St. Tredwell’s Loch, Papa Westray, Orkney Isles

Sacred Loch:  OS Grid Reference – HY 495 509

Folklore

I’ve already added a site-profile of the standing stones that used to be close to this loch, and added to it the folklore below; but I realised that for students of water-lore, a separate profile for the loch itself is needed.  For those of you who are not into water-lore, I hope you can forgive this repetition.

The loch, its associated chapel and the standing stones were visited at the end of the 17th century by John Brand, who gave a good account of the rituals performed by local people at the time.  They regarded the waters here as very special indeed, with great medicinal powers.  The loch had sense of sacrality whose nature was intimately tied to the repetition and regeneration of the seasons, valorizing the healing function of the waters.

By the edge of the loch stood St Tredwell’s church, outside of which was a cairn of stones.  When people visited here to be cured of their various ailments, they would pick up one of them and cast it into the loch as an offering (some folk would cast money), so that its waters would heal their illness.  According to Mr Brand and the local minister, such cures were numerous.  The narrative is truly fascinating.  Brand told us that,

“nigh to the east end of which this chapel is, is held by the people as medicinal, whereupon many diseased and infirm persons resort to it, some saying that thereby they have got good; as a certain gentleman’s sister upon the isle, who was not able to go to this loch without help, yet returned without it; as likewise a gentleman in the country who was much distressed wifh sore eyes, went to this loch, and washing there became sound and whole, though he had been at much pains and expense to cure them formerly.  With both which persons he who was minister of the place for many years was well acquainted, and told us that he saw them both before and after the cure.  The present minister of Westra told me that such as are able to walk, use to go so many times about the loch as they think will perfect the cure, before they make any use of the water, and that without speaking to any, for they believe that if they speak this will marr the cure: also he told that on a certain morning not long since he went to this loch and found six so making their circuit, whom with some difficulty he obliging to speak, said to him they came there for their cure.”

For the curing of sore eyes, the loch was specifically resorted to at Easter and during Lent.  Traditions such as these are found at other lochs in Scotland and at lakes in many other parts of the world.

Another interesting feature related to the element of Kingship; for the waters of the loch were said to turn red when anything important was going to happen to a member of the royal family.

St Tredwell herself—also known as St. Triduana—has her saints day on October 8.

References:

  1. Banks, M. MacLeod, British Calendar Customs: Orkney and Shetland, Folk-lore Society: London 1946.
  2. Black, G.F., Examples of Printed Folk-lore Concerning the Orkney and Shetland Islands, Folk-Lore Society: London 1901.
  3. Brand, John, A Brief Description of Orkney, Zetland, Pightland Firth and Caithness, George Mosman: Edinburgh 1701.
  4. Eliade, Mircea, The Sacred and the Profane, Harcourt: New York 1959.
  5. Fergusson, Robert M., Rambling Sketches in the Far North, Simpkin Marshall: London 1883.
  6. MacKinlay, James M., Influence of the Pre-Reformation Church on Scottish Place-Names, William Blackwood: Edinburgh 1904.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

St. Martin’s Well, Looe, Cornwall

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – SX 2569 5407

Archaeology & History

St Martins Well on 1888 map

An early dedication to the St Martin of this well is from the 13th century, when referring to the “church of sanctus Martinus” in 1282, whose building is a half-mile to the north.  The well itself is located on the old parish boundary, on the footpath today known as the North View.

In earlier days, the water from this site came “flowing out of a rock” giving birth to St Martin’s stream (Quiller-Couch, 1894).  “It was much used by the villagers,” they wrote, “because of the excellent quality of the water; now it is covered in with an ordinary wooden lid, and is used to supply the town of Looe with water.”

Things hadn’t changed when Mr Lane-Davies (1970) visited the place, who was far from pleased at its status.  “The spring,” he told, “has been enclosed in an ugly shed and the water piped away.”

Despite this, when Meyrick (1982) came here, he thought the site had “a romantic and grotto-like air” to it, but he was equally displeased by barbed wire preventing folk from easily accessing the waters and “spoilt by a certain amount of rubbish.”  Unfortunately due to a dreadful accident here in 1993, when a young child fell into the waters and drowned, the site is now completely enclosed by railings to prevent this happening to anyone else.

