Richard Wood South, Thornton Steward, North Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone (missing):  OS Grid Reference – SE 16940 87301

Archaeology & History

A prehistoric carving that is missing and possibly destroyed since being rediscovered in 2001 by Barbara Brown (2008) and subsequently described in her book on North Yorkshire petroglyphs.  She told it to be in “Thornton Steward field hedge bottom” and was a simple glyph, being a

“rectangular slab (with) single cup-mark located in hedge bottom part of old walling.”

When she revisited the site with her husband in 2006, the old hedge and wall had been removed, with “new hedging in place.”  The carved stone may be buried within a pile of clearance stones adjacent to the hedgerow, but it has yet to be relocated.  If anyone finds it, please let us know!  It was one of several cup-marked stones that exist in the wider neighbourhood.

References:

  1. Brown, Paul & Barbara, Prehistoric Rock Art in the Northern Dales, Tempus: Stroud 2008.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Glen Shurig, Kilbride, Arran

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NR 00 37

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 39685

Archaeology & History

Along the B880 glen road that cuts Arran roughly in half, known as The String, could once be seen a stone circle that one early writer told was quite impressive.  Today It seems that all trace of the circle has gone.  The earliest mention of it seems to be in James Headrick’s (1807) work, where, in discussing what he thought were “Druidical” remains of obelisks and cairns in the area,

“A more entire circle of this sort is seen on the rising ground at the mouth of Glen Shirreg, towards the west.”

But he tells us no more.  Shortly afterwards—according to reverend Allan McNaughton in the New Statistical Account of the 1830s—it was destroyed. He said that,

“about twenty-four years ago, a very complete circle at the mouth of Glensheraig was removed, in clearing the field in which it stood for the operations of the plough.”

Despite this short remark, eighty years later we had J.A. Balfour (1910) inform us that,

“On the right of the String Road going west in Glen Sherraig is a small ruined monument of which three small standing stones alone remain, so disposed as to suggest that the original structure was a double circle.”

However, Balfour’s site may be an altogether different one to that mentioned by Headrick and McNaughton.

Aubrey Burl (2000) lists it in his major work; but its ancient life was, once again, brought to end in these recent years by those of less sound minds than our ancestors.

References:

  1. Balfour, J.A., The Book of Arran – volume 1, Arran Society of Glasgow 1910.
  2. Bryce, James, “Account of excavations within the stone circle of Arran“, in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 4, 1863.
  3. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  4. Headrick, James, View of the Mineralogy, Agriculture, Manufactures and Fisheries of the Islland of Arran, with Notices of Antiquities, D. Willison: Edinburgh 1807.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Fingal’s Cauldron Seat, Machrie Moor, Kilmory, Arran

Stone Circle:  OS Grid Reference – NR 90878 32353

Fingal's Cauldron, on 1864 OS map

Fingal’s Cauldron, on 1864 OS map

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 39705
  2. Machrie Moor 5
  3. Moss Farm Stone Circle
  4. Suidhe Coire Fhionn
  5. Tormore Stones

Getting Here

The stone circle of Fingal's Cauldron Seat, Machrie Moor, Arran <c>(photo by Aisha Domleo)</c>

The stone circle of Fingal’s Cauldron Seat, Machrie Moor, Arran (photo by Aisha Domleo)

By whichever way you come (be it from Brodick on the east, Lochranza to the north) ask any local the way to Machrie and they’ll point you the road onto the west side of the island, roughly halfway.  You’re after the hamlets of Blackwaterfoot or Auchagallon. From either of these spots, take the road to Tormore.  From here, the dirt-track east close to the Machrie Water is where you need to walk.  About a mile along this well-defined track you’ll see the large barn ahead of you.  Hereabouts you’ll begin to notice some very tall standing stones. Keep walking on the track, and the first double-ring of smaller stones to your right is the place yer after!

Archaeology & History

Approaching the ring (photo by Aisha Domleo)

Approaching the ring (photo by Aisha Domleo)

This is one well-preserved stone circle in a superb setting with other large megalithic rings all close by—at least 12 of them!—set upon the flat open moorlands on the west side of Arran, with views in all directions sending the enquiring nose tasting for more wherever the eyes gaze….  It has been written about by many many writers over the last few centuries—which aint surprising!  But it was in recent times that the place was said by Aubrey Burl (1981) to be “holy ground,” because although there are many prehistoric settlement sites and other remains scattered across this landscape,

“it is noticeable that the dozens of huts whose ruins litter the moor were built well away to the west, none of them near these powerful and lonely stones.”

1832 sketch of Fingal's Cauldron by James Skene

1832 sketch of Fingal’s Cauldron by James Skene

It’s a fair point.

Fingal’s Cauldron was first defined in an archaeological context by James Bryce in 1863, who named it the ‘Machrie Moor 5′ stone circle (MM5)—and it was he and several others who dug into the ring, to see what it might be hiding!

“Excavating at the centre we found a small cist at less than a foot in depth, and lying about north-east.  It was covered by a small lid, and the dimensions were 2 feet 2 inches in length, 10½ inches in depth, and 11 inches in width.  Inside there were several bone fragments and black earth.  A flint implement was found in the stony soil above, and three other flint fragments, but nothing of this kind in the cist itself.  This was of much ruder structure than any we had seen before (Ed. – i.e., in the other Machrie circles); it was cut out of the sold sandstone rock, but with little care or exactness; the sides however, were nearly perpendicular.  The difficulty of excavating without iron tools may account for the smaller size and ruder form of this cist.  No other cist was found, nor remains of any kind, though a trial was made at several points around the centre.  A deep opening was also made on both sides of the upright stone, but nothing was met with worthy of being recorded.”

A.E. Roy's 1967 site-plan

A.E. Roy’s 1967 site-plan

Described thereafter a number of times by local historians and antiquarians, Fingal’s Cauldron (and its associates) was then recounted in the Machrie Moor survey by Mr Balfour (1910) in his magnum opus on the Isle of Arran.  Although he gave greater literary attention to the other stone circles on the moors, he did thankfully make note that,

“upon higher ground free of peat, and immediately to the south of the farmhouse, is the celebrated double circle of granite blocks known popularly as Fingal’s Cauldron Seat. The inner ring consists of eight and the outer of fourteen blocks. The diameter of the inner circle is 36 feet and of the outer 57 feet. The largest stones are in the inner series; they are more or less round-topped blocks, about 4 feet high. One of the stones of the outer ring has a ledge which is perforated by a round hole, with the edges worn smooth.

In the centre of the inner ring, only a foot from the surface, a ruined cist was laid bare. It had been previously disturbed, and was represented by two stones only, lying parallel to one another. There was no capstone, and no relics were discovered.”

More recently in the 1960s, another survey of Fingal’s Cauldron was undertaken by A.E. Roy and other archaeologists.  They found nothing new of any value, but gave us the ground-plan we see here (sadly it seems that Alexander Thom didn’t bless this site with his theodolite and survey).  Aubrey Burl re-examined the site again during his own survey in the 1980s.

An elemental called Lara sat seated on one of the uprights! (photo by Aisha Domleo)

An elemental called Lara sat seated on one of the uprights! (photo by Aisha Domleo)

Small section of inner & outer rings (photo by Aisha Domleo)

Small section of inner & outer rings (photo by Aisha Domleo)

There are other curious features to this ring that aint generally talked about amongst the archaeo-fraternity, out of fear of sounding inspiring perhaps…  In the 1980s, a chap called Paul Devereux and a number of physicists organized volunteers from across the country to monitor electromagnetic anomalies at many megalithic rings, in order to explore the validity, or otherwise, of the idea that there were ‘energies’ at stone circles.  The study was called The Dragon Project and went on for many years.  The Machrie Moor complex was one of the places where examinations of electromagnetic fields were undertaken—Fingal’s Cauldron being one of them.  Devereux (1990) tells us a small part of the story:

“In May 1983 Dave and Lynn Patrick monitored several of the Machrie Moor circles, including MM5, with a geiger counter for the Gaia Programme.  They also took background control readings and monitored a non-megalithic ‘dummy site’ for comparisons.

“Five of the circles…gave average site readings 2 to 13 per cent higher than background, but MM5 gave a site average of 33 per cent above background.  A non-megalithic ‘dummy site’ was 5 per cent above background.  The Patricks had taken 20 readings within MM5—one hour of monitoring time—plotted onto the ground-plan.  There was no mystery about why the site gave a higher average than anywhere else, and a third higher than background—the stones are radioactive granite, and there are 23 of them.  But one stone, the tallest, and the most westerly of the upright stones in the inner ring, is particularly energetic, giving readings 16 per cent above the next most radioactive stone in the double ring, and more than that for the other 58 stones monitored in the Patrick’s study on Machrie Moor.

“I took measurements at the site myself in April 1988, using new equipment, and confirmed that the MM5 stone did indeed give a moderately high naturally radiation count (about 33 per cent above normal).”

This rather hot “Cauldron of Finn” certainly does throw off more heat than its compatriots nearby, as scientific analysis has shown!  It turned out to be the type of stone which our ancestors used in constructing the site.  Fascinating…

Folklore

1861 drawing of the site

1861 drawing of the site

Although this is one of the smallest of the megalithic rings on the moor, it’s the one that has the main legend.  In line with its folk-title, twas said to have been the place where the Irish giant and hero-figure, Finn, “assigning to the encircling stones the purpose of supporting the cauldron of the giant,” with the inner ring being where it was placed and he cooked. Finn also used another part of the circle, as James Bryce (1863) said:

“A block on the southeast side of the outer circle has a ledge perforated by a round hole, which is well worn on the edges, and said to have been formed for the purpose of fastening the favourite dog Bran.”

Shortly after this, John McArthur (1873) wrote his work on the ancient remains of the island, giving additional elements to the myths of this ring; firstly telling that the perforated hole which Bran was tied to,

“was probably associated with some old superstition or religious ceremony, now forgotten. The hole is sufficiently large to admit the two fingers, and runs perpendicularly through the side of the column…

“The perforated column of “Fiongal’s Cauldron Seat,” on the Mauchrie Moor, was believed to contain a fairy or brownie, who could only be propitiated by the pouring of milk through the hole bored in the side of the stone.”

The animistic tradition of pouring milk into stones is more usually found at bullauns and some cup-and-ring carvings, so we need to look closely in good weather conditions at the uprights in the circle just to make sure we aint missed anything here… Carvings are found on some of the other Machrie stones.

Regarding the small hole through the stone which Bran was tied to, Gareth Weston (2007), in his otherwise terrible book, tells that,

“The middle of the perforated stone and the geometric centre (of the ring) are in line with the sharp summit of Goat Fell, Arran’s loftiest peak and the highest point in southeast Scotland.”

Geomancy anyone…?

Forteana

Over the years I have slept at many prehistoric sites in Britain—stone circles, chambered tombs and cup-and-ring stones all—hundreds of times, in all weathers.  Sadly in recent years I’ve been neglecting this duty.  However, during the winter of 1986 I spent a few mights in the snow on the Machrie plain, between this circle and the taller uprights a short distance away.  On one dark freezing February night, shortly before we hit the sack,

“a bright orange glow was seen on the summit of the mountain (Ard Bheinn), three miles away.  A second or two later a ball of light rose up from the snow-clad hills and into the clouds, a hundred feet above.  A few minutes later we saw the same ball of light again; on both occasions the ball of light was visible for two seconds at the most.”

Several times when sleeping rough at Machrie I got talking with an old farmer who had grown up round here.  He told that he’d “seen strange lights around the moors a few times” down the years.  With the moorland scent and feel of the place round here, that surprises me not one bit!

…to be continued…

References:

  1. Armit, Ian, Scotland’s Hidden History, Tempus: Stroud 1998.
  2. Balfour, J.A., The Book of Arran – volume 1, Arran Society of Glasgow 1910.
  3. Bennett, Paul, “Events in the Annals of Arran,” in UFO Brigantia, March 1986.
  4. Bryce, James, “Account of excavations within the stone circle of Arran“, in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 4, 1863.
  5. Burl, Aubrey, A Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, New Haven & London 1995.
  6. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  7. Devereux, Paul, Places of Power, Blandford: London 1990.
  8. Ewart, G. & Sharman, P., “Moss Farm stone circle, Arran (Kilmory parish),” in Discovery & Excavation Scotland, 1997.
  9. Fairhurst, Horace, Exploring Arran’s Past, Kilbrannan: Brodick 1988.
  10. McArthur, John, The Antiquities of Arran, Adam & Charles Black: Edinburgh 1873 (2nd edition).
  11. MacLellan, Robert, The Ancient Monuments of Arran, HMSO: Edinburgh 1989.
  12. Roy, A.E., “A New Survey of the Tormore Circles,” in Transactions of the Glasgow Archaeological Society, 51, 1963.
  13. Weston, Garth, Monuments and Mountains, Ashridge Press: Bakewell 2007.

AcknowledgementsHUGE thanks to the awesome Aisha Domleo—and Her brilliant clan!—not only for kicking my arse to write this up, but for the photos of the site too!  More to come. Many many thanks. x

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Adam’s Well, Speldhurst, Kent

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – TQ 556 382

Getting Here

Adam's Well, Speldhurst

Adam’s Well, Speldhurst

To find Adam’s Well take the footpath from near the High Rocks Inn, leading up under the railway, continuing along the edge of a copse and into open area. Where the path turns sharp right one can see, looking ahead at this junction, a large pond and above this the black and white cottage.  Beside this an arch where the spring arises. To gain access, go through the gate ahead and turn into the drive of the house called Adam’s Well and ask permission to see the well as it lives on private land.

Archaeology & History

The earliest reference to the site is found in Thomas Burr’s (1766) History of Tunbridge Wells:

“on forest a little beyond the Rocks, a spring of water was discovered, which was palled in and called Adam’s well. For what particular reason this spring was taken such notice of, it is not now very easy to determine.”

Burr (1766)  perhaps implies that the well was discovered within living memory, and its fame being established before that of Tunbridge.

MacKinnon (1934) in his History of Speldhurst, perhaps drawing upon an earlier source as well as describing it in greater detail, clearly indicates it origins as a holy well, in the use of the words holy water below:

“Adam’s Well is situated in this Manor, it was famous long before the Tunbridge Wells waters were discovered, and issue from high ground at Langton. In much repute in ancient times, it is impregnated with no mineral, saline, nitrous or earthy matter, whatever, it is quite free of sediment, and was called in old times a ‘holy water.’ In 1765, the owner of this well, on digging into the rock to enlarge the pool or bath came upon an ancient stone arch, whose date could but mere matter of conjecture. This arch can be seen at the present day.”

Combined with the traces of medieval stonework, the medieval origin is supported by its name: Adam, being taken from a local fourteenth century landowner, John Adam.  Fortunately, Adam’s Well still exists, much as MacKinnon (1934) describes, now enclosed in the private grounds of Adam’s Well House: a bungalow, built in the nineteenth century, after a bout of vandalism, to house a caretaker for the well. The well itself arises in a shallow, square brick-lined chamber.  Enclosing this is a large stone alcove, built to allow a sheltered access to the well during inclement weather. The back wall of this shelter is of a crude nature, indicating that it may indeed be of considerable age. A stone set in its arch notes: ‘ADAMS WELL 1868.’

The waters of the Well

The waters of the Well

This date presumably refers to when the well was repaired, and the house built.  In front of this is a much larger and deeper rectangular stone chamber. I was informed by the then owner in the mid-1990s, Mrs Wolf, that dogs and horses were washed within this.  Over this chamber is an iron grill with the letters ‘AW’ in its centre.  Mrs Wolf also told me that the quality of the water was so good that it was bottled and stored on ships for long periods. Much of the popularity of the water came from the fact that it lay along the busy old road from Peacehaven to London.

Folklore

Burr (1766) implies that its powers, to cure human ailments, were largely forgotten and:

 “…at present it is only famous for the cure of mangy dogs, in which case it is esteemed an infallible remedy.”

Yet, John Britton (1836) in the Descriptive sketches of Tunbridge Wells and the Calverley estate; with brief notices of the picturesque scenery, seats, and antiquities in the vicinity describes it as being noted for:

“its transparency of its waters, and for its efficacy in some cutaneous disorders.”

Recent analysis showed that the water contains copper, which perhaps explains its lower popularity compared to Tunbridge, as copper salts were not as efficacious as iron salts. This is supported by Mrs. Wolf who noted that it had not cured her rheumatism!

Extracted from the forthcoming Holy wells and healing springs of Kent

References:

  1. Britton, John, (1836) Descriptive sketches of Tunbridge Wells and the Calverley estate; with brief notices of the picturesque scenery, seats, and antiquities in the vicinity
  2. Burr, T., (1766) History of Tunbridge Wells
  3. MacKinnon, Donald D., (1934) History of Speldhurst 

© R.B. Parish, The Northern Antiquarian

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Holy Well, King’s Newton, Derbyshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – SK 386 262

Getting Here

The well depicted in Hope’s (1893) Legendary lore of holy wells, sadly he says nothing about it!

The well depicted in Hope’s (1893) Legendary lore of holy wells, sadly he says nothing about it!

The Holy Well is signposted off the road to Castle Donington on the left hand side as you near a small brook, past new bridge and it will be seen down the track. It can be muddy, so bring some boots!

Archaeology & History

It is first noted in 1366 as ‘Halywalsiche.’  The purchase of the lands of St Catherine’s Chantry, lately dissolved, in 1564, refers to lands here at ‘Holy well hedge’ and ‘Hollywell siche.’  A carved inscription over the well read:

Fons sacer hic strvitvr Roberto Nominus Hardinge 16xx

translating as:

this Holy well was built by Robert named Hardinge 16xx“.

Briggs suggested the date of 1660, which is quite likely, as it coincides with the Restoration of Charles II as the family at the nearby hall.  The aforementioned Hardinge, were staunch Royalists, and of course puritans disliked holy wells as many other so called ‘popish’ things. However, its restoration may have been for little more than to maintain a good water supply. Later depictions such as pre-war postcards show the date to be quite clearly 1662.

The restored holy well today, original stonework to rear with newer stone at the front

The restored holy well today, original stonework to rear with newer stone at the front

The present condition of the well is tribute to its local community.  The arch survived for nearly 300 years but a combination of vandals and the roots of the nearby ash tree caused the arch fall down and it lay in pieces in the 1950s. Sadly the original inscription appears to have been stolen or entirely broken to pieces. However, unlike many similar sites, this was not the final fate of the well. In the 1980s it was restored using as many of the old stones as possible. The landowner was happy to sell the land and Melbourne Civic Society donated money for its restoration. No artifacts were found, apart from 17th century Ticknall ware pottery, later tiles, and drainpipes fragments. Most of the original stones were recovered, but the job of reconstructing them appeared to be a large task and new stone was required. The arch over the well was left blank as it was thought misleading to re-inscribe it. Usher (1985) notes that on the first Sunday after Ascension Day, May 19th 1985, over a hundred people gathered for the opening ceremony when the plaque was unveiled by the Society’s President, the Marquees of Lothian, of Melbourne Hall. It is delightful to see it restored and celebrated by the community.

Folklore

There appears to be no records regarding its properties baring its ‘superior excellence of its waters‘, and being noted as a mineral spring. Interestingly, its waters are said to flow towards the rising sun.

Extracted from R.B.Parish’s (2011) Holy wells and healing springs of Derbyshire

References:

  1. Usher, H., (1984) The Holy Well at King’s Newton, Derbyshire. Old Series Source

© R.B. Parish, The Northern Antiquarian

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Calderstones, Allerton, Liverpool, Lancashire

Chambered Tomb (damaged):  OS Grid Reference – SJ 405 875

Calderstones on 1889 OS-map

Calderstones on 1889 OS-map

Also Known as:

  1. Calder Stones
  2. Caldway Stones
  3. Dogger Stones
  4. Druid’s Cross
  5. Rodger Stones

Getting Here

Access to these stones has, over recent years been bloody dreadful by all accounts.  It’s easy enough to locate. Go into Calderstones Park and head for the large old vestibule or large greenhouse.  If you’re fortunate enough to get one of the keepers, you may or may not get in.  If anyone has clearer info on how to breach this situation and allow access as and when, please let us know.

Archaeology & History

Earliest known drawing from 1825, showing the carvings

Earliest known drawing from 1825, showing the carvings

Marked on the 1846 Ordnance Survey map in a position by the road junctions at the meeting of township boundaries, where the aptly-named Calderstones Road and Druids Cross Road meet, several hundred yards north of its present site in Harthill Greenhouses in Calderstones Park, this is a completely fascinating site whose modern history is probably as much of a jigsaw puzzle as its previous 5000 years have been!

Thought to have originally have been a chambered tomb of some sort, akin to the usual fairy hill mound of earth, either surrounded by a ring of stones, or the stones were covered by earth.  The earliest known literary reference to the Calderstones dates from 1568, where it is referenced in a boundary dispute, typical of the period when the land-grabbers were in full swing.  The dispute was over a section of land between Allerton and Wavertree and in it the stones were called “the dojer, rojer or Caldwaye stones.”  At that time it is known that the place was a roughly oval mound.  But even then, we find that at least one of the stones had been taken away, in 1550.

Little was written about the place from then until the early 19th century, when descriptions and drawings began emerging.  The earliest image was by one Captain William Latham in 1825.  On this (top-right) we have the first hint of carvings on some of the stones, particularly the upright one to the right showing some of the known cup-markings that still survive.  By the year 1833 however, the ‘mound’ that either surrounded or covered the stones was destroyed.  Victorian & Paul Morgan (2004) told us,

“The destruction first began in the late 18th or early 19th century when the mound was largely removed to provide sand for making mortar for a Mr Bragg’s House on Woolton Road.  It was at this time that a ‘fine sepulchral urn rudely ornamented outside’ was found inside.”

The Calderstones in 1840

The Calderstones in 1840

The same authors narrated the account of the mound’s final destruction, as remembered by a local man called John Peers—a gardener to some dood called Edward Cox—who was there when it met its demise.  Mr Cox later wrote a letter explaining what his gardener had told him and sent it to The Daily Post in 1896, which lamented,

“When the stones were dug down to, they seemed rather tumbled about in the mound.  They looked as if they had been a little hut or cellar.  Below the stones was found a large quantity of burnt bones, white and in small pieces.  He thought there must have been a cartload or two.   He helped to wheel them out and spread them on the field.  He saw no metal of any sort nor any flint implements, nor any pottery, either whole or broken; nor did he hear of any.  He was quite sure the bones were in large quantity, but he saw no urn with them.  Possibly the quantity was enhanced by mixture with the soil.  No one made such of old things of that sort in his time, nor cared to keep them up…”

But thankfully the upright stones remained—and on them were found a most curious plethora of neolithic carvings.  After the covering cairn had been moved, the six remaining stones were set into a ring and, thankfully, looked after.  These stones were later removed from their original spot and, after a bit of messing about, came to reside eventually in the curious greenhouse in Calderstones Park.

Simpson's "Stone 1" outer face

Simpson’s “Stone 1″ outer face

Simpson's "Stone 1" inner face

Simpson’s “Stone 1″ inner face

The carvings on the stones were first described in detail by the pioneering James Simpson. (1865)  I hope you’ll forgive me citing his full description of the carved stones—one of which he could find nothing on at the time, but did state that his assessment may be incomplete as the light and conditions weren’t too good at the time.  Some things never change!  Sir James wrote:

“The Calder circle is about six yards in diameter. It consists of five stones which are still upright, and one that is fallen. The stones consist of slabs and blocks of red sandstone, all different in size and shape.

“The fallen stone is small, and shews nothing on its exposed side; but possibly, if turned over, some markings might be discovered on its other surface.

“Of the five standing stones, the largest of the set (No. I) is a sandstone slab, between five and six feet in height and in breadth.  On its outer surface—or the surface turned to the exterior of the circle— there is a flaw above from disintegration and splintering of the stone; but the remaining portion of the surface presents between thirty and forty cup depressions, varying from two to three and a half inches in diameter; and at its lowest and left-hand corner is a concentric circle about a foot in diameter, consisting of four enlarging rings, but apparently without any central depression.

“The opposite surface of this stone, No. 1, or that directed to the interior of the circle, has near its centre a cup cut upon it, with the remains of one surrounding ring. On the right side of this single-ringed cup are the faded remains of a concentric circle of three rings.  To the left of it there is another three-ringed circle, with a central depression, but the upper portions of the rings are broken off.  Above it is a double-ringed cup, with this peculiarity, that the external ring is a volute leading from the central cup, and between the outer and inner ring is a fragmentary line of apparently another volute, making a double-ringed spiral which is common on some Irish stones, as on those of the great archaic mausoleum at New Grange, but extremely rare in Great Britain.  At the very base of this stone, and towards the left, are two small volutes, one with a central depression or cup, the other seemingly without it.  One of these small volutes consists of three turns, the other of two.

“The next stone, No. 2 in the series, is about six feet high and somewhat quadrangular.  On one of its sides, half-way up, is a single cup cutting; on a second side, and near its base, a volute consisting of five rings or turns, and seven inches and a half in breadth ; and on a third side (that pointing to the interior of the circle), a concentric circle of three rings placed half-way or more up the stone.

“The stone No. 3, placed next to it in the circle, is between three and four feet in height; thick and somewhat quadrangular, but with the angles much rounded off. On its outermost side is apparently a triple circle cut around a central cup; but more minute examination and fingering of the lines shews that this figure is produced by a spiral line or volute starting from the central cup, and does not consist of separate rings.  The diameter of the outermost circle of the volute is nearly ten inches. Below this figure, and on the rounded edge between it and the next surface of the stone to the left, are the imperfect and faded remains of a larger quadruple circle. On one of the two remaining sides of this stone is a double concentric circle with a radial groove or gutter uniting them. This is the only instance of the radial groove which I observed on the Calder Stones, though such radial direct lines or ducts are extremely common elsewhere in the lapidary concentric circles.

“The stone No. 4 is too much weathered and disintegrated on the sides to present any distinct sculpturings. On its flat top are nine or ten cups ; one large and deep (being nearly five inches in diameter).  Seven or eight of these cups are irregularly tied or connected together by linear channels or cuttings…

“The fifth stone is too much disfigured by modern apocryphal cuttings and chisellings to deserve archaeological notice.

“The day on which I visited these stones was dark and wet. On a brighter and more favourable occasion perhaps some additional markings may be discovered.”

Simpson's 'Stone 2' carving

Simpson’s ‘Stone 2′ carving

Simpson's 'Stone 3' carving

Simpson’s ‘Stone 3′ carving

It wasn’t long, of course, before J. Romilly Allen (1888) visited the Calderstones and examined the carvings; but unusually he gave only scant attention and little new information. Apart from reporting that another of the monoliths had carvings on it, amidst a seven-page article the only real thing of relevance was that,

“Five of the Calderstones show traces, more or less distinct, of this kind of carving, the outer surface of the largest stone having about thirty-six cups upon it, and a set of four concentric rings near the bottom at one corner. One of the stones has several cups and grooves on its upper surface.”

Carvings on Stone A (after Forde-Johnson)

Carvings on Stone A (after Forde-Johnson)

Carvings on Stone B (after Forde-Johnson)

Carvings on Stone B (after Forde-Johnson)

Unusual for him!  The major survey of the Calderstone carvings took place in the 1950s when J.L. Forde-Johnson (1956; 1957) examined them in great detail.  His findings were little short of incredible and, it has to be said, way ahead of his time (most archaeo’s of his period were simply lazy when it came to researching British petroglyphs).  Not only were Simpson’s findings confirmed, but some fascinating rare mythic symbols were uncovered that had only previously been located at Dunadd in Argyll, Cochno near Glasgow, and Priddy in Somerset: human feet – some with additional toes!  Images of feet were found to be carved on Stones A, B and E.  A carved element on Stone C may even represent a human figurine—rare things indeed in the British Isles!

Carvings on Stone D

Carvings on Stone D

Carvings on Stone E

Carvings on Stone E

The detailed sketches here are all from Forde-Johnson’s 1957 article, where five of the six stones were found to bear petroglyphs (the sixth stone has, more recently, also been found to also possess faint carvings of a simple cup-mark and five radiating lines).

Elements on Stone C (after Forde-Johnson)

Elements on Stone C (after Forde-Johnson)

More elements on Stone C (after Forde-Johnson)

More elements on Stone C (after Forde-Johnson)

The date of the site is obviously difficult to assess with accuracy; but I think it is safe to say that the earlier archaeological assumptions of the Calderstones being Bronze Age are probably wrong, and the site is more likely to have been constructed in the neolithic period.  It’s similarity in structure and form to other chambered tombs—mentioned by a number of established students from Glyn Daniel (1950) to Frances Lynch—would indicate an earlier period.  The fact that no metals of any form have ever been recovered or reported in any of the early accounts add to this neolithic origin probability.

There is still a lot more to be said about this place, but time and sleep are catching me at the mo, so pray forgive my brevity on this profile, until a later date…

Folklore

Curiously, for such an impressive site with a considerable corpus of literary references behind it, folklore accounts are scant.  The best that Leslie Grinsell (1976) could find in his survey was from the earlier student C.R. Hand (1912), who simply said that,

“They were looked upon with awe by the people about as having some religious significance quite beyond their comprehension.”

There is however, additional Fortean lore that has been written about these stones and its locale by John Reppion (2011).

…to be continued…

References:

  1. Allen, J. Romilly, “The Calderstones, near Liverpool,” in Journal of the British Archaeological Association, volume 44, 1888.
  2. Ashbee, Paul, The Bronze Age Round Barrow in Britain, Phoenix House: London 1960.
  3. Baines, Thomas, Lancashire and Cheshire, Past and Present – volume 2, William MacKenzie: London 1870.
  4. Beckensall, Stan, British Prehistoric Rock Art, Tempus: Stroud 1999.
  5. Beckensall, Stan, Circles in Stone: A British Prehistoric Mystery, Tempus: Stroud 2006.
  6. Cowell, Ron, The Calderstones – A Prehistoric Tomb in Liverpool, Merseyside Archaeological Trust 1984.
  7. Crawford, O.G.S., The Eye Goddess, Phoenix House: London 1957.
  8. Daniel, Glyn E., The Prehistoric Chamber Tombs of England and Wales, Cambridge University Press 1950.
  9. Faulkner, B.M., “An Analysis of Three 19th-century Pictures of the Calderstones,” in Merseyside Archaeological Journal, volume 13, 2010.
  10. Forde-Johnson, J.L., “The Calderstones, Liverpool,” in Powell & Daniel, Barclodiad y Gawres: The excavation of a Megalithic Chambered Tomb in Anglesey, Liverpool University Press 1956.
  11. Forde-Johnson, J.L., “Megalithic Art in the North West of Britain: The Calderstones, Liverpool,” in Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, volume 23, 1957.
  12. Grinsell, Leslie, Folklore of Prehistoric Sites in Britain, David & Charles: Newton Abbot 1976.
  13. Hand, Charles R., The Story of the Calderstones, Hand & Co.: Liverpool 1912.
  14. Harrison, Henry, The Place-Names of the Liverpool District, Elliot Stock: London 1898.
  15. Herdman, W.A., A Contribution to the History of the Calderstones, near Liverpool,” in Proceedings & Transactions of the Liverpool Biological Society, volume 11, 1896.
  16. Morgan, Victoria & Paul, Prehistoric Cheshire, Landmark: Ashbourne 2004.
  17. Nash, George & Stanford, Adam, “Recording Images Old and New on the Calderstones in Liverpool,” in Merseyside Archaeological Journal, volume 13, 2010.
  18. Picton, James A., Memorials of Liverpool – 2 volumes, Longmans Gree: London 1875.
  19. Reppion, John, “The Calderstones of Liverpool,” in Darklore, volume 6, 2011.
  20. Roberts, D.J., “A Discussion Regarding the Prehistoric Origins of Calderstones Park,” in Merseyside Archaeological Journal, volume 13, 2010.
  21. Simpson, J.Y., “On the cup-cuttings and ring cuttings on the Calderstones, near Liverpool,” in Proceedings of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, volume 17, New Series 5, 1865.
  22. Simpson, James, Archaic Sculpturings of Cups, Circles, etc., Upon Stones and Rocks in Scotland, England and other Countries, Edmonston & Douglas: Edinburgh 1867.
  23. Taylor, Isaac, Words and Places, MacMillam: London 1885.
  24. Stewart-Brown, Ronald, A History of the Manor and Township of Allerton, Liverpool 1911.

Acknowledgements With huge thanks to the staff at Calderstones Park; thanks also to the very helpful staff at Liverpool Central Library.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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West Mains, Turin Hill, Aberlemno, Angus

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NO 5214 5369

Getting Here

West Mains 1 Cup-Marks

West Mains 1 Cup-Marks

Follow the same directions as if you’re looking for the Doo’cot Woods carving; but, in the field that you have to cross before entering the trees, about 50 yards down from the top of the field, a geological ridge of stone runs along into the trees themselves.  The carving is along this ridge in the field.  Walk along and you’ll find it!

Archaeology & HIstory

Cup-marks from above

Cup-marks from above

Not described in earlier surveys, this is one of two cup-marked stones close to each other along this long ridge of stone reaching across the field.  The carving has three distinct cups, as shown in the photos, and another two more faded ones. No other features seemed visible when we were here.  We must, however, be careful with this and other ‘cup-markings’ in the area, as a lot of the stone is conglomerate and nodules of differing forms of rock (visible on nearby stones) fall away, leaving cup-like impressions where the softer stone erodes. Some of the cup-markings listed in John Sherriff’s (1995) survey of this region seem to be purely geological in nature and not man-made.  Several more visits are needed here so we can ascertain the valid carvings from the geological features.

References:

  1. Sherriff, John, “Prehistoric rock-carving in Angus,” in Tayside & Fife Archaeological Journal, volume 1, 1995.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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