Cowpasture Road, Ilkley, West Yorkshire

Cist (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 1192 4759

Archaeology & History

Urn found below Cowpasture Rd in 1874

In a lecture given by Frank Hall at the Ilkley Library in February, 1910, he described a number of prehistoric remains found in the area—including the remnants of a “cinerary urn, containing calcined human remains” and more, as illustrated in the old photo here.  He contextualized the findings as being typical of the remains found “under a large heap of earth and stones which we now call a ‘barrow’, ‘cairn’ or ‘tumulus'” and believed that one must have existed here in bygone times.  The urn, he told us,

“was found within a few yards of these premises, for it was dug up when the excavations were being carried out for the erection of Messrs Robinson and Sons’ buildings on the opposite side of Cowpasture Road, in March 1874.”

Although we list this site as a cist, we don’t know for sure; but due to the lack of descriptive and historical data about a mound of any form in this area, it is most likely to have been a cist burial and not a tumulus or barrow which Mr Hall inferred.  Its location near the valley bottom is unusual when we consider the huge number of cairns on the moors above here; but a cist was found in a similar low-lying geographical position on the south side of the moors near Bingley, 5.8 miles due south, when construction of local sewage works were being done.

References:

  1. Hall, Frank, The Contents of Ilkley Museum, William Walker: Otley 1910.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.924310, -1.819974 Cowpasture cist

Torrnacloch, Dalbog, Edzell, Angus

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 5871 7189

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 35190

Archaeology & History

‘Site of’ stone circle, 1865

When the Ordnance Survey lads visited this area in 1860, they stood upon this small knoll that was known as Torrnacloch – or the Knoll of the Stone.  They were informed that a ring of stones had stood here, but had been destroyed about 1840, apparently by a local farmer.  The stones were described as being about 3 feet high.  They subsequently added it on the earliest OS-map of the area, but also made note that a cist was found within the site.  The circle was included and classed as a stone circle in Aubrey Burl’s (2000) magnum opus, but had previously been classed as a cairn with “a kerb of large boulders” by the Royal Commission doods. (1983)  They based their assessment on the appearance of some of the stones found on a gravel mound behind the farm which had apparently been removed from the circle when it was destroyed.  Andrew Jervise (1853) gave us the following account:

“The Chapelry of Dalbog was on the east side of the parish, due west of Neudos.  The time of its suppression is unknown; and though no vestige of any house remains, the site of the place of worship is still called the “chapel kirk shed” by old people, and, in the memory of an aged informant, a fine well and hamlet of houses graced the spot.  This field adjoins the hillock of Turnacloch, or “the knoll of stones,” which was probably so named, from being topped in old times by a so-called Druidical circle, the last of the boulders of which were only removed in 1840.  Some of them decorate a gravel mound behind the farm house; and, on levelling the knoll on which they stood, a small sepulchral chamber was discovered, about four feet below the surface. The sides, ends, and bottom, were built of round ordinary sized whinstones, cemented with clay, and the top composed of large rude flags.  It was situate on the sunny side of the knoll, within the range of the circle; but was so filled with gravel, that although carefully searched, no relics were found.”

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  2. Jervise, Anrew, The History and Traditions of the Land of the Lindsays in Angus and Mearns, Sutherland & Knox: Edinburgh 1853.
  3. MacLaren, A. et al, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Central Angus, RCAHMS: Edinburgh 1983.

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

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.836629, -2.678338 Torrnacloch

Langside Farm, Lanark, Lanarkshire

Cairn (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NS 866 411

Archaeology & History

This was an impressive site by the sound of things.  Sadly destroyed, its exact whereabouts isn’t clear but should—if the description of the site is anything to go by—be on one of the highest points of land around Langside Farm.  In Irving & Murray’s description (1864), they tell the cairn to have been one amidst a cluster of tombs that could once be seen “a mile to the south of his residence”, but this seems to be contested by the definitive pen of the Lesmahagow historian, John Greenshields. (1864)  He told us:

“The late Lord Corehouse had an excavation scientifically made of a karn or cairn on his farm at Longside.  It is to be regretted that information cannot now be obtained of so accurate a nature as the subject merits; but there were stones so arranged in the centre as to have been evidently intended for sepulchral purposes.  Two rude urns of baked clay, one very large, the other smaller, were found inside a stone coffin.  The small urn contained bones partially calcined and broken or pounded, some of them perfectly fresh.  It has been erroneously stated in Swan’s “Views of the Clyde,” that there were eighteen small urns around the large chest, in the form of a circle, which gave rise to the idea that the remains of the chief had been surrounded by those of his family or warriors. One of the urns has been lost sight of: the smaller one, about 6 inches in diameter at the top, and 4 in height, is now in the possession of Miss Edmondstoun Cranstoun, as well as a still smaller funerary urn, recently restored by kiln-burning it with some fresh clay.”

References:

  1. Greenshields, John B., Annals of the Parish of Lesmahagow, Caledonian: Edinburgh 1864.
  2. Irving, George V. & Murray, Alexander, The Upper Ward of Lanarkshire, Described and Delineated – volume 1, Thomas Murray: Glasgow 1864.
  3. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Lanarkshire: An Inventory of the Prehistoric and Roman Monuments, HMSO: Edinburgh 1978.
  4. Swan, Joseph, Views on the Clyde – Historical and Descriptive, Joseph Swan: Glasgow 1830.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.650158, -3.803619 Langside Farm

Eastwood Farm, Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire

Cist (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NS 821 396

Archaeology & History

When the local historian John Greenshields (1864) wrote his definitive history of Lesmahagow parish, the book was just going to press when the remains of an ancient tomb was unearthed.  We are fortunate that he held publication of the book before adding the brief information about the findings.  He told us:

“When these pages were passing through the press, a stone cist was discovered on the farm of Eastwood, by the hollow sound emitted when the ploughshare struck its lid.  It was of the usual dimensions (about three feet by two), and contained fragments of bones, and a cinerary urn.  There were no indications that a cairn had ever been heaped on its top, but the stones may have long since been removed, as the field was in a high state of cultivation. The bones were much decayed, and the urn was shivered to fragments by the finder, in his anxiety to discover hidden treasures of gold or silver.”

No further information is known to exist about this site.  In all probability the cist was Bronze Age in nature, possibly earlier.  We surmise this from the rapid rate of decay of artefacts upon it being unearthed.

References:

  1. Greenshields, John B., Annals of the parish of Lesmahagow, Caledonian: Edinburgh 1864.
  2. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Lanarkshire: An Inventory of the Prehistoric and Roman Monuments, HMSO: Edinburgh 1978.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.635616, -3.874443 Eastwood Farm

Farr Church, Bettyhill, Sutherland

Cist:  OS Grid Reference – NC 71455 62258 

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 6360
  2. Chealamay

Getting Here

The cist in its new home

Dead easy.  From the top of the hill at Bettyhill, take the road east out of the village along the A836 Thurso road.  At the bottom of the hill, on your left, you’ll see the white building of Farr church Museum.  Walk to it and instead of going in the door, walk past it and round the back, or north-side of the church where, up against the wall, you’ll see this small stone-lined hole in the ground.  Y’ can’t really miss it.

Archaeology & History

Originally located 7½ miles (12.1km) to the south at Chealamy (NC 7240 5017), in the prehistoric paradise of Strathnaver, it was uncovered following road-building operations in 1981 and, to save it from complete destruction, was moved to its present position on the north-side of Farr church museum.  It was fortunate in being saved, as it was covered by a large boulder which the road operators tried to smash with a large jack-hammer; but in breaking it up, they noticed a hole beneath it.  Thankfully, old Eliot Rudie of Bettyhill—a well respected amateur historian and archaeologist in the area—was driving past just as it had been uncovered by the workmen.  He recognised it as being a probable cist and so further operations were stopped until it was investigated more thoroughly.

The relocated cist

The cist—measuring some 4 feet long by 3 feet wide and about 1½ feet deep—contained the burial of what was thought to be a man in his mid- to late-twenties.  The remains were obviously in very decayed state and it was thought by archaeologist Robert Gourlay (1996), that the body itself had been “deposited in the grave (when it was) in an advanced state of decomposition.”  Also in the cist they found a well-preserved decorated beaker, within which Gourlay thought “probably contained some kind of semi-alcoholic gruel for the journey of the departed to the after-life.”

References:

  1. Gourlay, Robert, Sutherland – An Archaeological Guide, Birlinn: Edinburgh 1996.
  2. Gourlay, Robert B., “A Short Cist Beaker Inhumation from Chealamy, Strathnaver, Sutherland”, in Proceedings Society Antiquaries Scotland, volume 114, 1984.
  3. Gourlay, Robert & Rudie, Eliot, “Chealamy, Strathnaver (Farr) Beaker Cist”, in Discovery Excavation Scotland, 1981.

Acknowledgments:  To that inspiring creature Aisha Domleo, for her bounce, spirit and madness to get me up here; and for little Lara too, for meandering to the church museum where this cist can be seen; and to Eliot Rudie, who pointed it out to us.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  58.529396, -4.209269 Farr Church

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

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

Lower Headley Farm, Thornton, Bradford, West Yorkshire

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 099 321

Archaeology & History

Headley Farm urn

There are no longer any remains of the prehistoric burial site that once stood in one of the fields by Lower Headley Farm.  We don’t know whether the site was a cairn, a tumulus, or just a stone-lined cist; but in all probability it would have been a low rounded hillock whose existence had long since fallen out of oral tradition.  All that we do know is that in one of the fields by the farm, some very well preserved urns—either neolithic or Bronze Age by the look of it—were unearthed, indicating a site of prehistoric provenance.

The finds were described only briefly in the first edition of the Bradford Antiquary (1888) journal, where it was reported:

“During the spring of 1880 an interesting discovery was made by Mr. Abraham Craven, quarryman, of Thornton.  The ‘find’ comprised three funeral urns, which Mr. Craven turned up while baring a portion of a field in Lower Headley Farm, the property of the trustees of Sowerby Grammar School.  The discovery was made within a short distance of the surface, the pottery presenting undoubted indications of pre-Roman origin.  From evidence collected upon the spot, and the appearance of the pottery, two of the urns were about 14in in height, 9in across the top, 11½in at the widest portion of the bowl, and 6in at the foot.  One of the urns was of sun-burnt clay, with rude markings, the other having evidently been subjected to fire.  No coins, personal ornaments, or other indications of civilisation, were found in the urns, but each one contained human dust and bones.  From the fact that several other urns have been met with in the immediate vicinity, equally rude in type, evidence is not wanting that the picturesque mound upon which Headley is situate was inhabited at a very early period of British history.”

References:

  1. Anonymous, “Valuable ‘Find’ at Headley, near Thornton,” in Bradford Antiquary, volume 1, 1888.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.785684, -1.850227 Lower Headley Farm

Tongue House, Tongue, Sutherland

Chambered Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – NC 5926 5862

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 5325

Getting Here

Tongue House chambered cairn amidst the trees

I approached this by walking along the B8438 road northwest out of Tongue village, towards the road-crossing over the Kyle of Tongue.  There’s a small tiny road on the right (easily missed) nearly a mile out, just as the road starts to bend, which leads you down to Tongue House.  Go along here for about 325 yards (300m) and just as the road bends to the left, walk into the woods. Keep straight forward, following the low-level stream, and when you see the buildings ahead of you, veer diagonally upslope until you hit the large Tongue Burn. Cross this and walk uphill to the tree-covered knoll ahead. You’re there!

Archaeology & History

…and again, looking north

From the descriptions I’d read of this site, I wasn’t expecting much at all—but it was much better than I anticipated, and in a beautiful woodland setting too.  Admittedly the site is much overgrown, but the overall size, edges and outline of the tomb is easily discernible.  In pacing across it, from outer-edge to outer-edge, it measured 18 yards by 19 yards across.  All round the edges are many overgrown tumbles of smaller rocks which obviously had been part of the cairn in previous centuries; but it is primarily defined by the larger earthfast rocks at the very top of the natural knoll in the trees, all of them covered in deep mosses.

The site was first mentioned in James Horsburgh’s (1870) survey of the region.  He explored a small section of the monument and, upon digging, found a chamber therein—defined by Audrey Henshall (1963) as “a single compartment chamber”—telling us:

“A little to the south of Tongue House, and near the fountain head that supplies it with water, there is the chamber of a cairn of the same description as that near Skelpick, but rather smaller; on clearing it out, I found that one of the large upright stones had two holes bored artificially a short way into each of its sides, but not quite opposite, the holes were about 3 inches diameter.”

However, these internal structures have not been seen since and in Henshall & Ritchie’s (1995) catalogue of Sutherland’s giant tombs, there is some confusion over the definition of the structure itself, questioning whether or not it was indeed a chambered tomb.

“The ‘chambered cairn’ is a circular stone structure overgrown with small trees and covered in leaf-litter and moss.  A kerb about 15m in diameter can be traced for much of the circuit.  The kerb is of unusually substantial and closely-set boulders which have the appearance of the base of a massive wall such as is inappropriate for a dun or a broch rather than a cairn.  The interior is filled with loose stones including some quite large boulders, roughly to the level of the top of the kerb.  There is no indication that these boulders have formed part of a neolithic chamber or that the structure was a cairn.  There seem to be three possibilities: that the structure is not Horsburgh’s cairn; that the structure is that which he investigated but that he was mistaken in regarding it as a chambered cairn; that the writers are mistaken in identifying the structure as a ruined broch or dun.”

Despite this, the general consensus today is that the monument is indeed a chambered cairn.

References:

  1. Henshall, Audrey S., The Chambered Tombs of Scotland – 2 volumes, Edinburgh University Press 1963 & 1972.
  2. Henshall, Audrey S. & Ritchie, J.N.G, The Chambered Cairns of Sutherland, Edinburgh University Press 1995.
  3. Horsburgh, James, Notes of Cromlechs, Duns, Hut-circles, Chambered Cairns and other Remains, in the County of Sutherland“, in Proceedings Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 7, 1870
  4. Royal Commission on Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Second report and inventory of monuments and constructions in the county of Sutherland. HMSO: Edinburgh 1911.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  58.493223, -4.415964 Tongue House

Manse Bridge, Melness, Tongue, Sutherland

Cairns:  OS Grid Reference – NC 5784 6229

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 5385

Getting Here

2 cairns in line of 3, Manse Bridge (photo Sarah Maclean)

Along the A836 road between Durness and Tongue, take the minor road north to Melness and Talmine. 400 yards or so past Talmine Stores shop, walk left up the track onto the moor. Follow the track along as if you’re visiting the Talmine West settlement, but walk uphill onto the moor a hundred yards or so after the sheep-folds on your right.  Before the top of the hill, keep your eyes peeled for the heather-covered rocky mounds in the moorland scattered about. You’ll find them!

Archaeology & History

A cluster of prehistoric cairns—or a cairnfield as it’s known— is found on the moorland scattering the south and eastern edges of the unnamed hill immediately west of Talmine.  They can be pretty difficult to see when buried in heather, but they’re there!  When Sarah Maclean took us up to see them, three in particular stood out: seemingly along a deliberate line, perhaps parallel with either an old trackway or old walling on the south slope of the hill.

Central cairn in line of 3 (photo by Sarah Maclean)

Central cairn hollowed out (photo by Sarah Maclean)

The main three that we visited were pretty easy to locate, with many loose stones comprising the respective piles, standing about 3 feet high and some 3-4 yards across.  One of them (left) had been dug into, leaving a deep hollow in its centre, leaving it more exposed and visible than the others. There are other cairns on the slopes to the east, but none seemed to be as well-defined as the three here described.

In the same area are also a number of hut circles, much overgrown but still visible amongst the heather.

References:

  1. Welsh, T.C., ‘Manse Bridge – Small Cairns, Hut Circles’, in Discovery & Excavation Scotland, 1973.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks to Donna Murray of Borgie for putting me up (or should that be, putting up with me?!) and equally massive thanks to Sarah Maclean—also of Borgie—for guiding me up here and allowing us use of her photos to illustrate this site profile.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  58.525451, -4.442844 Manse Bridge cairns