The Green, Glen Lochay, Killin, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference — NN 53976 35248

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 274203
  2. Falls of Lochay

Getting Here

The cliff-face and its ledge

Going out of Killin towards Kenmore on the A827 road, immediately past the Bridge of Lochay Hotel, turn left. Go down here for just over 2 miles and park-up where a small track turns up to the right (half-mile before the impressive Stag Cottage carvings), close to the riverside and opposite a flat green piece of land. Notice a small cliff-face just over the fence by the road and a small ledge about 3 feet above ground level. That’s yer spot!

Archaeology & History

Deep & shallow cups together

Rediscovered by rock art student George Currie in 2004, this small, little-known and unimpressive cup-marked site was carved onto a rocky ledge just off the roadside down Glen Lochay.  Comprising of at least three very distinct cup-marks—two next to each other on the far-right of the ledge and the other on the nose of the rock—at least another three more shallow cups are on the same surface. What looks like an unfinished cup, or deliberately etched crescent-Moon-shaped cup, has been cut into the same ledge a yard to the left of the prime cluster.

In Currie’s (2004) brief description of the site, he told:

“Ledge, 1m above ground level on a rock face; four cups, 50 x 25mm, 45 x 15mm and two at 40 x 10mm.”

Looking down at rock surface

Curious crescent-shape ‘cup’

It’s unusual in that the cups have been carved onto a small ledge that’s too small to stand upright on.  Whilst not without parallels, it’s an odd position to find petroglyphs and begs the question, “why here?” when there are other rocks close by that are easier and more accessible.

References:

  1. Currie, George, “Falls of Lochay (Killin parish): Cup-Marked Rocks”, in Discovery & Excavation Scotland, volume 5, 2004.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Rolleston’s Barrow, Rushmore, Tollard Royal, Wiltshire

Tumulus:  OS Grid Reference – ST 95552 18233

Archaeology & History

Plan of Rollestons Barrow, 1880

In what today seems a barely visible tumulus, amidst the large cluster that could once be found upon the large estate grounds of Rushmore House, were once the overgrown ruins of an old tumulus.  It seems to have been rediscovered in the 19th century, when the legendary antiquarian, General Pitt-Rivers, moved onto the huge estate.  It was all but hidden even in his day, he told, but being “of such slight elevation that, like many others, it had never been noticed.”  It was the first of all the barrows they excavated on his Estate, and is to be found “near the house on the south side of the lower south coach road.”

So, in 1880, he got some of the estate lads to help him and Rolleston start a dig into the old tomb – and they weren’t to be disappointed.  It wasn’t anything special, but it was the first amongst many hereby.  In Pitt-River’s (1888) massive tome on the prehistory of the region, he told us:

“This was the first barrow opened at Rushmore, on the 10th August, 1880. Professor Rolleston and the Rev. H. Winwood were present at the opening. The elevation was so slight that it had hitherto escaped notice.  In the centre, 1 foot 6 inches beneath the crest, a layer of charcoal and ashes, 9 feet by 6 feet, was found containing a burnt body.  The body appears to have been burnt on the spot, and not gathered up after cremation, but a mound raised over the funereal pile.  A few fragments of bronze, probably the remains of some implement which had corroded or been burnt, were found in the ashes, and in the body of the barrow two flint scrapers, a well-formed flint borer, and a boat-shaped flint…were found (see illustration above, PB).  A few scattered fragments of pottery found in the barrow were of a superior and harder baked quality than is usual in barrows.  No trace of a ditch was found around the barrow, but towards the north of the centre, a depression—EE on plan—which might, or might not, have been a grave, but filled with mould and without remains, was discovered.  The barrow is undoubtedly of the Bronze Age, and is interesting on account of it being the last at the opening of which Professor Rolleston assisted shortly before his death.”

As a result of this, he decided to name to barrow after his old friend and also planted a beech tree on top of the barrow in remembrance of him.

References:

  1. Pitt-Rivers, A.H.L.F., Excavations in Cranborne Chase, near Rushmore – volume 2, Harrison & Sons: London 1888.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Jim Craven’s Well, Thornton, West Yorkshire

Sacred Well:  OS Grid Reference — SE 0967 3251?

Archaeology & History

Is this the site of the lost Jim Cravens Well on the 1852 map?

Another well with considerable supernatural renown was this little-known site near the old village of Thornton, on the western outskirts of Bradford.  We’re not 100% sure about its exact location, but the grid-reference cited here is of an old ‘Well’ that was highlighted on the first Ordnance Survey map of the region, at the end of solitary path which led to it and nowhere else.  Our only documentary information comes from Elizabeth’s Southwart’s (1932) fine old book on the folk life of the old village, as it once was.  At a place once known as Bent Ing Bottom, just south of the old village, is where it used to be known.  The name of this Well is also curious, as no historian has yet worked out who the ‘Jim Craven’ was, nor what his relationship to the site might have been.  It’s the folklore of it, however, which brings it the attention it deserves.

Folklore

In Elizabeth Southwart’s (1923) work, she told us that the place once known as “Bent Ing Bottoms have lost their romance.” She continued:

“Whether the golfers have driven it away—for the fields now form part of the Thornton Golf Links—or whether the advance of modernity in other forms is to blame, it is difficult to say.  Once they were the haunts of “Peggy-Wi-T’-Lantern” and the Bloody-tongue.  Peggy, a dame in a white mob cap, kilted skirt and white stockings, walked about with a lantern, enticing the unwary traveller to his doom.  She was given to wandering, for, they say, Jim Craven Well, half a mile away, was a place to be avoided after nightfall.

“The Bloody-tongue was a great dog, with staring red eyes, a tail as big as the branch of a tree, and a lolling tongue that dripped blood.  When he drank from the beck (known as the Pinch Beck, PB) the water ran red right past the bridge, and away down—down—nearly to Bradford town.  As soon as it was quite dark he would lope up the narrow flagged causeway to the cottage at the top of Bent Ing on the north side, give one deep bark, then the woman who lived there would come out and feed him.  What he ate we never knew, but I can bear testimony to the delicious taste of the toffee she made.

“When the dark was coming we used to sit on the filled-in pit, which makes a hump in the middle of the field, and wait for him.  The sun would sink redly, through the arches of the viaduct, the trees that lined the beck would grow an ever darker green until they became black, the beck would begin to gurgle and gulp in a queer way; and down in the hollow we would hear a whimper, a whine, a moan, a snarl.  Then, with scalps and spines playing queer tricks, we would wait and wait.  But none of our little band ever saw him, except one girl, and she saw him every time.

“One Saturday a girl who lived at Headley came to a birthday party in the village, and was persuaded to stay to the end by her friends, who promised to see her ‘a-gaiterds’ if she would.  As soon as the party was over the brave little group started out.  But when they reached the end of the passage which leads to the fields, and gazed into the black well, at the bottom of which lurked the Bloody-tongue, one of them suggested that Mary should go alone, and they would wait there to see if anything happened to her.

“Mary was reluctant, but had no choice in the matter, for go home she must.  They waited, according to promise, listening to her footsteps on the path, and occasionally shouting into the darkness:

““Are you all right, Mary?”

““Ay!” would come the response.

“And well was it for Mary that the Gytrash had business elsewhere that night, for her friends confess now that at the first sound of a scream they would have fled back to lights and home.

“We wonder sometimes if the Booody-tongue were not better than his reputation, for he lived there many years and there was never a single case known of man, woman or child who got a bite from his teeth, or a scratch from his claws.  Now he is gone, nobody knows whither, though there have been rumours that he has been seen wandering disconsolately along Egypt Road, whimpering quietly to himself, creeping into the shadows when a human being approached, and, when a lantern was flashed on him, giving one sad, reproachful glance from his red eyes before he vanished from sight.”

Southwart later tells us that the ghostly dog travelled into the north and vanished.  From the description she gives of the children walking their friend to “the end of the passage which leads to the fields, and gazed into the black well, at the bottom of which lurked the Bloody-tongue,” I can only surmise that the solitary well shown on the very first OS-map of Thornton at the coordinate given above is the place in question.

The ‘Bloody Tongue’ is first mentioned in Yorkshire folklore, I think, by Roger Storrs, in his article on holy wells in 1888, where he tells it to be one of the mysterious beings that live, usually at the bottom of the waters and almost universally used “to deter children from playing in dangerous proximity to a well.”

From the description of the waters turning red when the ghostly dog drank from it, we have a mythic account of when the waters occasionally turned red from the iron-bearing waters (chalybeate) which, obviously, wasn’t like this at all times.  Whether this was a sporadic, unpredictable flow of iron in the waters, or a cyclical pattern of the water-flows, we are not told (which would imply, moreso, that it was sporadic).  The folklore about this ghost and its appearance with another elemental creature along an old straight track running north from Upper Headley Hall to Thornton is intriguing—as in many old pre-christian traditions, North is the airt, or direction, representing Death; and black dogs are traditionally guardians of underworld treasures in the land of the Dead.  With the plethora of other animistic folktales once known in this district (boggarts or goblins were known in nearby woods, wells and farms) it is likely that the origin of such folklore dates way back into antiquity.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, Ancient and Holy Wells of West Yorkshire, forthcoming
  2. Southwart, Elizabeth, Bronte Moors and Villages: From Thornton to Haworth, John Lane Bodley Head: London 1923.
  3. Storrs, Roger, ‘Legends and Traditions of Wells,’ in Yorkshire Folk-lore Journal – volume 1 (ed. J. Horsfall Turner) 1888.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Panorama Stone (227), Ilkley, West Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 11466 47285

Also Known as:

  1. Carving no.101 (Hedges)
  2. Carving no.227 (Boughey & Vickerman)
  3. Rocking Stone

Getting Here

Panorama Stone 227 – once a rocking stone!

Come out of Ilkley/bus train station and turn right for less than 50 yards, heading left up towards White Wells.  Go up here for less than 100 yards, taking your first right and walk 300 yards up Queens Road until you reach the St. Margaret’s church on the left-hand side.  On the other side of the road, surrounded by trees is a small enclosed bit with spiky railings with Panorama Stones 227, 228 and 229 all therein: the least-decorated one on the left being the one we’re dealing with here.

Archaeology & History

Original location of Panorama Stones, 1891 map

This is another of the caged Panorama Stones, found within the awful spiked fencing across from St. Margaret’s Church, just out of Ilkley centre.  Originally located ¾-miles (1.2km) WSW of its present position in Panorama Woods (at SE 10272 46995), along with its petroglyphic compatriots in this cage, the carving was moved here in 1890 when a Dr. Little—medical officer at Ben Rhydding Hydro—bought the stones for £10 from the owner of the land at Panorama Rocks, as the area in which the stones lived was due to be vandalized and destroyed. Thankfully the said Dr Little was thoughtful and as a result of his payment he had some of the stones saved and moved into their present position.

John Hedge’s 1986 sketch

J.T. Dale’s 1879 sketch

It was first described by the northern antiquarian and petroglyph pioneer, J. Romilly Allen (1879) , who saw it in the now-destroyed “rough inclosure”, as he called it, along with the other stones now in the same Ilkley ‘cage’. Its present position does it no justice whatsoever in terms of its original position.  It was ostensibly a rocking stone: this seemingly trivial-looking boulder was sat on top of the much-cropped Panorama Stone 228 (a yard east of the three in this outdoor cage).  Allen (1879) was fortunate enough to have seen the stone before it was uprooted, telling us how this topmost stone, “has eleven cups, wo of which are surrounded by single rings.”  The modern archaeologist John Hedges (1986) told it to be in a “bad state,” with “very worn carvings, fourteen cups, one with partial ring and groove.” Its situation deteriorated further, as stated by rock art students Boughey & Vickerman (2003), who noted,

“medium-sized, roughly triangular rock, its surface recorded as in a bad state in 1986 and now (2002) even worse.  Fourteen cups, one with partial ring, one groove.”

Faint cup-marks visible

And its condition isn’t helped by its inaccessibility, when groups like the ‘Friends of Ilkley Moor’ or the local archaeologist should be at least annually cleaning this and the adjacent carvings.  If they’re incapable, there are sincere people in antiquarian, history and pagan groups who would probably help out…

Faint cupmarks in poor light

In truth, this carving cannot be seen in isolation, nor merely reduced to a numeric catalogue in some rock art corpus.  We must contextualize its relationship with the once much-larger multiple cup-and-ring stone on which it sat and then see it as it was in the landscape.  Originally of course the rocking stone was Nature’s very own creation.  As humans began migrating over and eventually occupying this once-wooded arena, the rocking stone became intimately related with animistic magickal rites and, over time, petroglyphs began to be etched upon the stone.  Most probably the flat underlying rock surface was carved upon first, and a symbiotic relationship was forged between Earth’s surface and the small rocking stone, both of which were used in oracular and other rites.  Over centuries, as the cups and rings on the earthfast stone grew, the mythic status of this small rocking stone allowed for the encroachment of carvings, and eventually cup-marks began to be etched upon it too.  Later still, as the neolithic period moved into the Bronze Age, the people began to build a low-walled stone enclosure around this and the nearby multiple-ringed carving – similar to the multi-period enclosure at Woofa Bank and other sites on these moors.  It was all a very long and gradual process.

In truth, the mythic status of this once-impressive site would have been maintained—in one form or other—well into the medieval period.  But that’s another matter altogether…

References:

  1. Allen, J. Romilly, “The Prehistoric Rock Sculptures of Ilkley,” in Journal of British Archaeological Association, volume 35, 1879.
  2. Bennett, Paul, The Panorama Stones, Ilkley, TNA: Yorkshire 2012.
  3. Bennett, Paul, Aboriginal Rock Carvings of Ilkley and District, forthcoming.
  4. Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Leeds 2003.
  5. Cowling, Eric T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946.
  6. Downer, A.C., “Yorkshire Archaeological and Topographical Association,” in Leeds Mercury, August 28, 1884.
  7. Eliade, Mircea, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion, Harcourt, Brace & World: New York 1959.
  8. Hadingham, Evan, Ancient Carvings in Britain, Souvenir Press: London 1974.
  9. Hedges, John, The Carved Rocks on Rombald’s Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.
  10. Heywood, Nathan, “The Cup and Ring Stones of the Panorama Rocks”, in Transactions Lancashire & Cheshire Antiquarian Society, Manchester 1889.
  11. Speight, Harry, Upper Wharfedale, Elliott Stock: London 1900.

Acknowledgements With huge thanks to both Dr Stefan Maeder for help in cleaning up the stones; and to James Elkington for allowing use of his photos in this site profile.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

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Our Lady’s Well, Straiton, Loanhead, Midlothian

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NT 2728 6669

Archaeology & History

Our Ladys ‘Well’ on 1855 map

This is another all-but-forgotten holy well once dedicated to the Virgin Mary, close to the south-side of Edinburgh’s outer ring-road.  It would seem to have been one in a cluster of sacred wells not far from each other (with the two Jacob’s Wells and St. Margaret’s Well at nearby Pentland), whose traditional stories have fallen prey to the incredulity of ‘progress’.  I can find very little about the site, other than the note given it in George Good’s (1893) Liberton survey where, in stepping south towards the old hamlets of Broomhill and Straiton, he told:

“A little to the west of the hamlet, and near what was called Straiton Green, is an old draw-well dedicated to the Virgin, and known by the name of Our Lady’s Well. There may possibly have been a cell or chapel near this well, but no tradition or history regarding it is extant.”

We can only presume that the ‘Well’ which is highlighted on the first OS-map in 1855, maybe 20-30 yards west of the old road on what looks like a small park or ‘Green’, would be the ‘Lady Well’ in question. (another ‘Well’ is shown at Broomhill Cottage, which is unlikely to be the contender)

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, Ancient and Holy Wells of Edinburgh, TNA 2017.
  2. Good, George, Liberton in Ancient and Modern Times, Andrew Elliot: Edinburgh 1893.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

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Our Lady’s Well, Liberton, Edinburgh, Midlothian

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – NT 2640 7008

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 52100
  2. Lady’s Well

Archaeology & History

In Thomas Whyte’s (1792) lengthy survey of Liberton village, as it was in the 1790s, we come across what seems to be the earliest description of this long-lost holy well, on the northwest side of the parish.  In writing of the beauty of the countryside hereby in his day, he told how,

“on the north by the rivulet called Braid’s-burn, near which there is a well which has the appellation…of the Lady’s or Virgin Mary’s well, famous for its large current, and the salubrity and lightness of its waters.”

Site of Our Lady’s Well

Our Ladys Well on 1855 map

Mr Whyte believed that its dedication to Our Lady went way back, probably before Liberton parish was given to St. Cuthbert in the 11th or 12th century (whose own holy well could once be found several miles north, near Leith).  Generally, wells that are dedicated to ‘Our Lady’, refer to the Virgin Mary; but prior to any christian affectation, the animistic genius loci of the waters would have been a local spirit.

It was visited and described by the Ordnance Survey lads in the Name Book of 1851, in which they said that Our Lady’s Well was,

“The site of a celebrated well situated in a hollow on the farm of Liberton Tower Mains, and dedicated to St. Mary, as it and the field is well known to be called to this day, “The lady’s Field” & Well”.  This well however about 50 years ago underwent a drainage during some improvements that were making on the land.  In its covered condition it takes a S.E. course till its Confluence with the Braid Burn where it is shown to this day as the water coming from the Lady’s Well, and from which a body of crystalized water flows copiously. It was supposed that a chapel was somewhere Convenient which gave rise to the name, but all traces have long since disappeared….”

“There is no tradition recorded among the County people as to whether this was a holy well, or resorted to for superstitious purposes. But it is well ascertained to have been once a remarkable well & an object well known and though now covered-in, the place is still well known, as is also the name.”

Although this holy well was shown on early and late 19th century OS-maps as ‘covered’,  trying to find its exact position today has proven difficult.  When Paul Hornby and I visited the site after some heavy rains in June, 2017, we found a large pool of water in the field exactly as shown on the old map.  This was, however, misleading, as the owner of the land and the Blackford Glen Western Riding school—a Mr John Fyfe—told us that they had, for years, always wondered about its exact position, but been unable to ascertain it with any certainty.  The pool in the field always appeared after the rains, he said.  He did tell us however, that many years ago when he was digging in order that the Braid Burn stopped flooding his property, he came upon a length of ancient piping running in the direction of the burn, some 5 or 6 feet down, whose use he could not ascertain—but which might have once conducted the waters from the Lady Well away.  No water was running through it though.

Near the middle of Liberton village a century or so ago, another holy well of the same name could once be seen less than a mile to the east. 

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, Ancient and Holy Wells of Edinburgh, TNA 2017.
  2. Good, George, Liberton in Ancient and Modern Times, Andrew Elliot: Edinburgh 1893.
  3. Walker, J. Russel, “‘Holy Wells’ in Scotland,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol.17 (New Series, volume 5), 1883.
  4. Whyte, Thomas, “An Account of the Parish of Liberton in Mid-Lothian, or County of Edinburgh,” in Archaeologia Scotica, volume 1, 1792.

AcknowledegmentsHuge thanks to John Fyfe and his wife for their help when we were exploring this site.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

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Netherfoodie Cottage, Dairsie, Fife

Standing Stones (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference — NO 4128 1769

Also Known as:

  1. Dairsie Stones

Archaeology & History 

Looking across the field where the stones once stood (photo credit – Paul Hornby)

Recent archaeological investigations at the site which has become known as the Dairsie Hoard—where many pieces of broken Roman silverware were seemingly deposited in one spot, adjacent to a dried bog “which may arise from a former spring” of water—brought about the discovery of much earlier megalithic remains.  The position of two previously unrecorded standing stones were found during the archaeological dig here.  In the most recent edition of Current Archaeology, Fraser Hunter (2018) described the position of the Roman silverware close to some ancient pits or sockets in the ground. This “group of features was…intriguing”, he told,

“for two of them contained stumps of standing stones, one in association with probably Bronze Age pottery. This hoard had been buried in a memorable, perhaps even a sacred site, between an intriguing wet spot on one side and, on the other, two standing stones, which were already ancient by the time the silver was buried.  Such burial of valuables in association with prehistoric monuments can be readily paralleled elsewhere.  It suggests this silver was placed under the care of the gods, probably as a sacrifice rather than a burial for safekeeping.”

Two thousand years before the Roman silver deposit had been deposited, megaliths here stood.  Sadly they’re long gone, leaving more questions than answers as usual…

References:

  1. Hunter, Fraser, “Solving a Silver Jigsaw,” in Current Archaeology, 335, February 2018.

AcknowledgmentsMany thanks to Paul Hornby for use of his photo in this site profile.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Old Pleck Barrow, Rushmore, Tollard Royal, Wiltshire

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference — ST 95459 17548

Archaeology & History

Site shown on 1889 map

This long-lost burial mound was one in a large group of prehistoric tombs that were explored in the 19th century by the legendary antiquarian, General Pitt-Rivers. It had already been destroyed before the General came to live on his Rushmore estate in southern Wiltshire, but thankfully, his diligence as an inquirer prevailed and he was able to recover at least something of the old site.  Shown on the 1889 OS-map of the area (despite already having been destroyed), in Pitt-River’s (1888) extensive writings he told how, in the scattered woodlands hereby, was

Site of Old Barrow (Pitt-Rivers 1888)

Remains of urn (Pitt-Rivers 1888)

a collection of large barrows near the South Lodge.  They were covered with a thick grove of hazel and other underwood.  One of the barrows—marked by a dotted circle (see sketch-map, left, PB)—had been destroyed before my arrival at Rushmore in 1880.  The earth of the barrow had been removed and a good urn found in it, which had been broken and scattered, but I was fortunate enough to recover one of the fragments which had been preserved by the estate carpenter.

From a sketch that was made of the urn remnant, Pitt-Rivers told how “the character of its ornamentation” resembled that on another urn found in one of the nearby tumuli.

References:

  1. Pitt-Rivers, A.H.L.F., Excavations in Cranborne Chase, near Rushmore – volume 2, Harrison & Sons: London 1888.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

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St. Bride’s Well, London, Middlesex

Holy Well (covered):  OS Grid Reference – TQ 3157 8111

Archaeology & History

St Brides Well on 1896 map

Close to the centre of that corporate money-laundering place of homo-profanus that is the City of London, was once a site that represents the antithesis of what it has become.  Tacked onto the southeastern side of St. Bride’s church along the appropriately-named Bride Lane, the historian Michael Harrison (1971) thought the Holy Well here had Roman origins.  It “was almost certainly,” he thought,

“in Roman times, the horrea Braduales, named after the man who probably ordered their construction: Marcus Appius Bradua, Legate of Britain under Hadrian, and the British Governer in whose term of office the total walling of London was, in all likelihood, begun.”

This ‘Roman marketplace of Bradua’ that Harrison describes isn’t the general idea of the place though.  Prior to the church being built, in the times of King John and Henry III, the sovereigns of England were lodged at the Bridewell Palace, as it was known.  Mentioned in John Stow’s (1720) Survey of London, he told:

“This house of St. Bride’s of later time, being left, and not used by the Kings, fell to ruin… and only a fayre well remained here.”

The palace was eventually usurped by the building of St. Bride’s church.  The most detailed account we have of St. Bride’s Well is Alfred Foord’s (1910) magnum opus on London’s water supplies.  He told:

“The well was near the church dedicated to St. Bridget (of which Bride is a corruption; a Scottish or Irish saint who flourished in the 6th century), and was one of the holy wells or springs so numerous in London, the waters of which were supposed to possess peculiar virtues if taken at particular times.  Whether the Well of St. Bride was so called after the church, or whether, being already there, it gave its name to it, is uncertain, more especially as the date of the erection of the first church of St. Bride is not known and no mention of it has been discovered prior to the year 1222.  The position of the ancient well is said to have been identical with that of the pump in a niche in the eastern wall of the churchyard overhanging Bride Lane.  William Hone, in his Every-Day Book for 1831, thus relates how the well became exhausted: ‘The last public use of the water of St. Bride’s well drained it so much that the inhabitants of the parish could not get their usual supply.  This exhaustion was caused by a sudden demand on the occasion of King George IV being crowned at Westminster in July 1821.  Mr Walker, of the hotel No.10 Bridge Street, Blackfriars, engaged a number of men in filling thousands of bottles with the sanctified fluid from the cast-iron pump over St. Bride’s Well, in Bride Lane.”  Beyond this there is little else to tell about the well itself, but the spot is hallowed by the poet Milton, who, as his nephew, Edward Philips records, lodged in the churchyard on his return from Italy, about August 1640, “at the house of one Russel a taylor.”

In Mr Sunderland’s (1915) survey, he reported that “the spring had a sweet flavour.”

Sadly the waters here have long since been covered over.  A pity… We know how allergic the city-minds of officials in London are to Nature (especially fresh water springs), but it would be good if they could restore this sacred water site and bring it back to life.

Folklore

Bride or Brigit has her origins in early British myth and legend, primarily from Scotland and Ireland.  Her saint’s day is February 1, or the heathen Imbolc (also known as Candlemas).  Although in christian lore St. Bride was born around 450 AD in Ireland and her father a Prince of Ulster, legend tells that her step-father (more probably a teacher) was a druid and her ‘saintly’ abilities as they were later described are simply attributes from this shamanic pantheon. Legends—christian and otherwise—describe Her as the friend of animals; possessor of a magickal cloak; a magickian and a healer; and whose ‘spirit’ or genius loci became attached to ‘sacred sites’ in the natural world, not the christian renunciation of it.  St Bride was one of the primal faces of the great prima Mater known as the Cailleach: the Gaelic deity of Earth’s natural cycles, whose changing seasons would also alter her names, faces and clothes, as Her body moved annually through the rhythms of the year.  Bride was (and is) ostensibly an ecological deity, with humans intrinsically a part of such a model, not a part from it, in contrast to the flawed judaeo-christian theology.

References:

  1. Foord, Alfred Stanley, Springs, Streams and Spas of London: History and Association, T. Fisher Unwin: London 1910.
  2. Gregory, Lady, A Book of Saints and Wonders, Colin Smythe: Gerrards Cross 1971.
  3. Harrison, Michael, The London that was Rome, Allen & Unwin: London 1971.
  4. McNeill, F. Marian, The Silver Bough – volume 2, William MacLellan: Glasgow 1959.
  5. o’ Hanlon, John, Life of St. Brigid, Joseph Dollard: Dublin 1877.
  6. Sunderland, Septimus, Old London Spas, Baths and Wells, John Bale: London 1915.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Posted in England (south), Holy Wells, Middlesex | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Glesart Stanes, Glassford, Lanarkshire

Standing Stones:  OS Grid Reference – NS 73609 46916

Also Known as:

  1. Avonholm
  2. Canmore ID 45595
  3. Glesart Stones
  4. Struthers Burial Ground
  5. Three Stones

Getting Here

Glesart Stones on 1864 map

From the roundabout in Glassford village, head west down Jackson Street along the country lane of Hunterlees Road.  About 600 yards on, turn right at the small crossroads (passing the cemetery on yer left) for about half-a-mile, before turning left along a small track that head to some trees 400 yards along.  Once you’ve reached the trees, walk uphill and follow the footpath to the right, keeping to the tree-line.  It eventually runs to a small private graveyard. You’re there!

Archaeology & History

Glesart Stones,
looking west

In the little-known private graveyard of the Struthers family on the crest of the ridge overlooking the River Avon and gazing across landscape stretching for miles into the distance, nearly a mile east of Glassford village, several hundred yards away from the Commonwealth graveyard, a cluster of yew trees hides, not only the 19th century tombstones, but remnants of some thing much more archaic.  Three small standing stones, between 2½ and 4 feet in height, hide unseen under cover of the yews, at the end of a much overgrown ancient trackway which terminates at the site.  They’re odd, inasmuch as they don’t seem to be in their original position.  Yet some form of archaic veracity seems confirmed by the weathered fluting: eroded lines stretching down the faces of two of the taller stones and, more importantly, what seem to be cup-markings on each of the monoliths.

Cup-mark atop of east stone

Easternmost stone

The tallest stone at the eastern end of the graveyard has a deep cup on its crown.  This may be the result of weathering; but we must exercise caution with our scepticism here.  Certainly the eroded lines that run down this stone are due to weathering – and many centuries of it; but the peculiarity is that the weathering occurs only on one side.  This implies that only one side of the stone was open to the elements.

Central cup-marked stone

‘X’ carved atop of central stone

The second, central stone of the three, is slightly smaller than the first.  Unlike the eastern stone, its crown has been snapped off at some time in the past century or so, as evidenced in the flat smooth top.  But along the top are a series of small incised marks, one of which includes a notable ‘X’, which may have been surrounded by a circle.  A second fainter ‘X’ can be seen to its side, and small metal-cut lines are at each side of these figures.  Another small section of this stone on its southern edge has also been snapped off at some time in the past.  The most notable element on this monolith is the reasonably large cup-mark on its central west-face.  It is distinctly eroded, measuring 2-3 inches across and an inch or more deep.  Its nature and form is just like the one in the middle of the tallest of the standing stones at Tuilyies, nearly 31 miles to the northeast.

Western smallest stone

The Three Stones

The smallest of the three stones is just a few feet away from the central stone.  To me, it seemed oddly-placed (not sure why) and had seen the attention of a fire at its base not too long ago.  On its vertical face near the top-centre of the stone, another cup-marking seems in evidence, some 2 inches across and half-an-inch deep—but this may be natural.  The Glasgow archaeologist Kenneth Brophy reported that on a recent visit, computer photogrammetry was undertaken here, so we’ll hopefully see what they found soon enough.

There is some degree of caution amongst some archaeologists regarding the prehistoric authenticity of the Glesart Stanes – and not without good cause.  Yet despite this, the seeming cup-marks and, particularly, the positioning of the stones in the landscape suggest something ancient this way stood.  The stones here are more likely to be the remains of a once-larger monument: perhaps a cairn; perhaps a ring of stones; or perhaps even an early christian site.  At the bottom of the hill for example, just 350 yards below, is a large curve in the River Avon on the other side of which we find the remains of an early church dedicated to that heathen figure of St. Ninian (his holy well close by); and 300 yards north is the wooded Priest’s Burn, whose history and folklore seem lost.

The Glesart Stanes were the subject of an extended article by M.T. M’Whirter in the Hamilton Advertiser in 1929 (for which I must thank Ewan Allinson for putting it on-line).  He wrote:

“Situated on the highest hill-top on the estate of Avonholm, north to the house of that name, is the private burial ground of James Young Struthers… Situated within the burial ground are three upright flagstones of a dark brown colour, rough and unhewn,  Each stone is facing the east, and placed one behind the other, though not in a straight line, and the space between the eastern and the middle stone is eight feet, and the space between the middle and the western stone is seven feet.  The stone flags vary in measurement, the eastern stone being the greater, standing four feet three inches high, three feet eight inches broad, and one foot thick.  The middle stone is three feet high, three feet ten inches broad, and nine inches thick; and the western stone is three feet high, four feet broad and ten inches thick.  The two outer stones bear no letters, figures or marks, but the centre stone has rudely sculptured on the top-edge the Roman numerals IX, and on the western side of the stone there is a cup-shaped indentation about two inches in diameter.  A groove 26 inches in length extends from the top of the stone to below the level of the cup indentation.  The groove is deeper at the top, but gradually loses in depth towards the bottom end.  I have seen grooves similar to above by the friction of a wire rope passing over a rocky surface.  The numerals, cup indentation and groove do not appear to be part of the original placing of the stones and, if a cromlech, then in the centuries that have gone, the stones becoming exposed to view by the removal of the mound, would invariably have led to a search for stone coffins or urns, yet no discovery of either has ever been recorded.”

Indeed, Mr M’Whirter was sceptical of them being part of a prehistoric burial site, preferring instead to think that a megalithic ring once stood here.  He continued:

“From an examination of the three stones, I am convinced that they form a segment of a circle, and assuming that nine additional stones complete the circle, it would enclose a space of roughly one hundred feet in circumference, with each stone facing an easterly direction.”

But we might never know for certain…. The only other literary source I have come across which describes the site is that by the local vicar, William Stewart (1988), who told us that:

“The stones stand erect, six feet apart, three rough slabs of coarse-grained sandstone, three feet high, three feet broad and six inches thick, free of any chisel marks.  Two have their back to the east, the third, oblique to the others, has its back to the south-east, thus there is no suggestion of a stone circle.  There are vertical grooves on two of the stones, while the centre stone has a cupmark, below which is a faint circle, one foot in diameter.  They stand at the end of a long narrow strip of land with low earthen walls on either side, perhaps an old agricultural field division, and they gave their name ‘Three Stanes’, to a now partly-lost road which eventually reached The Craggs and ended as Threestanes Road in Strathaven…”

The Three Stones

The “faint circle” described by Mr Stewart is barely visible now.  And the idea that these “three stones” gave their name to the farmhouse and road of the same name at the other side of Strathaven, three miles west, seems to be stretching credulity to the limits.  Surely?

Folklore

In 1845, Gavin Laing in the New Statistical Account for Lanarkshire told that:

“These stones are known simply as the “Three Stones”. There is a tradition in the neighbourhood that three Lords were buried here, after being killed while looking on at a Battle. The stones are about 3½ feet high and about as thick as flag stones. They stand upright being firmly fixed in the ground.”

The stones and their traditional origin were also mentioned in Francis Groome’s Ordnance Gazetteer (1884), where he echoed the 1845 NSA account, but also added:

“Three tall upright stones are here, and have been variously regarded as Caledonian remains, as monuments of ancient noblemen, and as monuments of martyrs.”

Then at the end of the 1850s, when the Ordnance Survey lads came here, they reported,

“Three high stones stand upright on a small eminence upon the lands of Avonholm, respecting their origin there are various opinions. They are probably the remnants of Druidical superstition.”

References:

  1. Groome, Francis H., Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland – volume 1, Thomas C. Jack: Edinburgh 1884.
  2. M’Whirter, M.T., “The Standing Stones at Glassford,” in Hamilton Advertiser, 1929.
  3. Stewart, William T., Glasford – The Kirk and the Kingdom, Mainsprint: Hamilton 1988.
  4. Wilson, James Alexander, A Contribution to the History of Lanarkshire – volume 2, J. Wylie: Glasgow 1937.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Posted in Lanarkshire, Scotland, Standing Stones | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments