Allington Hill, Bottisham, Cambridgeshire

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TL 5801 5874

Archaeology & History

Site marked on 1886 map

In times of olde on this prominent tree-covered hill, a tomb of some ancient ancestor once lived.  It had already been destroyed by some retards by the time the Ordnance Survey lads came here in 1885; but thankfully, memory gave its existence the note it deserved.  The place had thankfully been given the once-over by some archaeologists in the middle of that century, giving us a pretty good idea as to its size and nature.  Measuring some 90 feet across and fourteen feet high, this was no mere toddler!

A Mr W.T. Collings (1846) gave his Intelligence Report to the archaeological journal of the period, from which the following description is gained:

“The excavation of this tumulus in 1845 was made from east to west, commencing from the eastern side, in the direction of its centre, in which, at a depth of about three feet, there was found a cinerary urn in an inverted position, slightly tilted on one side, and surrounded by charcoal and burnt earth.  It was filled with charcoal, but contained only one small fragment of bone. This vessel, which was of the simplest manufacture, moulded by the hand, and sun-baked, measured in height five inches, and its diameter at the largest part was five inches and a half.  From the deep red colouring, and the general appearance of the surrounding soil, it would seem that a small hole had been first dug, charcoal and bones burnt in it, the vase placed on the fire in an inverted position, and the whole covered up.  About ten feet eastward of the central deposit, on the south side of the line of excavation, and half a foot deeper, a deposit of fragments of bone was found apparently calcined, but with little charcoal or burnt earth, forming a layer not more than three inches thick, and two feet in circumference.  There were several pieces of the skull, a portion of the alveolar process, inclosing a tooth, apparently that of a young person, pieces of the femur and clavicle, and other fragments.  A little to the north of this spot there appeared a mass of charcoal and burnt earth, containing nothing of interest. After digging five or six feet deeper, operations were discontinued; and on the next day shafts were excavated from the centre, so as completely to examine every part, without any further discovery, and in every direction charcoal was found mingled with the heap, not in patches, but in fragments.”

Collings reported the existence of another burial mound a short distance to the south.  It was one of at least five such tumuli in the immediate locale, all of which have been destroyed by retards in the area.

References:

  1. Collings, W.T., “Archaeological Intelligence,” in Archaeological Journal, volume 3, 1846.
  2. Hore, J.P., The History of Newmarket – volume 1, A.H. Baily: London 1886.
  3. Royal Commission Ancient Historical Monuments, Inventory of Historical Monuments in the County of Cambridgeshire – Volume 2: North-East Cambridgeshire, HMSO: London 1972.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  52.204239, 0.310863 Allington Hill

Oliver’s Mound, Richmond Park, Surrey

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TQ 192 735

Also Known as:

  1. Oliver’s Mount

Archaeology & History

Roque’s 1746 map

Oliver’s Mound was highlighted as early as 1746 on John Roque’s map of the Country Near Ten Miles Round (London) as still standing.  One hundred and fifty years later, when the Ordnance Survey lads came to map the area, it had gone.  We don’t know exactly when it was demolished, so Historic England (not necessarily a good measure of accuracy) tell us its demise occurred “between 1760 and 1868”, so giving themselves at least some degree of safety!

As we can see in Mr Roque’s old map, an avenue of trees led up to the barrow.  This avenue will have been created when Richmond Park and its gardens were laid out.

The round barrow was most likely Bronze Age in origin.  The historian and folklorist Walter John (1093) reported that in 1834, three skeletons were found at a  depth of a yard beneath the surface.

Folklore

Site shown on 1873 map

Traditional tells that the name of this barrow comes from when the religious extremist, Oliver Cromwell, and his men, set up camp here.  A slight variant tells that Cromwell stood here to watch a skirmish.

References:

  1. Cundall, H.M., Bygone Richmond, Bodley Head: London, 1925
  2. Grinsell, Leslie V., The Ancient Burial Mounds of England, Metheun: London 1936.
  3. Johnson, Walter, Neolithic Man in North-East Surrey, Elliot Stock: London 1903.
  4. Johnson, Walter, Folk Memory, Clarendon: Oxford 1908.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  51.447951, -0.286073 Oliver\'s Mound

Caesar’s Camp Barrow, Wimbledon, Surrey

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TQ 222 709

Archaeology & History

It seems that a great number of prehistoric remains used to exist in and around the Wimbledon Common area.  This one is mentioned only briefly in Thomas Stackhouse’s (1833) rare work on early British remains, where he wrote:

“Near an old single-trenched Camp at the South West comer of Wimbledon Common, is a very small flat Barrow cut into the form of a cross: I don’t know that it has been noticed by any writer.”

The “single-trenched Camp” he described is today known as Caesar’s Camp hillfort.  By the time the Wimbledon historian William Bartlett (1865) came to write his survey, the site had been destroyed.  In Mr Johnson’s (1903) survey, he seems to confuse this site with the large barrow cemetery that used to exist on the northern edges of Wimbledon Common described by William Stukeley and others.

(the grid-reference to this site is an approximation).

References:

  1. Bartlett, William A., The History and Antiquities of Wimbledon, Surrey, J. & S. Richards: Wimbledon 1865.
  2. Johnson, Walter, Neolithic Man in North-East Surrey, Elliot Stock: London 1903.
  3. Stackhouse, Thomas, Two Lectures on the Remains of Ancient Pagan Britain, privately printed: London 1833.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  51.423945, -0.243820 Caesar\'s Camp barrow

Cedars Road, Clapham, Surrey

Tumulus (possible):  OS Grid Reference – TQ 2856 7555

Also Known as:

  1. Mount Nod

Archaeology & History

Located on the old boundary line between Clapham and Battersea, what might have been a forgotten tumulus, whose memory was thankfully preserved by the renowned folklorist and historian Walter Johnson (1903), was described in his work on prehistoric Surrey.  He seemed to think it serious enough to add to his survey, where he told us that,

“there still exists, near Cedars Road, Clapham, what may possibly be a round barrow.  It is in the garden of a house opposite St. Saviour’s Church, and is visible to anyone passing along the old, narrow passage called Wix’s Lane.  Mr. J.W. Grover, who brought the matter before the Archaeological Association in 1884, had been struck by the discovery that old maps marked the spot ‘Mount Nod Fields.’  …The mound must originally have been 70 or 80 feet across, but had been tampered with on one side for the construction of an ice-house.  Mr. Grover suggested that the mound may be of Celtic date.  To us, the height—some 12 feet or more—together with marked signs of reconstruction at a comparatively modern date, indicate the necessity of withholding judgment. The original tumulus may simply have been increased in height, but…digging alone could settle the question.”

Local historian Michael Green (2010) has found that there were prehistoric tombs on Clapham Common only 500 yards away, so this one along Cedar Road was not in isolation.  Is the site named on the boundary perambulation records?  Has it been explored since Johnson wrote about it and, if so, has its veracity as a prehistoric tomb been ascertained, or is it merely the remains of some post-medieval creation?

References:

  1. Green, Michael, “Mount Pond, Clapham Common: Archaeology and History“, Clapham Society Local History Series, 2010.
  2. Grover, J.W., “Mount Nod, Clapham,” in Journal of the Archaeological Association, volume 40, 1884.
  3. Johnson, Walter, Neolithic Man in North-East Surrey, Elliot Stock: London 1903.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  51.464327, -0.150699 Cedars Road

Lambeth Wells, Lambeth, London, Surrey

Healing Wells (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TQ 3094 7889

Also Known as:

  1. Lambeth Spa
  2. Near Well and Far Well

Archaeology & History

This once famous healing or spa well has long gone.  It was located where the buildings that now constitute 104-105 Lambeth Walk presently stand: an area which the great London historian William Thornbury (1878) told was already “a favourite resort of Londoners, and celebrated for the variety of sweet-smelling flowers and medicinal herbs growing there,” complementing the healing waters before and during the spa craze.  The great herbalist John Gerard did his collections here.

I can find no information regarding its early use by our peasant ancestors, so its written history simply begins when it had been appropriated by those well-to-do up-market types who took this medicinal spring for their commercial gain in the early days of the trendy spas.  Supplied by two separate springs known as the Nearer and Farther Wells respectively, the Well House built here was “formally opened in April 1696” and subsequently had almost daily accompaniments of music, including French and country dancing!  But as the popularity of the Lambeth Spa increased, so did its problems.  Phyllis Hembry (1990) told that by July 1715, one visitor to the spa,

“was so depressed to find that the many people there were mostly rakes, whores and drunkards, idlers such as Guard officers, or young pleasure-seeker like attorneys’ clerks, mingling with loose women of the the meanest sort.  The Lambeth Wells also became a public nuisance, so a dancing license was refused in 1755.”

The so-called Great Room which had been the place of great occasions by spa users ended up being the meeting place “for Methodist meetings.” Oh how the winter nights must have flown by…..

There was a decided improvement in the years that followed and social events at the spa increased again.  It became what Thornbury said “was another place of amusement.”  The Lambeth Wells, he wrote,

“were held for a time in high repute, on account of their mineral waters, which were advertised as to be sold, according to John Timbs, at “a penny a quart, the same price paid by St. Thomas’s Hospital.” About 1750, we learn from the same authority, there was a musical society held here, and lectures, with experiments in natural philosophy, were delivered by Dr. Erasmus King and others. Malcolm tells us that the Wells opened for the season regularly on Easter Monday, being closed during the winter. They had “public days” on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, with “music from seven in the morning till sunset; on other days till two!” The price of admission was threepence. The water was sold at a penny a quart to the “quality” and to those who could pay for it; being given gratis to the poor.  We incidentally learn that there were grand gala and dancing days here in 1747 and 1752, when “a penny wedding, in the Scotch manner, was celebrated for the benefit of a young couple.”

By this time, a rival St. George’s Spa of had been created a short distance away on the parish boundary and with it, the popularity and attendance at Lambeth Wells began to decline.  By the end of the 18th century, the rot had truly set in and its days were finally numbered.

As for the medicinal properties of these wells, little seems to have been recorded.  Aside from repeating the common description of them being mineral waters, William Addison (1951) simply added that they were also purgative.

References:

  1. Addison, William, English Spas, Batsford: London 1951.
  2. Allen, Thomas, The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Lambeth, J. Allen: London 1827.
  3. Allen, Thomas, A History of the County of Surrey – volume 1, Isaac Taylor: London 1831.
  4. Foord, Alfred Stanley, Springs, Streams and Spas of London: History and Association, T. Fisher Unwin: London 1910.
  5. Hembry, Phyllis, The English Spa 1560-1815, Athlone Press: London 1990.
  6. Nichols, John, The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Lambeth, J. Nichols: London 1786.
  7. Rattue, James, The Holy Wells of Surrey, Umbra: Weybridge 2008.
  8. Sunderland, Septimus, Old London Spas, Baths and Wells, John Bale: London 1915.
  9. Thornbury, William, History of Old and New London – volume 6, Cassell: London 1878.

Links:

  1. Lambeth Wells on the Vauxhall History website

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  51.493799, -0.115230 Lambeth Wells

St Loy’s Well, Tottenham, London

Holy Well (destroyed): OS ReferenceTQ 3370 8999

Also Known as:

  1. Old Tottenham Well
  2. St. Eloy’s Well

Getting Here

The site of the well, which was in the historic county of Middlesex, appears to have been on the west side of the present Moorefields Road just north of the junction with St Loy’s Road. The OS reference is an approximation.  The restored circular well house to the south of the High Cross at the High Road – Philip Lane junction now popularly known as ‘St Eloy’s Well’ is not the historic well described in this profile.

Archaeology & History

Likely position of the well on the 1873 6″ OS Map

The well was still in existence in 1876, but by the time of the revision of the OS map around 1894, it had been destroyed following building of the Great Eastern Railway’s Enfield branch line and the construction of terraced housing along the new St Loy’s Road.

So where was the well? The 1873 6″ OS map shows a field on parts of which the railway line and St Loy’s Road are now built, and a small area of water is shown in this field which is the likely position of St Loy’s Well on the eve of its destruction, when it was described as a dirty pool of water full of mud and rubbish. If this was the position of the well then it has now been completely built over…

It was described by Robinson in his 1841 History of Tottenham as being:

‘..in a field….on the western side of the High Road…surrounded by willows…it is bricked up on all sides, square and about 4 feet deep..’ ‘ In Bedwell’s time [it was]…always full of water, but never running over; the water of which is said to exceed all other near it.’.. ‘the properties of the water are similar to the water of the Cheltenham springs’.

Thomas Clay ‘s 1619 map of Tottenham, illustrated in Robinson’s book shows a field north west of Tottenham High Cross called ‘Southfeide at St Loys’. The Tottenham historian Wilhelm Bedwell described the well in 1631 as:

“nothing else but a deep pit in the highway, on the west side thereof;”….”it was within memory cleaned out, and at the bottom was found a fair great stone, which had certain letters or characters on it; but being broken or defaced by the negligence of the workmen, and nobody near that regarded such things, it was not known what they were or meant.’

This fair great stone with its ‘certain letters or characters that no one knew what they were or meant’ is intriguing especially in view of the well’s proximity to the Roman Ermine Street (Now the High Street). Were those mysterious characters spelling out an undecipherable Latin inscription on a Roman stone? We shall never know, but  it hints at a pre-Christian origin or veneration of the well. Another hint is that before the Reformation there was nearby a chapel of St Eloy known as the Offertory, which may have been originally built to ‘Christianise’ a pre-existing heathen sacred spring. The Roman origins of the well are also hinted at (probably erroneously) by W.L. Bowles in 1830, writing of a ‘Druidical Tour’ that one Sir Thomas Phillipps undertook on the continent, first quoting Phillipps before adding his own conclusion:

“Near Arras in France, are found the mount of St. Eloi and the very name of a place, Tote. I have no doubt Druidical remains will be found there, if this be not the very country of Carnutes.”

Now let me observe, that Tote is Taute —Tot—Thoth, latinized into Tewtates by Lucan, &c. the chief deity of the Celts. St. Eloi is neither more nor less than the Celtic word Sul, turned into the Greek the Sun; and Elios, turned into the Catholic St. Eloi, as at Tottenham, Middlesex, anciently Tote-ham, the ham of Taute or Tent, where is also the sacred well of St. Eloi, or ‘Helios’, the Sun !’

Saint Eloi / Eloy /Loy / Eligius, is the patron saint of those who work in the alchemists’ metal of the sun – goldsmiths! He is also the patron saint of blacksmiths, farriers, and all who earned their livings from horses, and lived from around 588 to 660 to become Bishop of Noyon and the evangelising apostle for much of modern day Belgium. His feast day is 1st December, and he had a widespread cult in mediaeval Europe, including England. In addition to being a healing well for humans, one writer hints that the well’s waters may have been employed for healing horses…they certainly would have drunk from it with its proximity to what is now the High Street.

Around 1770, an artist called Townsend (the sources are unsure as whether it was a Mrs or Mr) produced a romanticised drawing of the well, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1770-1. It depicts a hermit beside the well (the Hermitage of St Anne stood to the south of High Cross prior to the Reformation) receiving an offering from a lady. It was engraved and sold as a print, and may be the only image of the well before its demise.

Folklore

In 1819 – 20, John Abraham Heraud wrote a poem about St Loy’s Well, set in the time of St. Edward the Martyr, (the late 970s), entitled ‘ Stanzas in the Legend of St Loy‘ of which the most relevant verses are;

‘TOTEHAM! the Legend of thine olden day,
To the last note hath on thine echoes died;
But the Bard’s soul still lingers o’er the lay,
To muse upon thy transitory pride
The pride of times that hath been — blank and void—
When all was Nature, big with many a song
Of Chivalry and Fame, with Love allied—
But Time both changed the scene — now houses throng
Where once was solitude — and people crowd along.

Where now thy WOOD, that spread its misty shade
O’er twice two hundred acres? — past away!
And vain its PROVERB, as the things that fade,
Earth, sun, moon, stars, that change as they decay!
The lonely CELL, the tenor of the lay,
Its grove, which hermit tendance loved to rear;
And, St. LOY, mouldering to Time’s gradual sway,
Thy rites, thy OFFERTORY disappear;—
Forgot thy SPRING OF HEALTH no votary worships there!

Forgot, neglected — still my harp shall dwell
On thee, thou blest BETHESDA of ST. LOY!
As Fancy muses o’er the vital WELL
On years of storied yore, with grief and joy,
Exults they were — weeps Truth should e’er destroy!
Thrice I invoke the Spirit of the Stream
With charm she may not question, or deny,
And, like a Naiad, o’er the watery gleam
She rises to my voice, and answers thus the theme:— ‘

Heraud wrote a further poem mentioning the well, his ‘Tottenham‘ of 1820, the relevant verse being:

‘St. Loy! here is this fountain—emblem pure
Of chaste unostentatious charity—
Never in vain intreated, ever sure ;
Yet o’er the marge thy waters fair and free
Ascend not, overflowing vauntingly,
But in thy bounty humble as unfailing,
In grief, disease, and sickness, visit thee.
But part in joy, changed by thy holy healing
To manhood, strength, and life, thy far renown revealing.
There is thy offertory, and thy shrine,
Simple, inartificial ; nor of fame,
Nor any honour, save that it is thine,
And all its glory centres in thy name !’

References:

  1. Baker, T.F.T. & Pugh, R.B. (eds.), Victoria County History – A History of the County of Middlesex, volume 5, VCH: London 1976.
  2. Bowles, W.L., Tottenham High Cross, Gentleman’s Magazine, Vol C, April 1830.
  3. Breeze, Andrew, Chaucer, St Loy and the Celts, Reading Medieval Studies 17, 1991.
  4. Foord, Alfred Stanley, Springs, Streams and Spas of London: History and Association, T. Fisher Unwin: London 1910.
  5. Heaword, Rose, “Holy Wells and Lost Waters,” in London Earth Mysteries Journal, 2, 1990.
  6. Heraud, John Abraham, Stanzas in the Legend of St Loy, …
  7. Hope, Robert Charles, Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England, Elliott Stock: London 1893.
  8. Robinson, William, The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Tottenham, Nichols & Sons: London 1840.
  9. Sunderland, Septimus, Old London Spas, Baths and Wells, John Bale: London 1915.
  10. Thornbury, Walter & Walford, Edward, Old and New London – volume 5, Cassell: London 1878.
  11. Walford, Edward, Old and New London, Vol. V,  Cassell, Petter & Galpin: London, 1878.

Links:

  1. St. Eloy’s Well on The Megalithic Portal

© Paul T. Hornby 2020

 

loading map - please wait...

  51.592902, -0.071283 St Loy\'s Well

Beacon Hill, Swaffham Bulbeck, Cambridgeshire

Tumuli (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TL 584 600

Archaeology & History

The precise location of two prehistoric burial mounds at place with the conspicuous name of Beacon Hill, has yet to be satisfactorily located.  Their existence is recorded way back, in 1279 according to P.H. Reaney (1943), when they were described as Tweynhowes, being on the boundary of Swaffham Priory.  Information on them is scant and scattered with the earliest seeming to be an account by Thomas Kerrich (1817), who reported their removal and finds therein, in 1815.  The editor of Archaeologia told us:

Beacon Hill urn, 1817

“The Rev. Thomas Kerrich…exhibited to the Society, an Urn, which had been found a few days before by some labourers who were employed to remove one of the Barrows upon Newmarket-heath, called the Beacon Hills. “It stood upon what probably was the surface of the earth before the tumulus was raised.  The diameter of the barrow was near thirty yards, and the perpendicular height probably about eight or nine feet. There are more of these tumuli remaining, some of them very near to the place on which this, out of which the urn came, lately stood. They command an extensive view over the town of Cambridge, Gog-Magog Hills, &c.”

Subsequently a short piece in the Cambridge Chronicle in 1846 told the following:

“Two of the barrows on the edge of Newmarket Heath, belonging to the group called the Beacons, were examined in May 1846 by a party from Cambridge. In one of them nothing was found as it appeared to have been previously opened; in the other the remains of a British interment, consisting of rude vase (now in the Cambridge Antiquarian Museum), a few bones and some ashes, were discovered.”

This was echoed nearly forty years later in a survey by Charles Babbington (1883), who gave little by way of extra information; and was echoed again in Cyril Fox’s (1923) huge archaeological survey.  Herein, Mr Fox told us that the two barrows were located at the “east end of a four-mile racecourse.”  The only additional lore we’ve had since then is a collation of by the Royal Commission lads who thought that the respective tombs were located more precisely as the grid-references TL 5839 5998 and TL 5850 6004 respectively.

References:

  1. Cambridge Chronicle, May 23, 1846.
  2. Babbington, Charles C., Ancient Cambridgeshire, Cambridge Antiquarian Society 1883.
  3. Fox, Cyril, The Archaeology of the Cambridge Region, Cambridge University Press 1923.
  4. Hore, J.P., The History of Newmarket – volume 1, A.H. Baily: London 1886.
  5. Kerrich, Thomas, “An Urn found Under a Tumulus on Newmarket Heath,” Archaeologia, volume 18, 1817.
  6. Reaney, P.H., The Place-Names of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely, Cambridge University Press 1943.
  7. Royal Commission Ancient Historical Monuments, Inventory of Historical Monuments in the County of Cambridgeshire – Volume 2: North-East Cambridgeshire, HMSO: London 1972.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  52.215446, 0.317155 Beacon Hill

High Cross, Tottenham, Greater London

Wayside Cross: OS Grid Reference – TQ 33781 89561

Also known as:

  1. Historic England Grade II Listed Building Number 1188856

Getting Here

The Cross is on the east side of the A10 Tottenham High Road, on the traffic island at the Monument Way Junction.

Archaeology & History

Cross shown on 1873 map

One of the earliest records of what was called the “hie crosse” is contained in a court-roll of 1456.  It was at that time a wooden wayside cross, but there are hints that its origins may go back to Roman times.  The Cross is next to what was the southern end of Ermine Street, built by the Romans where there was no pre-existing roadway and described as the most important thoroughfare in Britain: built to give direct communication to the main centres of the military occupation at Lincoln and York.  Writing of Roman land survey marks, the now discredited early 20th century Middlesex historian Sir Montagu Sharpe (1932) thought Tottenham Cross possibly marked an earlier (i.e. Roman) stone, although no archaeological evidence has been found to support this.  As it was next to Ermine Street it could equally have been a milestone or ceremonial pillar. After the Romans left it may have become a local heathen shrine which, with the coming of Christianity, was ultimately replaced by a wooden cross—but this is speculation, and we will probably never know why and when the original cross was placed where it was.

Originally in the historic County of Middlesex, the settlement of Tottenham surrounding the Cross was known from mediaeval times to the 19th century as ‘Tottenham High Cross’.  Local historian William Robinson writing prior to 1840 thus describes the Cross:

“About the year 1580, a column of wood was standing, with a square sheet of lead on the top to throw off the water, supported by four spurs: these, being decayed and rotten, were taken down, about the year 1600, by Dean Wood, Dean of Armagh, who at that time resided in a house on the east side of it, and who erected on its site an octangular brick column, pointed at the top and crowned with a weathercock, and the initials of the four cardinal points, and under the neckings, small crosses, which were called tau-crosses, according to the true cross or Greek letter T.

“Tottenham High Cross, as it appeared in 1788, was an octangular brick pillar, divided into four stories, viz.: a double plinth, first portion of the pillar; second portion, of the same; and a pinnacle; each plinth and story rendered distinct one from the other by certain appropriate mouldings ; and the whole design appeared without any kind of ornament, pointed at the top and crowned with a weathercock. The Cross having fallen into decay, several of the inhabitants of the parish entered into a subscription, in the year 1809, for the purpose of putting it into a proper state of repair, and about the sum of £300. was raised. It was accordingly repaired, and covered with Parker’s cement. The octangular plan, and the proportions of the Cross in its four stories, have not been departed from ; but in other respects it is a new work ; some of the decorations seem to be formed from the exterior and interior of the chapel of Henry VIII; the double plinths or pedestals are as plain as before, but the intermediate mouldings are new; the first portion of the pillar consists of angular pilasters at each cant done with a pointed head; compartment of five turns, connecting itself with another compartment; above it diamonded, with a shield containing an imitation of the black letter. As there are eight faces to the upright, of course there are as many shields, each bearing a letter of the same cutting, beginning at the west face, TOTENHAM: in consequence of there being but eight shields, one of the T’s in the spelling has been necessarily dispensed with. The mouldings between this story and the second are worked into an entablature, with modern fancy heads and small pieces of ornaments alternately set at each angle.

“Second story—small buttresses at the angles of the octagon, with breaks and pinnacles, but no bases. The face of each cant has a compartment embellished with an ogee head, backed with narrow pointed compartments. The mouldings between this story and the pinnacle, making out a fourth story, give, at each angle, crockets, and its termination is with a double finial, but not set out in geometrical rule to the crockets below : there is at the top a vane, with N. E. W. S. The base is surrounded with a neat iron railing on Portland stone curb. The date at which these alterations were made is not placed in any conspicuous part of the structure.”

(left) engraving based on Samuel Wale’s 1759 illustration to Compleat Angler; (centre & right) 19th C views pre- and post-renovation

The craftsman who carried out the modernisation was a Mr. Bernasconia, working to the designs of a Mr. Shaw. Not everyone was pleased by the transformation. A regular contributor identified only as ‘An Architect’ made these caustic comments in the November 1809 edition of the Gentleman’s Magazine:

“Tottenham High Cross has this summer been covered over with Compo: it previously bore a simple appearance, but is now rendered of a very rich and elaborate cast, doing away in the first instance the Architectural history of the erection; and allowing it possible that there might once have been on the spot an Eleanora Cross, holding in contempt, by a want of due imitation, the characteristic style of decoration prevailed at at the time of the Queen’s demise.  But according to the system of our Professional innovators, to destroy a sacred relick of antiquity, and to restore it as it is called, upon a model quite in a different style and nature, is one and the same thing. “Any thing is Gothick.”

“….Surveyed November 1809. Entirely covered with the proclaimed everlasting stuff, Compo; a stuff now the rage for trowelling over our new buildings, either on the whole surface, or in partial daubings and patchings; it is used in common with stone work, for instance, on an arcade, half one material, half the other; “ making good,” as it is called (abominable expedient) the mutilated parts of Antient Structures, there sticking on until it reverts (after exposure to the air for three or four years, more or less) to its first quality, dirt and rubbish, and then is seen no more….

“Provided this Compo effort had been advanced on any other occasion, and on any other piece of ground, where no piece of Antiquity was to become the spoil, such as an object to mark the centrical point of three or four counties, a general standard of miles or any other common document for the information or amusement of travellers, all would have been well, and some praise might have been bestowed, for its tolerable adherence to the above style, if not for the material wherewith it is made up. But as nothing of this sort will come in aid of the innovators, and only the barefaced presumption, “ alter or destroy, what was,” is to be encountered, let the detail of parts, put this matter to issue….”

Folklore

A modern view (Wikipedia Creative Commons)

The Cross stood in front of the Swan Inn, a place frequented by fishing writer Izaak Walton in the 1640s when he would go to fish in the nearby River Lea.  In 1653 he published The Compleat Angler describing his fishing activities in the classical form of a philosophical dialogue between him as ‘Piscator’ and ‘Venator’ (hunter) and other passing characters, starting and ending his adventures at the High Cross.  The 1759 edition of Compleat Angler contains the earliest illustrations of the Cross, with some slight artistic licence, by Samuel Wale.

Afterword

As the Cross now stands in the maelstrom of North London’s traffic, it is worth recalling American traveller Nathaniel Carter’s 1825 observation when travelling north from London:

“Passing Tottenham Cross, we entered a rich agricultural country, possessing the usual charms of English landscape.”

References

  1. An Architect (pseud.) – Architectural Innovation No. CXXXIX – The Gentleman’s Magazine, November 1809
  2. Anonymous – Tottenham High Cross, The Gentleman’s Magazine, April 1820
  3. Blair, John, The Church in Anglo Saxon Society, Oxford University Press 2005
  4. Carter, Nathaniel Hazeltine, Letters From Europe..in 1825 ’26 & ’27, G & C & H Carvill, New York, 1829
  5. Margary, Ivan D., Roman Roads in Britain, 3rd Ed., John Baker: London 1973.
  6. Robinson, William, The History & Antiquities of the Parish of Tottenham, 2nd Ed., Nicholls & Son, W. Pickering, W.B. Hunnings: London 1840.
  7. Sharpe, Montagu, Middlesex in British, Roman & Saxon Times, 2nd Ed., Methuen: London 1932.
  8. Walton, Izaak, The Compleat Angler, Facsimile of the 1st Ed., containing illustrations from the 2nd US edition by John Major, No imprimatur, 1907.

© Paul T Hornby 2020

 

loading map - please wait...

  51.589023, -0.070277 High Cross

Two Captains, Stetchworth, Cambridgeshire

Tumuli (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TL 6246 6048

Also Known as:

  1. Two Howes

Archaeology & History

Mentioned as early as the 15th century in the Ely Cartulary as the “Tuomhowe,” or “two hills”, the place-name authority P.H. Reaney (1945) identifies this with the two “barrows” which our early cartographers map as our ‘Two Captains’.

Site shown on 1834 map
Site of the Two Captains on the 1885 OS map

In the 1834 survey by the Ordnance Survey lads, these conspicuous burial mounds were clearly marked on the west side of the Devil’s Dyke, less than 2 miles south of the Newmarket Necropolis.  They were seen first-hand by a number of local walkers, including A.J. King (1845) in his account of the aforementioned dyke.  But on the 1885 OS map, the old tombs had apparently gone.  Evidently some local knob-head had come along and took it upon himself to destroy these two burial mounds, which had lived here for thousands of years.  However, despite the OS-maps indicating that it had been totally destroyed in the 1880s, a couple of later writers said that faint traces were still visible, including the historian Charles Harper. (1904)  When he came here, he told how

“Little is now left of this once prominent mound, once important enough to be marked on Ordnance maps, but now ploughed nearly flat.  It stands in the third field from the road, on the right hand, a field now under corn, but until forty years ago a wood.”

A.J. King’s 1845 map

Very little is known about the place and even the late great barrow fetishist, L.V. Grinsell (1936) could dig nothing out, despite the two tombs mentioned in passing by a number of writers.

Folklore

In Grinsell’s (1976) book on the folklore of ancient sites, he drops the Two Captains into a simple category of them relating to some battle, without any information.  But it seems there isn’t much to go on.  The local history work of Charles Harper (1904) intimates the same thing, bringing attention to the folklore of the adjacent Devil’s Dyke, as

“it is one of the many sites identified as the scene of Boadicea’s defeat by Suetonius Paulinus, but we are sceptical of this particular one, although the ancient tumulus on the outer face of the Ditch, still called the Two Captains, points to some forgotten conflict in which two leaders were slain and buried on the contested field.”

 

References:

  1. Gomme, G.L., The Gentleman’s Library: Archaeology – volume 2, Elliot Stock: London 1886.
  2. Grinsell, Leslie V., The Ancient Burial Mounds of England, Methuen: London 1936.
  3. Grinsell, Leslie, Folklore of Prehistoric Sites in Britain, David & Charles: Newton Abbot 1976.
  4. Harper, Charles G., The Newmarket, Bury, Thetford and Cromer Road, Chapman & Hall: London 1904.
  5. King, A.J., “The Devil’s Dyke, Newmarket,” in The Gentleman’s Magazine, January 1845.
  6. Reaney, P.H., The Place-Names of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely, Cambridge University Press 1943.
  7. Royal Commission Ancient Historical Monuments, Inventory of Historical Monuments in the County of Cambridgeshire – Volume 2: North-East Cambridgeshire, HMSO: London 1972.
  8. Tymms, S., “The Devil’s Dyke, Newmarket” in Proceedings Suffolk Inst. Archaeology. 1, 1849-53 168-70

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  52.218577, 0.376758 Two Captains

Newmarket Heath (3), Newmarket, Suffolk

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TL 6122 6358

Archaeology & History

Tumulus ‘3’ on 1834 map

This is one of at least five prehistoric tombs that were known to have existed in and around the Newmarket race-course—all long gone.  It stood some 50-60 yards northeast of the Newmarket Heath (2) tumulus and was one in the cluster highlighted as ‘tumuli’ on the 1834 OS-map (right).  Despite its destruction sometime in 1883, a scar of the monument was seen from the air in the 1940s by J.K.S. St Joseph as a ploughed-out ring ditch, showing it to have been some seventy feet across.  Sadly, no ground trace of the monument exists.

References:

  1. Fox, Cyril, The Archaeology of the Cambridge Region, Cambridge University Press 1923.
  2. Royal Commission Ancient Historical Monuments, Inventory of Historical Monuments in the County of Cambridgeshire – Volume 2: North-East Cambridgeshire, HMSO: London 1972.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  52.246787, 0.360100 Newmarket Heath (3)