Fairy Well, Barrow Gurney, Somerset

Sacred Well:  OS Grid Reference – ST 532 686

Getting Here

Go up the nicely-named Wildcountry Lane at the staggered crossroads on the edge of Barrow Gurney for about a half-mile, watching out for the dip in the road where it crosses the stream.  Walk up the stream here for a coupla hundred yards, keeping your eyes peeled for the small spring on your left just past where a footpath crosses the stream.

Archaeology & History

Little of historical nature is known of this site, found in the dip near the stream, though it was much frequented in bygone centuries as a curative place for sore eyes.

Folklore

Although named after the little people, Phil Quinn (1999) wrote that,

“even the oldest villager cannot remember how the fairies became connected with this well.  All that is told is that the people would go to the well to bathe their eyes, for the water was believed to be good in the treatment of all eye complaints. A local woman remembers that her father, who worked the land in this neighbourhood, would always drink from the well using a cup which was never taken away or used for any other purpose.”

It is likely that the fairy association here derived from the proximity of a nearby prehistoric tomb, cairn or similar archaeological remain.  The aptly-named Barrow Wood immediately east and other ‘barrow’ place-names nearby would add weight to this notion. (faerie-lore has widespread associations with prehistoric tombs and similar relics)

References:

Quinn, Phil, The Holy Wells of Bath and Bristol Region, Logaston: Almeley 1999.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Murlaganmore, Killin, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 5402 3455

Also Known as:

  1. Morlagganmore

Getting Here

Murlaganmore02

Murlaganmore stone & setting

From Killin, take the Glen Lochay Road past the Moirlanich Longhouse, but keep on for another mile, and take the track on the left up to Murlaganmore cottages.  As the track turns right of the tree-line, cross the field (left) up towards the open gate as if you’re going to the Murlaganmore 2 carving, where you’ll see this large flattish rock in the grasses about 100 yards before it.

Archaeology & History

When we visited this old boulder last week, we had the misfortune of grey days and dark clouds throwing their faded light across this cup-marked rock, not really letting us see with any clarity the many cups which pepper (mainly) the edges of the rock.  But the cups are faded anyway, so accounts tell, and the 15 which we counted were same 15 recorded about 100 years ago in C.G. Cash’s (1912) survey.  There, he described this old stone as,

“about 200 yards south of the house, in the middle of the uppermost pasture. It is a large block of quartz schist stuck thick with garnets, and bearing fifteen cup-marks, only one of which — 3 inch in diameter and 1 inch deep — is really well defined, and several of which are faint.”

Murlaganmore03

Faint cups barely visible

Murlaganmore01

C.G. Cash’s early drawing

But despite the grey day (She was absolutely teeming with rain half of the time!), I found the setting here absolutely gorgeous, with the many shades of old trees and the clear blood of pure waters falling through the landscape.  And, without doubt, there are other carved stones nearby that have yet to capture the attention of surveyors.  You can smell them!

References:

  1. Cash, C.G., ‘Archaeological Gleanings from Killin,’ in PSAS 46, 1911-12.
  2. Royal Commission on Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Stirling District, RCAHMS: Edinburgh 1979.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Murlaganmore 2, Killin, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone: OS Grid Reference – NN 5395 3455

Getting Here

Murlaganmore 2 - 01

Murlaganmore 2

Take the same direction to reach the Murlaganmore Footprint, continuing up past the cottages. 100 yards on, where there’s a bend in the track, cross the field on your left and go thru the gate higher up the slope.  Stick to the small rough ‘path’, past the Murlaganmore 1 carving for nearly 100 yards, where a small rocking-stone-like rock is ahead of you. That’s it!

Archaeology & History

Close-up of cup-marks

Close-up of cup-marks

This stone’s in a lovely setting, with the craggy rise of Creag Mhor and the waterfall of Airigh an Fhraoich up the rich coloured slope behind it.  But the carving here is a simple one, with perhaps only 2 cup-markings etched on the stone’s upper surface, as the photo here shows.  Tis a lovely setting though, and there are other carved rocks living nearby which aint yet seen the pages of any record-books.

It was first mentioned in C.G. Cash’s (1912) essay on the antiquities of Killin and district, who told that here was “one well-cut cup, 3 inches in diameter and 1½ inches deep, and also a doubtful or faint one.”  The carving was later listed in the Royal Commission’s Stirling District report (1979) as simply “a boulder bearing cup-marks.”

References:

  1. Cash, C.G., ‘Archaeological Gleanings from Killin,’ in PSAS 46, 1911-12.
  2. Royal Commission on Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Stirling District, RCAHMS: Edinburgh 1979.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Murlaganmore Footprint, Killin, Perthshire

Carved Rock:  OS Grid Reference – NN 5432 3483

Also Known as:

  1. CEN 16 (Morris 1981)
  2. Murlaganmore 3

Getting Here

From Killin, take the small road to the Moirlanich Longhouse, but keep on for another mile. Just before the road crosses the river, stop! In the fields above you to the left are a few trees and some rocks. Walk uphill till you’re nearly level with the cottages at Murlaganmore (the gate’s about 10-15 yards away) just above the gorze bushes and check out the long rock.  If you can’t see it at first, bimble about till you find it. You’re just about on it!

Archaeology & History

Murlaganmore footprint02

Murlaganmore’s ‘Footprint’ carving – probably Nature’s artwork

Although shown on modern OS-maps as a ‘Sculptured Rock’ and included in the Canmore survey, when we visited this site a few days ago I have to say that unless evidence to the contrary can be obtained, this ‘site’ should be declassified as an archaeological remnant of the prehistoric period.  It appears to be natural — though could have had some agricultural purpose or origin in centuries past.

The ‘footprint’ appears to have been described first of all by F.W.L. Thomas (1879) in his essay on the inaugural seat of Kings at Dunadd, where a similar footprint is found at the top of the fort.  Thomas thought that this curious footprint could have had a similar function — though even folklore hereabouts seems silent on such a matter.  The site is included in Ron Morris’ 1981 survey, where he too described it as “probably natural but just possibly man-improved.”

References:

  1. Morris, Ronald W.B., The Prehistoric Rock Art of Southern Scotland, BAR: Oxford 1981.
  2. Thomas, F.W.L., ‘Dunadd, Glassary, Argyllshire: The Place of Inauguration of the Dalriadic Kings’, in Proc Soc Antiq Scot, vol.13, 1879.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Carra Bhroin, Lochboisdale, South Uist

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NF 8117 2248

Also Known as:

  • Carragh broin

Archaeology & History

The nature of this site seems a little disputed.  Shown on modern OS-maps and cited as being visited and seen in April 1967,the Canmore website also describes it in the present tense — but when I.A. Crawford (1965) wrote of this site he told that, “this standing stone…has been destroyed in fencing operations” — i.e., building a fence or wall, not some doods having a fencing fight!

Equally curious would be the stature of the site; as in the Royal Commission report (1928), the stone was told to be only 2-feet tall — which would mean that if this site is included as an authentic archaeological site, then we’re gonna have to double or treble the number of standing stone sites nationally!  There are masses of ‘monoliths’ two-feet tall and above which are in the ‘natural’ category.  But this stone, for whatever reason (the folklore probably), has been granted the providence as an authentic standing stone.

Folklore

Tradition told that this old stone was “alleged to mark a battle site” in ancient days.  The variation on this theme tells that the stone marked the grave of a man who was slewn in battle here.  Seems likely that there will be prehistoric tombs nearby…

References:

Crawford, I.A., ‘Carra Bhroin, S.Uist,’ in Discovery & Excavation in Scotland, 1965, SRG & CBA 1965.
Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments & Constructions of Scotland, Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the Outer Hebrides, Skye and the Small Isles, HMSO: Edinburgh 1928.

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Allt na Ceardaich Knoll, Killin, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 564 364

Getting Here

Truly troublesome if you aint into walking.  Many ways up, but the easiest has to be the zigzagging trackway up from the valley bottom just by The Green a few hundred yards past Lochay Power Station, up the southern edge of Creag na Cailleach. At the end of the trackway, take the stream uphill for a few hundred yards and watch out for the rocky rise to your right (east).  Head for it and check out the rocks there.  You’ll find it!

Archaeology & History

Allt na Ceardaich01

Single cup-marked rock below Creag na Cailleach

I’m not sure that anything’s previously been written about this curious single cup-marked boulder. I say ‘curious’, simply because of the location and position of the clear cup-mark on this near-gigantic piece of embedded stone.  We walked upon the rocky outcrop south of Creag na Cailleach (above the tree-line where the land levels out) and first saw the cup-marking at the top-end of this huge rock (amidst a number of others) on the large rise a coupla hundred yards west of Allt na Ceardaich.  And as the carved cup was on the top-end of the boulder, I was expecting to find much more of the rock with other motifs scattering its body — but was amazed to find that this was the only single cup-marking on an otherwise huge stone.  A mixture of bewilderment and disappointment came over me as I shook my head in disbelief that only a single cup had been scribed into an otherwise massive rock.

Allt na Ceardaich02

Close-up of the cup-marking

However, the light was poor with low cloud and it was nearing sunset, so there may have been other aspects to this carving which we missed out on.  One other ‘possible’ cup-mark might have been done, but it seemed very dubious even in the poor light.  I was all for having another look at it the following day; but wandering halfway up a mountain just to see if this was the only cup-marking on this outcrop was summat my daughter wasn’t into doing!  So the site must await another mad cup-and-ring-crazed traveller on another day to get a more detailed inspection!  George – are you out there anytime soon!?

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Frensham Common, Frensham, Surrey

Round Barrows:  OS Grid Reference – SU 853 406

Archaeology & History

There are several tumuli near the top of the hill here, but only one of them really stands out.  Nick Thomas (1976) told it to be one “of the best preserved bowl barrows in Surrey.”  A brief description of the relevant tombs, running north to south:

“the first is 75ft across and 6ft high; the second, which has a surrounding ditch 9ft wide, is also 75ft across, but is 8ft high.  The third has a diameter of 42ft and a height of 4ft.  The last is 54ft wide and 5½ft high.  It has a surrounding ditch 8ft wide. ” (Thomas 1976)

None of the tombs had been excavated up to the early 1980s, but I’m not sure if anything has been found since then.  There was also a potential “great stone” up here that was mentioned by John Aubrey in the late 17th century, but nothing has been seen of it since.  In all probability this was a standing stone or the remains of some prehistoric tomb.

Folklore

Several hundred years ago the King’s antiquary, John Aubrey, told the curious tale of the great cauldron that was said to have been found here:

“In the vestry (of Frensham church, in Surrey), on the north side of the chancel, is an extraordinary great kettle or caldron, which the inhabitants say, by tradition, was brought hither by the fairies, time out of mind, from Borough-Hill, about a mile hence. To this place, if anyone went to borrow a yoke of oxen, money, etc., he might have it for a year or longer, so he kept his word to return it. There is a cave where some have fancied to hear music.  On this Borough hill…is a great stone lying along, of the length of about six feet. They went to this stone and knocked at it, and declared what they could borrow, and when they would repay, and a voice would answer when they should come, and that they should find what they desired to borrow at that stone. This caldron, with the trivet, was borrowed here after the manner aforesaid, and not return’d according to promise; and though the caldron was afterwards carried to the stone, it could not be received, and ever since that time no borrowing there.”

In relation to the folklore that is generally attached to the tumulus on top of the hill here from which modern lore ascribes the cauldron to have originated, when A.G. Wade (1928) came to investigate the nature of the site and the folktale he found that,

“there are several folk-tales other than those given by Aubrey.  One relates that it was dug up on Kettlebury Hill, south of Hankley Common, by the monks of Waverley Abbey, and that it was taken by them to Frensham for brewing ale.  Another tale says that it was a loan from the fairies of Thursley — there are tumuli in this parish, south of Ockley Common — and that Mother Ludlam, a medieval witch who lived, according to tradition, in Ludlam’s Cave in Moor Park, was the owner and lender.  The cave was dug by a monk of Waverley Abbey who, when the water supply of the Abbey failed, found that three springs joined here, and by enlarging their outlets and bringing them together he obtained a good supply of fresh drinking water…”

Mr Wade was also unable to satisfactorily show that the Borough Hill named in Aubrey’s survey and Frensham Common hilltop were one and the same.

References:

Aubrey, John, The Natural History and Antiquities of Surrey, E. Curll: London 1719.
Thomas, Nicholas, Guide to Prehistoric England, Batsford: London 1976.
Wade, A.G., “The Great Cauldron of Frensham,” in Antiquity, 2:6, June 1928. 

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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