Cat Nab, Brotton, North Yorkshire

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NZ 6692 2154

Archaeology & History

Location on 1930 OS-map

This long lost burial mound was first located by the local antiquarian William Hornsby in the early 20th century.  It had been constructed close to the summit of the prominent rise  of Cat Nab, immediately east above Saltburn.  Its position was shown on the 1930 OS-map of the area.  Destroyed by quarrying, it was thankfully excavated by Hornsby in 1913; and although his finds were never published, he left notes which told us that,

“there were two cremations and the sherds of at least three vessels: a collared urn, a pygmy cup and a vessel with an everted rim.” (Crawford 1980)

Crawford (1980) told that these finds could been seen in the Middlesborough Collection.

References:

  1. Crawford, G.M., Bronze Age Burial Mounds in Cleveland, Cleveland County Council 1980.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks for use of the Ordnance Survey map in this site profile, reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


Way Hagg, West Ayton Moor, North Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stones (lost):  OS Grid Reference – SE 9657 8840

Archaeology & History

In the autumn of 1848, antiquarian John Tissiman (1850) and his associates took to uncovering two burial mounds amidst a large cluster of them on the eastern edge of West Ayton Moor.  This one at Way Hagg was quite a big fella, measuring 36 yards across.  When they cut into its northern edge towards the centre, 8-10 feet in, they came across an upright stone, nearly two feet high, on which five cup-marks had been cut. (see sketch, no.2)  Slightly beyond this were three other stones (in sketch, nos.1, 3 & 4), each with cup-marks on them, beneath which was a tall urn.  Whether or not the carvings had been deliberately positioned to cover the urn, we do not know. Nonetheless, we can be reasonably assured that these petroglyphs had some mythic association with death when they were placed here.

Tissiman gave us the following detailed measurements of the respective carvings:

1: Nearly even surface. Length, from 16 to 18 inches; breadth, 10 to 20 ditto; depth, 8 to 9 ditto; with large oval hole cut in the centre, 7½ inches long, 4 inches broad, and 3½ inches in depth.  On the opposite side are three holes, from 2 to 3 inches in diameter, and from 1 inch to 1½ deep.  2: Uneven surface. Length, 23 inches; breadth, 14 inches; depth, 13 inches; with five holes, from l½ to 3½ inches in diameter, and 1 to 1½ inches in depth.  3: Uneven surface. Length, 33 inches; breadth, 22 inches; depth, 10 inches, with four holes, the largest being 4½ inches in diameter and 3 inches deep; the others, from 1½ inches to 2 inches in diameter, and 1 to 1½ inches deep.  4: Uneven surface. Length, 27 inches; breadth, 23½ inches; depth, 10 inches, with 13 holes, from 1½ inches to 5 inches in diameter, and ¾ of an inch to 3 inches in depth; also three lines at the end of the stone.”

The carvings were included in Brown & Chappell’s (2005) fine survey, but they weren’t able to find out what happened to them after Tissiman’s excavation. They remain lost.  If anyone has any information as to where they might be, please let us know.

References:

  1. Brown, Paul & Chappell, Graeme, Prehistoric Rock Art in the North York Moors, Tempus: Stroud 2005.
  2. Tissiman, John, “Report on Excavations in Barrows, in Yorkshire,” in Journal British Archaeological Association, April 1850.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks for use of the Ordnance Survey map in this site profile, reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Fernybank, Glen Esk, Lochlee, Angus

Ring Cairn (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 5381 7877

Archaeology & History

Location of site on 1864 OS-map

This is one of many sites that were thankfully recorded by the fine pen of Andrew Jervise (1853) in the middle of the 19th century, without whose diligence in antiquarian interests all knowledge would have vanished.  His works remind me very much of those by the late-19th early-20th century writer Harry Speight in Yorkshire, whose veritable madness on that region’s history remains unsurpassed even to this day.  But I digress…

Jervise told us that,

“About the year 1830, while the tenant of Fernybank was levelling a hillock in the haugh between the farm-house and the Powpot Bridge (about two miles north-west of Colmeallie), he removed a number of stones varying in length and breadth from eighteen to twenty-four inches. They were ranged singly, and stood upright in a circle at short distances from each other, enclosing an area of about twelve feet in diameter. On the knoll being trenched down, the encircled part (unlike the rest of the haugh, which was of a gravelly soil) was found to be composed of fine black earth; but on several cart-loads being removed, operations were obstructed by a mass of stones that occupied much the same space and form as the layer of earth. Curiosity prompted the farmer to continue his labours further, but after digging to the depth of three or four feet, and finding stones only, he abandoned the work in despair, without having discovered anything worthy of notice… Had this cairn been thoroughly searched, it is probable that some traces of sepulture might have been found in it.”

A short time after this however, Jervise reported the finding of “old warlike instruments, both in the shape of flint arrow-heads and stone hatchets, have been found in the same haugh, and so late as 1851 a spear-head made of iron, and about fifteen inches long, was also discovered; it was much corroded, but had part of the wooden hilt in it.”  These were prehistoric artifacts that were subsequently moved to Edinburgh’s central museum where, I presume, they remain to this day.

About ten years later the Ordnance Survey lads came here and were fortunate to be able to meet with the same man who’d uncovered the site.  They told that,

“in contradiction to (Jervise’s narrative), the tenant of Fernybank who gave the information to Mr. Jervise, states that he continued the search to the bottom of the Cairn and found a quantity of Charred wood.”

There were a number of other prehistoric sites in this neck o’ the woods, many of which were also destroyed but, again, were thankfully recorded by Mr Jervise.

References:

  1. Jervise, Andrew, The History and Traditions of the Land of the Lindsays in Angus and Mearns, Sutherland and Knox: Edinburgh 1853.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks for use of the Ordnance Survey map in this site profile, reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Chalkwell Hall, Southend-on-Sea, Essex

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TQ 861 862

Archaeology & History

Somewhere beneath the modern housing estate immediately east of Chalkwell Park was once a large prehistoric burial mound.  It was included in Wymer & Brown’s (1995) archaeological gazetteer (albeit at the wrong spot) without comment, but their reference led me to an early description of the place by Philip Benton (1867) whose description gave us the best info we have of the place.  He wrote:

“To the east of the present mansion, at the north-west comer of a field called Fishponds, is a tumulus or mound, probably Celtic.  This was first opened about thirty years ago, when bones, a few coins, and a piece of chain were discovered.  Since which period about eight feet of earth has been removed from the summit, when more bones were found, but as they were not inspected by any one competent to give an opinion, it is impossible to say whether they were those of man or beast.  The mound is still about four feet above the surrounding soil, and would probably repay further search.”

Wymer and Brown listed the site as being an “early Bronze Age” monument.

References:

  1. Benton, Philip, The History of Rochford Hundred – volume 2, Harrington: Rochford 1867.
  2. Wymer, J.J. & Brown, N.R., Excavations at North Shoebury, East Anglian Archaeology: Chelmsford 1995.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Beauly Avenue, Downfield, Dundee, Angus

Cup-Marked Stone (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NO 3975 3340

Also Known as:

  1. Magdalen’s Kirkton Stone

Archaeology & History

In the mid-1890s, workmen ploughing one of the fields near the steading at Magdalen’s Kirkton farm hit a large stone beneath the soil.  It turned out to be the covering stone of a prehistoric burial, or cist, that was aligned east-west.  Whilst the remains in the cist had all but turned to dust, the covering stone had a number of cupmarks on it.  It was described only briefly by R.N. Kerr (1896), who told that,

“The stone forming the lid of the cist is cup-marked.  It weighs 5 cwt., 1 qr., 21½ lbs., and its thickness varies from 9 to 12 inches.  There are 40 or more cup-markings on it, varying from 1 to 3 inches in diameter.”

It would seem that no sketches were made of this carving and I’ve been unable to find any more details about it. Help!

References:

  1. Kerr, R. N., “Notice of a Burial Cist found on the Farm of Magdalen’s, Kirkton, on the Estate of Balmuir, near Dundee,” in Proceedings Society Antiquaries, Scotland, vol. 30, 1896.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Easter Coillechat, Kilmadock, Stirlingshire

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – NN 68830 04347

Getting Here

The cairn, looking NW

From Doune, take the A84 road to Callander.  As you pass through the hamlet of Buchany, keep your eyes peeled a few hundred yards on as the road dips down and swerves gently right, for the road sign of Drumloist (or Moist as some locals keep amending!) which goes up to the right.  It’s a small single track road that zigs and zags slowly uphill.  After exact one mile you reach a small track on your right (there one left too).  Carefully park hereby (don’t block the gate!).  Across the road, go through the gate on your right and walk along the edge of the field until you reach the burn.  Go across it, and then across the field, through the gate and you’ll see it ahead of you.  In the tick season (summer) treat the brackens as possessed by a plague and avoid it!

Archaeology & History

Looking at its stony face

A curiously forgotten place, hidden from sight, this large rounded grass-covered mound with small upright stones around one side, seems timeless amidst the open fields.  It seems alone, but the denuded chambered tomb of Ballachraggan is just visible 1.4 miles to the northwest on the near-horizon; and there’s a hidden cairnfield just a half-mile away.  This cairn measures 18 yards (N-S) by 16 yards (E-W) and stands 7-8 feet high when you look at it from its southern side.  The top of the mound is a mix of stone and grass with a slight dip in the middle, perhaps by someone in ages past digging, albeit only slightly—perhaps scared away by the old folk buried herein.

One of the most notable aspects of this site is the complete silence.  On my last two visits hereby, a fusion of mists from the low cloud above and the breathing Earth below gave an atmosphere the likes of which lived when this tomb was first built.  On one occasion hereby, no vehicles for several hours gave the silence a curious atmosphere (those of you who like sitting in the rain with the wilderness will know what I mean).  To me this is a gorgeous site…

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Tom Tallon’s Grave, Kirknewton, Northumberland

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NT 9323 2800

Also Known as:

  1. Auld Wife’s Apronful o’ Stanes
  2. Tom Tallon’s Tumulus

Archaeology & History

Site on the 1866 OS-map

Highlighted on the earliest OS-maps about half a mile to the south of the great prehistoric camp of Yeavering Bell and 100 yards southwest of Tom Tallon’s Crag, there once stood an apparently “massive” Bronze Age tumulus, or cairn, called Tom Tallon.  I’d hedge a bet that it was much older, from the neolithic period.  It was described by P.A. Graham (1921) as “the largest cairn in the district,” but when it was visited by the antiquarian Henry MacLauchlan in July 1858, he reported that “it was being removed to make a fence”!!!  Unbe-fuckin’-lievable… Who were the dickheads that did that?!

Folklore

The Ordnance Survey Name Book of 1860 for Tom Tallon’s Crag told that,

“There is a vague tradition about Tom Tallon having been a Warrior and Slain here – hence the name, but nothing authentic respecting Tom, can now be ascertained.”

The word tom derives from “a rounded hill”, sometimes associated with a tumulus and in Scotland (just over the border) associated “with a dwelling place of the fairies” with tallon suggested by Graham (1921) to derive from “tal, a forehead or promontory, and Llan, an enclosure.”

What is quite obviously an older name, or certainly one that was more recognised by local people, is its title of the Auld Wife’s Apronful of Stones: a title we find associated with a number of the giant cairns in northern England and Scotland.  It relates to the creation myth of the site, whereby the countless stones that made up the cairn were dropped or thrown across the landscape by a giantess who inhabited this area.

References:

  1. Hall, James, A Guide to Glendale, M. Brand: Wooler 1887.
  2. Graham, P. Anderson, Highways and Byways in Northumbria, MacMillan: London 1921.
  3. MacLauchlan, Henry, “Notes on Camps in the Parishes of Branxton, Carham, Ford, Kirknewton and Wooller, in Northumberland,” in History Berwickshire Naturalists Club, volume 24, 1922.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Lauder Common, Lauder, Berwickshire

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – NT 49340 46162

Getting Here

Modern cairn on the old one

Take the B6362 high road between Lauder and Stow and, regardless of which direction you’re coming from, when you reach the top heights of the moorland road with views all around, you need to keep your eyes peeled for where a dirt-track runs south and, diagonally across the road on its north side, is a dirt-track-cum-parking-spot (if you came from Stow, you should’ve already noticed the cairn on the skyline on your way up).  There’s a hut circle in the heather by the parking spot.  From here, just walk over the heather nearly 300 yards north.  Y’ can’t really miss it.

Archaeology & History

Looking to the southeast

The first thing that you see as you approach here is a modern cairn which is sat upon the more ancient and completely overgrown one.  You can’t really see the “ancient” section of it until you walk round to its more northern side, where you’ll then notice how the new cairn has been built on top of a small but artificial rise in the ground, about ten yards across.  This is the original ancient cairn.  Sections of the ground have come away on its southern side, revealing a scattered mass of loose stones.  It doesn’t seem to have been excavated but has all the hallmarks of being typically Bronze Age by the look of it.  Of particular note is the superb view from here, not least towards the legendary Fairyland of the Eildon Hills, standing out clearly about 10 miles to the south…

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Mount Lodge, Portobello, Edinburgh, Midlothian

Cairn (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NT 3071 7366

Archaeology & History

The only reference I can find of this long lost cairn is in William Baird’s (1898) massive history work of the area—but even in his day he reported that “it has long since disappeared.”  He wrote:

“We have a curious reference in a charter of Kelso Abbey, granted about 1466, to a cairn of stones which stood near the south-east corner of the garden wall at Mount Lodge, Portobello.  In the charter, where it is referred to as forming part of the boundary of the lands of Figgate, it is described as, ‘a certain heap of stones there deposited.'”

The cairn was likely of considerable size and, said Baird, “in all probability marked the site of an ancient place of sepulture.”

References:

  1. Baird, William, Annals of Duddingston and Portobello, Andrew Elliot: Edinburgh 1898.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Warsett Hill, Brotton, North Yorkshire

Round Barrows (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NZ 692 214

Archaeology & History

Tumuli shown on 1920 map

On top of the large plateau that is Warsett Hill, on the southwest side of the old trig-point, could once be seen a cluster of at least seven burial mounds or tumuli.  The mounds are shown on the first OS-map of the area, but merely as mounds.  It wasn’t until there’d been a subsequent investigation here by local historian J.C. Atkinson in the 19th century that they were highlighted on the 1920 map as “Tumuli.”  Sadly, since then, they’ve all been destroyed.

Very brief notes were written on six out of the seven tombs here by William Hornsby (1917), with only one of them receiving any real attention.  “Of the other six,” Crawford (1980) wrote,

“there is very little information; all were excavated by Atkinson prior to 1893, but his excavations revealed no finds and he stated that all of the mounds had been previously disturbed.  They were later dug by Hornsby, who stated that although he found no sepulchral deposits, all the mounds contained flints.”

In medieval times this became a beacon site, where bonfires were lit.  I can find no further information about this. (NB: This site should not to be confused with another Warsett Hill that exists two miles southeast of here above Skinningrove.)

References:

  1. Crawford, G.M., Bronze Age Burial Mounds in Cleveland, Cleveland County Council 1980.
  2. Hornsby, William & Stanton, R., “British Barrows near Brotton,” in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, volume 24, 1917.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks for use of the Ordnance Survey map in this site profile, reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian