Portmore Loch, Eddleston, Peeblesshire

Cist (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NT 2601 5074

Archaeology & History

Cist site on 1906 OS map

It seems that very little is known about this site, long since gone when quarrying operations did what quarrying operations do.  The site was recorded by the Ordnance Survey lads on their 1908 map of the region, on which they noted: “Stone coffin containing human remains found AD 1905.”  The Royal Commission boys visited the site in April 1962 and reported that “nothing now survives.”  They listed it in their inventory as a prehistoric cist, or small stone-lined burial chest.  Such remains tend to be either neolithic or Bronze Age in nature.

References:

  1. Royal Commission Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Peeblesshire – volume 1, HMSO: Edinburgh 1967.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.744362, -3.180144 Portmore Loch

West Dron Hill, Bridge of Earn, Perthshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NO 11845 15169

Getting Here

West Dron’s petroglyph

In the middle of Bridge of Earn village, take the Heughfield Road until, ⅓-mile on you hit the T-junction.  Turn left along Forgandenny Road and go along the curvaceous road for just over a mile where you need to keep your eyes peeled for the small left turn that takes you up the dead straight road.  At the top, turn left at the junction and go ⅔-mile, turning right at the next junction until after 400 yards you reach the houses on your right.  Go up the footpath opposite the houses (south) until, after nearly 400 yards, it splits.  Bear right and zigzag up the track for nearly a mile till you reach a large opening in the forest.  40 yards up the slope to your left is the stone—at last!

Archaeology & History

After the trail to get here, you might not be overly impressed by what you see – and it’s nothing special to look at to be honest.  But its location is a good one: reasonably high up on a sloping plateau which would have given good views were it not for the surrounding forestry plantations.  The only literary description of the site was the brief one in Discovery & Excavation Scotland, shortly after being rediscovered.  Mrs Johnson (1960) wrote:

Close-up of the carving

“A cup-marked stone was found by Mr. J. R. Morrison on the N side of West Dron hill.  The stone measures approx. 4ft long by 1ft 9in broad.

There are 17 cup-marks: five of which have channels, and two of which are joined in the form of a dumb-bell.  The stone lies with its longer axis NE-SW, and its broad face uppermost.”

Its seeming isolation is a peculiarity that I don’t buy.  Other carvings are going to be in the locale, probably on the same north- or north-east facing ridges – but due to the dense forestry, any other petroglyphs will remain hidden for quite some time…

References:

  1. Johnson, M., “Dron, Perthshire,” in Discovery & Excavation Scotland, SRG 1960.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks to Theresa Hughes for the use of her photos of this carving.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.320681, -3.426903 West Dron

Loch of Blairs, Forres, Morayshire

Cist:  SO Grid Reference – NJ 0194 5540

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 15792

Archaeology & History 

This is another of the many sites in the country that was uncovered fortuitously, as a result of widening the road just west of the Loch of Blairs.  It’s in relative isolation from other prehistoric sites.  The best description of it was by local antiquarian and folklorist James Ritchie (1932), to whom we owe our gratitude for the old photo.  “This cist,” he wrote, 

“as such tombs are called, had been discovered by workmen who were digging sand from a mound just by the main road to Grantown.  Flat, rectangular stones formed its ends and sides; its top was a single slab of massive proportions.  All around were packed smooth. water-worn boulders, that had once lain in the bed of the Findhorn.  The opening of the cist revealed the ashes of some long-departed dweller in Moray, together with pieces of what had been beautifully moulded pot of clay. On examination of the remains by antiquarian experts, the date of the burial was estimated to be at least a thousand years BC.”

The attached photo makes the site look larger than it is; as the length of the chamber is just 2ft 7in long, by 1ft 8in across, with the covering stone being nearly twice as large as the cist itself.  The urn found inside the cist now resides in the Scottish National Museum of Antiquities. 

References:

  1. Ritchie, James B., The Pageant of Morayland, Elgin Courant 1932.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  57.577971, -3.641421 Loch of Blairs

Scotland Well, Scotlandwell, Kinross

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – NO 18474 01656

Also Known as:

  1. Scotlandwell

Scotland well on 1856 map

Getting Here

Whichever way you come into the hamlet—be it along the A911 from either Milnathort or Glenrothes, or up the B920 from Ballingry side—the only little carpark to use is about 20 yards from the main road junction, on the west-side of the road, appropriately named Well Road.  The site is unmissable beneath the small well-house at the end of this short cul-de-sac.

Archaeology & History

When a village is named after a well, you know that its waters held some considerable importance!  Mentioned as early as 1218 as “de fonte Scotie” and subsequently many variations thereof in centuries thereafter, the place-names authority Simon Taylor (2017) thinks it may have been mentioned as early as 1090 CE.

Scotland Well in 1915

Although there has never been a direction dedication of the Scotland Well to any saint, as J.M. MacKinlay (1904) and others have pointed out, in the village itself was an ancient medieval hospital that belonged to “the Trinity or Red Friars” that was built for the benefit of the poor by the Bishop of St. Andrews, some 22 miles to the east.  The hospital was at first dedicated to St. Thomas and subsequently to the Virgin, or St Mary.  Holy wells dedicated to both saints are renowned the world over as having great medicinal properties, but no extant written document relates either saint to the well.

Folklore

The main reason for this site maintaining such an honourable place in Scottish history is its association with the two great Scottish heroes, Sir William Wallace and King Robert the Bruce.  In the pseudonymous Historica’s (1934) literary rambles, he told that, after coming down out of the Lomond Hills,

“We descend the narrow defile—the Howgate—into Scotlandwell—Fons Scotia—famous for its medicinal springs, where tradition says King Robert the Bruce came to take the waters for scrofula and leprosy in 1295.  The great Sir William Wallace—according to ‘Blind Harry’—also has associations here.  His famous swim to the Castle Island, for a boat to take over some of his men to capture the english on St. Serf’s, took place from below Scotlandwell.”

In Ruth & Franks Morris’ (1982) fine survey of Scottish wells, they told that upon their visit to the Scotland Well, three people they met still thought highly of its curative properties.  “Of these three people,” they said,

“one was a sufferer from cancer which was the cause of a painful skin rash.  He had been persuaded to try the water and found that it did him so much good that he was driven from Edinburgh to the well, a round trip of some 80 miles, at at regular intervals to drink the water and take back with him two demi-johns of it.”

According to the man concerned, it did him the world of good and cleared the stubborn body rash he’d been suffering!

References:

  1. Day, J.P., Clackmannan and Kinross, Cambridge University Press 1915.
  2. Historicus, Historic Scenes within our Limits, Kinross-shire Advertiser: Kinross 1934.
  3. MacKinlay, James M., Influence of the Pre-Reformation Church on Scottish Place-Names, William Blackwood: Edinburgh 1904.
  4. Morris, Frank & Ruth, Scottish Healing Wells, Alethea: Sandy 1982.
  5. Taylor, Simon, The Place-Names of Kinross-shire, Shaun Tyas: Donington 2017.

Acknowledgements:  Big thanks for being able to use the 1st edition OS-map for this site profile, Reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.200500, -3.315578 Scotland Well

Simon Howe Stone Row, Goathland, North Yorkshire

Stone Row:  OS Grid Reference – SE 83016 98119 (SSW) to SE 83031 98142 (NNE)

Getting Here

Simon Howe stone row (photo by James Elkington)

From Pickering take the moor road towards Whitby (A169) for approx. 12 miles.  After passing the Fylingdales Early Warning radar on the right (you can’t miss it), the road dips down to cross Eller Beck as a dog leg. After a half mile turn off left (west) towards Goathland (signposted). Follow the road under the North Yorks Moor railway bridge and after a third-of-a-mile the road turns slightly left.  Park in the little layby and follow the track onto the moors. Cross the small stream and walk along the narrow track through gorgeous heather for a mile and a half. Ahead you will see Simon Howe prominent on a ridge, with a stone row leading to it.

Archaeology & History

Not included in either of the giant megalithic alignments surveys of Burl or Thom, it seems that the first archaeological reference to this site was made by Raymond Hayes (1988).   He visited the site in 1947, shortly after a moorland fire had cleared away all the vegetation, allowing for a clearer view of the stones and, after his brief description of the adjacent Simon Howe tomb, he told that,

“The ridge is also the site of what is an unusual feature for the moors: a stone alignment consisting of three, formerly five upright stones that lead to a low eroded cairn c.65m to the south(west).  A moor fire in 1947 revealed the fourth, fallen stone, and I was able to locate the socket of a fifth.”

Raymond Hayes 1947 photo

Stone row on GoogleEarth

From hereon, Hayes seemed to more interested in seeking out and describing a large number of flints that he found scattered on the ground around Simon Howe and its associated monoliths than the stones themselves.  Very sad…  The exact position of the missing fifth stone seems to be shown on Hayes’ plan as being closest to the cairn, about 10-15 yards away, but no trace of this remains.  However, of the remaining monoliths, they are all clearly visible from the air on Google Earth!

Looking SW (Photo by James Elkington)

Looking NE (photo by James Elkington)

The most southerly of the four stones (SE 83016 98119) stands just over 3 feet tall and the second upright, leaning at an angle, is just slightly taller, with the tallest of the three uprights at the northeastern end, being some 6 feet tall.   The fourth fallen stone (SE 83031 98142) lies just beyond this in the heather and which, if resurrected, would stand some 4 feet in height.  The length of the row, stone-to-stone, is just over 29 yards (26.6m).  I’m not aware if this site has ever been assessed as having an astronomical function, but its angle to the northeast might suggest a lunar rising.  Perhaps more pertinent would be another prehistoric cairn that can be seen less than 100 yards away past the northern end of stone row…

References:

  1. Hayes, Raymond H., North-East Yorkshire Studies: Archaeological Papers, YAS: Leeds 1988.
  2. White, Stanhope, Standing Stones and Earthworks on the North Yorkshire Moors, privately printed: Scarborough 1987.
  3. Windle, Bertram C.A., Remains of the Prehistoric Age in England, Methuen: London 1909.

Links: 

  1. Simon Howe Stone Row on Stone Rows of Great Britain

Acknowledgements:  A huge thanks to James Elkington for use of his excellent photos in this site profile, as well as telling us about Getting Here. 🙂

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  54.372026, -0.723399 Simon Howe stones

Simon Howe, Goathland, North Yorkshire

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SE 83007 98096

Getting Here

Simon Howe on 1854 map

From Pickering take the moor road towards Whitby (A169) for approx. 12 miles.  After passing the huge Fylingdales Early Warning radar on the right (you can’t miss it), the road dips down to cross Eller Beck as a dog leg. After a half mile turn off left (west) towards Goathland (signposted). There’s a free car park on the left where you can sit for awhile and enjoy the views.  Follow the road under the North Yorks Moor railway bridge, and after a third-of-a-mile the road turns slightly left.  Park in the little layby and follow the track onto the moors. Cross the small stream and walk along the narrow track through gorgeous heather for a mile and a half. Ahead you will see Simon Howe prominent on a ridge, with a stone row leading to it.

Archaeology & History

This impressive prehistoric tomb was first described in deeds as early as 1335 as Simondshou, which A.H. Smith (1928) translates to mean ‘Sigemund’s mound’ – alluding it to have been either the burial of someone with that name, or a name given to it by the incoming Vikings, oh so many centuries ago.  The latter is the more probable of the two…

Simon Howe (photo by James Elkington)

Hayes’ 1947 photo of Simon Howe

With excellent views in all directions, this monument is found high up in the landscape at the meeting of four paths that are closely aligned to the cardinal directions.  It was highlighted as a tumulus on the 1854 OS-map of the region and subsequently included in Windle’s (1909) listings as a “round barrow”, found in association with “three upright stones” running to the northeast. There are in fact four stones.

Not much has been written of it in archaeological circles.  Thankfully a brief survey of it was undertaken in 1947 by Raymond Hayes (1988) after a moorland blaze had cleared the heather that enabled good conditions to see the site clearly.  When he came here he told that,

“Simon Howe…is very mutilated, what survives indicates that it was 11.50m in diameter and it is clear that it incorporated a stone kerb.”

This “stone kerb”, or surrounding ring of stones, is a feature found at other tombs on these hills—Flat Howe (1) being just one example.  However, in contrast to Flat Howe (1), Simon Howe has had most of its central mound totally stripped by peoples unknown a few centuries ago.  The remains we see today look more like a small ruined stone circle with internal rubble and a new walker’s cairn emerging from its centre.  Outside the cairn, just a few yards northeast, a fascinating megalithic stone row emerges.  Whether these were erected at the same time (in the early to mid-Bronze age, in my opinion) only an excavation would show.

References:

  1. Hayes, Raymond H., North-East Yorkshire Studies: Archaeological Papers, YAS: Leeds 1988.
  2. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the North Riding of Yorkshire, Cambridge University Press 1928.
  3. White, Stanhope, Standing Stones and Earthworks on the North Yorkshire Moors, privately printed: Scarborough 1987.
  4. Windle, Bertram C.A., Remains of the Prehistoric Age in England, Methuen: London 1909.

Links

  1. Simon Howe on The Megalithic Portal
  2. Simon Howe on Stone Rows of Great Britain

Acknowledgements:  A huge thanks to James Elkington for use of the photograph in this site profile, as well as telling us about Getting Here.  And the map accompanying this site profile is Reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  54.371618, -0.723775 Simon Howe

Cliff Cottage Circle, Broad Haven, Pembrokeshire

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SM 8615 1428

Archaeology & History

Described in context with an extant standing stone 100 yards to the north, this stone circle seems to have been destroyed in the latter half of the 19th century.  It was described in the Royal Commission’s huge Pembrokeshire (1925) survey, after they had visited the site and viewed the remains.  They told us:

“On the side of the road immediately opposite to Cliff Cottage, and constituting part of the garden walls of Upper Lodge, are numerous boulders which formed a well-defined stone circle.  A few years ago they were moved, dressed, and used for walling.  The entrance to the circle is said to have faced north-east.  The southern portion was still visible about the year 1896.”

As far as I’m aware, local people report that a couple of the stones are still visible in the overgrown walling.  Students working for the Welsh Coflein database allege that the remaining stones “are of doubtful antiquity.”  Unless they have some substantial evidence to validate this statement (none is given) their remarks should be taken with a pinch of salt.

References:

  1. Royal Commission Ancient & Historical Monuments, Wales, An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Wales & Monmouthshire: VII – County of Pembroke, HMSO: London 1925.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  51.786201, -5.101970 Cliff Cottage

Ellen’s Well, Angle, Pembrokeshire

Holy Well (lost):  OS Grid Reference – SM 86913 03483

Archaeology & History

Ellen’s Well on 1869 map

Very little seems to be known about this apparently lost site, deemed to be an authentic holy well in Francis Jones’ (1954) fine survey: the ‘Ellen’ in question here being the legendary St Helen.  It was highlighted on the first OS-map of the area in 1869 and subsequently included in the Royal Commission’s huge Pembrokeshire (1925) tome, but when they came to visit the site they reported that “it could not be traced, nor any information obtained about it.”  Has it truly fallen back to Earth, or do any local historians and antiquarians know where it is…?

References:

  1. Jones, Francis, The Holy Wells of Wales, University of Wales 1954.
  2. Royal Commission Ancient & Historical Monuments, Wales, An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Wales & Monmouthshire: VII – County of Pembroke, HMSO: London 1925.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  51.689556, -5.084312 Ellen\'s Well

Low Well, Bradford, West Yorkshire

Sacred Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 1589 3132

Archaeology & History

Low Well on 1852 map

Along the now-lost Low Well Road between Little Horton and West Bowling, could once be found this innocuous-sounding water source.   Shown on the 1st OS-map of the area in 1852, the site was deemed to be little other than a ‘public well’.  At the end of the 19th century, a small well-house was built over the waters; and the years following that saw its complete demise.  Its name you would think relates to a position in the land, but the dialect word low, or lowe can mean “a flame, blaze, light, glow”, it can also refer to a prehistoric tomb.  However in this case it most likely derives from “a pond or standing pool”.

…And if some of you wonder why I have given this so-called Public Well the provenance of being a “sacred well”, please keep reading…

Folklore

Although it was deemed a simple ‘public well’ by historians and the public water authority, local folk knew there was much more to it than that!  In the Bradford area, this innocuously-named Well is the most promiscuously supernatural of all water sources, with a hidden history of magickians, ghosts and black dogs haunting its once ancient flow.  It was a site remembered as having oracular powers, where local people used it in scrying the future.  For such powers to work here, one had to gaze into the waters as they stilled at 6 o’ clock in the morning – a common time used by ritual magickians for the invocations of spirits.

The Bradford historian William Scrotum (1889) told us that in the 1860s, local people reported that the phantom black dog—or Bharguest as it was known—with its glowing red eyes, was seen coming out of the well after dark and scaring people half out of their wits.  Very soon people would not even venture out after dark for fear of encountering this great harbinger of Death.  Several years passed before local people called upon the abilities of a ritual magickian in the hope that he could lay the ghostly hound and bring peace and stability back to the hearts and minds of those living hereabouts.  Eventually, after much work, the magickian exorcised the waters and cast the black dog back into the depths of the Earth from whence it had come and, to this day, sightings of the spectral hound have stopped.

Water sources that possess ingredients of hauntings, magic and oracular properties are universally ascribed as ‘sacred’ in one way or the other.  In pre-industrial times I have little doubt that, amongst the animistic pantheon of local Bradfordians, this was no exception.

References:

  1. Scruton, William, Pen and Pencil Pictures of Old Bradford, Thomas Brear: Bradford 1889.
  2. Wright, Joseph, The English Dialect Dictionary – volume 3, Henry Frowde: London 1902.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.777973, -1.760357 Low Well

Watcher Stone, Ilkley Moor, West Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 11816 46563

Also Known as:

  1. Carving no.109 (Hedges)
  2. Carving no.263 (Boughey & Vickerman)
  3. White Wells 05

Getting Here

Watcher Stone by the path

From Ilkley, go up to White Wells (ask a local if y’ get stuck) and walk round the back of the building. Walk to the trees and then follow the footpath up onto the moors; but after 70 yards a small footpath on your right goes up the slope.  Take this and after about 90 yards it veers round to your left, following the contours up towards the copse of trees.  Another 100 yards up it meets with another path and once here, just yards in front of you, right by the side of the footpath, is the stone in question.

Archaeology & History

First described in John Hedges (1986) survey, this simple cup-marked stone typifies many petroglyphs on these moors: a barely visible design much eroded by centuries of wind and water, with markings perhaps only of interest to the devoted student and explorer.  But at least it’s a good place to sit, rest and watch the valley below.

Looking down at the cups

Hedges 1986 sketch

This old fella looks to have only five cupmarks on its supper surface, one of which is elongated, as shown in Hedge’s drawing.  However, when he saw this, he thought the elongated ‘cup’ consisted of three of them in a line, all linked up.  He saw a “medium sized smooth grit rock standing in grass, its surface triangular in shape, with flat top sloping slightly N to S.  Three cups connected by a groove, c. four other cups, all shallow and worn.”

This description was echoed in Boughey & Vickerman’s survey (2003), where they thought that the “triangular top surface has about seven worn cups, three connected by a short groove.”  But if the light isn’t quite right, this can be very difficult to see.

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.

Links

  1. The Watcher Stone on The Megalithic Portal

 

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  53.915082, -1.821597 Watcher Stone