Tarry Stone, Cookham, Berkshire

Legendary Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SU 89745 85392

Also Known as:

  1. Cookham Stone
  2. Tarrystone

Getting Here

Old postcard of the Tarry Stone

Dead easy!  Just about in the middle of the village, by the side of the road where a seat allows the weary walker a chance to sit and rest, the Tarry Stone stands before it, with a plaque on the wall above the seat.  The old postcard here shows its situation clear enough!

Archaeology & History

The history of this large rock near the middle of Cookham village is important in the history of the old village, though there is no direct evidence to give it a prehistoric pedigree.  It was known to be an ancient boundary stone and is included in perambulation records of the area, where local people would annually walk and redefine the landscape of Cookham: a pastime known across the land, but which fell into disuse in Victorian times.  Such perambulations are thought to trace way back into the mythic lands of prehistory — so the Tarry Stone here may well have an archaic provenance.

The known history of the stone was gathered and described in Stephen Darby’s (1899) rare work on the place-name history of Cookham.  He wrote:

“A stone 3½ ft high, by 4 ft long, and 2½ ft thick. This formerly stood in Cookham village, about two feet from Dodson’s fence, where the roads parted to the church and the ferry. It is now in the Mill Garden at Cookham, where it was removed by the late George Venables when he was church-warden. This stone was formerly known as Cookham Stone.

“A.D. 1506: The tithing man presents that the Warrener ought to hold sports at Cookham Stone on the day of Assumption; and he has not done so (Cookham Manor Court Rolls).

“The stone was originally a boundary stone to the property of the Abbot of Cirencester, whose house was close by, as is shown in the will of John Luffenham, A.D. 1423.”

An old plaque that was once attached to the rock told, “The Tarry Stone at which sports were held before 1507 AD, stood formerly 50 yards NNE and was replaced here AD 1909 by order of the parish council.”  The position described “50 yards away” was next to an old pub with the fascinating legendary name of ‘Bel and the Old Dragon’!

Folklore

Dennis Curran’s 1976 drawing

One of the main reasons this site has been included here is the legendary attachments.  When the stone was moved from its original position in 1839 by a certain George Venables, to nearby Mill House Gardens, local people told how the Venable family thereafter were cursed.  It was thereafter moved back to its earlier site!

The stone has been suggested as a meteorite — a theme that was echoed in Peter Ackroyd’s Thames (2007), but the Tarry Stone is a regional sarsen rock, albeit peppered with erosion holes, giving a more ‘foreign’ look to it!

Cookham was also the village where the spirit of the god Herne “winds his horn and the music of his hounds can be heard from across the common.”  (Yarrow 1974)  The stone was also the focal point of village games in earlier centuries.

References:

  1. Ackroyd, Peter, The Thames: Sacred River, Chatto & Windus: London 2007.
  2. Darby, Stephen, Place and Field-Names of Cookham, Berkshire, privately printed: London 1899.
  3. Hallam, Elizabeth, Domesday Heritage, Arrow: London 1986.
  4. Yarrow, Ian, Berkshire, Hale: London 1974.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  51.560292, -0.706767 Tarry Stone

Sonning Cursus, Reading, Berkshire

Cursus Monument:  OS Grid Reference – SU 7669 7599

Archaeology & History

Sonning Cursus & other ancient remains (after Ford 1987)

Barely visible nowadays, the site was described by archaeologist Steve Ford (1987) as, “a very convincing cropmark with markedly rectangular end with entrance gap” at its far eastern end.  This once impressive looking cursus aligns east-west and is found amidst a cluster of other neolithic and Bronze Age monuments.

It was first discovered by aerial surveying in 1959, but still remains unexcavated (I think!).  The dead straight neolithic monument,

“consists of parallel ditches 45 metres apart extending for at least 200m west towards lower ground.  The eastern end has a (flattened) terminal with a single entrance, whereas the western end is untraceable beyond a modern field boundary.”

In Roy Loveday’s (2006) survey, this cursus was stated as measuring 250m in length and 35m across.  Although the western end hasn’t been located, it’s highly probable that it reached to the River Thames a short distance away.  An excavation at one of the three ‘enclosures’ beyond the eastern end of this monument, revealed it have been built in the late neolithic period.

References:

  1. Ford, Steve, East Berkshire Archaeological Survey, Berkshire County Council 1987.
  2. Loveday, Roy, Inscribed across the Landscape, Tempus: Stroud 2006.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  51.477837, -0.897301 Sonning Cursus

Caesar’s Camp, Bracknell, Berkshire

Hillfort:  OS Grid Reference – SU 863 657

Archaeology & History

Described by Steve Ford (1987) as “the only known example of a hillfort in East Berkshire,” this much overgrown site encloses an area covering 7.8 hectares.  It was first started around 700 BC and thought to be a northern outpost for the Atrebates tribe.  However, just over the northern edge of the ramparts, less than half a mile away, a group of seven round barrows were once in evidence, indicating that the the flat plateau on which the hillfort stands would have been of use prior to its construction (Hawkes 1973).  The site is described as follows:

“The earthworks consist of a single bank and ditch on the northwest, while elsewhere there is an additional outer bank.  At the southern side, the ramparts include a second ditch and a third bank… At present there are four entrances: north, south, east and west, but it would seem that only the eastern and western entrances are contemporary with the construction of the hillfort.”

Archaeologists discovered that the site was made use of by the Romans when their mob arrived, as a coin of Cunobelin as well as Roman pottery was uncovered — although it has to be said that, as a Roman road passes by a short distance to the south, so such finds would be expected.

References:

  1. Ford, Steve, East Berkshire Archaeological Survey, Berkshire County Council 1987.
  2. Hawkes, Jacquetta, Prehistoric and Roman Monuments in England and Wales, BCA: London 1973.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  51.383757, -0.759919 Caesar\'s Camp