Glen Cochill 1, Little Dunkeld, Perthshire

Enclosure:  OS Grid Reference – NN 90732 41196

Aerial view shows outline of enclosure

Aerial view shows outline of enclosure

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 26252
  2. Southern Enclosure

Getting Here

Take the directions to find the Carn Ban giant cairn.  Once there, you’re in the middle of the enclosure—or near enough!

Archaeology & History

This is one of several very large extensive prehistoric enclosures that stretch across the undulating rocky plains of this wild moorland, high up below the mountain-tops south of Aberfeldy.   Although humans are scarce up here nowadays, in ancient times it was a very different ballgame.

Internal line of walling

Internal line of walling

Eastern edge walls

Eastern edge walls

Extensive and well constructed walling, measuring an average of 2-3 yards across and several feet high in places, encircles the giant White Cairn some distance away from it, running for a third-of-a-mile (0.5km) in a contorted oval shape.  The walling is pretty much continuous except for where the modern tracks have destroyed two sections of it (and other monuments within) and where entrances or ‘doors’ allowed access on the west, north and eastern sides.  The circuitous route of the walls  appears to start and end at a small unnamed stream at its southern end.

Outer northeastern walling

Outer northeastern walling

Inside the perimeter walls, there are scattered examples of simple hut circles and cairns—some singular, others for families, and others that may be clearance cairns. It’s difficult to say without excavations.  On the top northwestern side of the enclosure there is another, smaller enclosure attached to the main mass—seemingly earlier in construction than the giant creature its attached to—which overlooks the curious Shaman’s Lodge double hut-circle 75 yards to the west.  This and much of the internal area was, when we visited, covered in extensive and deep heather, so we couldn’t get a clear picture of the entire site.

We might never know exactly how many people used this site, but we can say with some certainty, due to the remains found inside and around the place, that it was used by lots of  people over many centuries, not just for what modern homo-profanus defines as ‘utilitarian’ purposes, but also important rituals were practised herein (though we are looking at an ahistorical period before the boundary of ‘sacred’ and ‘profane’ had been defined).

For antiquarians and explorers, this region is a must!  A weekend of sleeping rough up here might well be in order!

References:

  1.  Stewart, Margaret E.C., “Strath Tay in the Second Millenium BC – A Field Survey”, in Proceedings Society Antiquaries Scotland, volume 92, 1961

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks again to Paul Hornby for his assistance with site inspection, and additional use of his photos.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Posted in Perthshire, Scotland, Settlement/Enclosures | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shaman’s Lodge, Glen Cochill, Perthshire

Hut Circles:  OS Grid Reference – NN 90591 41247  —  NEW FIND

Getting Here

The large double hut circle, surrounded by tombs

The large double hut circle, surrounded by tombs

Take the same directions to reach the giant Carn Ban prehistoric tomb. Follow the track past the tomb further onto the moorland until you reach a small wooden bridge over the small burn.  From here, walk straight north off-path onto the moor for 100 yards and a small rise in the land, with several cairns just below it, is the site in question.

Archaeology & History

Hut circle are hut circles – right?  Well, usually that’s the case.  We find them attached to, or within, or outlying prehistoric enclosures and can date from anywhere between the neolithic and Iron Age periods.  With the site we’re looking at here, on the outer western side of Glen Cochill’s southernmost giant enclosure, there’s something amiss….or maybe that should be, “something rather peculiar.”

Mr Hornby, hut-side

Mr Hornby, hut-side

Shamans Lodge walling

Shamans Lodge walling

Paul Hornby found it a few weeks ago during an exploration of the region’s prehistory. We went in search of, and found, the giant Carn Ban close by, but noticed curious archaeological undulations ebbing in and out of the heathlands: cairns, walls, hut circles, settlements, more cairns—and then this!

Consisting of two slightly larger-than-average ovals of walled stone, probably Bronze Age in date, the first impression was of a remarkably well-preserved site (and that it is!), seemingly of an elongated stretch of walling, with a central wall that split it into two halves.  Each ‘hut circle’ was found to be between six and seven yards across, with the two conjoined architectural features giving an overall NW-SE length of 14 yards.  But the more we looked at this, the more obvious it became that this was originally one single hut circle—the lower southeastern one—with an additional one that was added and attached onto the northwestern side at a later date, probably several centuries later.

Lower earlier hut circle, with upper later hut circle attached

Lower earlier hut circle, with upper later hut circle attached

Walking around the structure we found that the very well-preserved walls—about 2 feet wide in places and rising a foot or so above the compacted peat—had been built onto a raised platform of earth.  This was no ordinary hut circle!  The ground beneath it seems to have been raised and supported and on the southern side in particular it is notable that other building stones are compacted into the peat.  There may even be the remains of a secondary outer wall on this southern edge, where it seems that the entrance was made.

Small group of cairns 15 yards away

Small group of cairns 15 yards away

Here’s the curious bit: immediately outside the northwestern and southern walls are small prehistoric tombs, or cairns.  Not just one or two, but more than a dozen of them, all constructed within 20 yards of this curiously raised double hut circle.  Literally, a small prehistoric house of some form was raised in the centre of a prehistoric graveyard—and it doesn’t end here.

Of at least three giant enclosures in this region, and what looks like a very well-preserved prehistoric tribal hall or meeting place, there are upwards of a hundred tombs scattered nearby.  Two cairn circles were also found about 100 yards to the north, one of which was damaged by a military road a few centuries ago.

Close-up of walling

Close-up of walling

I give this double-roomed abode the somewhat provocative title of the Shaman’s Lodge because of its setting: surrounded by tombs, the ‘house’ would seem to have been a deliberate setting erected in the Land of the Dead here.  I hope you can forgive my imaginative mind seeing this as a structure where, perhaps, a medicine woman would give rites to the dead, either for those being buried in the small graves, or rites relating to the giant White Cairn of the ancestors close by.  Shamans of one form or another occur in every culture on Earth and have been traced throughout all early cultures.  If no such individuals ever existed within the British Isles, someone needs to paint one helluva good reason as to why they believe such a thing….

When the heather grows back here, the site will disappear again beneath the vegetation.  It is unlikely to re-appear for quite sometime, so I recommend that anyone wanting to have a look at this does so pretty quick before our Earth covers it once again….

References:

  1.  Stewart, Margaret E.C., “Strath Tay in the Second Millenium BC – A Field Survey”, in Proceedings Society Antiquaries Scotland, volume 92, 1961

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks again to Paul Hornby for his assistance with site inspection, and additional use of his photos.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Posted in Hut Circles, Perthshire, Scotland | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Carn Ban, Glen Cochill, Perthshire

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – NN 90728 41161

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 26253
  2. White Cairn

Getting Here

White Cairn on the 1862 map

White Cairn on the 1862 map

Take the A826 road south out of Aberfeldy, uphill – and uphill.  Several miles up, past the roadside Loch na Craige, and past the solitary farmhouse of Scotston, you’re getting close.  A few hundred yards past here watch out for the small bridge over the small burn; and literally another half-mile past this, keep your eyes peeled for the small track on your right, onto the moors.  Walk 70 yards on the track and there, on your left, it rises from the heather!

Archaeology & History

Carn Ban, Glen Cochill (photo credit, Paul Hornby)

Carn Ban, Glen Cochill (photo credit, Paul Hornby)

This giant neolithic tomb in the middle of a beautiful nowhere is perhaps the tomb of an ancestral King or Queen, later idolised into creation myths by our heathen ancestors who, we know, lived across this huge moorland plain for countless centuries.  One account tells that “a circle of free-standing boulders set at irregular intervals” used to surround the cairn, but this seems to have gone.

Southeastern quadrant

Southeastern quadrant

Measuring 21 yards (19.2m) across east-west, and just over 21 yards (19.3m) north-south, this is quite a large construction made up of thousands of small stones in a near-perfect ring that measures 68 yards (62m) in circumference. The cairn seems to have been built in three layers, with its outer defining ring of medium-sized rocks, upon which a layer of typical cairn-spoil stones were laid.  A couple of yards within this is a second internal ring consisting of much larger stones, more typical of those found in small stone circles or average ring-cairns has been set.  Within this, the cairn seems to have been raised again and another large deposit of countless stones were scattered, with many pieces of white quartz (very common in this area) incorporated in the construction.

Capstone and outer ring

Capstone and outer ring

Section of internal ring

Section of internal ring

At the very centre of the cairn, at least one large central ‘tomb’ or cist is clearly evident.  Within this cist were found the severely damaged ruins of a small decorated beaker, in which, perhaps, the ashes of the dead might have once been found.  A very large and heavy capstone that covered the central tomb, has been rolled over and lays just off-centre in the cairn.  No rock art seems visible on this capstone, but we were unable to check its underside.  When standing here at the middle of the tomb, you are four feet above the average ground-level of the surrounding moorland.

Section of cairn edge

Section of cairn edge

Imaginative reconstruction of beaker in central tomb

Imaginative reconstruction of beaker in central tomb

Curiously and erroneously reported by Margaret Stewart (1961) to have “been completely removed”, this large and very visible monument lives near the middle of a very large and extensive prehistoric enclosure, whose walled remains extend for some distance all round this section of the moors.  Within this arena we find large numbers of other architectural features, including many smaller cairns, some hut circles and additional lines of internal prehistoric walling.  Just a few yards south of the tomb itself, we can clearly see a length of walling running east-west and another seemingly reaching up to the White Cairn.  Whether these were built at the same time, or later, is difficult to say.

In the event that you visit this site, take your time!  All round here, mainly to the north and west, you will find masses of prehistoric remains, none of which has been adequately excavated.  A few hundred yards north is an extended necropolis that doesn’t appear to have been surveyed.

References:

  1.  Stewart, Margaret E.C., “Strath Tay in the Second Millenium BC – A Field Survey”, in Proceedings Society Antiquaries Scotland, volume 92, 1961

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks again to Paul Hornby for his assistance with site inspection, and additional use of his photos.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Backstone Circle, Ilkley Moor, West Yorkshire

Stone Circle:  OS Grid Reference – SE 12605 46130

Getting Here

The ruins of Backstone Circle (photo, Richard Stroud)

The ruins of Backstone Circle (photo, Richard Stroud)

There are many routes to get here, but this is the one I usually take. From Cow & Calf Rocks, walk up the steep hillside onto the first moorland plain, taking the path right, diagonally, across to the NW as if you’re heading to the Map Stone.  From here, looking down at the stream valley below, follow the valley edge up, past the settlement, and then veer down to Backstone Beck and up on the other side till you meet with a footpath and also up in the heather ahead of you, notice the jumbled walling les than 100 yards away.  That’s where you need to be!

Archaeology & History

A singular short sentence in Robert Collyer and J.H. Turner’s Ilkley, Ancient and Modern (1885) started it all off, where they told:

“There was still a rude circle of rocks on the reach beyond White Wells fifty years ago, tumbled into such confusion that you had to look once, and again, before you saw what lay under your eyes.”

…..And thankfully this is still what we see today – and in just the area they mentioned.

I’m intrigued to find there’s so much said about this site on the Net and feel I should put my recent feelings about the place to print at last (and after being badgered to gerrit done by James Elkington!).  The information about its make-up and the mess it’s in, hasn’t changed since we rediscovered the place on June 3, 1989.  Here, amidst the tall grasses and reeds of Juncus effusus and J. conglomeratus, our jumble of megaliths hides within a breakdown of fallen walls, that are thought to have been part of some sheep-fold or a similar animal enclosure (mebbe for the annual sheep-shagging contests that are held, quietly, on these moors each year!).

The name ‘backstone’ itself come from the adjacent beck (slowly depleting as the years pulse by) and is mentioned in the 18th century parish registers.  A.H. Smith (1961) informs us that it was the “stream where bakestones were got”, and this was probably a tradition going way way back.  The baking stones from the beck may even have been used by the people living in the prehistoric settlements close to the circle.

Stones amidst the reeds

Stones amidst the reeds

In what looks today like a messy double-ring of stones, it’s likely there was originally just a single ring which has, subsequently, been knocked down and re-used for some form of sheep-fondling sessions—be it agricultural or otherwise!  But for the record at least: we have small inner ‘ring’ of four upright stones, re-worked in more recent centuries, between two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half feet tall.  Another stone is recumbent.  The outer ring is more conspicuous.  It consists of at least eight standing stones–seven of which are upright–between three and five feet tall, some of which have been re-worked in more recent times. There are several other stones either recumbent or partly covered by vegetation. The tallest of the stones is 4’11” tall. The outer circle has had at least one of the stones uprooted and used at the base of the dry-stone walling intruding the southwest side of the circle. What appears to be at least two original standing stones are embedded into earthworks on the other side of this wall, one of which was located through dowsing!

The best section of the ring can be seen on its eastern side, where an arc of upright stones between three and four feet high are still clearly in evidence, just inside a raised embankment like that found surrounding the Twelve Apostles stone circle less than a mile away.

A short while after finding the site, we contacted the Ilkley Head of Archaeology Studies, Gavin Edwards, about the circle and he subsequently included the site on one of the tourist-guides to the moors.

Alignments through this circle seem apparent in situ; and although such alignments are intriguing (to me anyhow), it’s the geometric relationship Backstone has with other circles on these moors that is rather notable. It’s position in the landscape plays an essential part in an isosceles triangle formation, 1180 yards [1.08km] from the Twelve Apostles stone circle which, as the centre point, is another 1180 yards from the Roms Law Circle.  Odd….

Immediately visible from our ruinous circle across the small valley to the slopes of Green Crag, the Ilkley Archaeology Group spent more than fifteen years excavating the remains of what was initially thought of as a Bronze Age village, but their work here has proved startling, pushing the date of human occupation here into the mesolithic period!  Local archaeologist Gavin Edwards opined that the Backstone circle would have been the religious site for the people who lived here.  I have to concur.  There are also more neolithic and Bronze Age walling, indicative of extended settlements and enclosures, less than 200 yards north of the Backstone Circle, structurally consistent with the remains across the valley at the excavated Green Crag Slack settlement.

Ten yards east of the circle is a small well which only runs following exceptional rainfall.  This was probably of some ritual importance to the people who practiced rites here.  Geological fault lines run not far away on three sides of the ring and an underground stream is present, quite close to the surface (as indicated by the presence of Juncus conglomeratus and J.effisus), encouraging the preponderance of regular electromagnetic variations: these in particular are likely to have some causative influence on the paranormal events described below….

Fortean History

Since rediscovering this site, a number of bizarre psychophysical anomalies have been experienced and described by more and more people — some of whom were previously very sceptical of such things.  Both day and night, no doubt when Moon and water speak their subtle electromagnetic accord, a gathering corpus of all-too-familiar events keep speaking of a most disturbing resident spirit

We begin on Wednesday, July 12, 1989, sometime around midnight, when an acquaintance and I were spending a few days here to record any possible electromagnetic anomalies at this disturbed ring of stones.  We weren’t to be disappointed, as something very untoward raised its peculiar head.

As I sat barely ten yards beyond the tumbled group of stones there suddenly appeared, from nowhere, a host of figures—a dozen at most—walking ever so slowly around the old site. I could discern no physical features other than their height and humanoid shape. It was just too dark to see any details about them—they were, effectively, silhouettes.  My acquaintance was terrified—although it was perhaps a minute or so before he even glanced at what I was pointing and exclaiming at, somewhat manically, stuttering and shaking my head in an attempt to make the things disappear back to my unconscious where they surely originated. Didn’t work though!

These were no psychic projections. I literally shook my head, closed my eyes and knocked my head against the walling; looked away, shook my head again, shouting at myself and looked back at the figures in front of us. It still didn’t do a damn thing! By now my friend was staring, aghast and scared shitless if the expression on his face was anything to go by.

“Wot a’ y’ seeing? Wot can y’ see?” I asked.

He murmured and mumbled something about some people he could see, walking round and round the old remains.

He was seeing exactly the same as what I could see. As the minutes passed by, this group of people, who were winding in and out of each and every stone and walking through the intrusive walling as it was not there, slowly but surely, ever so gradually, increased in speed. This was very slow and patient and went on for at least fifteen minutes — by which times they were barely visible as individual figures anymore. All we could see by now was a visual blur and a remarkable vortex that was created in the wake of their ‘dance’.

This spinning vortex of silhouettes seemed to get faster and faster until appearing to reach a sort of critical speed/energy state — and as this “critical state” occurred, what was by now a rapid spinning, energetic blur simply vanished right before our eyes!  It was as if someone, somewhere, had flicked a switch and they disappeared.  Yet, at the very same moment the blurred vortex vanished, several dead straight lines of orange-red appeared in their place.  These were as baffling as the dance we had just watched: very thin, wavering lines of what I can only describe as subtle light, bounced off several of the standing stones. These lines—perhaps four of them—did not originate from the circle but appeared to come from further afield. One in particular seemed to come from the direction of the great boulder known as the Idol Rock, 700 yards [650m] east and continued past our field of vision in the direction of the Swastika Stone.

To be honest these “lines of energy” perturbed me more than the spinning figures which had just disappeared. Not only were these lines two-dimensional [a real screw-up that one!], I was at a loss to explain what these lines really were. The first thought was, of course, leys – but my idea of leys did not, and still does not accord with what I was seeing. Eventually the lines faded back to wherever they came, leaving both of us wondering what the hell we had just experienced.

Several minutes after talking over what had just happened, I stood up and walked into the circle. At this point, please remember it was July 12 and the night was so warm that neither of us had taken sleeping bags or a tent onto the high moors with us. As I got to the circle and took my first step inside, a tremendous shiver hit right through my body, almost like I was walking into a freezer. But I moved another step forward, unperturbed if truth be had by the probable chill wind that made me shiver. As I did so, the chill became more manifest and intense. As I took my third step forward the cold became biting and I collapsed onto my knees. [This is not like me, honest. Give me camping in the Scottish mountains in mid-February with average temperatures of -6 degrees and that's my idea of a good night out!]

Shivering like hell, I stumbled upright and back onto my feet and virtually ran out of the circle. That, more than anything else that night, truly perturbed me.

The following morning another volunteer joined us. We told him about the events of the previous night and he thought whatever he thought; but he’d brought two thermometers with him and set them on two of the rocks: one of them about 25 yards outside the circle, the other on a stone in the circle.  The two of them had the same reading: 73° F.  We left them without checking for a good hour or so and then began to take readings. What transpired was bizarre to say the least: the one outside the circle was 62° F, the one in the circle was 72° F.  A further reading fifteen minutes later, close to sunset, showed the temperature variations had come a little closer: the inner reading was 70° F, and outer reading still 62° F. Readings were then taken every fifteen minutes and the respective readings closed in on each other until both were the same, exactly when the sun was touching the horizon to set, at 9.05pm.  But this was not the end of the anomaly. While the temperature outside the circle dropped naturally with nightfall, finally resting at 57-58° F, the inner circle reading continued falling at nearly twice the background rate!  Our final reading after 11pm showed a deviation of nearly 7 degrees between the respective thermometers!

If these elements seem in anyway somewhat unbelievable, what occurred next bends the parameters of reality still further!

No further anomalous Fortean events happened at the circle that night—for us at least. However, a friend in Leeds—the internationally renowned ritual magician and author, Phil Hine—was at home with some friends, chatting.

“On the night in question,” he came to write sometime later, “I was talking to another magickian. He returned from the toilet and informed me that there was an “entity” lurking in the stairwell… This was unusual, but not sufficiently unusual to cause undue concern, and so, picking up my thunderbolt, I went out to see what was what. In the stairwell we both agreed on seeing a black amorphous shape. Since my friend had first noticed this, I asked him if he would be prepared to “open his mind” to it, so that I could question it, using him as an interface [which was one of his particular talents] and a fairly accepted procedure for questioning strange entities. “The entity declared,” I have come from the ancient hills.” It also stated that it had been “awakened” only recently due to activity around a sacred site. It said that it had come to give me “power” with which I could do something, but was reticent about the exact nature of this. When I asked what it would do if I rejected this, it said that it would return “screaming to the hills.” When I asked it to identify itself it gave the name Azathoth—which could well have sprung from the mind of my friend, although he had no particular knowledge of the Cthulu mythos entities.”

Phil continued: “At the time I found it difficult to credit that such a powerful entity would be hanging politely about in the stairwell waiting to be noticed. Being unable to obtain a direct answer to my questions, I told it to go forth, which it apparently did. I later had to perform an intense banishing ritual on my friend who was suffering from symptoms such as feeling cold, a tight pressure on the chest, personality displacement, and motor spasms… Unbeknownst to me at the time, two friends of mine who were members of the West Yorkshire Earth Mysteries Group had experienced a strange encounter at the then newly-uncovered Backstone Circle on Ilkley Moor… It seems strange, on reflection, that the appearance of the entity claiming to originate from a newly disturbed site seems to relate to their experience.” [Hine 1994, 1997]

Other bizarre experiences at the circle itself have been reported by growing numbers of people—a lot of them quite unpleasant. One lady, Katy from Calderdale, whose interest in megaliths rarely stretched into the obscurities of their folklore or weird tales, will “probably never go there again. It terrified me. I don’t know why, there was nothing to be scared of, but the place just felt awful.”

There have been at least a dozen people who have related the same words to me—and I can empathise. On February 14, 1990, Mick N. and I went to the site for the night with intent to do a bit of sympathetic ritual magick.  The night was cold and a slight fall of snow glittered across the moors as far as we could see, invoking quite healthy feelings about the forthcoming rite.  But as we turned off the path and approached the stones, it was as if we had walked through an invisible gate or door just yards before the circle itself, screaming quite powerfully with gnarled teeth that we were not wanted there that night!  It was overwhelming!  We both acted accordingly and spent the night elsewhere, cold and querying over its genius loci.  The potency of Azathoth seemed inherent in its silent voice.

This particular feeling, almost of malevolance, has been described by many people at Backstone.  It occurs both day and night and is akin to what Prof Thomas Lethbridge (1961) described as ‘ghouls': place-memories so to speak, or spirits of place.  Most of the time there is no such feeling, of course.  But when conditions are right, these potent subjective consumations can be quite overwhelming at some spots.  They are reported worldwide in the aboriginal traditions of all races and are felt, obviously, even today by explorers, mountaineers and visitors to ancient haunted places like the Backstone Circle.

Strange lights have also been seen over and around here by a number of witnesses. On one occasion a ritual invocation of its spirit-nature brought forth a number of glowing red spheres of light.  These were about the size of footballs, appearing for a minute or two, floating in front and around us, then vanishing—only to reappear yards away around the edges of the damaged ring of stones. These were very obviously living things and were examining us with equal bewilderment.  Other light-phenomena that people have seen here and on this moor appear to relate to the phases of the Moon.

Although the site is quite ruinous, it is a worthwhile place to visit – just respect, and beware the Old Hag who sometimes comes forth from time to time….

…to be continued…

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul., “The Backstone Circle,” Earth 15, 1990.
  2. Bennett, Paul, “Archaeological and Geometrical Applications of the Lost Stone Circle of Ilkley Moor,” Earth 15, 1990.
  3. Bennett, Paul, Circles, Standing Stones and Legendary Rocks of West Yorkshire, Heart of Albion Press: Wymeswold 1994.
  4. Bennett, Paul, “The Strange Case of Backstone Circle,” Right Times 1, 1998.
  5. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  6. Collyer, Robert & Turner, J. Horsfall, Ilkley: Ancient and Modern, William Walker: Otley 1885.
  7. Devereux, Paul, Places of Power, Blandford: London 1990.
  8. Gyrus T., “An Interview with Phil Hine,” Towards 2012 volume 4, 1998.
  9. Hine, Phil, “The Physics of Evocation,” Chaos International 1990.
  10. Roberts, Andy, Ghosts and Legends of Yorkshire, Jarrold: Norwich 1997.
  11. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire – volume 4, Cambridge University Press 1961.

AcknowledgementsMany thanks to Richard Stroud for his photo of Backstone at winter time; to James Elkington for saying, “Come on Paul – get yer finger out!” + his photos too…

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Holy Well, Watnall, Nottinghamshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – SK 499 456

Getting Here

Holy Well, Watnall

Holy Well, Watnall

A stone’s throw from Ikea and found off the B600 main road.  Travelling to Greasley from Watnall, take first turning on the left after Royal Oak Wood.  Travel up Trough Road, past the woods where it is best to park, then walk up Trough Lane and the well can be found on the right hand side, opposite a house called The Springs.

Archaeology & History

I am of the opinion that the ‘holy’ element of this well is a romanticism of the 1800s, but there is a possible record in the ‘The Manor of Bevall in the County of Nottingham’ document, commissioned by the Honourable Dame Elizabeth Capell in 1653Amongst the records it appears a number of times as:

‘Holy Well Furlong 2 lands bounded with John Richards west and William Hickton east’.

Plaque at the well

Plaque at the well

Front of the well

Front of the well

A 1724 Capps Survey of Watnall Cantelupe notes that Joseph Richards had some lands lying in a close called the Flatts or Holliwell, which understandably relates to ‘Holy Well’.  There is also note of a Holwell Croft field name in the 1500s at Greasley, which again may describe this site or another and such suggests that it derives from O.E. hol, meaning ‘hollow’, a common misconception when identifying prospective holy wells. Jeremy Harte (2008) in his English Holy Wells suggests that those sites called ‘Holy Well’ are pre-Medieval in origin so perhaps this site is one of the most ancient in the county.

The sacred waters

The sacred waters

On my first visit to this site I was told by an elderly man that he was baptised there (or water used from it used for his baptism), before attempting inexplicably in trying to discourage me from finding it (due to his wariness of me I failed to discover the nature of his baptism or of what denomination).  According to locals in the lane the plaque and present state of the well dates from the 1980s and was done in partnership with the local council.

The house opposite is called ‘The Springs’ was this name of the well before the ‘present’ name and so it is ‘modern’ holy well per se, although I think the 18th century survey is significant.

The well itself, is enclosed in a stone recess with a rusty iron gate with a dove affixed on it bearing the legend Holy Well. It is approached by a path walled along both sides which are adorned by a wide range of gnomes and garden ornaments..almost so you could be pixy led!

Folklore

A plaque near the well’s entrance has a local piece of folklore recorded. This relates that a local boy who lived opposite was very ill and bedridden. A local priest called for water to be drawn for the boy from the well. This was done and the boy became well.

Interestingly it’s the only legend of this type—one which records a cure—in all the Nottinghamshire holy wells.  It is a shame one cannot find a date or check its provenance, a fact supported by local history author Mr. John Lee.  The use of priest is significant.  Does the story may indicate the Catholic revival in holy wells in the 19th century?  However, the only Catholic associations locally are that of Hilltop at Greasley for there was, and is, only a Methodist chapel in Watnall.

Extracted from Parish, R.B (2008) Holy Wells and healing springs of Nottinghamshire

Interested in holy wells and healing springs – http://insearchofholywellsandhealingsprings.wordpress.com

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Nanny’s Well, Chapel le Frith, Derbyshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid-Reference – SK 061 810

Getting Here

Nanny's Well, Chapel-le-Frith

Nanny’s Well, Chapel-le-Frith

To find Nanny’s Well, take B5474 out of Chapel and take the right hand turning called Crossings road (which goes to Chinley) which is before Frith view on the left. Continue until the small wall surrounding the site can be seen on the right.

Archaeology & History

The name it is said to be either from St Ninian (less likely) or St Anne (more likely as she is also considered the mother of Mary and thus Grandmother of Jesus). It is described in M.J.B Baddeley’s Peak district of Derbyshire (1913) and the neighbourhood as:

“a valuable but neglected spring of chalybeate water.”

Yet in 1895, a Manchester firm of Grace, Calvert and Thompson  analysed it and found it:

“not polluted to any extent with organic matter of animal or vegetable origin and comes from a spring of considerable depth and that no surface water has become mixed with it’…in same respects the water of this well is of the same nature as that from the Tunbridge Wells springs.”

The site is now an iron pump by the side of Crossings Road, known as Nanny Well Road, enclosed in a low wall along which. The pump no longer works and the well capped but it can be heard and just about seen through a crack beneath.

Folklore 

It was visited on Easter Morning, with sugar or licorice to make Spanish Water, and then the bottles were hung around their necks. The site is one of four wells dressed annually since the 1980s in July and the site is blessed.

Extracted from Parish, R. B., (2008) Holy Wells and Healing springs of Derbyshire

http://insearchofholywellsandhealingsprings.wordpress.com

© R.B. Parish, The Northern Antiquarian

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Mask Stone, Port of Menteith, Perthshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 56107 01712

Getting Here

Mask Stone, Port of Menteith

Mask Stone, Port of Menteith

Take the same directions to locate the cup-and-ring stone of Ballochraggan 12.  There are several rocks adjacent.  The one immediately next to it, to the west, is the one you’re looking for.  Be gentle and careful if you’re gonna look at it — deadly serious, be very careful indeed!

Archaeology & History

One of the most intriguing and most fascinating of all the prehistoric carvings I’ve yet to discover.  Not that this was all my own work. If it hadn’t been for Paul Hornby, we might have simply walked past it as being little more than a single cup-marked stone—and in this area, single cup-marks tend to be little more than geological in nature.

After we’d looked over several of the registered carvings close by, Paul took to looking at this one.

“Looks like we’ve got just a single cup-mark on this one Paul,” I said, “with possible half-ring.”  Thankfully Mr Hornby gave it his better attention.

Mask Stone, with faint 'urn'

Mask Stone, with faint ‘urn’

Close-up of features

Close-up of features

The sun was still out and shining across the smooth rock surface, which tends to mean that you’re not seeing any carving on the stone quite as good as it actually is.  Thankfully however, the sun was beginning to get lower and, when this happens, if we wet the rock, any carvings that might be there stand out much better.  And this little fella just seemed to get better and more curious the more attention Paul gave it!

The first thing that became obvious were a series of faint carved lines above the single cup-mark.  Initially these didn’t seem to merit much attention (straight lines on rock are usually more the product of geophysical action than that of humans), but as the rock got wetter, Paul saw something very distinct indeed.

“There’s a face on it!” he exclaimed.  And indeed there was.  A Rorschach response no doubt, but it was still very much like a face.  This looked for all the world akin to the stylised olde English gentry sort of countenance, as in old cartoons.  It was quite ‘distinct’, as such characters themselves insist on being!  Yet around this initial face, more lines seemed to be emerging as the stone gave up more and more of its hidden story.

Standing back from an initial investigation, the carving was seen to consist of a triple-ring, but without the traditional ‘cup’ in its centre.  Instead, the centre was marked simply by a small ‘dot’—perhaps, originally, being a small conglomerate hole formed as a result of another tiny harder fragment of stone falling away from its larger mass.  But a ‘dot’ it was.  The other carved ‘lines’ however, immediately below and attached to the triple-ring, gave us something almost unique—and another strong Rorschach response.  As the photos clearly show, we have a distinct second ‘face’ made up of the same lines but in a quite different form.  This ‘face’ has all the attributes we usually associate with pictures of mythical spirits, demons, or a mask—hence the name!

Paul took a series of fine photos, hoping that he could catch the image that our eyes could clearly see.  And thankfully, his digital camera brought the image to life even better than our eyes did!  The ‘mask’ is comprised of carved lozenge forms, akin to the more decorative ones we find at Kilmartin, and more especially around Newgrange, Ireland.  We sat and talked about this: wondering and working out routes that we’d take over mountains and moors, from Ireland, to Kilmartin, then onto Ballochraggan, etching the same designs onto the rocks hereby and attaching similar mythic notions to them: of shamanism and kingship; underworlds and journeys—paradigms lost and certainly misunderstood in the non-polysemia of many modern academics.

Lozenges and rings

Lozenges and rings

…The stone here was still slightly covered over and, beneath the loose grasses, another feature emerged of another petroglyphic rarity.  At the topmost western side of the  rock a straight line ran across the surface, seemingly marked by the hand of man, with a curious little line almost doubling back on itself for just an inch or so, and then feeling to run down the stone, towards the concentric rings and the face below.  When we stood back and took the photos, this line and its tracer took on a form that I’ve only seen echoed in one of the Netherlargie tombs at Kilmartin, Argyll, 44.4 miles (73km) to the west.  It is very distinct.

Mask Stone04

The beaker, rings & ‘face’

Spuriously ascribed as being ‘axe’ carvings (oh how archaeologists love this Rorschach projection), the Netherlargie North tomb cover-stone in Kilmartin has a series of burial ‘urns’ or beakers carved onto the rock, amidst a scattered collection of cup markings. (Beckensall 2005:73-4; Bradley 1983:92-3; Royal Commission 1971:68-70; Twohig 1972, etc)  Here too at Ballochraggan we find another such symbol, but just a singular example, much larger and more clearly a beaker or urn, as are traditionally found within many old neolithic and Bronze Age tombs; although no tomb is immediately apparent at this Ballochraggan carving.

The entire carving is very faint indeed (you can’t even be seen when you’re looking directly at it unless conditions are good) showing that it remained open to the elements for thousands of years.  Other adjacent carvings lack the erosion that we find on this one, even on those which, as archaeologist Lisa Samson said, is “softer sandstone rock than this one”—implying that it’s one of the older carvings in this incredible cluster.

The carving was covered over when we finished examining it, to ensure that Nature’s erosion keeps it alive for just a few more centuries at least, hopefully…..

References:

  1. Beckensall, Stan, The Prehistoric Rock Art of Kilmartin, Kilmartin Trust: Kilmartin 2005.
  2. Bradley, Richard, Altering the Earth, Society of Antiquaries Scotland: Edinburgh 1993.
  3. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Argyll – volume 6: Mid-Argyll and Cowal, HMSO: Edinburgh 1971.
  4. Twohig, Elizabeth Shee, The Megalithic Art of Western Europe, Clarendon: Oxford 1981.

AcknowledegmentsHuge thanks again to Mr Paul Hornby for his considerable help with this site, and for use of his photos.

 © Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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