Ballochraggan 01, Port of Mentieth, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 55900 01005

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 78352

Getting Here

Park by the entrance to Ballochraggan, which is set back off the A81 between Aberfoyle and Port of Mentieth.  Walk up the track, and just before you reach the cottage, notice the large boulder on your left, about 50 yards away. That’s it.

Archaeology & History

The Ballochraggan 1 Stone

The Ballochraggan 1 Stone

This large dolmen-capstone-like boulder in front of the old cottage, was reported by Maarten von Hoek (1989) to possess about 10 faint cup-markings, with a large one near the centre of its upper surface. When Paul Hornby and I visited the site yesterday, several ‘cups’ were visible, but these were purely geological in nature; and even the large cup in the middle seemed somewhat dubious.  The markings are the product of conglomerate rock, where smaller softer types of stone that are embedded in the boulder fall away, leaving cupmark-like indentations and other hollows. There are a lot of conglomerate rocks in these hills and it is essential that all students make themselves aware of the difference between the geological ‘cups’ and those forged by humans.  In many cases this can be difficult, so apply the rule: if in doubt, kick it out—and err on the side of caution.

Some carvings in this region (and elsewhere in the country) possess conglomerate marks that have been enhanced and possess additional rings and carved lines.  On this particular stone, such marks do not seem to exist.  A dodgy example indeed…..

References:

  1. von Hoek, Maarten, ‘‘Menteith (Port of Menteith parish): Rock Art Sites’, in Discovery & Excavation Scotland, 1989.

Acknowledgements Huge appreciation to Paul Hornby for his photo and assessments.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Ballochraggan 12, Port of Mentieth, Perthshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 56106 01711

Also Known as:

  1. Ballochraggan 8.04
  2. Canmore ID 78307
  3. Mentieth 9
  4. Mentieth 44

Getting Here

Ballochraggan12 cup-and-ring

Ballochraggan12 cup-and-ring

Takes some finding this one!  We parked up by the entrance to Ballochraggan on the A81 between Aberfoyle and Port of Mentieth.  Walk up the track, then up the burnside past the house. Keep to its right-side and head uphill towards the very top of the forestry edge, staying in the grasslands.  As you near the very top NE corner of the grassland boscage (NOT into the forest), about 100 yards before it, zigzag about through the gorse and keep your eyes peeled.  It’s there!

Archaeology & History

This is a small, flat, smooth piece of stone with a simple carving clearly visible, in a region replete with highly impressive multiple-ringed petroglyphs.  Very little has been said of this design and even the Canmore lads tell us only that the carving “includes one cup and ring marking and two cups within an oval ring.”  And that’s that!  However, other faint lines are evident on the surface of the stone, with the single cup-and-ring appearing to have another partial second-ring encircling a section of it.  Outlying this are very shallow worn lines that seem to bear the hallmarks of human interference, but they were difficult to see with any certainty and our camera didn’t pick up additional elements with any real clarity.  What seemed to be another cup-and-half-ring (not visible in the photos) was just beneath the edge of the grass where the rock fell back into the Earth.

Ballochraggan12, under cloud

Ballochraggan12, under cloud

The most catching element of the design is the very obvious ‘eye’ symbol peering up at us as we look down.  Whether this symbol was deliberate or not,  we can be sure that the old archaeologist O.G.S. Crawford (1957) would have loved it and added it to his old dreams of eye goddesses!  Other carvings nearby will blow your head off!

References:

  1. Brouwer, Jan & van Veen, Gus, Rock Art in the Menteith Hills, BRAC 2009.
  2. Crawford, O.G.S., The Eye Goddess, Phoenix House: London 1957.
  3. Naddair, Kaledon, et al, ‘‘Menteith (Port of Menteith Parish): Rock Ccarvings’’, in Discovery & Excavation Scotland, 19, 1992.
  4. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, The archaeological sites and monuments of Stirling District, Central Region, HMSO: Edinburgh 1979.

Acknowledgements Huge appreciation to Paul Hornby for use of his photos.  Cheers mate!

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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St Bertram’s Well, Ilam, Staffordshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Refence - SK 137 514

Getting Here

St Bertram’s Well, north of Ilam © Copyright Neil Theasby & licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence

St Bertram’s Well, Ilam © Neil Theasby, reused under Creative Commons Licence

The genuine St. Bertram’s well is not easy to find and I recommend using the OS map carefully. It is reached by taking the footpath that leads off at the left passing the cross out of the village. Follow this until the end of the dry stone walling on the right and then divert from the footpath to the right where the well can be seen. The second well is easily found in the field between the church and the Hall.

Archaeology and History

Bertram is an interesting local saint, dating from around the 7th-8th century. Briefly, he is said to be of Royal Irish lineage but after making a princess pregnant, escaped to England where he sheltered in the woods around Ilam.  The story is told by Alexander, a monk, in the 13th century who notes:

“They were in hiding in a dense forest when lo ! the time of her childbirth came upon them suddenly ; born of pain and river of sorrow!  A pitiful child bed indeed!  While Bertellinus went out to get the necessary help of a midwife the woman and her child breathed their last amid the fangs of wolves. Bertellinus on his return imagined that this calamity had befallen because of his own sin, and spent three days in mourning rites”.

As a result he became a hermit living in a cave in the valley near Ilam.  Despite the earliest mention being Plot, the local geography is suggestive that this is the site of an early Christian hermitage site, although no mention of a well is noted in his legends it can be noted.  Currently, the well is surrounded on four sides by varying low stone walling, about two feet or so at its highest (although it appears to have been built up and down over the time I have visited the well).  The spring flows from a small, less than a foot square chamber, enclosed in stone and set into the bank through a channel in the rubble flow and out along the path towards it.

Since the 1990s, on the first Saturday in August, the Orthodox Church makes a pilgrimage to the site and blesses the well.  Interestingly, literature available from the National Trust shop fails to mention this well, but notes a more substantial second St Bertram’s Well close by the church and surrounded by a rectangular stone wall with steps down, the water arises here at greater speed and flows into the nearby River Manifold. Visually it is more impressive and more accessible but whether there is any long tradition of this second well is unclear, but authors such as the Thompsons’s (2004) The Water of Life: Springs and Wells of Mainland Britain and Bord (2008) Holy Wells of Britain appear to have fostered its reputation.

Incidentally, the church boasts the remains of St Bertram’s shrine with foramina and the church yard has two Saxon crosses, making a visit to the village a must for those interested in early medieval history.

Folklore

“St Bertram’s Ash… grows over a spring which bears the name of the same Saint… The common people superstitiously believe, that tis very dangerous to break a bough from it: so great a care has St Bertram of his Ash to this very day.  And yet they have not so much as a Legend amongst them, either of this Saint’s miracles, or what he was; onely that he was Founder of their Church”

Such notes Plot (1686) The Natural History of Stafford-Shire, the earliest reference of this fascinating site.  By Browne (1888) in his An Account of the Three Ancient Cross Shafts, the Font, and St Bertram’s Shrine, at Ilam, noted that the ash had gone, but the water was still being used.  He states that:

“The late Mrs Watts Russell always had her drinking water from it.”

Extracted and amended from the forthcoming Holy wells and healing springs of Staffordshire R. B. Parish (2008)

http://insearchofholywellsandhealingsprings.wordpress.com

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Becket’s Well, Otford, Kent

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – TQ 531 592

Getting Here

Becket's Well, Kent

Becket’s Well, Otford

The well now lies on private land and feds a trout farm (Beckets Well Trout Farm at The Castle House, Sevenoaks Rd, Otford in Sevenoaks). To find Becket’s Well go along the A225 to the centre of Otford, park in the car park ( in front of the row of terraced shops ) near the Bishop’s Palace. Take a small private road to Castle farm, now as said, a trout farm. Inquire here, if you are able to visit the well, which lies  within a complex of fish pools to the east of the farm house.

Archaeology & History

The site has been well recorded in recent centuries, for example an account of 1876, describes the site as, “endorsed within a wall, forming a chamber 15 ft across and 10 ft  deep.”  Both the chamber’s appearance and shape suggests that is would be ideal for immersions, of which Harper and Kershaw (1923) notes that bath and steps are defied annually by the hop pickers.  It is interesting to note that Thorne (1876), with no apparent reference, gives another connection with the saint, suggesting that, “to have used by the saint as a bath.”  No subsequent or previous work draws notice to this, so it is likely to be antiquarian fancy.  Another more plausible possibility is that it was used by the leper hospital found on this site around 1228.  They would have clearly made use of the pure water for medicinal purposes and perhaps indeed used it as a bath.

Kirkham (1948) notes it was suffering from neglect being “now said to be choked up and half full of tins.”  This decline would appear to have started a long time ago, as a folly tower, now demolished, was built on Otford Mount (a nearby earthwork), from the well’s stone work.  Consequently, this degraded condition prompted excavation in the 1950s by the Otford and District Historical Society; of which the following details of their findings are briefly described.

The report noted that the well consisted of two chambers, with water emerging from two arched outlets into the first of these. This chamber is surrounded on three sides by walls, thirty-five feet by thirteen feet (east end), the walls are eight feet high, and at the same level of the ground.  Six steps at the south-east end give access to the well chamber.  The sluice wall is five feet high, eight feet wide, and is substantially buttressed on the western front.  Water runs through this sluice wall, between steep banks westward, through a lower chamber, twenty-seven feet (north sides), and thirty-five feet (west side).  The water then flowed through watercress and finally through an underground, probably Tudor conduit.  This conduit then passes through the site of the Palace. This stream once fed a moat, but now discharges into the Bubblestone Brook, a Darenth tributary.

Local common thought was that the well is the remains of a Roman bath house, a belief echoed by its present owner; and a view endorsed by both Ward (1932) and Harper and Kershaw (1923), who note that it “is really a Roman Bath.”  This view is further supported by the two surrounding Roman villas, and hence one aim of the excavation was to evaluate this long held claim. Yet, although they showed that the well had gone through considerable renovation and rebuilding over the centuries, no remains could be positively be dated to this period.  This renovation, of course, resulted in a rarity of deposits, and hence with a lack of artefacts, the subsequent interpretation was thus difficult.

The excavation was further handicapped by the waterlogged conditions. Both may have influenced the results.  Consequently, there are still doubts, and the concept of a Roman origin has not been satisfactorily disproved.  The earliest written record is from Otford Ministers accounts of 1440-1, indicating that by then a stone structure existed here, but how old that was again is not clear. It states:

“To a carpenter for two days to make 2 gutters to bring water from the pool of the garden to the moat and for working on and laying another gutter beyond the water course and coming from the fountain of St. Thomas to old garden, 12d; and to a carpenter for one day covering a gutter with timber and cresting it, 6d.  And for two masons for 2 days for placing and laying and making a new stone wall of the fountain of St. Thomas, broken for the pipe of the water conduit, 3s, taking between them daily 12d.  To five labourers 10 days digging the soil between the said fountain and moat to lay in the leaden pipe of said conduit16s 8d taking each daily 4d.”

The present floor may be ascribed to that period; although it would seem to cover an earlier lower flint floor (again possibly Roman). Between 1520-1520, Archbishop Warkham, pulled down the then existing Manor house and built the Palace, covering four acres. This consequently required a better water supply, and hence the well was improved: the original lower chamber is said to originate from this period. The full purpose of the lower chamber is not clear, but it is believed that it may have housed cisterns giving a greater flow of water. When Henry VIII acquired the Palace from Archbishop Crammer in 1537, he spent money on improvements to the estate, and probably the well.  The sluice gate, strengthened by Warham, was now supported by buttresses.  These may have supported a conduit house. This was recorded in 1573:

“The condiyte house or well conteyning in length XXXVI foote and in breadth XIX fote to be taken downe and newe sett upp will coste XXX pounds. The pypes conveyinge the water from hence to the offyces and small sesterns to be amended will coste Xiii.”

By the 1600s, the Palace was in disrepair and the well was only used for private consumption by Castle farm.  Despite this, restoration still continued and the north, east and south wall saw upper improvements by the 1700s.  In the lower chamber a stone west wall was erected on Warham’s brick foundations. By this time, the south wall was beginning to collapse and was rebuilt in the 1800s.

By 1954 repairs were again needed, as the north wall was collapsing.  Goodsall (1968) reported that even after its excavation in the late 1950s, the site then enclosed in railings was forlorn and overgrown with weeds.  Forty years on, the present condition is similar to that illustrated in the contemporary photo, taken during the excavation: the intervening decades have seen the inevitable degradation, through time, of its infrastructure. Fortunately, the hideous railings have been removed, obviously to erect the trout farm infrastructure, whose water is supplied by the well.  The walls appear now comparably greatly overgrown, which has probably preserved them, and the sluice wall, north, south and west walls appear the most ruinous, with the walling falling away towards the sluice wall.  The walling was best preserved at the east end.

The clear spring appears to flow rapidly from its source, and has the appearance of being deeper.  As stated, it now has now a commercial function, providing good quality water for the raising of trout flowing through a series of fish ponds replacing the cress beds.  The owner in the 1990s, a Mrs. Burrows, believed that the well was originally roofed.  The results of the excavation did not indicate this although it may be a mix-up with the possibility of a conduit house over the well.  She also stated the water stayed the same temperature through the winter and summer, a constant 500 C, certainly beneficial to bathers.

Folklore

One of the best known holy wells among Kent antiquarians no doubt due to the colourful legend associated with it. This tells that whilst living here in the old manor—the ruins of which called the Bishop’s Palace still stand—St. Thomas bemoaned the lack of good water. As a remedy he struck his staff into the ground and clear water gushed forth.  This is a familiar folklore motif and we shall see it again referred to at other Kent sites.  Perhaps it recalls the saint ordering well digging to provide fresh water and marked the position with his staff!  The legends earliest reference  is made by Lambard (1571):

“..stake his staffe into the drie ground ( in a place thereof now called Sainte Thomas Well) and immediately the same water appeared, which running plentifully, serveth the offices of the new house to the present day.”

The well was said to be curative, but the exact nature of its curative powers are unknown, and although belief in them was waning by 1800s, rumours of its use continued to the last world war.  The Gentlemen’s Magazine of June 1820 gives the only recorded account of a cure and states that:

“an old man, who, crippled by rheumatism, was completely renovated by this bath to health and action of circumstance witnessed by the late Lord Stanhope and several of the neighbouring gentry.”

(Extracted and amended from original blog page, which includes and addition holy well – Colet’s Well -

http://insearchofholywellsandhealingsprings.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/the-holy-wells-of-otford-kent/

and from the forthcoming Holy Wells and healing springs of Kent – references quoted in the piece can be found therein.)

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Arns Well, Glasgow, Lanarkshire

Healing Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NS 5996 6406

Also Known as:

  1. Arms Well

Archaeology & History

1865 OS-map of Arns Well, Glasgow

1865 OS-map of Arns Well, Glasgow

Taking its name from the local dialect word relating to Alder trees (Alnus glutinosua) that grew above the source of the waters, Arns Well had already been destroyed by the end of the 19th century, but prior to this it was renowned as one of the social gathering places in Glasgow Green.  Highlighted on the original Ordnance Survey of the area in 1865, Arns Well was also a place where artists and poets gathered – and a number of old prints of Glasgow were drawn from here.

Originally the waters emerged from marshy ground and used to be known as “the Peat Bog,” but by 1777 a small well house was built to contain the waters and make it a feature in the wider architectural landscape of the Glasgow Green park area.  Once the spring had been channelled, its waters “were considered to be amongst the best to be had in Glasgow, particularly for making tea and adding to whisky.”

References:

  1. Anonymous, Glasgow Green and Roundabout, Friends of the Peoples Palace: Bridgeton n.d. (c.1983)
  2. Brotchie, T.C.F., “Holy Wells in and Around Glasgow,” in Old Glasgow Club Transactions, volume 4, 1920.
  3. Grant, William (ed.), The Scottish National Dictionary – volume 1, SNDA: Edinburgh 1934.
  4. Renwick, Robert & Lindsay, John, The History of Glasgow – volume 3, Maclehose: Glasgow 1934.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Trysting Stone, Doune, Perthshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 7256 0182

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 24761
  2. Deil’s Head
  3. Fairy Stone
  4. Gold Stone

Getting Here

Trysting Stone of Doune

Trysting Stone of Doune

From the old cross in the middle of the village, walk along the A820 Balkerach Street main road (NOT down George Street) until you reach Station Wynd on your right.  Walk up here for 100 yards towards the new housing estate (don’t buy these places – they’re dreadful quality beneath the veneers) and there, on a small grassy rise on the left just before the car park, stands our stone!

Archaeology & History

This little-known monolith on the northern edge of little Doune village, was recently moved a short distance from its original position thanks to another one of those sad Barratt housing estates being built here; but at least it has received protection with the surrounding fence and notice board telling its brief history and folklore (better than being destroyed I s’ppose).

Stone marked on 1866 OS map

Stone marked on 1866 OS map

Standing less than five feet tall, local lore tells that it has been moved around close to this spot several times in the last couple of centuries.  Although not mentioned in Hutchinson’s (1893) essay on local megaliths, the stone was highlighted on the 1866 Ordnance Survey of Doune, where the non-antiquated lettering showed how it was thought to be Roman in origin, not prehistoric.

Folklore

Trysting Stane, looking NE

Trysting Stane, looking NE

The name of the stone comes from it being used as a place where deeds were sworn, with the stone as witness to the words proclaimed by both parties (implying a living presence, or animistic formula of great age).  This activity was continued in the local ‘trysts’ or cattle fairs held a mile away, where buyers swore the sale of cattle at this stone—again with the stone being ‘witness’ to the spoken deals.  It was also used as a counter where gold was exchanged for cattle bought and sold during the Michaelmas and Martinmas Fairs.

In local newspaper accounts from the 1950s, local historian Moray S. Mackay told how the children of the village used to gather round the stone, holding hands, and sing,

Olie Olie, peep, peep, peep,
Here’s the man with the cloven feet,
Here’s his head, but where’s his feet?
Olie Olie, peep, peep, peep.

Notice board telling its tale...

Notice board telling its tale…

Looking at the stone on its rise

Looking at the stone on its rise

This implies the stone once possessed a myth relating to a petrified ancestral deity of animistic (pre-christian) origin, but as yet we have found no additional information allowing us a confirmation of this probability.  A correlate of this theme—i.e., of the stone being the head of a deity—is found in West Yorkshire (amongst many other places), where one of the little known Cuckoo Stones was once known to be a local giant until a hero-figure appeared and cut off his head, leaving only his body which was then turned to stone.  Mircea Eliade (1958; 1963) cites examples of animistic religious rites and events explaining this early petrification formula via creation myths, etc. (we find very clear evidences of animistic worldviews and practices still prevailing in the mountains just a few miles north and west, still enacted by local people)

Folklore also alleged that the stone was Roman in nature, but neither archaeology nor the architectural form of the stone implies this.  Roman stones were cut and dressed—unlike the traditional looking Bronze Age, rough, uncut fella standing here.

References:

  1. Eliade, Mircea, Patterns in Comparative Religion, Sheed & Ward: London 1958.
  2. Eliade, Mircea, Myth and Reality, Harper & Row: San Francisco 1963.
  3. Hutchinson, A.F., “The Standing Stones of Stirling District,” in The Stirling Antiquary, volume 1, 1893.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Douky Bottom, Arncliffe, North Yorkshire

Settlement:  OS Grid Reference – SD 95203 69067

Getting Here

Aerial view of settlement

Aerial view of settlement

Go up the B6160 road, heading for Kilnsey Crag.  A few hundred yards past the famous crags, take the little road to Arncliffe.  About a mile up, where you reach the second building on the left-side of the road, walk up behind here, up the steep fields and towards the craggy heights above.  Keep right uphill till you see the cluster of cairns on the peak above; but before reaching them, walk over the rocky landscape to your left (southeast) and you’ll eventually see an excess of straight walling a coupla hundred yards away. That’s it!

Archaeology & History

A bittova climb to get here – but well worth it in the end.  On a spur of land amidst the outstanding limestone plateaux less than a mile south of Arncliffe village, rising near the silent ghostly cairns upon Knotts ridge above it, we come across an extensive prehistoric settlement complex.  It is one of many in this upland region.

Looking south at the settlement

Looking south at the settlement

Knott cairns above the settlement

Knott cairns above the settlement

Poorly described (if at all) by official archaeology websites, this place is bloody big!  All that we can see today at ground level are lines of very extensive walls intersecting each other and forming very large rectangles growing further and further out from each other towards the western scree.  Much of the walled structures are in good condition if they are prehistoric, as presumed by archaeologists; but it seems obvious that the site was in continuous use by local people for domestic and agricultural purposes all through medieval and later periods.

One of the settlement hut circles

One of the settlement hut circles

Raised lines of ancient walling

Raised lines of ancient walling

The longest stretch of visible walling runs from northeast to southwest and measures 175 yards long (160m), with several stretches of parallel walling splitting the settlement into different sections of large enclosures all attached to each other.  These parallel walls measure a maximum of 54 yards (49.5m) and run northwest to southeast.  The aerial image of the site shows the structures very clearly in some parts.  Others are more vague and some are difficult to see at ground level.  But the settlement as a whole cannot be missed.  Several hut circles have been built inside the main rectangular enclosures, with two others faintly visible on the outer edges.

As far as I’m aware, no excavations have taken place here, so we are still grasping at periodic straws when it comes to dating the place.  When Arthur Raistrick (1929) wrote his article about the associated enclosures like that at Blue Scar, a short distance to the east, he thought them to be Iron Age in origin.  He may well right.  A singular enclosure circle can be found a few hundred yards to the south.

References:

  1. Elgee, Frank & Harriet, The Archaeology of Yorkshire, Methuen: London 1933.
  2. Raistrick, Arthur & Chapman, S.E., ‘The Lynchet Groups of Upper Wharfedale, Yorkshire,’ in Antiquity, volume 3, 1929.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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