This is more a miscellaneous gathering of archaeological sites whose exact provenance simply remains ‘unknown’, mainly because of a lack of archaeological excavation. In the arena of earthworks we tend to find unclassified settlements, henges, dykes – even hillforts and remains from the medieval period. In the event that a site in this classification section becomes recognized as something specific, we’ll change it and pop it where it belongs!
Apparently, all traces of the possible prehistoric camp or enclosure that were located by Edward Burrow in the 1920s, seems to have vanished. Very little remained of it even then. Lower down the slopes are a distinct series of ancient lynchets (or cultivation terraces), which may date back to the Iron Age—these are clearly visible on the eastern and western sides. Mr Burrow’s (1924) account of the site was as follows:
“Just south of Stantonbury Camp, near Bath, on the adjoining height known as Winsbury Hill, I have traced the almost obliterated remains of a ditch running round the shoulder of the hill, which I have indicated on my drawing. (above)
“On the south and eastern slopes of this prominent hill there are various terraces and scarps, which would repay further investigation. Possibly Winsbury was fortified as an outlier of the more pronounced Stantonbury Camp, standing directly on the line of the Wansdyke, which runs across the valley towards English Combe.”
Burrow, Edward J., Ancient Earthworks and Camps of Somerset, E.J. burrow: Cheltenham 1924.
At Kirkton of Airlie, park next to the church and walk north eastwards along the track, past the houses Crabra and Cleikheim, and cross the burn by the small bridge and the mound will be seen ahead of you in the field.
Archaeology & History
A largely flat topped, rectangular mound, measuring, according to Canmore, 28 metres by 22 metres, 2.2 metres high on the west side and about ½ metre high on the east side. There is a quantity of rubble strewn on the top among which are two stone slabs, described in 1958 as being possible cist cover stones. The site has clearly suffered considerable disturbance.
Andrew Jervise, writing of the site in 1864 described it as having been 300′ in circumference and 6-7′ high before the owner started to remove it for agricultural ‘improvements’ around 1859. He described it as being sometimes known as the ‘Battle Cairn’. As part of the demolition of the mound, agricultural workers in October 1859 unearthed a large cinerary urn half filled with human bones and protected by a large sandstone flag. Jervise writes:
“After the urn was found, care was taken removing other parts of the hillock; and on further reducing the surface, the top of a large boulder was exposed, upon and around which the mass of loose stones and earth appear to have been raised which composed the mound. The boulder, as far as ascertained, measures about 6 by 7½ feet; and the urn was found about four feet to the north east of the stone. At the distance of about four yards from the spot where the urn was found, there appeared to be a separate circle, rudely constructed of stones and earth – stones predominating. In this circle, at pretty regular distances, deposits of human and animal bones were found; and each of these deposits appeared to have been protected by two flat stones set up in a triangular form, resembling (an inverted letter V)…none of the deposits was more than 8″ below the surface”. In February 1861, “..a stone cist was found a little to the south east of the boulder….it was 5 feet long by 2 in breadth. The lid, a single slab, was upwards of 6 feet in length…the depth of the cist was 2 feet….It was nearly empty, but one could see, from the soft, black, unctuous earth that was taken out of it, that it had contained a body.”
“The name of St. Medan’s Knowe is certainly significant, but, whether it would imply that the place had been that of his burial, or one of those of his ministry, and so been the original place of worship at Airlie – are interesting particulars upon which history and tradition are silent”.
The Ordnance Survey Name Books, and the 25-inch OS map of 1865 record the finding, 20 yards to the west of the knowe, of a bronze spear head, which was at that time in the possession of a Mr Dixon, a merchant of Kirriemuir, which may go some way to explaining the alternative name of the site as ‘Battle Cairn’. The Name Books further record the testimony of a William Duncan that, ‘there have been 7 or 8 stone coffins and an urn found in the knowe, and that he believes a number more might be found if sought for, as the half of it is not yet excavated‘.
From the surviving evidence, it is very likely that Kirkton of Airlie was the centre of a cult of St. Madden (also known as ‘Medan’ and ‘Madan’), with the adjacent Holy Well, the (now destroyed) hamlet of St. Madden’s, and a Dewar’s land occupied by the hereditary custodians of St. Madden’s Bell. This site has no connection with St Medan’s Well at nearby Kirkton of Kingoldrum, that St Medan probably being a St Medana.
Andrew Jervise, Notice of Antiquities in the Parish of Airlie, Forfarshire, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, June 1864.
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, The Archaeological Sites & Monuments of Central Angus, Angus District, Tayside Region, HMSO: Edinburgh 1983.
Travelling north on the Bridgemill to Fettercairn road, park at the layby just before the junction with the minor road (left) through the Forestry Commission’s Inverury Wood. Go through the gate and walk along the track to the end where it joins another track and turn right. About 300 yards along, the Hillock is in a fenced enclosure to the right, accessible over a stile.
Archaeology & History
The site was not mentioned in the Statistical Accounts, nor is the origin of the name recalled, from which it is reasonable to assume that ‘witches’ (howsoever that term was interpreted in the days of persecution by the Kirk Sessions) met there. This is reinforced by there being a plot of land due west called ‘Witchfield’. The Canmore report describes the mound as being,
“situated near the edge of a low natural escarpment..measuring about 18m. in diameter and 2m. high.”
The Ordnance Survey reported in the mid-1860s that the Hillock was,
“An artificial mound….a remarkable looking object….enclosed with ornamental wire fencing, the name is well known in the district, but is not mentioned in the Statistical account nor any other document in the possession of the authorities. James Glenny, Gardener at Inglismaldie states that he assisted to open this, under directions from the Earl of Kintore, about Seven years ago, and that after clearing away the top soil there were found several stone coffins containing human bones and a clay urn containing what appeared to be calcined human bones….”
Another remarkable feature of the Hillock enclosure is an arc of three large earth fast boulders to the north-west of the mound. It has the appearance of being an incomplete, possibly four poster circle. The stones are not listed by Aubrey Burl (2000) as being part of a circle, and if indeed it was a circle there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of the fourth stone, which would have been positioned nearest to the Hillock. Unless the Hillock was imagined to be the ‘missing’ fourth stone.
A ‘well’ is shown on the modern OS map in the corner of the enclosure nearest the stile, but there was no evidence of this on the day of my visit.
Despite its rather remote location, it was noticeable by the well trodden state of the long grass on the day of my visit that the site receives quite a few visitors – a venue still for witches?
Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, The Archaeological Sites & Monuments of South Kincardine, Kincardine and Deeside District, HMSO: Edinburgh 1982.
The low hill called Beadle Hill is located about half a mile north of Swinden Reservoir between Worsthorne and Haggate in the area called Extwistle. It is just a short distance south of Monk Hall and a little east of Monk Hall farm. The earthworks are a long rectangular feature on a low hill (more of a mound really).
The earthworks are more noticeable on the south and west sides but less so at the eastern and northern edges of the mound. They can’t be said to be in any way defensive. The thinking is that this was a Romano-British farmstead or settlement from the late 4th century AD and, not as often thought a Roman camp. The name Beadle is apparently from the Anglo-Saxon/Old English word ‘Beado‘ or ‘Beadlo‘, meaning ‘battle.’ So could the hill be the site of some long forgotten skirmish from the time when the Romans were leaving the north of England? Or could it refer to the legendary ‘Battle of Brunanburh’ which was fought close by in 937 AD? In that battle King Athelstan fought against, and defeated, the Danes and Scots who were moving south from Northumbria.
At the south side of Beadle Hill there is an ancient spring, and to the east is Twist Castle—a circular earthwork that could date from the same period as Beadle Hill. Also, there are a number of tumuli and cairns in this area though these are prehistoric in date, probably Neolithic or Bronze-Age. I do not know whether the site has been excavated. If it has, please let us know!
Cockburn, John Henry, The Battle of Brunanburh and its Period, Elucidated by Place-Names, Sir W.C. Leng: Sheffield 1931.
Frost, Roger, A Lancashire Township – The History of Briercliffe-with-Extwistle, Rieve Edge Press: Briercliffe 1982.
A 2½-mile long earthwork can obviously be reached from all sorts of ways, but coming out of Flamborough towards Bridlington (B1255 road) you can go down the Home Farm road and park up; and from here walk up the pleasant woodland walk, literally from coast to coast, where you’ll see good portions of the earthwork intact.
Archaeology & History
An impressive site by any means. Running from Dykes End on its southern edge for 2½ mile, roughly north, until hitting the North Sea again at the other Dykes End, this great earthwork had little to do with the Danes. It seems to have been originally started around 3000 years ago in the early Iron Age. As Mr Gower (1975) told:
“Excavations carried out at the end of the (19th) century revealed traces of a flint workshop and many arroheads were found… The earthwork is about 18 feet high and on the western side is a ditch 60 feet wide. Several openings are to be seen, but these are probably comparatively recent.”