References:

  1. Bond, Thomas, Topographical and Historical Sketches of the Boroughs of East and West Looe, J. Nichols: London 1823.
  2. Lane-Davies, A., Holy Wells of Cornwall, FOCS: St Ives 1970.
  3. Meyrick, J., A Pilgrims Guide to the Holy Wells of Cornwall, Falmouth 1982.
  4. Quiller-Couch, M. & L., Ancient and Holy Wells of Cornwall, C.J. Clark: London 1894.
  5. Straffon, Cheryl, Fentynyow Kernow: In Search of Cornwall’s Holy Wells, Meyn Mamvro: Penzance 1998.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

The Wartie Stone, Yell, Shetland

Legendary Rock (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – HP 5223 0467

Archaeology & History

Whilst classifying this as a “legendary” rock, it was as much a functional stone that played an integral part of local village life in the 19th century and, most probably, way before that.  This large stone possessed a large cavity in the shape of a giant human footprint, measuring 12 inch by 4 inch.  It could be seen “above the Deeks of Bracon, North Yell, up Hena”, but when first described in 1865, it was said to be “no longer in existence.”  Despite this, when an Ordnance Survey dood came looking for it in 1969, he reported it as “still in existence” and known of by local people.  Is there anyone in the far far north who can tell us?

Folklore

The impression of the large footprint was natural, but the use to which local people made of it is valuable when we seek to understand pre-industrial customs.  The Royal Commission (1946) lads echoed the folklore handed down by J.T. Irvine from 1865, telling that,

“Formerly the people used to wash in dew or rain-water that had gathered in the cavity and stand in it to get rid of warts.  The tradition was that a giant had planted one foot here and the other on a stone on the Westing of Unst.”

Healing stones with such properties can be found everywhere on Earth.

References:

  1.  Royal Commission Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Orkney and Shetland – volume 3, HMSO: Edinburgh 1946.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Broomridge (1), Ford, Northumberland

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NT 97298 37110

Archaeology & History

In 1863, a bunch of reputable Victorian authors and antiquarians met with the Duke of Northumberland in Alnwick Castle to discuss the matter of making decent images of the petroglyphs which, at the time, had only just been rediscovered in the area.  At one of their meetings, the floor in one of the Castle rooms was covered with rubbings of carvings that they’d made—this one included.  I’d loved to have been there!  Subsequently, from this meeting, sketches of this carving were done and included in the works by George Tate (1864; 1865) and then a few years later in J. Collingwood Bruce’s (1869) rare tome that had been published with the help of dosh from the Duke.

Found along a raised geological ridge running roughly east-west, a number of other carvings are close by and well worth looking at when you visit here.  The basic (and first) description of the site by Tate told that here,

Tate’s 1864 sketch
Collingwood’s 1869 image

“on a high ridge on Hunter’s Moor, a large surface of rock, some forty yards by twenty, having a gentle slope to the northward, is partially uncovered.  In one part, which has been entirely cleared of turf, fourteen figures are scattered over an area of 15 feet by about from 5 to 7 feet.  Some of the figures are of the common type, one of which is 28 inches in diameter; but others present new features; and several are curiously united by straight and curved grooves.  Across the entire diameter of a group of four concentric circles, runs a groove connecting them with other combined figures.  An irregularly shaped, rounded, angular figure, encloses two hollows or cups; and united to this is a broad oval figure.  One figure around four cups approaches to the reniform.”

When the modern rock art expert Stan Beckensall wrote about this site, he mentioned how his own picture of the carving consisted of a number of elements that weren’t included by the 19th century pioneers—which isn’t unusual.

References:

  1. Beckensall, Stan, Northumberland’s Prehistoric Rock Carvings – A Mystery Explained, Pendulum: Rothbury 1983.
  2. Beckensall, Stan, Prehistoric Rock Motifs of Northumberland – volume 1, Abbey Press: Hexham 1991.
  3. Bruce, John Collingwood, Incised Markings on Stone; found in the County of Northumberland, Argylshire, and other Places, privately printed: London 1869.
  4. Tate, George, “The Ancient British Sculptured Rocks of Northumberland and the Eastern Borders,” in Proceedings of the Berwickshire Naturalists Club, volume 5, 1864.
  5. Tate, George, The Ancient British Sculptured Rocks of Northumberland and the Eastern Borders, Henry Hunter Blair 1865.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Jedburgh Abbey, Roxburghshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NT 6504 2045

Archaeology & History

A little-known cup-and-ring stone that was uncovered in the forecourt of Jedburgh Abbey by Walter Laidlow in 1903, now lies all but forgotten in the abbey grounds.  Laidlow’s original description of his find was very basic indeed: “a sculptured stone, with incised ring-and cup-symbols… of yellow sandstone, 1 foot 8 inches long, 9½ inches broad, 4 inches thick.”  The Royal Commission (1956) lads did slightly better, saying:

“A slab of stone… measures 1ft 8½in by 9½in by 4in, and bears on one face six cup-marks ranging from 1in to 2½in in diameter.  The largest of these is encircled by a ring 5in in diameter, in “pocked” technique; while slight traces of what may have been a similar ring can be seen around another cup, which is fractured.”

