin of an ancient chapel on the cliff edge marks the spot where he came ashore and alongside are some unusual graves hewn out of the rock.  Now empty these probably once held the bodies of monks.  After his landing at Heysham, the weary saint began the long journey home on foot.  The route he took can still be followed on a map, for many of his stopping places recall his name. At Hest Bank, a few miles north of Heysham lies the first St. Patrick’s Well, a place where the holy man stopped to drink. Near the small town of Milnthorpe lies Preston Patrick, and the magnificent valley of Patterdale in the heart of Lakeland was originally St. Patrick’s Dale.  Patterdale church is dedicated to the saint,  and on the road to nearby Glenridding is yet another St. Patrick’s Well. The village of Bampton near Haweswater, has a pub named St. Patrick’s Well, and its Anglican church is one of only ten in all England dedicated to the saint. North of Maryport, lies the town of Aspatria, which is said to be yet another settlement derived from his name. Thus it is possible to travel northwards from Heysham, following in the saint’s footsteps through some of our most attractive countryside. Here is a link with a journey that took place sixteen centuries ago.”  

There used to be another well in Heysham which was called Sainty Well or Saintly Well, but this was capped and covered over in recent times. This second ‘holy well’ is now on private land half-way along St Mary’s Road, Heysham. See History of Heysham website Link:

Sources / References & Related Websites:

‘British Listed Buildings’ website Link:

Dent, Eileen J., Heysham − a History, The Rector and Parochial Church Council of St Peter’s Church, Heysham, and Heysham Heritage Association, 2003.

Fields, Ken, The Mysterious North, Countryside Publications, 1987.

‘History of Heysham’ website Link:

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.

St Ebba’s Chapel, Ebb’s Nook, Beadnell, Northumberland

St Ebba’s Chapel near Beadnell (looking west). Photo Credit: Anne T.

NGR: NU 23964 28707.  The grassed-over scanty remains of St Ebba’s Chapel are situated on a narrow promontory known as Ebb’s Nook (Snook), which juts out into the North Sea, on the opposite side of Beadnell Harbour, near Seahouses. Northumberland. These grassy humps and lumps are all that remains of a 12th or 13th century chapel named after St Ebba or Æbba, a Northumbrian princess who died in 683 AD. There are also some earthworks surrounding the ruined chapel (E side) which are said to be those of a small pre-Conquest monastery possibly founded by St Æbba, the step-daughter of King Æthelfrith of Bernicia, who is ‘one and the same’ as St Abb, abbess of a monastery at Coldingham, near Eyemouth, on the East Berwickshire coast. She was also the sister of St Oswald, King and Martyr (d 642).

The chapel site can be reached by going through Beadnell village (north end): going (south) along Harbour Road and then Marl-borough Road. At the south end where the road bends to the southwest take the footpath (south) for a short while between the buildings, and then (east) along the promontory (Beadnell Point), with Little Rock in the distance; the chapel ruins are about half-way along this narrow, grassy promontory.

Nigel & Mary Kerr (1982) tell us that: “The situation of the small ruined chapel at Ebb’s Nook is all-important. It stands bleakly beside the North Sea, looking up the forlorn and storm-swept coast of Northumbria, and we may well wonder at the piety and faith which made men choose this of all places to build a chapel. There can be few more powerful examples of the juxtaposition of the spiritual and elemental than this small outpost of Christianity.

“The ruins of the chapel, originally a simple two-roomed structure of nave and chancel which was later extended by a western annexe, were uncovered in 1853. There is no certain date for the building, but the place name recording its associations with St Ebba, stepdaughter of Ethelfrith, king of Northumbria, suggests a site of ancient usage.

The first view of St Ebba’s Chapel near Beadnell. Photo credit: Anne T.

“St Ebba, whose feast day is 25th August, fled from Northumbria to Scotland when Edwin invaded the kingdom in 616. She later became a nun and was famed for her wisdom. She reputedly secured the release of St Wilfrid one occasion by telling Ecgfrith, the king who had imprisoned him, that his wife’s illness was a divine punishment for depriving the saint of his freedom: he was speedily released! Later, however, St Ebba was criticized for relaxed state of her community of nuns at Ely. Particular attention was drawn to the nuns’ weaving of fine clothes with which they sought to attract attentions of ‘strange men’. Despite this temporary lapse from grace, Ebba’s reputation for holiness continued after her death, and she was especially venerated during the 12th century in the north of England and south Scotland following the discovery of her relics.

“Perhaps, therefore, the little chapel on Ebb’s Nook is of the 12th century, and was constructed when her cult underwent a revival. But in lieu of direct evidence to the contrary, we will follow the confident assertion of the 19th-century excavators that this was the site of a chapel dedicated to her during the halcyon days of Northumbria in the 7th century.”

Northumberland National Park Guide (1990) tells us that:  “The small pile of grass-covered rubble near the point is the re-mains of Ebba’s Chapel, a 13th century structure excavated in 1853 after being buried for many years. Ebba was the sister of King Oswald; she may have been responsible for the building of a small chapel on this site in the 7th century. The stones and debris of the chapel have been colonised by thrift and scurvy-grass.”

St Ebba’s Chapel (north doorway and wall). Photo credit:  Anne T.

David Hugh Farmer (1982) has much more on St Ebba or Ebbe, saying she was: “first abbess of Coldingham (Berwickshire). Daughter of Ethelfrith, king of Northumbria, she fled to Scotland on his death in 616, when Edwin conquered Northumbria. Later she became a nun at Cold-ingham and subsequently abbess of this double monastery. In 672 Etheldreda was separated from her husband, King Egfrith, with the counsel of Wilfrid, and became a nun under Ebbe (who was her aunt) before founding her own monastery at Ely. In 681 Egfrith visited Cold-ingham with his second wife Ermenburga, who was then seized with some kind of sudden illness. Ebba, now famous for wisdom, interpreted this as a punishment for the imprisonment of Wilfrid, disobedience to Roman decisions in his favour, and the theft of his relics and reli-quaries by Ermenburga. Egfrith released Wilfrid; Ermenburga restored the relics and soon recovered.

“Not long afterwards, the aged Ebbe was warned by the priest Adomnan of the relaxed state of her community. The nuns were said to spend their time weaving fine clothes, to adorn themselves like brides or to attract the attention of strange men, while both monks and nuns alike neglected vigils and prayers. In spite of Adomnan’s threat of divine punishment, the community mended its ways only for a little while. A few years after Ebbe’s death, the monastery was burnt down (686). These failures of Ebbe’s community did not destroy her reputation for holiness. Her name was given to Ebchester and to St Abb’s Head, where the remains of a fort possibly indicate the site of her monastery. Interest revived in her during the 12th century, following the discovery of her relics in the late 11th. At this time, according to an account attributed to Reginald of Durham, she was known from York to Lanark. Calendar evidence for her feast comes from Durham, Aberdeen, and Winch-combe, while Durham and Coldingham shared her relics.  She is also the titular of a church and street in Oxford.  The present church at Coldingham (part of the priory founded by Durham) is more than a mile away from Ebbe’s monastery. Feast 25th August.”   

The 19th Century parish church in the centre of Beadnell village is also dedicated to the local saint, Ebba. There are three late 18th Century (restored) limekilns at Beadnell Harbour (east side).

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Photos (above) are the © copyright of Anne T. Many thanks Anne for your help and kindness. Please see the Link:

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

Kerr, Nigel & Mary, A Guide to Anglo-Saxon Sites, Granada Publishing Limited, St Alban’s, Hearts, 1982.

Northumberland National Park, Walks on the Northumberland Coast, Northumberland County Council National Park and Countryside Department, Eastburn, South Park, Hexham, 1990.

More info here:

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.


The Long Stoop, Yeadon, West Yorkshire

Photo credit, see below.

NGR: SE 22127 41831. At the side of the roundabout on the very edge of the Leeds-Bradford Airport at Yeadon, west Yorkshire, stands a rather curious gritstone pillar that looks rather out-of-place being located where it is, but it has, in fact, been moved in order to facilitate its predicament of being in the way of an airport runway extension; the most recent move being in the early 1980s.  This tall, roughly-hewn stoop stone is actually a boundary stone or guide stone whose base is all that remains of the original stoop from the early part of the 19th Century, which had, at that time, stood at Coney Lodge Farm about a ¼ of a mile to the northeast, but was apparently destroyed by lightning. The ‘Long Stoop’ Stone stands beside what looks to be a mounting block! on the verge of the A658 roundabout at the junction of Victoria Avenue (Harrogate Road) and Warren House Lane at the northwestern perifery of the Leeds & Bradford Airport complex, just to the east of Yeadon.

The original ‘Long Stoop’ Stone which had stood for a few hundred years at Coney Lodge Farm, near Yeadon, was destroyed by lightning around 1836 after which a replacement stoop was erected a ¼ of a mile to the west on the Harrogate Road turnpike     at Crown Point (east side of Yeadon), but in 1983 it was moved once again a short distance to the side of the A658 roundabout when an extension to the airport’s runway was being built. It is a boundary or guide stone and is a tallish, rough-hewn gritstone pillar with a flat top, and is set into a base stone from the original old stoop; but it has been blackened by the chimney smoke from nearby Bradford and Leeds which occurred during the Industrial Revolution. Today, however, it is probably something of an oddity or curiosity to the people in their cars going round the roundabout. See the very excellent ‘Aireborough Historical Society’s’ website, below, for further historical information and old photos.

Sources / References & Related Websites:

Photo by Patrick John Leonard. Thanks mate.,_West_Yorkshire

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.