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 (2), Newmarket, Suffolk

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TL 6116 6352

Archaeology & History 

Tumulus 2, centre-left

This is one of at least five prehistoric tombs that were known to have existed in and around the Newmarket race-course.  Found some 600 yards NNE of the Ninescore Hill tumulus, and some 40 yards from its nearest companion, it was shown as one in a group of ‘Tumuli’ on the 1834 OS-map (right) but, along with the rest, was subsequently destroyed sometime around 1883.  A landscape scar of the monument was seen from the air in the 1940s by J.K.S. St Joseph as a ploughed-out ring ditch some 75 feet across.  This was reported as still visible by the Royal Commission doods in the 1970s, but no ground trace whatsoever 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...

  52.246266, 0.359193 Newmarket Heath (2)

Newmarket Heath (5), Newmarket, Suffolk

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TL 60 62

Archaeology & History

This is one of many long lost prehistoric tombs that were known to have existed in and around the Newmarket race-course, but unlike the Newmarket tumuli 1 – 4 which were all on the first OS-map of the area, this one had been destroyed before the Ordnance Survey lads came here.  As a result we don’t know its exact whereabouts.

Described in both the Cambridge Chronicle and Gentleman’s Magazine in 1827, the accounts even then were talking about it in the past tense, albeit pretty recently.   The race-course at Newmarket was being modified, leading to the destruction of our ancient landscape—and with it, this tumulus.  In those days however, such destruction was deemed as an ‘improvement’, as Sylvanus Urban (1827) tells at the start of his account:

“The improvements making in the exercise ground at Newmarket, Cambridgeshire, have led to some discoveries which may, perhaps, tend to the elucidation of the hitherto obscure origin of the entrenchment commonly called “The Devil’s Ditch.”  In removing one of the monumental remains denominated barrows, or tumuli, which are numerous in this neighbourhood, the skeleton of a person was found deposited near the surface, whose remains were too recent to be associated with the area of its place of interment; but, upon clearing away the earth to the centre of the mound, a discovery was made of an urn, of rude construction and materials, containing ashes, together with some beads, which, it is presumed, formed the ornaments of the person to whose honour the barrow was dedicated.  There were also found two coins, supposed to be Roman, and a fragment of a cup, of far superior manufacture to the urn, lying promiscuously at the depth of about two feet.”

A summary of this was included in Babbington’s (1883) archaeological survey.  But in Cyril Fox’s (1932) list of barrows near Cambridge he seemed to confuse this “tumulus on Exercise Ground” (no.16) with what he thought was another tumulus (no.17), which he described as, “Exact site unknown. Contained a cremation interment. Burnt bones and sherds of Bronze Age type, also Roman sherds.” The two are the same thing.

References:

  1. Babbington, Charles C., Ancient Cambridgeshire, Cambridge Antiquarian Society 1883.
  2. Fox, Cyril, The Archaeology of the Cambridge Region, Cambridge University Press 1923.
  3. Royal Commission Ancient Historical Monuments, Inventory of Historical Monuments in the County of Cambridgeshire – Volume 2: North-East Cambridgeshire, HMSO: London 1972.
  4. Urban, Sylvanus, “Domestic Occurrences,” in Gentleman’s Magazine, September 1827.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  52.237296, 0.349051 Newmarket Heath (5)

Ninescore Hill, Newmarket, Suffolk

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TL 6091 6304

Also Known as:

  1. Newmarket Heath 1
  2. Ninescore Hill Barrow

Archaeology & History

Ninescore Hill on 1834 map

Upon the small and curiously-named Ninescore Hill on the edge of Newmarket’s race-course, the old-school archaeologist Cyril  Fox (1923) told that “800 yards due east of Running Gap”, was a prehistoric burial mound that was destroyed in 1885.  Highlighted on the 1834 OS-map, a 19th century excavation found that the tomb “contained two inhumation interments associated with beakers,” along with some “flint arrowheads, and a secondary interment, probably Saxon.” In more recent times, the doods from the Royal Commission (1972) added the site to their inventory and noted that a faint outline—known as as ring ditch—is visible from the air when conditions are just right.  But there’s bugger all left of it at ground level.

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...

  52.242027, 0.355306 Ninescore Hill

Holy Well, Longthorpe, Peterborough, Northamptonshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid-Reference – TL 1678 9815

Also known as:

  1. St. Cloud’s Well

Getting Here

From Thorpe Green, Longthorpe, then take the Larklands road.  Once a copse of trees appears at the front near a T-junction, the well can be accessed to the side of this wood.

Archaeology & History

The well was enclosed in grounds belonging to St John family, an estate laid out in a style similar to the pleasure gardens of Vauxhall. Within these grounds was an 18th century summerhouse, which has now vanished. A distillery was established here by a Doctor Skirmshire, who lived at Longthorpe, for making ‘considerable quantities of lavender and peppermint, cultivated in adjacent fields..’ (Arrowsmith n.d.).

Sadly, there appear to be no ancient records which justify ascribing an ancient date to the Holy Well complex. Indeed, it would appear to be contemporary with the summerhouse. Perhaps it was built to provide a folly-hermitage to support the legend? It is said that the summerhouse was demolished in the mid-ninteenth century because of the disorderly proceedings undertaken in it by visitors from Peterborough! According to Thompson (1913), the dressed stone was used for the kitchen floor of the nearby Manor House.

Thompson gives a plan of the well along with an accurate description, which luckily does not differ from the sight which greets the visitor today (although there is now an ugly metal gate on the structure):

‘The subterranean chambers constitute a medley of design and structure; they are not caves, although now underground, but were apparently first built….

The walls and domed roofs consist of undressed stone. The passage from the pool runs in a direction of N 60 W, and is some six feet long. The entrance being two feet four inches wide by five feet high. The first chamber or antechamber is mostly to the left and nearly at right angles to the passage; it is approximately ten feet by eight feet. In this there is a window high up, evidently a more recent introduction, for the frame is of dressed stone, and the rough stone roof cuts across it, so that external appearance rather than internal use would appear to have been the dominating factor in its design. On the opposite wall of the window is a doorway, and at one time evidently a door, for one stone jamb of dressed stone is left. This doorway opens into the very irregular second or main chamber, roughly twenty feet long, by fifteen feet wide near the widest part. Immediately within the doorway is a well, with dressed stone curb, of three feet internal diameter, and exactly above, in the roof is another smaller circular opening lined with dressed stone as though arranged to draw water from the well from the mound above without going into the chamber, but this is not now open. The well is now choked with stones, but the water used to overflow from the well and run down the passage way to the pool outside, it now flows out oat a lower level leaving the passage way dry. Immediately on the right, after entering the large chamber is am opening leading to a third chamber, smaller, crudely oval, but an indescribable shape, approximately eight to nine feet one way by twelve feet another.

Comparing Thompson’s description and the photograph, one can note a few differences, the main one being that the site in general has become noticeably overgrown. The wall which appears to run along one side has become overgrown and derelict, the pool overgrown, and rubbish-strewn. Within the structure, the curbed well has gone and now one can see the water bubbling from the rock.

Folklore

One side of this is the opening, now blocked up, to a supposed underground passage to Peterborough Cathedral, by which the monks of the Abbey of Burgh, were said to come and bathe in the pool….

To the left of this large chamber, on entering the latter, is a recess some fifteen feet wide and nine feet deep, with a floor consisting essentially of two steps, both apparently of ‘live’ rock, i.e. rock in situ; the upper step being the wider and more like a dais. There is a rather small opening high up on the outer wall of this recess, some five feet from the dais, and is about seventeen inches wide by twenty two feet high, but goes four feet or more in the thickness of the wall or mound without providing an external opening.’

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe site’s greatest fame stems from the tunnel mentioned above by Thompson, which is said to run from the Holy Well to the Abbey at Peterborough. A blocked-up doorway in the third chamber is described as the entrance to this tunnel, although one can imagine that the nature of the whole edifice would lend to such a belief. Certainly records show that the Abbey was supplied by a conduit at the Infirmary end of the Chapel of St Lawrence. However, it is more likely that this took its waters from the St Leonard’s Well at Spital, whose water also filled the Boroughbury Pools and Swan’s Pool.

Yet records show that the Abbey was interested in the site. During Abbot Godfreys tenure, in 1130s the following document states:

Amos ejus viii inclusat porceum Burgi Sumptus iiij I lb: xv sol. Item feat fossutum salveunium inter Thorpe fen et le Dom Sumptus xx sol‘.

Anon 1904-6

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This enclosure cost four pounds and fifteen shillings. Under Abbot Gyerge another document notes the extent of this land (Halywelle), of four acres, three rood and twenty pearches, which until the building of the estate remained the same (Anon 1904-1906). Yet neither of these documents explicitly refers to the laying of a conduit.

The only possible justification for this belief came in November 6th 1964, when workmen, excavating to set up telephone kiosks beside the old Guildhall on Cathedral square, unearthed an underground passage. This continued for twenty five feet under church street, and ran parallel to land belonging to the Almoner’s Garden that was exchanged in the 1194-1200 agreement between the Abbot and the Vicar of Burgh and Longthorpe.  Unfortunately, the underground passage turned out to be some kind of eighteenth century fire precautions.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Much of the site’s folklore and history derives from a story entitled The Knight of the Red Cross, a story based in the twelfth century, in Richard I’s reign. There is some confusion about the place where this work is published. Thompson (1913)  in his Peculiarities of water and wells states that it is contained within a work called Wild flowers gathered: original pieces in prose and rhyme, printed by J. S. Clarke, with no author or date; whereas  Arrowsmith (n.d) states it comes from a similarly titled, A list of wild flowers found in the neighbourhood of Peterborough, by F. A. Paley. Arrowsmith further notes that the work is advertised on the back of the same author’s Notes on twenty Parish churches round Peterborough, published in 1859. Unfortunately, I have been unable to trace either of these to confirm which is the right source. How much the story is based on any ancient account is unclear. It may be ‘faction’ or fiction, a problem of course with many sites. The applicable parts are produced below as Thompson (1913) notes:

“There is a beautiful spot, called Holywell, in the neighbourhood of Peterborough, well known, and much frequented by the inhabitants. The road lies through a pleasant park, where stands an ancient edifice belonging to the Fitzwilliam family, called Thorpe Hall… After passing the front of this mansion, turn to the left, by the stables and outer buildings will lead, through a white gate, to a small green field from whence this picturesque little spot is seen, with its ivy clad walls, and its dark cypress and yew trees, casting their gloomy shadows around. Passing some broken steps which form the entrance, a shady path conducts to a modern niche, supported by two pilasters, over a slab pavement to a stone basin about six feet in depth and thirty in circumference. This is constantly supplied with clear water, running from the mouth of a subterraneous passage which connects Holywell with the cathedral of Peterborough. An artificial mound of earth is thrown up above this cavity, which is covered with creepers, ground-ivy and a few wild flowers.

Contiguous to the basin are some small fish ponds, partially shaded by beautiful trees; and the green rushes which grow at their bank form undisturbed retreat in which the moor-hen builds her solitary nest. A little further on is a piece of an old pillar, which is gracefully overhung with a wreath of ivy… An old wall surrounding Holywell on two sides, in which traces of windows and doorways are still discernible, is the last feature we shall mention.”

Arrowsmith (n.d) states that these pools have been called ‘Monk’s Stew Ponds’ or ‘Paradise Ponds’, although Arrowsmith considers that the long distance from the Abbey makes it unlikely, as the Abbey was close to good fishing waters  He continues, ‘The waters of this well were formerly in high repute, and were much frequented by those who came on pilgrimages’

Its waters, according to Thompson (1913), are said to be slightly ferruginous, though he detected no sign of it, and nor did I. It was also thought to be efficacious for gout, rheumatism, skin diseases, and good for eyes.

It was believed that a Hermit, called St Cloud, lived at the site. Thompson (1913) continues, quoting J. S. Clarke, that he was ‘of great celebrity, whose pious councils and paternosters were generally in request amongst all pilgrims who visited the spot.’

Some authorities, such as Arrowsmith, have identified this hermit as St Botolph, who is said to have lived within a mile of his chapel during its construction on the Thorpe Avenue site. He is associated with other wells, such as that at Hadstock, Essex, so it is not impossible.

References:

  1. Anonymous, “Holywell,” in Fenland Notes and Queries6, pp.22-4, 1904-6
  2. Arrowsmith, A. L., Longthorpe and its Environs: Microcosm of a Village, privately published: no date.
  3. Bord, J. and C., Sacred Waters, Granada: London 1985.
  4. Thompson, B., “The Peculiarities of Water and Wells,” in Journal of Northants Natural History Society and Field Club18(135), 1913.

Extracted and edited from the original post – Holy & Healing Wells

© R.B. Parish, The Northern Antiquarian

Holy Well

loading map - please wait...

Holy Well 52.568632, -0.278231 Holy Well

Robin Hood & Little John, Castor, Northamptonshire

‘Standing Stones’:  OS Grid Reference — TL 1395 9839

Also Known as:

  1. St. Edmund’s Stones

Archaeology & History

1885 OS-map of the site

1885 OS-map of the site

A curious and intriguing site with as many questions about its nature as there is its folklore.  Moved around by the irritating parliamentarians from Huntingdonshire, to Northants to Cambridge nowadays, one wonders where those fools will place it next!  Listed by a number of archaeologists as prehistoric standing stones, it seems pretty obvious from photos and the descriptions of many amateur students that—unless some original monoliths have been reworked a few centuries back—the narrative given by local historian W.H.B. Saunders (1888) outlines their more probable origin and history.  That’s not to say that the stones aren’t old—just not that olde…. Mr Saunders reasoned that they were dug and transported from more than 5 miles northwest of their present spot, telling that:

“Nothing can rob the stones of their undoubted antiquity.  The Barnack quarries have been exhausted for the last 600 years at least.  It is evident therefore, that the stones were placed in their present position at a time when the Barnack quarries were being worked.  That would be in the days of Robin Hood, and also when the Abbey of St. Edmund’s Bury, built of Barnack stone, was being erected.”

His words make sense when you look at the stature of the monoliths in question.  They’re cut and squared to the edges, with Robin Hood being the taller of the two stones, about 30 feet southwest of the Little John stone.  They have been written about quite extensively by historians down the centuries, from William Camden onwards.  One early account of the stones was written by Symon Gunton (1686) who told:

“I find in the charter of King Edward the confessor…that the abbot of Ramsey should give to the abbot and convent of Peterburgh 4000 eeles in the time of Lent, and in consideration thereof the abbot of Peterburgh should give to the abbot of Ramsey as much freestone from his pitts in Bernack, and as much ragstone from his pitts in Peterburgh as he should need.

“Nor did the abbot of Peterburgh from these pits furnish only that but other abbies also, as that of St. Edmunds-Bury: in memory whereof there are two long stones yet standing upon a balk in Castor-field, near unto Gunwade ferry; which erroneous tradition hath given out to be draughts of arrows from Alwalton church-yard thither; the one of Robin Hood, and the other of Little John; but the truth is, they were set up for witnesses, that the carriages of stone from Bernack to Gunwade-ferry, to be conveyed to S. Edmunds-Bury, might pass that way without paying toll; and in some old terriars they are called St. Edmund’s stones.  These stones are nicked in their tops after the manner of arrows, probably enough in memory of S. Edmund, who was shot to death with arrows by the Danes.  The balk they stand upon is still call’d St Edmund’s Balk.  They are supposed to be the petrify’d arrows of those two famous archers.”

Thom's sketch showing his midwinter alignment

Thom’s sketch showing his midwinter alignment

These traditions have subsequently been copied by all local historians.  So it is something of a curiosity to find our archaeologists—from Clarke (1960) and F.M. Pryor (1972) to Aubrey Burl (1993)—to cite these as prehistoric monoliths.  My suspicions as to their reasons relates to the folklore of the stones which are echoed at many truly prehistoric places like the Devil’s Arrows, etc.  The nature of the tale is an aboriginal creation myth, relating to the formation of sites as understood in animistic mythic structures.  But this archaeological misunderstanding brought the more scientific mathematical mind of Alexander Thom (1990:1) here in the 1980s where coincidence showed a common astronomical alignment.  Thom wrote:

“Clearly visible from the site, at an azimuth of 229°.22 is the lowest point of a low saddle on the horizon.  The col, Fig.1 (above), subtends an arc of about 0°.67 of azimuth, observed minimum altitude 0°.21.  For an estimated temperature of 44°F, correction for refraction at sunset is about 0°.54, and for solar and semi-diameter and parallax of respectively 0°.27 and 0°.002, the ‘observed’ declination is found to be -23°.92, which indicates a date of about 1860 BC.

“No presently obvious horizon marker was evident upon inspection of the open fields forming the horizon, but this does not mean that a foresight was never erected.  Without the evidence of a foresight it cannot be claimed that the two stones were placed for accurate calendrical reasons, but undoubtedly they indicate by themselves the winter solstice.”

The folklore may indicate the possibility that these two medieval standing stones replaced earlier ones, but no remains of such relics exist today.

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, From Carnac to Callanish, Yale University Press 1993.
  2. Clarke, R. Rainbird, East Anglia: Ancient Peoples and Places, Thames & Hudson: London 1960.
  3. Gover, J.E.B., Mawer, A. & Stenton, F.M., The Place-Names of Northamptonshire, Cambridge University Press 1975.
  4. Grinsell, Leslie V., Folklore of Prehistoric Sites in Britain, David & Charles: London 1976.
  5. Gunton, Symon, The History of the Church of Peterburgh, Richard Chiswell: London 1686.
  6. Mee, Arthur, Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire, Hodder & Stoughton: London 1973.
  7. Morton, John, The Natural History of Northampton-shire; with Some Account of the Antiquities – 2 volumes, R. Knaplock: London 1712.
  8. Pryor, F.M., Prehistoric Man in the Nene Valley, Nene Valley Research: Peterborough 1972.
  9. Saunders, W.H.B., Legends and Traditions of Huntingdonshire, Simpkin Marshall: London 1888.
  10. Serjeantson, R.M. (ed.), The Victoria County History of Northamptonshire – volume 2, London 1906.
  11. Thom, Alexander, Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Stone Rows and Standing Stones – volume 1, BAR: Oxford 1990.
  12. Thom, A.S., “A Solstitial Site near Peterborough,” in Journal of the History of Astronomy, 11, 1980.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Robin Hood & Little John

loading map - please wait...

Robin Hood & Little John 52.571442, -0.319993 Robin Hood & Little John