Livister, Whalsay, Shetland Isles

Standing Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – HU 5577 6237

Archaeology & History

Site shown on 1882 map

Highlighted on both the 1880 (25-inch) and 1882 (6-inch) Ordnance Survey maps, this is another one of our ancient stones that has bitten the dust, so to speak.  Local folk said that it stood about five feet tall, but when the Royal Commission doods visited the place in 1935, it had gone.  They were told that it had been “broken up for building purposes in about 1912.”  No traditions were known of it.

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

Whiteglen, Hoy, Orkney Isles

Standing Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – HY 2435 0221

Archaeology & History

Highlighted on the 1882 Ordnance Survey map of the region (right), it was recorded in the Name Book a couple of years earlier as simply “a small unrecorded standing stone.”  When the Royal Commission (1946) lads visited the site in 1929 they found that “this stone has been removed.” It had stood close to a prehistoric burial mound.  Enquiries with local people about the stone proved unsuccessful.  Does anyone know more about this?

References:

  1. Royal Commission Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Orkney and Shetland – volume 2, HMSO: Edinburgh 1946.
  2. Royal Commission Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Hoy and Waas, Edinburgh 1989.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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. Tredwell’s Chapel, Papa Westray, Orkney Isles

Standing Stones (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – HY 497 509

Archaeology & History

These long lost standing stones most probably played a part in some ritual acts performed by the Orkney people until relatively recent times.  Whilst their simple description doesn’t tell us this, the folklore of the adjacent body of water strongly suggests it.  The stones were visited at the end of the 17th century by the antiquarian John Brand (1701) from whom we gain the only known account.  He told that,

“At the north-east side of (St Tredwell’s) loch, nigh to the chapel, there is a high stone standing, behind which there is another stone lying hollowed in the form of a manger, and nigh to this there is another high stone standing with a round hole through it, for what use these stones served, we could not learn; whether for binding the horses of such to them as came to the chapel, and giving them meat in the hollow stone, or for tying the sacrifices to, as some say, in the times of Pagan idolatry, is uncertain.”

Several other hold stones are found in Orkney, some of which had lore that was thankfully recorded.  We don’t know when these stones were torn down, but there is the possibility that they may have been cast into the loch alongside which they stood.

Folklore

An intriguing piece of folklore relates to the adjacent St Tredwell’s Loch, right next to the stones.  The loch was known of far and wide as possessing great healing properties which Mr Brand told to be distinctly pagan in nature.  St Tredwell’s church had a cairn of stones by its side and those who visited here would pick one up and cast it into the loch as an offering (some folk would cast money), so that its waters would heal that person’s ailment.  According to 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.”

The reason that I’ve included this folklore to the site profile of the monoliths is that, at some time in the early past the stones would most almost certainly have played some part in the ritual enacted at the loch by which they stood.  The building of Tredwell’s chapel was, quite obviously, an attempt to mark the place as christian in nature; but in such a remote region, old habits truly died hard.  Of particular interest in the rituals described here is the element of silence.  It’s fascinating inasmuch as it’s an integral ingredient in various ritual magick performances in different parts of the world.  Even in some modern magickal rites, this is still vitally important.  It’s a tradition also found at other lochs in Scotland and at lakes in many other parts of the world.

References:

  1. Brand, John, A Brief Description of Orkney, Zetland, Pightland Firth and Caithness, George Mosman: Edinburgh 1701.
  2. Royal Commission Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Orkney and Shetland – volume 2, HMSO: Edinburgh 1946.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Bu of Orphir, Orphir, Orkney Isles

Standing Stone (destroyed?):  OS Grid Reference – HY 3347 0450

Archaeology & History

Very little seems to be known of this long lost standing stone, that appears to have been described just once in 19th century notebooks of the Orcadian lawyer and antiquarian, George Petrie.  Therein he told how,

“Mr Balfour of Balfour and Trenabie described to me a ball of freestone found close to a Standing Stone on the farm of the Bu of Orphir and near to the churchyard.”

Despite being reported as “destroyed” by the Royal Commission (1946) lads, recently a local man claims to have found what he thinks might be the missing stone, about 400 yards to the southwest, very close to the coast and standing some six feet tall.  We await a secondary local report on this.

References:

  1. Royal Commission Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Orkney and Shetland – volume 2, HMSO: Edinburgh 1946.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Kethesgeo Stone, Stenness, Orkney Isles

Standing Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – HY 3035 1136

Archaeology & History

Very little is known of this standing stone that existed just a half-mile south of the major Stones of Stenness (to which it may have had some archaeo-linear relationship; or perhaps with the Brodgar circle a further half-mile away).  It was destroyed sometime around 1860, with no description of its dimensions or appearance.  When it was mentioned briefly by J. Fraser (1926), he told us that the position of the stone had subsequently been marked “by a wooden stake in the boggy land close to and north-east of Kethesgeo.”

References:

  1. Fraser, J. “Antiquities of Stenness Parish”, in Proceedings Orkney Antiquarian Society, volume 4, 1926.
  2. Royal Commission Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Orkney and Shetland – volume 2, HMSO: Edinburgh 1946.

© 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

Papil, Yell, Shetland Isles

Standing Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – HP 5378 0425

Also Known as:

  1. The Brough

Archaeology & History

This standing stone formerly stood close to the Burn of Forse, otherwise known as the Garth of Papal in the far north of the island.  Described briefly in J.T. Irving’s (1887) essay on the prehistoric remains of the area, the upright was obviously of local stone being,

Papil stone (PSAS 1887)

“a broad flat slab, slightly lower at one side than the other and measuring 4 feet 2 inches in greatest height by 2 feet 10 inches in width, and varying from 18 inches to 6 inches in thickness.  In one corner were the initials H I 1674 and M W 1683, with an old merchant’s mark, or something of that description… The late Dr Hunt of the Anthropological Society, dug under it in 1865, with the result that it was left to fall down, and be eventually broken up for building material to be used in the walls of a new school-house.”

Folklore

Irving (1887) told us that, “there is a tradition that a queen who came in a ship to Papal died there, and was buried beneath this stone.”

References:

  1. Irving, J.T., “Notes on some Prehistoric Burial-places and Standing Stones in the Island of Yell, Shetland”, in Proceedings Society Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 21, 1887.
  2. Royal Commission Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Orkney and Shetland – volume 3, HMSO: Edinburgh 1946.

© 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