Laidlow’s 1903 photo

You can see from the photograph how the stone has been broken from a larger piece, strongly suggestive of a greater prehistoric design on the original slab—but there have been no subsequent finds that might show us its original form.  In all likelihood, the stone originally came from a prehistoric tomb, but we know not where that might have been—much like the Mathewson’s Garden carving, also in Jedburgh.

The carving apparently still lies somewhere in the Abbey grounds, sleeping, but I’ve not visited the olde stone so I don’t know its exact position.  If any local folk can tell us more, that would be great!

References:

  1. Laidlaw, Walter, “Sculptured and Inscribed Stones in Jedburgh and Vicinity,” in Proceedings Society Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 39, 1905.
  2. Morris, Ronald W.B., “The Cup-and-Ring Marks and Similar Sculptures of South-West Scotland,” in Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society, volume 14, 1967.
  3. Morris, Ronald W.B., “The cup-and-ring marks and similar sculptures of Scotland: a survey of the southern Counties – part 2,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 100, 1969.
  4. Morris, Ronald W.B., The Prehistoric Rock Art of Southern Scotland, BAR: Oxford 1981.
  5. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Roxburghshire – volume 1, HMSO: Edinburgh 1956.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Mathewson’s Garden, Jedburgh, Roxburghshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – c. NT 65 20

Archaeology & History

Apart from the petroglyph found at Jedburgh Abbey in 1903, there’s a distinct lack of known cup-and-ring stones in this area; so when the petroglyph pioneer George Tate was in town in 1860, he was fortunate to find a small “portable” stone with a rather impressive design on it.  We don’t (yet) know the exact position of where the stone was located, as Tate simply told how,

“Lying among a heap of stones in Mr. Adam Mathewson’s garden, I detected, on a much weather-worn block, defaced sculpturing of the same family character as those in Northumberland.  …There are five concentric circles, central cup, radial grooves, and a string of cups around the outer circle.  Forty years ago this stone was built into the wall of a house; but whence it originally came is not known.  Doubtless it belongs to the district, and probably had been connected with an interment.”

His final remark would seem most likely and has subsequently been echoed by several other rock art students.  A few years after Tate’s initial find, the carving was mentioned in Sir James Simpson’s (1867) classic work, who told us:

Dr Falla’s 1866 sketch

“Sometime ago Mr Tate, of Alnwick, discovered in the garden of Mr Matthewson at Jedburgh a stone cut with concentric circles, possibly a sepulchral cist, but peculiar in some respects.  The stone is roundish, but broken off at one side, and about eighteen inches broad.  Its face is covered by five incised concentric rings, and through the central cup pass at right angles two straight lines, which completely bisect all the circles.  The outermost circle is about fourteen inches in diameter.  Some inches to the left of the central cup is a second, with one incised circle around it.  Arranged circularly outside of the outermost circle is a series or ring of points or stars, each cut out—so Dr Falla writes me—”as with a single stroke of a pick, rather than hewn out.” I am indebted to the same gentleman for the sketch of this stone.”

Subsequently all other written accounts repeat the same basic description—and each account remained (as we still are) perplexed as to its original location, wondering where on Earth the Rev Adam Mathewson’s garden was in Jedburgh (surely someone must be able to find out?!).  Thankfully the carving itself has been saved and presently lives in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow.  Whether it ever had any relationship with the petroglyph at Jedburgh Abbey, we don’t yet know.

References:

  1. Laidlaw, Walter, “Sculptured and Inscribed Stones in Jedburgh and Vicinity,” in Proceedings Society Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 39, 1895.
  2. Morris, Ronald W.B., “The Cup-and-Ring Marks and Similar Sculptures of South-West Scotland,” in Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society, volume 14, 1967.
  3. Morris, Ronald W.B., “The Cup-and-Ring and Similar Early Sculptures of Scotland; Part 2 – The Rest of Scotland except Kintyre,” in Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society, volume 16, 1969.
  4. Morris, Ronald W.B., “The cup-and-ring marks and similar sculptures of Scotland: a survey of the southern Counties – part 2,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 100, 1969.
  5. Morris, Ronald W.B., The Prehistoric Rock Art of Southern Scotland, BAR: Oxford 1981.
  6. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Roxburghshire – volume 1, HMSO: Edinburgh 1956.
  7. Simpson, J.Y., “On Ancient Sculpturings of Cups and Concentric Rings,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 6, 1866.
  8. Simpson, James, Archaic Sculpturings of Cups, Circles, etc., Upon Stones and Rocks in Scotland, England and other Countries, Edmonston & Douglas: Edinburgh 1867.
  9. Tate, George, “The Ancient British Sculptured Rocks of Northumberland and the Eastern Borders,” in Transactions of the Berwickshire Naturalists Club, volume 5, 1864.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

St. Ninian’s Well, Blairgowrie, Perthshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 180 452

Archaeology & History

The Well Meadow in the middle of Blairgowrie was once the place where the 5th century Apostle of the Southern Picts, or St Ninian, baptised local folk into the so-called “new faith”.  It’s long since gone.  The local historian John MacDonald (1899) told that it was located opposite the buildings on the north-side of the square, adding:

“St Ninian, one of the earliest Christian Celtic missionaries, on his tour through Scotland, pitched his camp where the Wellmeadow now is, and quenched his thirst at an old well or spring which ever afterwards bore the name of “St Ninian’s Well,” until it was covered in and the water led into the town drains.”

Old Ninian’s saint’s day is September 16.

References:

  1. MacDonald, John A.R., The History of Blairgowrie, Advertiser Office: Blairgowrie 1899.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Pen Twyn, Bargoed, Glamorgan

Cup-Marked Stone (lost):  OS Grid Reference – SO 1491 0045

Archaeology & History

Sometime in the 1940s, a certain Lady A. Fox recorded a cup-marked stone “in the vicinity of Pen-twyn” near Bargoed.  Its position in the landscape is a good one: on a geological promontory and overlooking the valley below.  The find was indexed by the Ordnance Survey, but apart from it’s grid-reference, all attempts to locate the design have so far proved unsuccessful.

It was mentioned briefly in the Royal Commission (1976) survey of Glamorgan, then subsequently listed in the surveys of Sharkey (2004) and Nash (2007), but none of them were able to locate it.  And hence, I post it here, in the hope that some local hunter will be able to recover it from its hiding place!

References:

  1. Mazel, A., Nash, G. & Waddington, C. (eds.), Art as Metaphor: The Prehistoric Rock Art of Britain, ArchaeoPress: Oxford 2007.
  2. Nash, George, “A Scattering of Images: the Rock Art of Southern Britain,” in Art as Metaphor, ArchaeoPress: Oxford 2007.
  3. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Wales, An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Glamorgan – Volume 1: Pre-Norman, Part 1: The Stone and Bronze Ages, HMSO: Cardiff 1976.
  4. Sharkey, John, The Meeting of the Tracks: Rock Art in Ancient Wales, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch: Llanrwst 2004.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Careg Bica, Dyffryn Clydach, Glamorgan

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SS 72500 99602

Archaeology & History

An interesting new cup-marked stone found by Paul Blades is this smooth rounded (female) stone that may originally have had some relationship with the tall standing stone of Careg Bica 160 yards to the south.  Around ten cup-marks are etched onto its surface, in a seemingly random arrangement (as usual!).  Although it seems to be an isolated carving, it’s likely that others will exist in the area.

Carving & outlying monolith
Careg Bica petroglyph

The direction and proximity of the standing stone may have had some relationship with the carving.  In traditional northern hemisphere societies, the cardinal direction North is generally associated with darkness and death, primarily due to the fact that this is the area in the heavens where neither sun or moon ever appear; whilst South relates to life and positive natural associations due to it being the high point of the sun during the day. This animistic attribute existed till recently in the water-lore of northern England and Scotland where “south-running streams bore a high repute.”  Whilst such mythic attributes are well established, any cardinal relationship here is purely speculative.

AcknowledgementsHuge thanks to Paul Blades for use of his photos in this site profile – and of course for finding the stone!

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 

Table Rock, Rivock, Silsden, West Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid reference – SE 07326 44696

Also Known as:

  1. Carving no.43 (Boughey & Vickerman)

Getting Here

Table Rock cupmarked stone

If you’re coming via the Keighley-Bingley (Airedale) road, go up to Riddlesden and then up the winding Banks Lane until it meets the edge of the moors.  At the T-junction, turn left and about 330 yards along on your right there’s a dirt-track.  Walk up here, sticking to the track (not the footpath) towards the cliffs of Rivock ahead of you, going through the gate and into the Rivock woods area.  About 450 yards on from the gate on your right-hand side you’ll see the long straight length of walling that runs uphill—and about 60 yards up here, on the left-hand side of the wall you’ll see a very large boulder.  Y’ can’t really miss it!

Archaeology & History

2 of the several cups here

This large natural block, embedded into the hillside about 80 yards below the Wondjina Stone and its companions, is nothing much in the petroglyphic visual scale of things, but is worth checking out for a break if you’re checking out the other good designs in the Rivock cluster.  Upon its sloping flat two-tiered surface there are just a small number of randomly spaced cup-marks of varying sizes: six at least, but perhaps as many as nine altogether.  In times gone by (many years ago) we thought one of them might have had a very faint ring around it, but on my last couple of visits here I couldn’t see anything.

References:

  1. Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Wakefield 2003.
  2. Hedges, John (ed.), The Carved Rocks on Rombalds Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian