Market Cross, Halesowen, Worcestershire

Cross:  OS Grid Reference – SO 9666 8356

Archaeology & History

Halesowen Cross, when it stood in the village

Halesowen Cross, when it stood in the village

This history of this probable late-medieval monument is fragmentary.  It presently stands in the southeast corner of St John the Baptist churchyard, but used to be in the middle of the old village (when the town actually was a village!).  First erected in 1540 CE, the Victoria County History survey suggested that it may have marked an old boundary.  David Eades (1999) gives the most decent account of the monument, which stands more than nine-feet high and has been re-positioned onto stone steps.  He told:

“It marked the town’s market and fair and may once have come originally from Halesowen Abbey.  It was once possibly more ornate, but religious symbols may have been removed during the Reformation.  After a gale on 22 February, 1908, during which the cross blew down, it was dumped on a rubbish tip.  A local solicitor and clerk to the justices, Mr Alfred Homfrey, rescued it, and Mr Job Garratt, the owner of New Hawne Colliery, paid for its recovery and resurrection in the churchyard.”

References:

  1. Eades, David L., Halesowen, Sutton: London 1999.
  2. Frederick W. Hackwood, Oldbury and Round About in the Worcestershire Corner of the Black Country, Cornish Brothers 1915.

© Paul Bennett,  The Northern Antiquarian 2016

The Northern Antiquarian – Charity Number SCO-46359

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Fiscary (4), Farr, Sutherland

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – NC 72858 62620

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 6437

Getting Here

Approaching Fiscary 4, north

Approaching Fiscary 4, north

A mile east of Bettyhill on the A836 road, watch for the large piles of rocks up on the hill on your left (north).  Turn left on the tiny road past the first house for 150 yards and then on the track past the sheep-fanks through the gate and up the small hill.  The cairn is the smallest of the pile of rocks in front of you.

Archaeology & History

Of the four giant cairns clustered here at Fiscary, a mile east of Bettyhill, this one has received the least attention.  It is found amidst a massive cluster of archaeological remains running from the 19th century all the way back into the neolithic period. Quite impressive!

Sitting on top of the cairn the view is impressive: looking 360º with the Orkneys to the northeast, Durness and the rising mountains west and southwest, and endless craggy moorlands peppered with lochans driving in all directions to the south countless miles away.  This panorama of wilderness is something to behold…

Looking west out to sea

Looking west out to sea

Looking southwest

Looking southwest

The tomb itself, with the acceptable scatter of fallen rocks to the edges, is nearly 50 yards in circumference, measuring more than 12 yards east-west and nearly 14 yards north-south, with the Earth covering the older rocks to the edges with more and more vegetation as the years pass.  It stands about 5-6 feet high with the typical internal mass of thousands of stones making up the cairn.  No known excavations have ever been made here.

In the otherwise superb Royal Commission (1911) survey of Sutherland, they only had scant information to say about this tomb, telling that,

“The fourth cairn…measures 28′ to 30′ in diameter and is about 6′ high.  There are no signs of chambers visible and the cairn has been a good deal dilapidated.”

Even when R.J. Mercer (1981) came to give this area greater attention, he passed by the Fiscary 4 cairn with equal brevity, noting simply its dimensions, elevation above sea level and the fact that it is a “circular cairn on crest of hill.”

The tombs of Fiscary 1, 2 and 3 are very close by some beginning some 257 yards (235m) to the east.  I cannot recommend this entire complex highly enough!

References:

  1. Henshall, Audrey S., The Chambered Cairns of Sutherland, Edinburgh University Press 1995.
  2. Mercer, R.J. & Howell, J.M., Archaeological Field Survey in Northern Scotland – volume 2, University of Edinburgh 1981.
  3. o’ Reilly, Kevin & Crockford, Ashley, What to See Around Bettyhill, privately printed 2009.
  4. Royal Commission on Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Second report and inventory of monuments and constructions in the county of Sutherland. HMSO: Edinburgh 1911.

© Paul Bennett,  The Northern Antiquarian 2016

The Northern Antiquarian – Charity Number SCO-46359

Posted in Cairns, Tombs, Tumuli, Scotland, Sutherland | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Manor Farm, Bolnhurst, Bedfordshire

Hillfort:  OS Grid Reference – TL 0849 5985

Also Known as:

  1. The Camp

Archaeology & History

Wadmore's 1920 groundplan

Wadmore’s 1920 groundplan

This much disturbed Iron Age ‘hillfort’ is effectively a large enclosure of Iron Age origin, much ruined by farming and subsequent landscape alterations through the centuries, with much of it re-fashioned as a medieval moat more than a thousand years after first being built.  Even when the site was visited and described in Mr Wadmore’s (1920) fascinating work he told of the variants in its apparent construction phases:

“This large earthwork is situated on flat level ground, a few yards off the Bedford-Kimbolton Road, at the VIIth milestone out of Bedford.  In shape it is very irregular and presents little to aid one in arriving at an estimate of its original form, except the construction of its defensive lines, which are of two totally different characters and suggest that a comparatively modern manor has been added to an older work.

“The portion which I take to be the older, lies to the south, and is contained on this and the western side, as far as and including the great sweep bending east, by a strong vallum with a parapet and external fosse.

“The modern portion appears to me to commence between the east and west faces where the lines run north, and are purely the remains of a fosse without any indication of a parapet.  The extension of these lines, so far as can be traced, would tend to prove that the work occupied both sides of the road; but such a fact should not prejudice one’s view concerning the work as a whole….”

Section of the earthworks drawn by Wadmore

Section of the earthworks drawn by Wadmore

Adding with a good sense of humility that, “I am quite willing to admit that I may be mistaken, as the matter is entirely speculative.”  But modern archaeological analysis tends to prove that much of Wadmore’s words were correct and the remaining northern section of these earthworks is where the medieval moated section was built.  Roman remains and other period artifacts have also been unearthed in and around the site.

A few hundred yards southwest of the hillfort we find a place called Greenbury Farm.  This place was known in the 14th century as ‘Grymesbury’, which has been taken by some students as relating to the Norse deity, Grim.  However, Mawer & Stenton (1926) point out that in this instance,

“The Grym family had a holding in Bolnhurst in 1302 and bury is here used in the manorial sense. Hence ‘Grym’s Manor.'”

References:

  1. Mawer, A. & Stenton, F.M., The Place-Names of Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire, Cambridge University Press 1926.
  2. Wadmore, Beauchamp, The Earthworks of Bedfordshire, Bedfordshire Standard: Bedford 1920.

© Paul Bennett,  The Northern Antiquarian 2016

The Northern Antiquarian – Charity Number SCO-46359

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Galley Hill, Streatley, Bedfordshire

Long Barrow :  OS Grid Reference – TL 086 268

Archaeology & History

Aligned east-west, a large neolithic long barrow could once be seen to the west of Galley Hill, on where now we find a golf course.  It was sadly destroyed sometime around 1900 AD and its demolition was witnessed by a Mr A. Cumberland of the Dartford Antiquarian Society, who reported there being no archaeological finds of note in the tomb.  Curious…

Equally curious was the view of archaeologist James Dyer (1964) in his assessment of the site, who wrote how

“Air photographs suggest that the barrow was 300 ft long, but this is much larger than normal in the Chilterns, and 150 ft is more reasonable.”

The neolithic and Bronze Age burial specialist Paul Ashbee (1984) maintained the “300 feet” measurement.

Other tumuli can still be seen on the slopes either side of Galley Hill a few hundred yards to the east; and a henge monument has also be found in the area.

References:

  1. Ashbee, Paul, The Earthen Long Barrow in Britain, Geo: Norwich 1984.
  2. Dyer, J.F., “A Secondary Neolithic Camp at Waulud’s Bank, Leagrave,” in Bedfordshire Archaeological Journal 2, 1964.

© Paul Bennett,  The Northern Antiquarian 2016

The Northern Antiquarian – Charity Number SCO-46359

Posted in Bedfordshire, Cairns, Tombs, Tumuli, England (south) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Power Station Road, Sheerness, Isle of Sheppey, Kent

Settlement (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TQ 932 733

Archaeology & History

An extensive site that was uncovered when a housing estate was being built on the south-side of Power Station Road at the end of the 20th century.  During the Spring and Summer of 1998, the Canterbury Archaeological Trust began cutting trenches across the land and did some minor excavation work on the west side of the area, finding some traces of early human activity.

A second series of investigations was then undertaken by the Hertfordshire Archaeological Trust  over the Autumn and Winter months of 1998-99, with the Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit then taking over for the rest of the year.  Their team split the land into eight large sections and began a more detailed analysis and uncovered a huge number of finds.  Amidst this, wrote Brian Philp (2002), there

“included an important collection of Bronze Age material, including large clay-weights, perforated baked-clay slabs and a good range of pottery types.  Of special interest was the spinal bone of a large whale, perhaps washed up on the nearby shore.

“The picture now emerging is that of a substantial Bronze Age settlement site, spread across several acres and probably farming the adjacent land… It seems likely that three large ponds and…eight stone-lined pits were primarily for water-storage, both for watering cattle and for other agricultural or semi-industrial purposes… All this seemed to be happening about 900-400 BC on what still appears to be the largest Bronze Age settlement so far discovered on this important island.”

The archaeocentric place-name of Barrows Hill rises a mile to the southwest.

References:

  1. Philp, Brian, Archaeology in the Front Line, KARU: Dover 2002.
  2. Schuster, Jorn, “The Neolithic to Post-Medieval Archaeology of Kingsborough, Eastchurch, Isle of Sheppey: From Monuments to Fields,” in Archaeologia Cantiana, volume 130, 2010.

Links:

  1. Kent Archaeological Review

© Paul Bennett,  The Northern Antiquarian 2016

The Northern Antiquarian – Charity Number SCO-46359

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Dumpton Park, Ramsgate, Kent

Barrow (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TR 389 661

Archaeology & History

A little-known site which archaeologist Brian Philp (2002) called “a Bronze Age barrow”.  When the old Greyhound Stadium at Ramsgate was being demolished for a new housing estate, planning conditions required an archaeological evaluation and so Philps and his team set out to explore the area in February 2000.  They weren’t to be disappointed!  Unearthing a ring ditch nearly 20 yards (18m) across, they found that it had been cut into the local chalk some three feet deep.  Although there was no obvious entrance, the northeast section of the ancient monument,

“was found to be covered by a compact layer of flint metalling.  This was a wide and well-made surface or platform, perhaps of Iron Age date, which clearly covered the silted ring-ditch,  Nearby was a large male skeleton in a very shallow grave and with head missing due to later disturbances.”

The excavated ring ditch (after Philp 2002)

The excavated ring ditch (after Philp 2002)

The crouched skeleton (after Philp 2002)

The crouched skeleton (after Philp 2002)

But the best was yet to come!  In another section of the circular monument, cut into the chalk itself, they found a complete male skeleton laid in typical foetus position, on its left side, with a large beaker pot positioned in front of it.  These beakers are pretty common and tend to be seen as once holding food enabling the dead to eat in their journey into the Land of the Dead.  It makes sense.  The entire monument has since been completely destroyed.

References:

  1. Philp, Brian, Archaeology in the Front Line, KARU: Dover 2002.

Links:

  1. Kent Archaeological Review

© Paul Bennett,  The Northern Antiquarian 2016

The Northern Antiquarian – Charity Number SCO-46359

Posted in Cairns, Tombs, Tumuli, England (south), Kent | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Baston Manor, Hayes, Kent

Settlement:  OS Grid Reference – TQ 407 649

Archaeology & History

This settlement site was found thanks to the good work of the Bromley & West Kent Archaeology Group in the 1960s, when they decided to do follow-up work to what Brian Philp (2002) described as “doubtful sites reported mainly in the 19th century.”  Time and again these “doubtful sites” at least turn into something of value — and such was the case here!  The group commenced digging selective trenches in July 1964 in a small wooded area near to Baston Manor and they soon came across “a stratified deposit of late-Neolithic (2500 BC) pottery and flint.”

In successive returns to the site over two years, 5630 items—primarily fire-cracked stones, flints and more than 200 pieces of pottery, some of which was highly decorative—were unearthed and the site was recognised as an important settlement arena many thousands of years ago.  In Kent, this was a rarity!  Philps’ resumé of the site and its many remains told,

“Sometime about 2500 BC, a group of late-Stone Age farmers had selected this quiet hillside (now just in Hayes) to settle and live.  Here they must have farmed  small cultivated areas close to their huts and herded sheep and cattle to fresh areas and nearby streams.  These were the first occupants of the West Wickham valley over 4000 years ago…”

References:

  1. Philp, Brian, “The Discovery of a Secondary Neolithic Site at Hayes,” in Kent Archaeological Review, no.5, 1966.
  2. Philp, Brian, Archaeology in the Front Line, KARU: Dover 2002.
  3. Smith, Isobel, “Prehistoric Pottery from Baston Manor, Hayes,” in Kent Archaeological Review, no.18, 1969.

Links:

  1. Kent Archaeological Review

© Paul Bennett,  The Northern Antiquarian 2016

The Northern Antiquarian – Charity Number SCO-46359

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Bell Stane, Queensferry, Midlothian

Legendary Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NT 1292 7840

Bell Stane on 1896 map

Bell Stane on 1896 map

Archaeology & History

An intriguing site that needs adding to the Northern Antiquarian due to the foraging research of the Edinburgh historian Stuart Harris (1996).  Although the Bell Stane has been ascribed by the Canmore researchers to be just,

“a stone near the Mercat Cross on which the hand bell was set (rung to herald the opening of the weekly market or annual fair),”

Mr Harris dug deeper and found other references which led him to think that the site was “a conspicuous boulder or standing stone.”  I have to agree with him.  In his outstanding work on the historical place-names of Edinburgh and district, Harris wrote:

“The Bellstane…is noted on Ordnance Survey 1854 as the name of an object just outwith the burgh boundary and in the southwest corner of the little square that now bears the name.  Whilst it has been surmised that it was a stone named for a handbell rung beside it on market days, in point of fact a burgh council meeting of 1642 (quoted in Morison’s Queensferry, p.131) records that a piece of ground hitherto waste and unused, within the burgh but near the bellstane, was to be set aside for markets and fairs in times coming; and the clear inference is that the name belonged to the stone before any markets were held near it.  In absence of a reliable description of the stone or of early forms of its name, the origin of the name can only be guessed at.  Similar names (of sites) in Kirknewton and Whitburn are no better documented, but the early forms of Belstane in Lanarkshire (Bellitstane, Bellistane, Belstane and Bellstane prior to 1329 and Beldstane in 1452) suggest that its first part may be Anglian ballede or early Scots bellit (from a Celtic root, ball, white), making the name ‘the stone with a white or pale patch or stripe on it’ — such as one with a band of quartz running through it.  A conspicuous boulder or standing stone of this sort on this spur of higher ground above the shore would have been a useful meith or landing mark for boats making for the narrow landing place at the Binks.”

If anyone uncovers additional evidence about this Bell Stane that can affirm it as a standing stone (or otherwise), we will amend its status.

References:

  1. Harris, Stuart, The Place-Names of Edinburgh: Their Origins and History, Gordon Wright: Edinburgh 1996.
  2. Morison, Alexander, Historical Notes on the Ancient and Royal Burgh of Queensferry, West Lothian Courier: Bathgate 1927.
  3. Orrock, Thomas, Fortha’s Lyrics and other Poems, privately printed: Edinburgh 1880.

© Paul Bennett,  The Northern Antiquarian 2016

The Northern Antiquarian – Charity Number SCO-46359

Posted in Midlothian, Sacred Nature, Scotland | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Echo Stone, Mugdock, Stirlingshire

Legendary Rock:  OS Grid Reference – NS 5493 7710

Also known as:

  1. Historic Environment Record Stirling 3745

Getting Here

Echo Stone on 1865 Map

Echo Stone on 1865 Map

Enter Mugdock Country Park from the south-east entrance along Mugdock Road from Milngavie. The Stone is visible in rough grass from the path to the south – west of Mugdock Castle. It is about 2 feet high and is identified by a small coloured wooden marker post.

Archaeology & History

The earliest records of this stone occur in the mid-nineteenth century.  Writing in 1854, Hugh Macdonald described the Stone:

“There is an echo of considerable local celebrity at Mugdock, the reverberative powers of which are frequently put to the test by visitors. The spot from which the echo is most distinctly heard is a slightly projecting rock, on a verdant declivity, about a hundred yards to the south of the castle. A person standing on this, looking towards the edifice, and speaking pretty loudly, will hear his words, or even short sentences uttered by him, repeated with startling distinctness, as if from some mimic at the old tower. Of course, we give the echo sundry specimens of our vocality, and to its credit we must say that it flings them back with amazing fidelity. Paddy Blake’s echo, which on the question being put to it of ‘How are you?’ invariably answered ‘Pretty well, I thank you!’ was unmistakeably a native of the land of Bulls. The Mugdock one must be as decidedly Scottish, as it answers each question put to it by asking another. If there were any doubt on this subject, however, we might mention, in support of our supposition, that it is quite au fait at the Gaelic, as we proved to the entire satisfaction of a cannie bystander, who, after listening in silence for some time to our mutual interrogations in that classic tongue, at length exclaimed, ‘Od, man, that’s curious! Wha wad hae thocht that a Lawlan’ echo could hae jabbered Gaelic?'”

IMG_3823

The Stone with its marker post

Samuel Lewis, writing before 1846:  “At a distance of about 300 yards from this castle is a remarkable echo, which distinctly reverberates a sentence of six monosyllables, if uttered in a loud tone; and this not till a few seconds after the sentence is completed”.

You'll be impressed by the echo!

You’ll be impressed by the echo!

Stand by this low, flat topped stone, and your calls will echo distinctly, whether or not you face the castle. We found that the echo seemed more pronounced after dark, but that may have been a result of there being less ambient noise at night. We can only speculate as to how people in distant times reacted to the echo, and it is interesting how MacDonald’s Gaelic-speaking friend reacted to the echo, almost as if he believed it to be a living organism which he did not expect to reply in his own language. We were both impressed by this powerful natural phenomenon.

References:

  1. MacDonald, Hugh, Rambles Round Glasgow, Descriptive, Historical & Traditional, John Smith & Son: Glasgow 1854 & 1910.
  2. Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland – 2 volumes, S Lewis & Co.: London 1846

Acknowledgements:  Thanks and a tip of the Hatlo hat to Nina Harris for informing me of the existence of the Echo Stone and for driving me up there a couple of times.

© Paul T. Hornby, The Northern Antiquarian 2016

The Northern Antiquarian – Charity Number SCO-46359

Posted in Sacred Nature, Scotland, Stirlingshire | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

St. Ouret’s Well, Brechin, Angus

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – NO 5869 5904

Getting Here

‘Spring’ in enclosure shewn lower right on 1865 map

‘Spring’ in woodland, lower right on 1865 map

Travel north towards Brechin on the B9134, and cross the River South Esk at Stannochy Bridge.  Immediately after crossing the bridge, go through the double tubular steel gates to your right, descend the steep slope and walk along the boundary fence dividing the riverside field from the sloping woodland until you reach a tubular steel pedestrian gate. Go through this gate, over the burn and keep walking 150 yards or so to the right and St. Ouret’s Well is seen near the top of the slope.

Archaeology & History

Alexander Penrose Forbes, Bishop of Brechin wrote in 1872 :

Ouret – Close to Brechin, on the north bank of the Esk, near the Stannochy Bridge, is S.Ouret’s Well.”

IMG_6476

The issue of the spring that flows south into a burn that flows into the river South Esk

Perusal of the 25″ OS map of 1865 shows an enclosure marked ‘spring’ with a short pathway to the north-east, as the only water feature answering the written description. My field visit just over a century and a half later found a spring issuing at that point from the embankment, with the remains of old rough stone walling on either side of the spring. There was no sign of the pathway. The walling around an otherwise unremarkable spring located away from habitation would imply to me that this is the Saint’s Well.

As the good Bishop mentions the Well as the last entry in the Auctaria of his 1872 book—an afterthought as you will—it seems reasonable that the knowledge of St. Ouret and his well may have been at that time on the point of oblivion. The well is not noted as such by the earlier Ordnance Survey map,  nor can I find his name in any other of the hagiographies at my disposal.

IMG_6472

On both sides of the well, old walling is still visible

Intriguingly, ‘Ouret’ is a modern Basque surname, and while it is tempting to think of a Basque Holy Man walking the Pictland, the name is more likely a transliteration into Scots from a now lost Pictish or Gaelic name. Or possibly, the name has pre-Christian origins as a corruption of the Gaelic ùruisg , meaning inter alia ‘water god’ ‘diviner’. Unless anyone can add more.

A mile or so south of here is the holy well of St. Murdoch.

References:

  1. Forbes, Alexander Penrose, Kalendars of Scottish Saints, Edmonston and Douglas: Edinburgh 1872.
  2. Dwelly, Edward, Gaelic – English Dictionary, Garmin Publications: Glasgow 1988

© Paul T. Hornby,  The Northern Antiquarian 2016

The Northern Antiquarian – Charity Number SC046359

Posted in Angus, Holy Wells, Scotland | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment