St. Clement’s Well, Westminster, London, Middlesex

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TQ 3096 8106

Archaeology & History

Close to the long-lost Strand Cross and long-lost Strand Maypole, in bygone centuries was also to be found a holy well of great repute, dedicated by early christians to the sea-faring St. Clement.  Its presence was recorded in the ‘Holywell Street’ name at far the eastern end of The Strand but, like its compatriot monuments, it too is long-lost…  Thankfully we have reasonably good accounts of its existence, although its precise whereabouts has been something of a matter of debate.

Holywell Street on 1868 map

St Clements Well on 1914 map

The site is certainly of considerable antiquity, as evidenced in the early citations of the street-name ‘Holywell Street’.  The earliest reference is found in legal records from 1373, where it was described as “viam regiam que vocatur Holeway“, or “the main road which is called the Holy way.”  Several other references name the street as ‘Holwey’ and ‘Holewlane’, before it became shown as ‘Holliwell Street’ on the 1677 “Large and Accurate Map of the city of London” (I can find no copy of this on-line that allows for a reproduction of it on here, sadly).  The following year, William Morgan cited it as being ‘Hollowell street’, but curiously the place-name writers Gover, Mawer & Stenton (1942) opted that the name derives from it being a ‘hollow way’ and not relate it to the holy well which we know was located at the far eastern end of the now-missing Holywell Street.  I think they gorrit wrong on this occasion!

The best historical narrative of the site is undoubtedly that by Alfred Foord (1910), whose lengthy research waded through all the possible locations of the site, concluding in the Appendix of his work that, “in front of Clement’s Inn Hall…was the far-famed ‘holy well’ of St. Clement.”  It’s best leaving Mr Foord to do all the talking on this one:

“The earliest mention of the well of St. Clement was made by the Anglo-Norman chronicler, FitzStephen, in his History of London, prefixed to his Life of Becket (written between the years 1180 and 1182), where in the oft-quoted passage, he describes the water as “sweete, wholesome, and cleere,” and the spot as being ”much frequented by scholars and youths of the Citie in summer evenings, when they walk forth to take the aire.”

“Turning to Stow (1598), a fairly correct idea of the position of the holy well may be formed from his remarks.  Referring to Clement’s Inn, he defines it as “an Inne of Chancerie, so called because it standeth near St. Clement’s Church, but nearer to the faire fountain called Clement’s Well.”  As to its condition at the time he wrote, he says: “It is yet faire and curbed square with hard stone, and is always kept clean for common use. It is always full and never wanteth water.”  Seymour writes of it in his Survey of London (1734-35) as “St. Clement’s pump, or well, of note for its excellent spring water.”  Maitland (1756) says of it: “The well is now covered, and a pump placed therein on the east side of Clement’s Inn and lower end of St. Clement’s Lane.” This appears to be the first specific reference to the change from a draw-well to a pump. Hughson (1806-09), and Allen (1827-29) both allude briefly to the well, but the following authors say nothing about it : Northouck, A New History of London (1773); Pennant, Some Account of London (1790 and 1793); Malcolm, Londinium Redivivum (1803-07); and Riley, Memorials of London and London Life in the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Centuries (1868).

“Among the more modern writers, John Sanders in his “Strand” article, published in Knight’s London (1842), says: “The well is now covered with a pump, but there still remains the spring, flowing as steadily and freshly as ever.”

“George Emerson (1862), in speaking of the Church, says: ”It stood near a celebrated well, which for centuries was a favourite resort for Londoners. The water was slightly medicinal, and having effected some cures, the name Holy Well was applied.”

“John Diprose, an old inhabitant of the parish of St. Clement Danes, in his account of the parish (published in two volumes in 1868 and 1876), has this passage on the subject: “It has been suggested that the Holy Well was situated on the side of the Churchyard (of St. Clement), facing Temple Bar, for here may be seen a stone-built house, looking like a burial vault above ground, which an inscription informs us was erected in 1839, to prevent people using a pump that the inhabitants had put up in 1807 over a remarkable well, which is 191 feet deep, with 150 feet of water in it.  Perhaps this may be the ‘holy well’ of bygone days, that gave the name to a street adjoining.”  Timbs says in his Curiosities of London (1853), “the holy well is stated to be that under the ‘Old Dog’ tavern, No. 24, Holywell Street.”  Mr. Parry, an optician in that street, and an old inhabitant, held the same opinion.  Mr. Diprose, on the other hand, finds “upon examination, no reason for supposing that the holy well was under the Old Dog tavern, there being much older wells near the spot.”  Other inhabitants believe that the ancient well was adjacent to Lyon’s Inn, which faced Newcastle Street, between Wych Street and Holywell Street. In the Times of May 1, 1874, may be found the following paragraph, which reads like a requiem: “Another relic of Old London has lately passed away; the holy well of St. Clement, on the north of St. Clement Danes Church, has been filled in and covered over with earth and rubble, in order to form part of the foundation of the Law Courts of the future.”  On the 3rd of September of the same year (1874) the Standard refers to this supposed choking up of the old well, and suggests that “there had been a mis-apprehension, for the well, instead of being choked up, was delivering into the main drainage of London something like 30,000 gallons of water daily of exquisite purity. This flow of water which wells up from the low-lying chalk through a fault in the London Clay, will be utilised for the new Law Courts.”  A contributor to Notes and Queries (9th series, July 29, 1899) draws attention to the following particulars from a correspondent, a Mr. J. C. Asten, in the Morning Herald of July 5, 1899: “Having lived at No. 273, Strand, for thirty years from 1858, it may interest your readers to know that at the back of No. 274, between that house and Holy Well Street, there exists an old well, which most probably is the ‘Holy Well.’  It is now built over.  I and others have frequently drunk the exceedingly cool, bright water. There was an abundance of it, for in the later years a steam-printer used it to fill his boilers.” An interesting account of another well, less likely, however, to be the true well, is given by the late Mr. G. A. Sala in Things I have Seen and People I have Met (1894), who describes the clearing of the well which was not under, but behind the ‘Old Dog,’ in Holy Well Street, where he resided for some months about 1840. One or two interesting things turned up, amongst them being a broken punch bowl, having a William and Mary guinea inserted at the bottom ; a scrap of paper with the words in faded ink, “Oliver Goldsmith, 13s. 10d.,” perhaps a tavern score, and a variety of other articles.

“The erection of the new Law Courts—1874-82—which, with the piece of garden ground on the western side, cover a space of nearly 8 acres, swept away numbers of squalid courts, alleys, and houses, including a portion of Clement’s Inn, where the well was. Further west another large area was denuded of houses, by which Holywell Street—demolished in 1901—and nearly the whole of Wych Street (a few houses on its northern side only being left), have been wiped off the map.

“In order, if possible, to obtain some corroboration of the Standard‘s statement that the spring existed in 1874, the writer applied for information on the point to the Clerk of Works 2 at the Royal Courts of Justice, who wrote that he could find no trace of St. Clement’s Well, so that the report in the Times (quoted above) is probably correct. The water-supply to the Courts of Justice, he adds in his letter of June 13, 1907, is from the Water Board’s mains, and an underground tank, used for the steam-engine boilers, situated between the principal and east blocks, is filled partly from the roofs and partly from shallow wells in the north (Carey Street) area of the building—the overflow running into the drains.

“On the Ordnance Survey Map, published in 1874, a spot is marked on the open space west of the Law Courts with the words “Site of St. Clement’s Well”: this spot is distant about 200 feet north from the Church of St. Clement Danes, and about 90 feet east of Clement’s Inn Hall, which was then standing.  The Inn, with the ground attached to it, was disposed of not long after 1884, when the Society of Clement’s Inn had been disestablished.”

On the northeast side of the St. Clement’s church, a metal plaque was erected in 1807 (it’s still there!) which claims to be the position where the holy well existed.  It reads:

“The well underneath, 191 feet deep, and containing 150 of water was sunk & this pump erected at the expense of the parish of St Clement Danes.”

In Mr Sunderland’s (1915) account of the Well, he told that it was located “200ft north” of the church, “covered by the Law Courts, built between 1874 and 1882”; and that although the waters here were clear and pure, they were “probably not medicinal”.  Its waters, he said, fed the old Roman Spring Bath at No.5, The Strand.

In Edward Walford’s (1878) standard work, he told that,

“Round this holy well, in the early Christian era, newly-baptised converts clad in white robes were wont to assemble to commemorate Ascension Day and Whitsuntide; and in later times, after the murder of Thomas à Becket had made Canterbury the constant resort of pilgrims from all parts of England, the holy well of St. Clement was a favourite halting-place of the pious cavalcades for rest and refreshment.”

Folklore

Although I can find nothing specifically relating St. Clement’s Well with the old customs cited below, a connection seems highly likely, as the events started where Mr Foord (1910) said the holy well was located.  The great english folklorist Christina Hole (1950) wrote:

“One of the most charming ceremonies in London is the Oranges and Lemons service at St. Clements Danes.  It takes place every year on March 31st, or as near as possible to that date, and is a modified revival of an old custom which has only recently died out.  In the lifetime of many elderly people now living, the attendants of Clements Inn used annually to visit all the residents of the Inn and present them with oranges and lemons, receiving some small gift in return.  At the March service, the church is decorated with oranges and lemons, and all the children who attend are given fruit as they leave the building, while the bells play the old nursery rhyme.  The oranges and lemons are supplied by the Danish colony in London, whose church this has been for many centuries, and are often distributed by Danish children wearing their national colours of red and white.”

The historian Laurence Gomme (1912) propounded that the ancient stone cross of The Strand nearby, and the Strand maypole, were elements relating to an unbroken line of heathen traditions dating back to the early Saxon period—and the customs here cited would seem to increasingly validate this.  A more detailed multidisciplinary analysis of this cluster of sites along The Strand by competent occult historians is long overdue.

The Strand ley (courtesy Paul Devereux)

One final thing: if the position of the Well is indeed the one cited on the 1807 plaque, to the northeast of St. Clement’s church, then it lies bang on the ley-line that was first propounded by Alfred Watkins (1922; 1925; 1927), and subsequently enlarged upon by Devereux & Thompson! (1979)

References:

  1. Devereux, Paul & Thomson, Ian, The Ley Hunter’s Companion, Thames & Hudson: London 1979.
  2. Foord, Alfred Stanley, Springs, Streams and Spas of London: History and Association, T. Fisher Unwin: London 1910.
  3. Gomme, Laurence, The Making of London, Clarendon: Oxford 1912.
  4. Gover, J.E.B., Mawer, Allen & Stenton, F.M., The Place-Names of Middlesex, Cambridge University Press 1942.
  5. Hole, Christina, English Custom and Usage, Batsford: London 1950.
  6. Johnson, Walter, Byways in British Archaeology, Cambridge University Press 1912.
  7. Street, Christopher E., London’s Ley Lines, Earthstars: London 2010.
  8. Sunderland, Septimus, Old London Spas, Baths and Wells, John Bale: London 1915.
  9. Walford, Edward, Old and New London – volume 3, Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
  10. Watkins, Alfred, Early British Trackways, Motas, Mounds, Camps and Sites, Watkins Meter: Hereford 1922.
  11. Watkins, Alfred, The Old Straight Track, Methuen: London 1925.
  12. Watkins, Alfred, The Ley Hunter’s Manual, Simpkin Marshall: London 1927.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Strand Maypole, Westminster, London, Middlesex

Maypole (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TQ 3073 8092

Archaeology & History

This huge traditional monument was once a sight to behold!  It stood close to where an ancient stone ‘cross’ once lived.  But—alas!, with the intrusion of the incoming christians bringing a profane ‘religion’ that belongs to countries far from here, its destruction was imposed.  They destroyed so many of our ancient monuments with their hatred and ignorance… But thankfully we have some good accounts of this long-forgotten relic of London’s real history.

In A.R. Wright’s (1938) account of it, he called this “the most famous maypole in England” and it stood taller than even the great maypole that’s still raised at Barwick-in-Elmet, in Yorkshire.

There seems to have been three maypoles on this same site – the first of which was standing before the destruction of Strand’s ancient cross, where local jurisdictions and early village meetings took place.  We don’t know the date when the first maypole was erected, but it was shown on a local plan of the area “which Anthony van den Wyngaerde issued in 1543…in front of the old church of St. Mary le Strand, which was demolished in 1549.”   According to Mr Hone (1826), it could be found a door or two westward beyond “where Catherine Street descends into the Strand.”

In Edward Walford’s (1878) massive tome, he gave us perhaps the best and most extensive account of the site, telling:

“The Maypole, to which we have already referred as formerly standing on the site of the church of St. Mary-le-Strand, was called by the Puritans one of the “last remnants of vile heathenism, round which people in holiday times used to dance, quite ignorant of its original intent and meaning.” Each May morning, as our readers are doubtless aware, it was customary to deck these poles with wreaths of flowers, round which the people danced pretty nearly the whole day.  A severe blow was given to these merry-makings by the Puritans, and in 1644 a Parliamentary ordinance swept them all away, including this very famous one, which, according to old Stow, stood 100 feet high.

On the Restoration, however, a new and loftier one was set up amid much ceremony and rejoicing. From a tract printed at the time, entitled The Citie’s Loyaltie Displayed,’ we learn that this Maypole was 134 feet high, and was erected upon the cost of the parishioners there adjacent, and the gracious consent of his sacred Majesty, with the illustrious Prince the Duke of York:

“This tree was a most choice and remarkable piece; ’twas made below bridge and brought in two parts up to Scotland Yard, near the king’s palace, and from thence it was conveyed, April 14, 1661, to the Strand, to be erected. It was brought with a streamer flourishing before it, drums beating all the way, and other sorts of musick.  It was supposed to be so long that landsmen could not possibly raise it.  Prince James, Duke of York, Lord High Admiral of England, commanded twelve seamen off aboard ship to come and officiate the business; whereupon they came, and brought their cables, pullies, and other tackling, and six great anchors. After these were brought three crowns, borne by three men bareheaded, and a streamer displaying all the way before them, drums beating and other musick playing, numerous multitudes of people thronging the streets, with great shouts and acclamations, all day long. The Maypole then being joined together and looped about with bands of iron, the crown and cane, with the king’s arms richly gilded, was placed on the head of it; a large hoop, like a balcony, was about the middle of it.  Then, amid sounds of trumpets and drums, and loud cheerings, and the shouts of the people, the Maypole, ‘far more glorious, bigger, and higher than ever any one that stood before it,’ was raised upright, which highly did please the Merrie Monarch and the illustrious Prince, Duke of York; and the little children did much rejoice, and ancient people did clap their hands, saying golden days began to appear.”

A party of morris-dancers now came forward, “finely decked with purple scarfs, in their half-shirts, with a tabor and a pipe, the ancient music, and danced round about the Maypole.”

The setting up of this Maypole is said to have been the deed of a blacksmith, John Clarges, who lived hard by, and whose daughter Anne had been so fortunate in her matrimonial career as to secure for her husband no less a celebrated person than General Monk, Duke of Albemarle, in the reign of Charles II., when courtiers and princes did not always look to the highest rank for their wives.

…Newcastle Street, at the north-east corner of the church of St. Mary-le-Strand, was formerly called Maypole Alley, but early in the last century was changed to its present name, after John Holles, Duke of Newcastle, the then owner of the property, and the name has been transferred to another place not far off. At the junction of Drury Lane and Wych Street, on the north side, close to the Olympic Theatre, is a narrow court, which is now known as Maypole Alley, near which stood the forge of John Clarges, the blacksmith, alluded to above as having set up the Maypole at the time of the Restoration.

As all earthly glories are doomed in time to fade, so this gaily-bedecked Maypole, after standing for upwards of fifty years, had become so decayed in the ground, that it was deemed necessary to replace it by a new one.  Accordingly, it was removed in 1713, and a new one erected in its place a little further to the west, nearly opposite to Somerset House, where now stands a drinking fountain.  It was set up on the 4th of July in that year, with great joy and festivity, but it was destined to be short-lived. When this latter Maypole was taken down in its turn, Sir Isaac Newton, who lived near Leicester Fields, bought it from the parishioners, and sent it as a present to his friend, the Rev. Mr. Pound, at Wanstead in Essex, who obtained leave from his squire, Lord Castlemaine, to erect it in Wanstead Park, for the support of what then was the largest telescope in Europe, being 125 feet in length.  It was constructed by Huygens, and presented by him to the Royal Society, of which he was a member. It had not long stood in the park, when one morning some amusing verses were found affixed to the Maypole, alluding to its change of position and employment. They are given by Pennant as follows:

“Once I adorned the Strand,
But now have found
My way to Pound
On Baron Newton’s land;
Where my aspiring head aloft is reared,
T’ observe the motions of th’ ethereal Lord.
Here sometimes raised a machine by my side,
Through which is seen the sparkling milky tide;
Here oft I’m scented with a balmy dew,
A pleasant blessing which the Strand ne’er knew.
There stood I only to receive abuse,
But here converted to a nobler use;
So that with me all passengers will say,
‘I’m better far than when the Pole of May.'”

Along with the Strand Cross, this old maypole would have been on the ancient ley (not one of those ‘energy lines’ invented by New Age fantasists) that was first described first by Alfred Watkins (1925)—running from St. Martins-in-the-Field to St. Dunstan’s in Fleet Street. The alignment and maypole was subsequently described in greater detail in Devereux & Thomson’s (1979) work on the same subject, and again by Chris Street. (2010)

The nature of the maypole (and the nearby cross, it has to be said), may have been representative of an omphalos in early popular culture (before the christians of course)—which would put the original ritual function of the place far far earlier than is generally considered.  This is something that Laurence Gomme (1912) propounded in one of his London works and cannot be discounted.

References:

  1. Allen, Thomas, The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark – volume 4, Cowie & Strange: London 1829.
  2. Devereux, Paul & Thomson, Ian, The Ley Hunter’s Companion, Thames & Hudson: London 1979.
  3. Eliade, Mircea, Patterns in Comparative Religion, Sheed & Ward: London 1958.
  4. Gomme, Laurence, The Making of London, Clarendon: Oxford 1912.
  5. Hone, William, The Every-Day Book – volume 1, William Tegg: London 1826.
  6. Street, Christopher E., London’s Ley Lines, Earthstars: London 2010.
  7. Walford, Edward, Old and New London – volume 3, Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
  8. Watkins, Alfred, The Old Straight Track, Methuen: London 1925.
  9. Wright, A.R., British Calendar Customs: England – volume 2, Folklore Society: London 1938.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

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Panorama Woods (228), Ilkley, West Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 11468 47288

Also Known as:

  1. Carving no.100 (Hedges)
  2. Carving no.228 (Boughey & Vickerman)

Getting Here

Panorama Stone 228, with many of the cups highlighted (after James Elkington)

Come out of Ilkley/bus train station and turn right for less than 50 yards, turning 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, as well as a bench to sit on, surrounded by trees is a small enclosed bit with spiky railings with Panorama Stones 227, 228 and 229 all therein: the one in the centre being the one we’re dealing with here.

Archaeology & History

Originally located ¾-miles (1.2km) WSW of its present position in Panorama Woods (at roughly SE 1031 4701), 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 Hedges 1986 sketch

Carving with cups highlighted (after James Elkington)

The carving was initially located either within, or at the edges of, a large prehistoric enclosure—which was completely destroyed when rich houses were built thereby, without any evaluation of the site ever being made.  The petroglyph consists of at least two cup-and-rings, and one faint double-cup-and-ring; other incomplete rings, or arcs, were etched at the edges of at least two other cups; and there are at least another 30 single cup-marks also visible, some of which have short limes running to or from them.

As with many of the Ilkley carvings, Boughey & Vickerman’s (2003) description barely does the stone justice.  They described it simply:

“Large rock, now set in concrete base, the surface rapidly deteriorating.  Over forty cups, three with single rings, one showing traces of a second, grooves.”

The mightily impressive Panorama 229 carving sits next to this one and is truly worth checking out!

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. Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Leeds 2003.
  4. Cowling, Eric T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946.
  5. Downer, A.C., “Yorkshire Archaeological and Topographical Association,” in Leeds Mercury, August 28, 1884.
  6. Hadingham, Evan, Ancient Carvings in Britain, Souvenir Press: London 1974.
  7. Hedges, John, The Carved Rocks on Rombald’s Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.
  8. Heywood, Nathan, “The Cup and Ring Stones of the Panorama Rocks”, in Transactions Lancashire & Cheshire Antiquarian Society, Manchester 1889.
  9. 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 taking the photos and allowing ’em for use them in this site profile.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Clach na Foinne, Glen Lochay, Perthshire

Legendary Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 50 38

Also Known as:

  1. Clach an Dlogh
  2. Wart Stone

Archaeology & History

Wart Stone, looking south

There is no written history of this site; only the quiet murmurings of a few locals whose families go back to when the english came and destroyed the people and their lives in the 18th and 19th century in the ethnic cleansing we known as The Clearances.  As with the Darach nan Sith (the Oak of the Fairies) a few miles away, the local traditions were lost, and ancient monuments destroyed.  Thankfully, due to the remote location of this site, its status remains….

It is found 2000 feet up, near an old derelict village (english academic romancers term it as ‘sheilings’).  An ancient track and stone bridge runs over the burn nearby, place-names evidence tells of a prehistoric tomb a few hundred yards west, and there’s a dispersal of forgotten human evidences scattering the south-side of the mountain all along here.  The clach (stone) sits on the very top of a large earthfast rock; is an elongated loaf-sized smooth red-coloured stone, about 14 inches long and 8 inches wide, and of a different type and much heavier than the local rock hereby.  It is said to have been a healing stone, used in earlier times to cure warts and other ailments.

Folklore

The Wart Stone itself

My first venture here was, like many in this area, amidst a dreaming.  Those who amble the hills properly, know what I mean.  I cut across the mountain slopes diagonally, zigzagging as usual, always off-path, resting by mossy stones and drinking the waters here and there.  My nose took me to the mass of giant rocks hedging into the higher regions of Allt Ghaordaidh: a pass betwixt the rounded giants of Meall Ghoaordie and Meall Cnap Laraich, where only eagles and Taoist romancers might roam.

The great rock comes upon you pretty easily.  Approaching it for the first time I wondered whether there might be petroglyphs on or around it, but the rich depth of lichens and its curious crowning elongated stone stopped any further thought on the matter.  The setting, the eagles, the colour of day and the fast waters close by, stole all such thoughts.  In truth I must have walked back and forth and near-slept below the place for an hour or two before I gave way to rational focus!  And then the curiosity got even more curious.

“This must be the place,” I mused, several times.

As you can see in the photo, a large natural earthfast boulder, six feet high or more, like a giant Badger Stone covered in centuries of primal lichens, has a large deep red-coloured stone on its very crown.  The stone is unlike any of the local rock and is very heavy.  I found this out when trying to prize it from its rocky mount, dislodging it slightly from the seeming aeons of vegetation that held it there.  But the moment I moved it, just an inch or so above its parent boulder, a quiet voice inside me rose sharply into focus.

“You shouldn’t have done that!”

The Wart Stone. looking east

Quickly I set it back into place, shaking my head at what I’d done.  One of those curious feelings you get at these places sometimes wouldn’t leave me, however much I tried to shake it off.  …Silly though it may sound, the echoes inside kept saying over and over to me, “you’re gonna get warts now you’ve done that!” Logically, of course, that made no sense whatsoever.  I’d only ever had one wart in my life, a couple of decades ago.  And yet, a few days later, one of the little blighters emerged on my finger!  So there was only one thing for it!  If this was a Wart Stone, I should revisit it again and place my afflicted finger back onto the wart and ask it to be taken back into the stone.

A week or so later, I clambered all the way up the mountainside again and asked the place to forgive my stupidity and take back the wart.  Apologising to the spirit of the stone, I rubbed my finger on the curious coloured rock and, I have to be honest, didn’t know what to expect.

I spent the next few hours meandering here and there over the hills and cast the thought of the Wart Stone back into my unconscious.  But a few days later it had started shrinking – and within a week, had completely gone!  This faint relic of an older culture, this Clach na Foinne had performed its old ways again, as in animistic ages past…

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

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Bury Lane (east), East Morton, West Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 09373 42410

Also Known as:

  1. Carving 51 (Hedges)
  2. Carving 91 (Boughey & Vickerman)

Getting Here

Cup-marked stone, East Morton (photo thanks, Sue Patchett)

From the expanding village of East Morton, by the school at the west-end of the village, walk up the narrow Street Lane for nearly 600 yards, past the houses, until you reach a footpath on your left that takes you across the fields.  Walk along here (following the line of walling) for 250 yards, then, take a sharp left and down the field for 55 yards (50m) until, right beneath the power lines, you’ll find the rock in question.

Archaeology & History

This is one in a small, little-known cluster of  petroglyphs on the western outskirts of East Morton.  It is located at the base of what are thought to be remnants of Iron Age walling.  Carved onto an elongated earthfast stone are a number of very well-preserved cup-marks, with what seems to be a faint carved pecked line running out from one of the southernmost cup-marks and curving back on itself (we could do with a good sketch artist getting us a good drawing of this).  You can see this faint line on the far-left side of the stone in Sue’s photo above.

Hedges 1986 sketch

The petroglyph was rediscovered by the northern antiquarian Stuart Feather (1959) in one of his many sojourns exploring the prehistoric remains of the area.  In John Hedges’ (1986) survey, the carving was described simply as:

“Triangular smooth grit rock with fairly flat top on which are twenty cups, not all clear, some large and oval, a few grooves.”

Boughey & Vickerman’s survey (2003) made no note of any  additional features on the petroglyph.

References:

  1. Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Wakefield 2003.
  2. Feather, Stuart, “Bronze Age Rock Carvings,” in Keighley News, March 7, 1959.
  3. Hedges, John (ed.), The Carved Rocks on Rombalds Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.
  4. Jackson, Sidney, “Massive Walling at East Morton,” in Cartwright Hall Archaeology Group Bulletin, 5:9, 1960.
  5. Jackson, Sidney, “East Morton Ancient Walls,” in Cartwright Hall Archaeology Group Bulletin, 6:9, 1961.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks to Sue Patchett for use of her photo.  

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

Posted in Brigantia (Northern England), Cup-and-Ring Stones, Yorkshire, West | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vauxhall Well, Lambeth, London, Surrey

Healing Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference — TQ 3006 7734

Archaeology & History

Position of Vauxhall Well on 1824 map

In Thomas Allen’s (1827) huge survey of Lambeth parish, he told that there was little of any interest along Wandsworth Road, apart from a good orchard, “and a fine spring called Vauxhall Well.”  According to Daniel Lysons (1792), it was located “not far from the turnpike”; and according to Mr Sunderland’s (1915), was to be found “on the right-hand side of the Wandsworth Road” as you walked down it to the south.  Thankfully its position was highlighted on the 1824 map of the parish (right) that accompanied Mr Allen’s work.

It appears to have been built over in the latter-half of the 19th century, soon after William Thornbury (1878) wrote that he thought the well was still visible, but vanished soon after.

The waters were universally ascribed by all historians, from Mr Allen onwards, as being,

“esteemed highly serviceable in many disorders of the eyes, and in the hardest winter it is never known to freeze.”

The name ‘Vauxhall’ derives from that brilliantly famous family name of ‘Fawkes’ (as in Guy Fawkes), being the ‘hall of Fawkes’.  The name was first recorded here as early as 1241. (Gover et al, 1934)

References:

  1. Allen, Thomas, The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Lambeth, J. Allen: London 1827.
  2. Foord, Alfred Stanley, Springs, Streams and Spas of London: History and Association, T. Fisher Unwin: London 1910.
  3. Gover, J.E.B., Mawer, A. & Stenton, F.M., The Place-Names of Surrey, Cambridge University Press 1934.
  4. Lysons, Daniel, The Environs of London – volume 1,  T. Cadell & W. Davies: London 1792.
  5. Sunderland, Septimus, Old London Spas, Baths and Wells, John Bale: London 1915.
  6. Thornbury, William, History of Old and New London – volume 6, Cassell, Petter & Galpin: London 1878.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

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Stratford St. Mary Cursus, Suffolk

Cursus Monument:  OS Grid Reference – TM 0486 3433

Archaeology & History

Faint flat outline of SE end + ancient circular enclosure

This short and dead straight cursus monument was first described in John Hedges’ (1981) survey, and later mentioned in Harding & Lee’s (1987) corpus on British henges as being in conjunction with a series of circular prehistoric monuments (three circular enclosures existed beyond its southeast and one to its northeast edges, one of which is visible in the aerial image, right).

Cursus ground-plan (courtesy Suffolk Institute Archaeology)

Most of the monument has been completely destroyed by roads and housing, but when complete was said to be 317 yards (290m) long, running from the southeast to the northwest.  The flattened southeastern edge measures nearly 63 yards (57.3m) across, and its northernmost width was close to 65 yards (60m) wide.

In Patrick Taylor’s (2015) assessment of this (and other monuments) he thought that the cursus may have served an astronomical function.  He may be right.  It’s alignment, he told,

“has a very clear orientation 38.5º north of grid west.  This represents an amplitude from true west of 40.9º.  Allowing for a latitude of 51.97º and altitude of 0.95º, adjusted downwards for refraction to 0.50º, we get from (Alexander) Thom’s table a declination for a body setting to the northwest of 24.15.º  This is only 0.23º, just less than half the width of the sun’s disc, more than the sun’s maximum declination in Neolithic times of 23.92º.  The alignment thus points rather accurately towards the upper limb or last setting point of the sun.”

Faint remnants of a second cursus monument have been discovered 400 yards to the east.

References:

  1. Harding, A.F. & Lee, G.E.,, Henge Monuments and Related Sites of Great Britain, BAR 175: Oxford 1987.
  2. Hedges, John D. & Buckley, David, Springfield Cursus and the Cursus Problem, ECC 1981.
  3. Last, Jonathan, “Out of Line: Cursuses and Monument Typology in Eastern England,” in Barclay & Harding’s Pathways & Ceremonies, Oxbow: Oxford 1999.
  4. Martin, Edward A., “When is a Henge not a Henge?” in Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute for Archaeology & History, volume 35, 1981.
  5. Taylor, Patrick, Timber Circles in the East, Polystar: Ipswich 2015.

AcknowledgementsMany thanks to the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History, for use of their ground-plan diagram from Edward Armstrong’s article, ‘When is a Henge Not a Henge?’ 

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Holy Well, Didsbury, Manchester, Lancashire

Holy Well (destroyed?):  OS Grid Reference — SJ 8464 9036

Archaeology & History

In Henry Taylor’s gigantic survey on the Ancient Crosses and Holy Wells of Lancashire (1906), he told that “records of the existence of holy wells in this (district) are scanty in the extreme.”  Indeed.  He certainly missed this one which, it seems (if modern lore is correct), has sadly fallen prey to that sickness which those ghastly people call ‘progress’.  Cited to have been in or near the old graveyard of St. James church in the old village, this once ever-flowing spring of water was of great repute in earlier centuries, not only for general health, magick and traditions, but also supposedly in prolonging life itself!

One of the standard historians of Didsbury, Mr Fletcher Moss (1898), was of the view that this Well may have been the “origin of Didsbury, the place the Saxon settlers would choose first for their church and community.”  He may be right.  He told that,

“It was said ‘to be holy in papist times.’  Only last summer I several times saw three young ladies who came every morning to bathe their eyes and faces in it, saying, “It was good for sore eyes.”  I could not see anything the matter with their eyes, but that may have been my ignorance, or that they were already getting better. In the spring time or early in May the well has often been nearly choked with wild flowers, and pins have been put in for luck.  If rags or crutches were ever left there, it was when the water bubbled up in the roadway on the hillside.  The flow of it is lessened by drains or sewers, and now it is taken down in pipes.  The lane is enclosed with brick walls, and all the romance is gone; but in the longest drought or severest frost the water from the holy well has never failed, and though it may come from the churchyard, we and many others drink no other.”

In an earlier passage (Moss 1891), he talked about the longevity and good health of the local people and who credited the good water here:

“Like most of the old Didsbury folk who never bothered with doctors or change of air, Sam Gaskill, the last clerk, lived to be long past the fourscore years, for I remember him and others much older than he was, regularly going to the Holy Well for the water for their households.  As in patriarchal and primitive times the villagers went to the well or spring at eventide and tarried and talked while the water flowed.  It mattered nought to them that the water flowed from the churchyard, from the burial-place of their forefathers; they had always been healthy as their forefathers had been healthy, and they wanted no other water and would have no other; that always bubbled up fresh and sparkling in summer or winter, in drought or frost, and never failed.”

Nearby to the east, spirits of the dead were said to come from the old trees of Parrs Wood, long since destroyed by those self-righteous Industrialists…

References:

  1. Million, Ivor R., A History of Didsbury, E. J. Morten 1969
  2. Moss, Fletcher, Didisburye in the ’45, Cornish: Manchester 1891.
  3. Moss, Fletcher, Folklore, Old Customs and Tales of My Neighbours, privately printed: Manchester 1898.

Acknowledgements:  With big thanks to Bret Gaunt, Paul Hornby and Geraldine Dowsing for their input.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

Posted in Brigantia (Northern England), Holy Wells, Lancashire | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Moirlanich (1), Killin, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 56404 34148

Getting Here

‘Moirlanich 1’ stone

Take the same directions as if you’re going to the nearby Moirlanich 2 Carving (about 550 yards down Glen Lochay, on the north side of Killin). In the same field, about 150 yards northwest of Moirlanich 2, you’ll see another large rock close to the wall.  That’s the spot!

Archaeology & History

Cup-marks highlighted

Looking down upon the River Lochay, with views east and west along the glen, here we find a carved rock that’s probably of interest only to the petroglyphic purists amongst you.  Two simple cup-markings, about 5 inches apart, can be seen etched into the slightly sloping southern-face of this small rocky outcrop.  The sacred mountain of the Creag na Cailleach rises to the immediate north.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Moirlanich (2), Killin, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 56522 34078

Getting Here

‘Moirlanich 2’ Stone

From Killin, take the A827 road out of the north side of the village, turning left down Glen Lochay just before the Bridge of Lochay Hotel.  500 yards along the single-track road you’ll reach the electricity station. Just past this, in the field on your right, a large rock stands out just a few yards away. Go through the gate and walk to the spot!

Archaeology & History

Highlighted cup-marks

This is a simple cup-marked stone, perhaps used in ages gone by as a look-out spot by villagers.  Only for the petroglyphic purists amongst you, this carving consists of just five cup-marks on the topmost section of the flat stone, with four of them roughly in a line and a solo one (the most pronounced of the them all) a few inches south of the row.  The cup-marked Moirlanich 1 stone can be seen in the same field, 150 yards (137m) to the northwest.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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