The Modern Antiquarian. Ancient Sites, Stone Circles, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic Mysteries

Get the TMA Images feed
Rhiannon's Latest Posts

Latest Posts
Previous 50 | Showing 51-100 of 3,846 posts. Most recent first | Next 50

Wearyall Hill (Sacred Hill) — Folklore

Southwest from the town is WEARYALL-HILL, an eminence so called (if we will believe the monkish writers) from St. Joseph and his companions sitting down here all weary with their journey. Here St. Joseph stuck his stick into the earth, which, although a dry hawthorn staff, thenceforth grew, and constantly budded on Christmas-day. It had two trunks or bodies, till the time of Queen Elizabeth, when a puritan exterminated one, and left the other, which was of the size of a common man, to be viewed in wonder by strangers; and the blossoms thereof were esteemed such curiosities by people of all nations, that the Bristol merchants made a traffick of them, and exported them into foreign parts. In the great rebellion, during the time of King Charles I. the remaining trunk of this tree was also cut down; but other trees from its branches are still growing in many gardens of Glastonbury, and in the different nurseries of this kingdom. It is probable that the monks of Glastonbury procured this tree from Palestine, where abundance of the same sort grow, and flower about the same time. Where this thorn grew is said to have been a nunnery dedicated to St. Peter, without the pale of Weriel-Park, belonging to the abbey.
Besides this holy thorn, there grew in the abbey-church-yard, on the north side of St. Joseph’s chapel, a miraculous walnut-tree, which never budded forth before the feast of St. Barnabas, viz. the eleventh of June; and on that very day shot forth leaves and flourished like its usual species. This tree is also gone, and in the place thereof stands a very fine walnut-tree of the common sort.
It is strange to say how much both these trees were sought after by the credulous, and though the former was a common thorn, and the latter not an uncommon walnut, Queen Anne, King James, and many of the nobility of the realm, even when the times of monkish superstition had ceased, gave large sums of money for small cuttings from the original.
From John Collinson's 1791 History and Antiquities of Somerset.

Bomere Wood (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — Folklore

Another version of the tales about Bomere is in Salopian Shreds and Patches, v1 (1874-5):
I am not aware of the existence of any legend about Bomere; but one or traditions are or were some years ago current respecting it. One is that it has no bottom. No end of waggon ropes have, it is said, been tied end to end with the view of ascertaining its depth, but in vain. Ergo, it has no bottom.

Another is that some two centuries ago, or less, a party of gentleman, including the squire, were fishing the pool, when an enormous pike was captured and hauled into the boat. Some discussion arose as to the girth of the fish, and a bet was made that he was bigger round than the squire, and that the sword-belt of the latter would not reach round the fish. To decide the bet, the squire unbuckled his belt, which was there and then, with some difficulty, fastened round the body of the fish. The scaly knight, for he no doubt felt himself to be one, being girt with the sword, began to feel impatience at being kept so long out of his native element, and, after divers struggles, he succeeded in eluding his captors, and regaining, at the same time, his freedom and his watery home. In later years he (so it is said) has been frequently seen basking in the shallow parts of the pool, with the sword still buckled round him, but he is too old a fish to be again caught. -- W.H.

Hetty Pegler's Tump (Long Barrow) — Folklore

Presenting an addition to my dubious theory of 2006. I found mention in Gloucestershire Notes and Queries v5 (1894), which is about 'Place Rimes', rhymes expressing local prejudice about neighbouring villages :)
Charles Hillier the ancient Corunna [Napoleonic battle of 1809] veteran who died at Uley some years ago, aged upwards of 90, added to the above [rhymes]:-- "Nimpsfield heg pegs," which the old man explained were "things" which grew in the hedges.
And Nympsfield is literally yards from the tump. Etymology eh, you can argue it until the cows come home and it doesn't really matter, but it is interesting I think.

Carlingwark Loch (Crannog) — Folklore

The loch contains six islands, one of which - known as the Ash Island - is evidently artificial. It has been formed, as a writer in the Statistical Account says, "by driving strong piles of wood into the moss or marl, on which were placed large frames of black oak." These were discovered in 1765, when the loch was drained for the purpose of procuring marl.

Tradition says that in early days it contained two large islands - one at the north end, which is now a peninsula, but still retaining the name of "The Isle," while the other, near to the south end, is called "The Fir Island," and appears to have been rendered famous in history as the spot where Edward I., on penetrating into Galloway in the year 1300, encamped, using the island as a place for shoeing his cavalry. To strengthen this supposition, we may state that near to this place many horse-shoes, of a form different to those now in use, have been found sunk deep in the mud [...]

The loch was formerly much larger than it is at present; and tradition narrates that there was a town which sunk, or was drowned, in its waters, and that there were two churches or chapels, one upon each of the large islands. The submersion of the town is in all likelihood a myth, although the truth of the story is believed by many of the old inhabitants; and we have heard that occasionally, during very dry seasons - that of 1826 being specially referred to - the roofs of houses have been discerned submerged in the loch. [...]
You can also read about the ancient Three Thorns of Carlingwark which grew near the loch. "From time immemorial they were used as a trysting-place by the lairds and yeomen throughout Galloway; and in history we find repeated mention of them made in connection with stirring events."

From 'Rambles in Galloway' by Malcolm McLachlan Harper (1876)

The Rollright Stones (Stone Circle) — Links


A striking comic strip of the legend.

Grime's Graves (Ancient Mine / Quarry) — Folklore

The mound called 'Grimshoe' is at TL8190289813. It gave its name to the Hundred of Grimshoe - the name coming from 'Grim's Howe', or the burial mound of Grim (Woden / Odin). It's probably a spoil mound from the quarrying, or maybe created especially from the spoil for the purposes of a special place for impressive Hundred Meetings. But don't let its mundane origin detract from its mythological splendour.

Devil's Den (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech) — Images (click to view fullsize)

<b>Devil's Den</b>Posted by Rhiannon

The Sanctuary (Timber Circle) — Links

Internet Archive

An article by Mike Pitts on 'Excavating the Sanctuary', from WANHM 94 (2001).

Uley Bury Camp (Hillfort) — Links


Nearby West Hill (between Uley Bury and Hetty Peglar's Tump) was the site of an Iron Age shrine, and after it, a Roman temple. It's even possible that there was a Neolithic monument beneath these. You can download EH's Archaeological Monograph about the excavations of "The Uley Shrines" by Woodward and Leach (1993) from the ADS website.

England (Country) — Links


You can download EH's Archaeological Monograph on 'The Neolithic Flint Mines of England' (1999) by Topping, Barger and Field, from the ADS website.

Kent — Links


You can now download Peter Clark's EH Archaeological Monograph about the Dover Bronze Age Boat (2004) from the ADS website.

Stonehenge (Stone Circle) — Links


You can download the EH Archaeological Monograph 'Stonehenge in its Landscape' by Montague, Cleal and Walker (1999) from the ADS website.

Hazleton Long Barrows — Links


The EH Archaeological Monograph 'Hazleton North: the excavation of a Neolithic long cairn of the Cotswold-Severn group' by Alan Saville (1990) can now be downloaded from the ADS site.

Cadbury Castle (South Cadbury) (Hillfort) — Links


You can download Barrett,Freeman and Woodward's (2000) EH monograph about the hillfort from the ADS website, which goes into great detail about the excavations. I particularly like the finds of beads and ammonites, and armlets of Kimmeridge Shale.

Brean Down (Round Barrow(s)) — Links


You can download the EH monograph 'Brean Down: Excavations 1983-1987' by Martin Bell from the ADS website. He calls the site "the best preserved Bronze Age settlement sequence in Southern Britain", with five prehistoric occupation phases amidst 5m of blown sand and eroded soil.

Stockton Stone (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Miscellaneous

Just a snippet from History, Gazetteer and Directory of Norfolk.. by William White (3rd ed, 1864):
At the side of the road, near the boundary of Stockton and Hales, is a large stone, weighing about two tons, called "Stockton Stone," and in the ancient Town Book, still preserved, is an entry, dated 1645, recording the payment of a small sum for "putting stulps to Stockton Stone."
A stulp is a support or post. So it sounds like they were looking after it.

Corn Ridge (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery) — Folklore

Up here is a little cairn cemetery with two round cairns, two tor cairns and two ring cairns. They surround a large rock outcrop called Branscombe's Loaf. Tor cairns are only found on the higher moors of Devon and Cornwall and only about 50 are known. They date from the early-mid Bronze Age.
On the slope between Sourton Tor and Bronescombe's Loaf lies a large slab of granite through which a dyke of elvan has been thrust. In this elvan have been cut the moulds for two bronze axe-heads.*

Walter Bronescombe was Bishop of Exeter between 1258 and 1280, and he lies buried in the Cathedral under a fine canopied tomb. The effigy is of his own date, and gives apparently a true portrait of a worthy prelate.

One day he was visiting this portion of his diocese, and had ventured to ride over the moor from Widdecombe. He and his retinue had laboured through bogs, and almost despared of reaching the confines of the wilderness. Moreover, on taking Amicombe Hill [Kitty Tor] they knew not which way to take, for the bogs there are nasty; and his attendants dispersed to seek a way. The Bishop was overcome with fatigue, and was starving. He turned to his chaplain and said, "Our Master in the wilderness was offered by Satan bread made of stones. If he were now to make the same offer to me, I doubt if I should have the Christian fortitude to refuse."

"Ah!" sighed the chaplain, "and a hunch of cheese as well!"
"Bread and cheese I could not hold out against," said the bishop.
Hardly had he spoken before a moorman rose up from a peat dyke and drew night; he had a wallet on his back.
"Master!" called the chaplain, "dost thou chance to have a snack of meat with thee?"
"Ay, verily," replied the moorman, and approached, hobbling, for he was apparently lame. "I have with me bread and cheese, naught else."
"Give it us, my son," said the Bishop; "I will well repay thee."
"Nay," replied the stranger, "I be no son of thine. And I ask no reward save that thou descend from thy steed, doff thy cap, and salute me with the title of master."
"I will do that," said the Bishop, and alighted.
Then the strange man produced a loaf and a large piece of cheese.

Now, the Bishop was about to take off his cap and address the moorman in a tone of entreaty and by the title of master, when the chaplain perceived that the man had one foot like that of a goat. He instantly cried out to God, and signified what he saw to the prelate, who, in holy horror, made the sign of the cross, and lo! the moorman vanished, and the bread and cheese remained transformed to stone.

Do you doubt it? Go and see. Look on the Ordnance Survey map and you will find Bread and Cheese marked there. Only Bronescombe's name has been transformed to Brandescombe.
But the Bishop, to make atonement, and to ease his conscience for having so nearly yielded to temptation, spent great sums on the rebuilding of his cathedral.
I don't know if this is traditional or made up by the good old Reverend Baring-Gould, but I don't mind either way. From his 'A Book of Dartmoor' (1900).

*This sounds most intriguing, but I've not found out anything more. Only a slog across the moors will tell.

Roborough Beacon (Enclosure) — Folklore

The 'fortifications' surely refer to this site? Who knows. The author for all his long-windedness seems to know the lay of the land.
The Ghost of the Black-Dog.

A man having to walk from Princetown to Plymouth took the road which crosses Roborough Down. He started at four o'clock from the Duchy Hotel, and as he walked at a good swinging pace, hoped to cover the sixteen miles in about three hours and a half. It was a lovely evening in December, cold and frosty, and the stars and a bright moon giving enough light to enable him to see the roadway distinctly zigzagged across the moor. Not a friendly pony or a quiet Neddy crossed his path as he strode merrily onward whistling as he went.

After a while the desolation of the scene seemed to strike him, and he felt terribly alone among the boulders and huge masses of gorse which hemmed him in. On, on he pressed, till he came to a village where a wayside inn tempted him to rest awhile and have just one nip of something "short" to keep his spirits up.

Passing the reservoir beds, he came out on an open piece of road, with a pine copse on his right. Just then he fancied he heard the pit-pat of feet gaining upon him. Thinking it was a pedestrian bound for Plymouth, he turned to accost his fellow traveller, but there was no one visible, nor were any footfalls then audible. Immediately on resuming his walk, pit-pat, pit-pat, fell the echoes of feet again. And suddenly there appeared close to his right side an enormous dog, neither mastiff or bloodhound, but what seemed to him to be a Newfoundland of immense size. Dogs were always fond of him, and he of them, so he took no heed of this (to him) lovely canine specimen.

Presently he spoke to him. "Well, doggie, what a beauty you are: how far are you going?" at the same time lifting his hand to pat him. Great was the man's astonishment to find no resisting substance, though the form was certainly there, for his hand passed right through the seeming body of the animal. "Hulloh! what's this?" said the bewildered traveller. As he spoke the great glassy eyes gazed at him; then the beast yawned, and from his throat issued a stream of sulphurous breath. Well, thought the man, I am in for it now! I'll trudge on as fast as legs can carry me, without letting this queer customer think I am actually afraid of him.

With heart beating madly and feet actually flying over the stony way, he hurried down the hill, the dog never for a moment leaving him, or slackening his speed. They soon reached a crossway, not far from the fortifications. When, suddenly the man was startled by a loud report, followed by a blinding flash, as of lightning, which struck him senseless to the ground. At daybreak, he was found by the driver of the mail-cart, lying in the ditch at the roadside in an unconscious state.

Tradition says, that a foul murder was many years ago committed at this spot, and the victim's dog is doomed to traverse this road and kill every man he encounters, until the perpetrator of the deed has perished by his instrumentality.

There are similar legends of the doings of the Black Dog throughout the county, and many wayside public houses have "The Black Dog" for a sign.
From Nummits and Crummits by Sarah Hewett (1900). It's rather dramatised up, I'm sure most Black Dogs aren't so mean. It also reminds me of something I'm rather interested in at the moment, the 21st century tale of the Big Cat (which is also often black).

Trefignath (Chambered Cairn) — Images

<b>Trefignath</b>Posted by Rhiannon

Dinas Emrys (Hillfort) — Folklore

Between Dinas Emrys and Llyn Dinas you can still see a building called 'Beudy Bedd-Owen', referring to the grave of Owen. From a document of Edward Llwyd's, Celtic Folklore, Welsh and Manx (1901) says..
that is to say, 'Owen son of Maxen.' Owen had been fighting with a giant - whose name local tradition takes for granted - with balls of steel; and there are depressions (panylau) still to be seen in the ground where each of the combatants took his stand. Some, however, will have it that it was with bows and arrows they fought, and that the hollows are the places they dug to defend themselves. The result was that both died at the close of the conflict; and Owen, being asked where he wished to be buried, ordered an arrow to be shot into the air and his grave to be made where it fell.

Cerrig-y-Ddinas (Hillfort) — Folklore

It may be a bit cheeky to add the folklore for your well? But it's not far away and you'd imagine the inhabitants of the fort probably popped here for water? Once they'd used the amount up in that bullaun-style dip. I seem to remember the well featured in the BBC series 'Pagans and Pilgrims.'
In the south-east corner of the churchyard is St. Celynin's well, at one time of more than local fame. [...] The well was resorted to by mothers with weak and sickly children, as a last resource, to strengthen their limbs, and restore them to health. The children were immersed either early in the morning, or in the evening, and were afterwards wrapped in a blanket and allowed to sleep. There was always a spare bed for the sufferers, and a hearty welcome to the anxious mothers, at a farm a little to the south, called Cae Ial. The cures effected by the virtue of the waters are said to have been many. The efficacy of the well is not altogether disbelieved by the neighbouring inhabitants at the present time. With the water of this well, children were always baptized.

On the left hand side of the road that passes the churchyard, and about two hundred yards from it, is a small spring called Ffynnon Gwynwy. Any one troubled with warts, upon making an offering of a crooked pin to the well, lost them. Fifty years ago the bottom of this little well was covered with pins; everybody was careful not to touch them, fearing that the warts deposited with the pins would grow upon their own hands if they did so. But the belief in the efficacy of the water has departed, and the well presents the appearance of a hole filled with clear water, overgrown with weeds.
'Llangelynin Old Church, Caernarvonshire' by E Owen, in Archaeologia Cambrensis v13, January 1867.

Glenquicken Cist — Folklore

Understandably, Canmore won't pin the first of these stories to this particular cist. But it might well be the culprit? The second, 'Cairnywanie', with its similarly noble skeleton, was at NX512584, but has all but disappeared.
About the year 1809, Mr McLean of Mark, while improving a field in the moor of Glenquicken, in Kirkmabreck parish, found it necessary to remove a very large cairn, which is said by tradition to have been the tomb of a king of Scotland, which is not in the genuine series, Aldus McGaldus, McGillus or McGill. When the cairn had been removed, the workmen came to a stone coffin of very rude workmanship; and on removing the lid, they found the skeleton of a man, of uncommon size; the bones were in such a state of decomposition that the ribs and vertebrae crumbled into dust, on attempting to lift them. The remaining bones being more compact, were taken out; when it was discovered that one of the arms had been almost separated from the shoulder by the stroke of a stone axe, and that a fragment of the axe still remained in the bone. The axe had been of green stone, a species of stone never found in this part of Scotland. There was also found with this skeleton a ball of flint, about three inches diameter, which was perfectly round, and highly polished, and the head of an arrow, that was also of flint; but not a particle of any metallic substance was found.
Mr Denniston of Creetown's Letter to Mr. Train, of Newton Stewart, dated the 22d of October, 1819.

About the year 1778, in removing a quantity of stones for building dikes from a large tumulus in Glenquicken Moor, there was found a stone coffin, containing a human skeleton, which was greatly above the ordinary size. There was also found in this sepulchral monument an urn containing ashes, and an earthen pitcher. The urn seems to evince the antiquity of this tumulus, when the British practised funeral cremation. This tumulus is called Cairnywanie. Thus we have an account of two skeletons of very large size, found in Glenquicken Moor at different times. These facts seem to confirm the tradition that a battle had taken place here at some very remote period.
From the Statistical Account iv, p332 (browse under 'Kirkmabreck').

Castell Treruffydd (Enclosure) — Folklore

Well TSC, there is some I have found for you :)
Mr John Griffith wrote as follows:
"It is well known at Moylgrove that for ages the cauldron has been the show-place of the parish. Visitors are even now attracted to the place; but, in times past, I have learnt from the natives that, besides the cauldron itself, there were at least two still more powerful attractions on the spot - a well and a witch. Then, be it remembered, that right opposite the creek is a 'castle,' which Fenton compares with Tintagel. The only cottage on the headland where the 'castle' is situate is called Pen y Castell. Athwart the slope of Pen y Castell is a finely-constructed bridle-path, which leads to the castle. It is from near this bridle-path that the best view of the cauldron can be obtained.

"... The Rev. Llewelyn Griffiths, Dinas [...] knew the cauldron well. When I mentioned Ffynnon Halen, he corrected me and said its name is Fynnon Alem. When he was a lad at Moylgrove, he learned of it, as a thing which had happened just then - that somebody saw a mermaid at Pwll y Wrach, with long hair, waving an arm out of the water.

"... The Rev. J.T. Evans and I made another 'find'. We found a regularly-constructed path leading into one side of the cauldron. It is narrow, yet wide enough for a person to walk with both feet down together, if you can fancy a man walking so. Nervous people had better avoid it though. The path leads into a cave of considerable size and length. Somebody once must have made much use of the cave. The making of a path on the sheer side of the cauldron was ticklish work.

"Now, Mr Davies [the village blacksmith] told me that the people there still talk of a witch inhabiting the cave, and of people who used to visit Pwll y Wrach to consult the Wrach. I judged, from what i heard, that such a witch might have been haunting the place, say, within the last century. At any rate, Mr Davies and his neighbours do not draw on our [ie Welsh] mythology for an explanation of Pwll y Wrach. They regard the name as associated with a common witch."
This is from an article in Archaeologia Cambrensis from 1860, in which A.W. Wade-Evans is determined to connect mythological places with real places in Wales. He's a man after my own heart of course. Although one has to know when to give up, and maybe in this case he stretches a bit far. Mythological places don't have to exactly coincide with real places, isn't that their charm? He wants to suggest that a stolen cauldron (a proper iron article) mentioned in the Llyfr Coch o Hergest "is", in a mythological sort of way, represented by the Pwll y Wrach, as the book says "there is the measure of the cauldron". Or something. It's a bit tenuous.

I think his only connection to the word cauldron is his rather anecdotal I very distinctly remember a lady living close by, and who had lived there from childhood, telling me she had always known [Pwll y Wrach] in English as "The Witch's Cauldron." The inhabitants say it is a marvel to see in stormy weather, for in such a time it seethes like a boiling pot.

But regardless of the likelihood of his arguments, this sounds like a pretty marvellous natural place, connected with witches and holy wells and mermaids and castles from the mists of time, and what more do you want really.

Trowie Knowe (Chambered Cairn) — Links


From the Proceedings of the Antiquaries Society of Scotland v39 - John Abercromby reports how he 'attacked the cairn' on the 2nd of June 1904, which was honest and enthusiastic at least. I hoped there might be a bit of a story about the 'Trowie' (or troll) but there isn't.

Sarsgrum (Cairn(s)) — Folklore

This is really such a superb part of the country and reading about it makes me want to go back. The cairn might not be the one in the story - I can't find one now known by the name 'Carn Glas' (although it's common enough). But it could be, it's right by the road and big enough at 50ft diameter and 6ft high to be noticeable. It's got a c5ft long slab, a hefty 8" thick, covering a cist.

The Labourer's Dream.

A labourer (navvy) was working on the road between Rhi-conich and Durness, in Sutherlandshire, about fifty years ago, and dreamed on a Saturday night that if he rose early on Monday morning, so as to be at Carn Glas at sunrise, he would see a crow sitting on a stone. Under that stone he would find the gold which was hid after the murder of a Norwegian prince.

The labourer was in so great a hurry to get the gold that he could not wait till Monday, but set off on Sunday evening, as he had a long way to go. When he reached Carn Glas, there was a crow sitting on a stone, but he did not know which was the right one, for there was a crow on every stone!

People who could interpret dreams said that this happened because he broke the Sabbath; he ought to have waited till the Lord's Day had gone past, and he would have been certain to get the gold.
From p373 in volume 9 of 'Folk-lore' (1898).

Hanging Bank, Ecton Hill (Round Barrow(s)) — Links

Peak District Mines Historical Society

You might like this link, Stubob - it's an article by John Barnatt and Garth Thomas about the evidence pointing to copper mining at Ecton Hill in prehistoric times. It's from 'Mining History' - there are lots of other editions on the website
It must have been a significant place.

Capesthorne Park (Round Barrow(s)) — Folklore

Here's a romantic thing. It's not got anything directly to do with the barrow. But it does relate to what is immediately beneath the hill with the barrow, one of the famous Cheshire meres. They're quite strange things, the meres and mosses. They make for quite a peculiar landscape with their bogginess and dark pools ringed by vegetation. You'll remember Lindow Man, the Iron Age 'bog body', also from Cheshire. So these places had significance for our ancestors.

And this particular mere has a legend of a floating island, which strikes me as rather Arthurian. It seems that it features in Alan Garner's 'Moon of Gomrath' (though I'd forgotten this, call yourself a fan eh Rhiannon).

There must be a better source than the touristy Murray's Handbook for Shropshire, Cheshire and Lancashire (1870) but for now it'll do.
A country legend accounts for the floating island by a story, that a certain knight was jealous of his lady-love, and vowed not to look upon her face until the island moved on the face of the mere. But he fell sick and was nigh to death, when he was nursed back to health by the lady, to reward whose constancy a tremendous hurricane tore the island up by the roots.
Despite the modern scepticism of some, there really was a floating island. As the Journal of the Architectural, Archaeological and Historic Society of Chester (vol 2, 1862) says:
We have in one of our Meres - Redesmere - a floating island. It is a mass of peat moss, about two statute acres in extent; its outer edge carries a belt of alder and birch trees (some twenty yards wide), some of the trees being twenty feet high and a foot in diameter. The interior is formed of a mass of long grass, cranberry, bog myrtle, and heather, all matted together. It requires a flood and wind from a particular point to move it from its usual position; but occasionally, when retained in deep water till the flood subsides, a very slight wind is sufficient to make it shift its position, and it has done so, the Rev. R. Heptinstall informs me, three times in one day. It has now been stationary about two years, and it requires some depth of water in the Mere to allow it to move say a distance of one-third by a quarter of a mile.
How superb. If I had a lake I would definitely want a floating island in it.

Whitley Church (Enclosure) — Links

Stocksbridge and District History Society

This page has photos of Wharncliffe Crags, a recent sculpture of the dragon, and the dark gap in the looming crags that was the dragon's den.

Whitley Church (Enclosure) — Folklore

A description of the supposed scene of the ballad, which was communicated to the Editor in 1767, is here given in the words of the relater:

"In Yorkshire, six miles from Rotherham, is a village called Wortley, the seat of the late Wortley Montague, Esq. About a mile from this village is a lodge, named Warncliff-lodge, but vulgarly called Wantley: here lies the scene of the song. I was there above forty years ago; and it being a woody rocky place, my friend made me clamber over rocks and stones, not telling me to what end, till I came to a sort of a cave; then asked my opinion of the place, and pointing to one end says, Here lay the dragon killed by Moor of Moor-hall; here lay his hea; here lay his tail; and the stones we came over on the hill, are those he could not crack; and yon white house you see half a mile off, is Moor-hall. I had dined at the lodge, and knew the man's name was Matthew, who was a keeper to Mr. Wortley, and, as he endeavoured to persuade me, was the same Matthew mentioned in the song: in the house is the picture of the dragon and Moor of Moor-hall; and near it a well, which, says he, is the well described in the ballad."
The ballad is here in Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry. It's a humorous take on old ballads of chivalry, and the dragon tries to put off Moor of Moor-hall (in his Sheffield steel armour) by firing dung* at him. But Moor is not deterred and kills him with a kick up the behind, or Arse, as it actually says in the poem (*and worse). The first edition of 'Reliques' was published in 1765.

Scutchamer Knob (Artificial Mound) — Images

<b>Scutchamer Knob</b>Posted by Rhiannon

Scutchamer Knob (Artificial Mound) — Folklore

For the most part, this venerable way is deserted save for an occasional shepherd or a solitary farm labourer returning home from work. Silent and lonely, it pursues its course over height and into hollow: now stretching away in a generous curve sharply defined by a bank on either side, now scarcely to be distinguished from the surounding turf.

At intervals are earthworks that guard it and barrows that keep watch. Round one of the latter, familiarly called the "Knob," not a few curious legends have gathered. Some distance below the old road there runs, also from east to west, a military ditch and vallum, and the story goes that the devil, having a fancy to turn ploughman, cleft this mighty furrow along the hillside. When he arrived opposite the spot where the barrow now stands, his ploughshare became clogged; he halted to clean it, and the soil which he scraped off he tossed over the Ridgeway in a heap to be known henceforth as the Knob. There is a lavishness about this proceeding which can only be properly appreciated by those who have seen the mound and the Devil's Dyke. The tale was told to me by a native of the district who had heard it when a boy, from the older labourers working on his father's farm.

Local opinion however, differed on the subject. While some people believed the Knob was due to His Satanic Majesty's industry, others posessing more education, maintained it was a genuine tumulus raised above the body of Cwichelm, king of the West Saxons; and yet a third party claimed that it was composed of the bodies of this king's soldiers, slain hereabouts in some great battle. So prevalent was this last belief that the owner of the land, who was a thrifty soul, cut into the mound and drew off several hundred loads of soil under the impression that it contained valuable fertilising qualities.

The informant to whom I am indebted for the above traditions, well remembers seeing the farm carts coming and going on their foolish errand, and the sensation created in the neighbourhood by this wanton destruction of the barrow. Its poor remains can still be viewed - a monument no longer of a dead chieftain or his forgotten host, but of man's credulity and ignorance.

When I first knew the Knob, it was surmounted by an enormous scaffold of fir-poles - now fallen into decay - which I fondly believed had been erected in honour of the Wessex leader. It was really the work of the Ordnance Department, having been built for triangulation purposes, and the knowledge of this fact, that I learnt later, destroyed much of the mystery with which I had invested the spot.
From Travels Round Our Village by Eleanor G Hayden (1902).

Creigiau Eglwyseg (Round Barrow(s)) — Folklore

On the north-west I was much struck with the singular appearance of a vast rock, called Craig Eglwyseg, or the Eagle's rock, from the tradition of some eagles having formerly had their aerie here. Leland seems to have mistaken this for the rock, on which the castle stands, where he says, "there bredith every yere an egle. And the egle doth sorely assault hym that destroyeth the nest; goying down in one basket, and having another over his hedde, to defend the sore stripe of the egle."

For more than half a mile this rock lies stratum upon stratum in such manner, as to form a kind of steps, parallel with the horizon, which the naturalists call Saxa sedilia. The inhabitants of Llangollen say, that somewhere about this rock is an opening, from whence there is a long arched passage under ground, supposed to lead to the castle. I scarcely gave any credit to this report, for I could not, upon enquiry, hear of any person who had seen it, or who could tell whereabouts it was.
The castle is Castell Dinas Bran. From A Tour Round North Wales performed during the summer of 1798, by the Rev. W. Bingley.

Maen Morddwyd (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Folklore

I noticed that elsewhere on the internet people say the stone was in a different church, St Nidan's in Llanidan. So I started wondering why I'd thought the church at Llanedwen. But there's definitely books that mention it. This is from 'The history of Wales' by John Jones (1824). Mr Rowland died in 1723 - he was the vicar at both Llanidan and Llanedwen, which makes for more confusion.
Near this place, on the banks of the Menai, is the greatest Cromlech in Anglesey, and supposed to be an altar on which the Druids offered to the Sun the sacrifice of human victims. The church of Llanedwen is said to have been erected in A.D. 640 - about A.D. 1440 would be nearer the truth. The Rev. Mr. Rowland, author of the Mona Antiqua, lies buried here, under a tomb-stone of Anglesey black slab, bearing a Latin inscription, written by himself.

The wandering stone, Maen Morddwyd, is secured in the wall of this church, and deprived of its locomotive impositions.
A History of the Island of Mona, or Anglesey, by Angharad Llwyd (1833), suggests the Llanedwen church, since it mentions nearby Porthamel. And why would you say that if you meant Llanidan - I'd just say Llanidan?
Thus "Maen Morddwyd" (concerning which there has been so many marvellous stories related) "is now well secured in the wall of the church," at Porthamel, not far from Llanidan, famed for being the place where Suetonius landed, in 61.
The Latin of this note has been translated as follows:
Here also, in the church-yard wall, the thigh stone, commonly called Maen Morddwydd, which has been so curiously and largely described by Giraldus Cambrensis, obtained a place for itself a long time ago; but of late years it was pulled off and carried away, either by some papist or other, or by some ignorant person, (its miraculous virtue not displaying itself as formerly, having entirely languished or exhausted itself by age,) with no loss indeed to the place, nor any gain to him who took it away.
The thing is, just before this excerpt, the church of St Aidan is specifically mentioned - that's the other church! But I can't work out what this document is or who wrote it? Everything is so contradictory. Pennant's Tour In Wales is from 1770 and also says the stone is at Llanidan. But did he really go there, or is he just reporting the legend? I sense the parish name vs the specific church confusion arising again.

But at least here's some straightforward folklore. Here (on page 136) in the National Library of Wales journal, there is an extra bit of the Itinerary translated. It's not included in the other translations I've seen, possibly for reasons of rudeness this time. The original latin can be seen here. It says:
If a lustful act be committed near the stone it immediately breaks into sweat. So, too, if a man and woman commit adultery there. If intercourse be had nearby no conception follows, and so the cottage that once stood there has fallen into ruin and the fateful stone alone remains.
Geraldus's 13th century Itinerary reads somewhat like the Fortean Times, it's full of bizarre stuff and you wonder if any of it was true. But the idea that an actual stone existed seems to stick. I can't see any reports of people who've actually looked for it on the church or churchyard walls. But judging by the pages on the 21st century internet, people still want it to be there.

Maen Ceti (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech) — Folklore

There seem to be a lot of water in the vicinity, what with the water under the stone being 'seldom dry', and the same book mentions springs dedicated to St. George and the Blessed Virgin in nearby Reynoldston. This is something about the holy well just to the south of Maen Ceti.
There is also on Cefn y Brynn a remarkable Well, called Holy Well, a very copious Spring, which has the remains of Antiquity about its square Inclosure: Tradition hands down its celebrity for great cures, and it has been customary for the adjacent Neighbourhood to resort to it on Sunday Evenings to drink its water, and pay the tribute of throwing in a pin.
A topographical dictionary of the dominion of Wales (1811).

The Humber Stone (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Folklore

More from the Gentleman's Magazine of 1813 (pt1., pp. 318-19).
There are, or rather were, about fifty years ago, traditionary tales in the village that a nunnery once stood on Hoston; and that steps had been found communicating subterraneously with the monks of Leicester Abbey, about two miles distant. But no religious house of this kind is to be traced here. [...]

Some years ago it was believed that fairies inhabited, or at least frequented, this stone; and various stories were told concerning these pigmy beings. Such, according to the testimony of Borlase, in his "History of Cornwall," is the common opinion respecting the many druidical stones in that county. This belief was so strongly attached to the Hostone-stone, that some years ago a person visiting it alone, fancied he heard it utter a deep groan; and he immediately ran away to some labourers, about two hundred yards distant, terrified with the apprehension of seeing one of the wonderful fairy inhabitants.

In the adjoining vale, at the distance of about one hundred yards from the stone, on the north-east, is a plot of ground known, before the inclosure of the lordship, by the name of "Hell-hole Furlong." No circumstance belonging at present to the spot seems likely to have given rise to this strange name: it leaves room therefore for the conjecture that in this quarter the sacrifices, too often human, were wont to be performed [...]
If you insist.

Thursley Common (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Folklore

Devil's Jumps at Thursley.
[1799, Part II, p. 921.]

Thursley, or Thirsley, is an extensive parish in the county of Surrey and hundred of Godalming. The village is mean and straggling, standing in a dry, healthy situation, pleasant in summer, but, from its high, unsheltered situation, exposed to the north-east winds, very cold in winter. On the heaths between Thursley and Frinsham are three remarkable conic-shaped hills, called the "Devil's Three Jumps," the eastern hill (or jump) being the largest in circumference and height, the centre hill the least and lowest. They are composed of a hard rock, barely covered with a light black mould, which gives a scanty nourishment to moss and stunted heath. Their bases are nearly surrounded by a foss, which in some places appears to be artificial. In the fosses are constant springs of water, which assist in forming near them a large piece of water called Abbot's Pond, formerly part of the possessions of the neighbouring abbey of Waverly.

The country people, particularly the aged, relate many tales of these eminences, and hold them in a kind of awful reverence (the revels of the fairies yet linger in the tales of the aged rustick). It was formerly customary for the country-people on Whit-Tuesday to assemble on the top of the eastern hill to dance and make merry.
From a collection of articles from the Gentleman's Magazine, published 1883.

Tolmen Stone (Constantine) (Natural Rock Feature) — Folklore

This remarkable monument deserves more than a passing notice. The large mass of rock pointed north and south, and it used to be remarked by the quarrymen that about Midsummer the rays of the rising and setting sun poured straight through the passage under the rock; in reality the mass rested on a single point on the southern side. The apparently northern supports were not in contact with the large mass, as was often shewn by passing a thin cord between it and them. The northern rock on which it apparently partly rested was a long slab resting on other large rock masses piled on each other, but quite detached from the hill.

When a crow-bar was inserted under the Tolmen south of its main support, a few persistent efforts would cause the whole mass to vibrate. The northern end being much narrower, the rock projected in that direction, and the equilibrium would be in danger of being destroyed but for the peculiar arrangement above described; for the viabrating mass as it dipped north tilted up the long slab, which was in a line with the longer axis and thus acted as an equipoise. It is impossible to conceive that this arrangement was altogether natural. In all probability a natural confirmation of the rocks was taken advantage of to produce a desired result.

The Men Rock itself and those about it were covered in a remarkable way with deep rock basins. Other large monuments in the vicinity show evident marks of being artificially shaped.
Midsummer sun alignment... an arrangement impossible to conceive of as natural... I put it down to the druids myself. This is from A compendium of the history of Cornwall by J H Collins (1890).

Trencrom Hill (Hillfort) — Folklore

Having already carried off the top of the neighbouring hill of Trencrom, to make the Mount [St Michael's Mount] itself, Cormoran was in want of further stones wherewith to build his castle, and sent his wife to fetch them from the same place. She, thinking (womanlike) that any other stone would do as well, fetched this one from the nearer hill of Ludgvan-lees. Angry at her conduct, the monster slew her with his mighty foot, and the great rock rolled from her apron and fell where we see it now [Chapel Rock]; a silent witness to the lady's strength and to the truth of the narrative.
From which I suppose we can conclude that the giant Cormoran thought Trencrom Hill had extremely good stone. And confusion about this merited murder. Or something. Anyway, I'd not heard this before, and it's from Thurston C Peter's 'Notes on St Michael's Mount' in the Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, v14 (1899-90).

Ty Illtyd (Chambered Tomb) — Links

Google Books

A page from the RCAHMS's Inventory of Ancient Monuments in Brecknock, showing a diagram of the various incised marks on one of the stones.

Carmel (Cairn(s)) — Folklore

The three cairns here are close to Llyn Llech Owen. 'Llech' is a slab of rock. So indulge me with this stone-related folklore of the lake.
In 1884 I took [the tradition] down from my grandfather, Mr. Rees Thomas (b. 1809, d 1892), of Cil Coll, Llandebie - a very intelligent man, with a good fund of old-world Welsh lore - who had lived all his life in the neighbouring parishes of Llandeilo Fawr and Llandebie.

The following is the version of the story (translated) as I had it from him: - There was once a man of the name of Owen living on Mynydd Mawr, and he had a well ('fynnon'). Over this well he kept a large flag ('fflagen neu lech fawr': 'fflagen' is the word in common use now in these parts for a large flat stone), which he was always careful to replace over its mouth after he had satisfied himself or his beast with water. It happened, however, that one day he went on horseback to the well to water his horse, and forgot to put the flag back in its place. He rode off leisurely in the direction of his home; but, after he had gone some distance, he casually looked back, and, to his great astonishment, saw that the well had burst out and was overflowing the whole place.

He suddenly bethought him that he should ride back and encompass the overflow of the wate as fast as he could; and it was the horse's track in galloping round the water that put a stop to its further overflowing. It is fully believed that, had he not galloped round the flood in the way he did, the well would have been sure to inundate the whole district and drown all. Hence the lake was called the Lake of Owen's Flag ('Llyn Llech Owen').
As Mr Rhys explains, this is a similar story to one explaining the formation of Lough Neagh in Ireland - it also has an overflowing well and a magic horse.

From his article on Sacred Wells in Wales, in The Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, 1892-3.

Carnanmore (Passage Grave) — Miscellaneous

A fatiguing scramble, and the top of Carnanmore - 1,254 feet - is reached. As indicated by the name, this mountain has on its summit a "great carn," considerable remains of which are still to be seen. It is to be feared, however, that much of it has been erected into very matter-of-fact stone ditches, to mark the boundaries of "my Lord's" estate. The remaining portions are well worthy of examination.

The northern side seems to have been partially removed, thus exposing a large chamber of unhewn stones; part of a covering of larger slabs still remains in position, while others lie scattered about. It is probable the carn was erected to commemorate some great victory, or mark the burial place of some powerful chief, whose name and deeds are alike long forgotten.

Though the carn is itself a monument of antiquity, one at least of the stones used in its construction belongs to a more distant period still. On its upper surface, but almost defaced by long exposure, are several cuplike depression, evidently of human workmanship. Were these the only marks upon the stone they might easily have been overlooked; but, on the under side of the slab, which can fortunately be seen by a person entering the chamber above referred to, many more perfect hollows, arranged in something like order, are quite perceptible. The present position of the stone is certainly not that which it occupied when the depressions were cut, as many of those on the under side are now entirely out of reach.
This is from the Annual Reports and Proceedings of the Belfast Naturalists' Field Club for 1879/80. You can see the NISMR here.

Emain Macha (Henge) — Folklore

I spotted this in 'The Age of the Saints' by William Copeland Borlase (1893).
Between Armagh and the Navan Fort (the ancient Emain of the romances), beside an ancient paved track, is a famous rag-well sacred to St. Patrick. When we visited it a few years since the thorns which spread over it were literally covered with strips of cloth of all colours and of all ages, from a rotten tatter to one affixed that very day. In Ireland the idea present to the mind in offering rags seems to be that the particular disease should be left behind with the shred. Mr Windle* has preserved the following ritual words: 'Air impide an Tiarna mo cuid teinis do fhagaint air an ait so,' meaning 'By the intercession of the Lord I leave my portion of illness on this place.' The original idea of votive offerings became inseparable from the sequel that with the presentation of the sacrifice the object for which it was made was gained [sic].

*MSS. R.I. Acad. 15. Cork East and West, p. 852. Again, he says, 'Rags are not offerings or votive. They are riddances. Thus, you have a headache: you take a shred and place it on the tree, and with it you place the headache there.' Ibid. 16. Topography of Desmond, p. 802.
The well is indeed about half-way between Armagh and the fort, on a direct and old road. Today it's amidst a housing estate called St Patrick's Park and the view on Google Maps makes it look very neglected. But when the houses were built it was excavated. There's a photo on the NISMR that shows a digger going round it- the archaeological report from the time says 'the builders showed the utmost respect for the well and particularly its 'fairy thorn'. It also says that it was traditionally visited on the feast of St Peter and St Paul, the 29th June. So that's interesting, that it's not about St Patrick himself. And so the report tentatively suggests a pre-christian connection, what with the day being close to the solstice. But who knows.

Anyway I post this in the hope that someone might like to visit it if they were at Navan Fort - they have an interpretation centre there with a roundhouse, and who can resist a real life roundhouse.

Auchenlaich Cairn (Chambered Cairn) — Links


'Claish, Stirling: an early Neolithic structure in its context', in Proc. Soc. Antiq. Scot. v132 (2002).

Page 114 of the article has a section by S M Foster and J B Stevenson on the "extraordinary monument" of the cairn.

Giant's Grave (Holcombe) (Long Barrow) — Links

Internet Archive

'Records by Spade and Terrier' by the Rev. J.D.C. Whickham. You can read about the excavations of the Giant's Ground in 1909.

Spetisbury Rings (Hillfort) — Links

British Museum

The bronze cauldron in colour.

Spetisbury Rings (Hillfort) — Images

<b>Spetisbury Rings</b>Posted by Rhiannon

Badbury Rings (Hillfort) — Miscellaneous

A.D. 901.
This year died Alfred, the son of Ethelwulf, six nights before the mass of All Saints. He was king over all the English nation, except that part that was under the power of the Danes. He held the government one year and a half less than thirty winters; and then Edward his son took to the government.

Then Prince Ethelwald, the son of his paternal uncle, rode against the towns of Winburn and of Twineham, without leave of the king and his council. Then rode the king with his army; so that he encamped the same night at Badbury near Winburn; and Ethelwald remained within the town with the men that were under him, and had all the gates shut upon him, saying, that he would either live or there die. But in the meantime he stole away in the night, and sought the army in Northumberland. The king gave orders to ride after him; but they were not able to overtake him. The Danes, however, received him as their king.
Mention of Badbury in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. 901 was a bit frantic. Winburn is called Wimborne today, and Twineham is Christchurch.

Llyn Ogwen (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — Folklore

The failure of the wrong person to secure [treasure] is illustrated by a story given by Mr. Derfel Hughes in his Antiquities of Llangedai and Llanllechid, pp. 35-6, to the effect that a servant man, somewhere up among the mountains near Ogwen Lake, chanced to come across the mouth of a cave with abundance of vessels of brass (pres) of every shape and description within it.

He went at once and seized one of them, but, alas! it was too heavy for him to stir it. So he resolved to go away and return early on the morrow with a friend to help him; but before going he closed the mouth of the cave with stones and sods so as to leave it safe. While thus engaged he remembered having heard how others had like him found caves and failed to refind them. He could procure nothing readily that would satisfy him as a mark, so it occurred to him to dot his path with the chippings of his stick, which he whittled all the way as he went back until he came to a familiar track: the chips were to guide him back to the cave.

So when the morning came he and his friend set out, but when they reached the point where the chips should begin, not one was to be seen: the Tylwyth Teg had picked up every one of them. So that discovery of articles of brass - more probably bronze - was in vain.

But, says the writer, it is not fated to be always in vain, for there is a tradition in the valley that it is a Gwydel, 'Goidel, Irishman,' who is to have these treasures, and that it will happen in this wise:--

A Gwydel will come to the neighbourhood to be a shepherd, and one day when he goes up the mountain to see to the sheep, just when it pleases the fates a black sheep with a speckled head will run before him and make straight for the cave: the sheep will go in, with the Gwydel in pursuit trying to catch him. When the Gwydel enters he sees the treasures, looks at them with surprise, and takes possession of them; and thus, in some generation to come, the Gwydyl will have their own restored to them.
Ancient bronze objects in Celtic Folklore, Welsh and Manx by John Rhys (1901).

Old Oswestry (Hillfort) — Miscellaneous

Leland came here in the 1530s:
Hene Dinas a quarter of a mile out of Oswestre north-west. The toune or castelle of Hene Dinas standith apon a rounde hillet aboute half a mile in cumpace. Ther be iii. greate diches in the botom of the hillet cumpasing it, and in the toppe of the hille now grow great treas of oke. The commune people say that ther was a cite withyn those ditches. I think rather a campe of men of war, wheras perventure was the campe when Penda and Oswaldes did fight. There is a nother hillet of caste yerth bytwixt it and Oswester not far from Dinas self.
It always has to be about fighting when it comes to you men doesn't it. Or so it seems. The nother hillet I assume is the little wooded bump between the fort and Oswestry, on the line of Wat's Dyke. I'd have liked to have seen all the oke treas up there.
From John Leland's Itinerary In Wales.

Old Oswestry (Hillfort) — Links

Past Horizons

George Nash talks about the 'Pegasus Stone', found in 2008 near the currently beleaguered fort. It's a raised carving of a horse and could be from the Iron Age / Romano-British era...

(tipped off from the Heritage Journal's mention of a seminar in Oswestry on the 22nd February)
Previous 50 | Showing 51-100 of 3,846 posts. Most recent first | Next 50
This hill, it has a meaning that is very important for me, but it's not rational. It's beautiful, but when you look, there's nothing there. But I'd be a fool if I didn't listen to it.

-- Alan Garner.

...I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn...

-- William Wordsworth.

I'm currently mad on visiting Anglo-Saxon and Norman carvings and enjoy the process of drawing them:

My TMA Content: