Pitchbury Ramparts, Great Horkesley, Essex

Hillfort:  OS Grid Reference – TL 9657 2906

Also Known as:

  1. Pitchbury Rings

Getting Here

Pitchbury site on 1924 map

Along the A134 in Horkesley Heath, turn west along Coach Road and after a half-mile where it veers right, keep going for another half-mile where you’ll reach the woodland on your left.  A path goes into the trees just before Pitchbury Lodge.  Go along here and near the very far (southern) end of the trees, just before the open fields, you’ll see the large undulating ramparts of earth.  Keep your eyes peeled.  You’ll see them!

Archaeology & History

Stukeley’s 1759 map

This once large hillfort was described in the Colchester township perambulations of 1671 and cited in Philip Morant’s classic work. (1748) He told how the boundary line ran “under Chesterwell along the Rampiers by Horkesley Heath,” and which P.H. Reaney (1935) tells was our wooded hillfort.  In Morant’s day, the place was all but complete and so would have been well recognised by local people.   Certainly it came the attention of the great antiquarian William Stukeley who, in 1759, came to Colchester and met with Morant.  Stukeley mainly surveyed the area south of here, at Lexden Heath, but one of his sketch maps clearly highlighted a place he called “a circular work on Horkesley Heath”, i.e., Pitchbury Rings.  The site seems to have remained relatively intact until the middle of the 19th century when a local land-owner took it upon himself to plough over and vandalise much of the site, leaving only a small proportion of the earthworks that we can still see to this day.

The ruins were described in I.C. Gould’s (1903) piece for the Victoria County History, where he told, at Great Horkesley,

Gould’s 1903 sketch of the remains
Royal Commission’s 1923 ground-plan

“are some remains of an earthwork known as ‘Pitchbury’ or ‘Pitsbury Ramparts.’  When the late Rev. Henry Jenkins described the camp in 1841, he stated that it was of oval shape, and contained about 6 acres.  Most of it was levelled for agricultural operations about fifty years ago, but there are still some remains, consisting of two banks with their accompanying ditches.  The lines moreover of that part which was destroyed, can be partially traced in the adjoining fields.”

When the Royal Commission (1922) doods wrote about the site nearly twenty years later, things hadn’t changed too much and they simply reported how the “ramparts have nearly disappeared, except for the north section.”  In this “imperfect” condition, as they called it, they gave the following brief description:

“Pitchbury Ramparts, in Pitchbury Wood, about 2 mile south of the church, are the north end of a large camp, roughly oval in shape, and defended by a double rampart and ditch.  The defences are well preserved in the wood, the inner rampart being 10 ft. above the ditch, which is 60ft wide from crest to crest, but the greater part of the work has been almost obliterated by the plough, and is now only faintly discernible in a large field S. of the wood.  The camp appears to have been 800 ft. long and 600 ft. wide.”

Thankfully there seems to have been no real increase in damage to the site since then.  It was excavated in some detail in 1933 and again in 1973 and the finds were published by the highly reputable Colchester Archaeological Trust, whose subsequent report by Hawkes & Crummy (1995) is required reading for anyone wanting to know the detailed archaeology of this and other sites in the area.

Folklore

An intriguing piece of folklore was described in John Round’s (1882) history of the early battles around Colchester Castle.  During the time when the Roman Empire was starting to crumble, the great Pictish tribes of Scotland ventured here and, we are told, took control of the Pitchbury Rings where they stayed before attacking Colchester Castle.

“Traces have been discovered of some violent catastrophe, possibly the first capture of the Colony by the marauding Picts from the North.  Allured, in one of their Southern raids, by the wealth of the goodly Colony, they swooped down like eagles on their quarry from the wooded heights of ‘Pictsbury’.”

References:

  1. Gould, I. Chalkley, “Ancient Earthworks“, in Victoria History of the County of Essex – volume 1, Archibald Constable: Westminster 1903.
  2. Hawkes, C.F.C. & Crummy, Philip, Colchester Archaeological Report 11 – Camulodunum 2, Colchester Archaeological Trust 1995.
  3. Hogg, A.H.A., British Hill-forts – An Index, BAR: Oxford 1979.
  4. Kemble, James, Prehistoric and Roman Essex, History Press: Stroud 2009.
  5. Morant, Philip, The History and Antiquities of the Most Ancient Town and Borough of Colchester, W. Bowyer: London 1748.
  6. Round, John H., The History and Antiquities of Colchester Castle, Benham 1882.
  7. Royal Commission Ancient Historical Monuments, England, An Inventory of Historical Monuments in Essex – volume 3, HMSO: London 1922.
  8. Reaney, P.H., The Place-Names of Essex, Cambridge University Press 1935.
  9. Watson, J.Y., Sketches of Ancient Colchester, Benham & Harrison: Colchester 1879.

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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  51.925343, 0.857380 Pitchbury Ramparts

Rough Haw Carvings, Flasby, North Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone: OS Grid Reference – SD 96396 55834

Rough Haw cupmarks

Getting Here

The quickest way to get here is to follow the directions to the Sharp Haw Trig Stone. From the Trig Stone keep heading down the footpath until you see the gate at the bottom. Go through the gate and Rough Haw is straight in front of you.  Head towards Rough Haw and you will see a track going straight up the middle. Go right up that track and over the top till your on the summit, keep walking forward about 50-60 yards and you will see it.

Archaeology & History

Second lot of cups

Some petroglyphs have been found near the top of the prehistoric Iron Age settlement called Rough Haw, a few miles north of Skipton. Not previously recorded, this long flat stone and its companion are littered in cup markings (perhaps a couple of dozen).  There could be more cups and other markings than we saw today, but by the time we reached here the sun had disappeared, so poor daylight made it difficult to see if there were any more.  Another venture up onto this hillfort might be worthwhile to see if anymore can be found.

© Chris Swales, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.998526, -2.056467 Rough Haw CR-1

Uphall Camp, Ilford, Essex

Hillfort (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference –TQ 4383 8510

Archaeology & History

Uphall Camp, 1893

This prehistoric site was a giant – a huge colossus of an ‘enclosure’, a ‘settlement’, a ‘camp’—call-it-what-you-will.  More than a mile in circumference and with an internal area of 48 acres (big enough to hold 37 football fields!), archaeologist Pamela Greenwood (1989) told us, not only that it was “the largest recorded hillfort in Essex”, but that it compared in size with the immensity of Maiden Castle in Dorset!  Yet despite it being cited by the Oxford Archaeology report of Jonathan Millward (2016) as “the most significant archaeological site within the Borough” from the Iron Age period, it has fallen prey to the thoughtless actions of the self-righteous Industrialists who, as usual, have completely destroyed it.  It was already in a “bad” state when the Royal Commission lads visited here around 1916, saying how it was “in some danger of destruction.” Thankfully, in earlier centuries, we did have more civilized and educated people who seemed proud to describe what there was of their local history.

Early literary accounts seem sparse; although in Mr Wright’s (1831) huge commentary to Philip Morant’s (1768) Antiquities of Essex, he thought that the adjoining parish of Barking—whose ancient boundary line is marked here by the southern embankments of the enclosure—derived from the Saxon words burgh-ing, which he transcribed as ‘the fortress in the meadow’.  The same derivation was propounded in Richard Gough’s 1789 edition of Camden’s Britannia, from the “Fortification in the meadows.”  It seems a more reasonable derivation than that ascribed in the Oxford Names Companion (2002) as the “(settlement of) the family or followers of a man called *Berica” (the asterisk here denotes the fact that no personal name of this form has ever been found and is pure guesswork).  But according to the English Place-Name Society text on Essex by Paul Reaney (1935), the early spellings of Barking implies a derivation from ‘birch trees.’  Anyway….

Uphall Camp c.1735

A fine plan of the site was drawn by John Noble some time around 1735 although, curiously, he seems to have written no notes about the place.  The first real citation of Uphall Camp as an antiquity seems to have been by Morant himself (1768).  In a work bedevilled by genealogical and ecclesiological tedium, he occasionally breaks from that boredom to tell of the landscape and the people living here, mentioning our more ancient monuments—but only in passing, as illustrated here:

“Near the road leading from Ilford to Berking, on the north west side of the brook which runs across it, are the Remains of an ancient Entrenchment: one side of which is parallel with the lane that goes to a farm called Uphall; a second side is parallel with the Rodon, and lies near it; the third side looks towards the Thames; the side which runs parallel with the road itself has been almost destroyed by cultivation, though evident traces of it are still discernible.”

Just over thirty years later we were thankfully given a more expansive literary portrayal by Daniel Lysons. (1796)  Lysons was drawing some of his material from a manuscript on the history of Barking by a Mr Smart Lethieullier, written about 1750 (this manuscript was unfortunately destroyed by fire, and no copies of it ever made).  He told us:

“In the fields adjoining to a farm called Uphall, about a quarter of a mile to the north of Barking-town, is a very remarkable ancient entrenchment: its form is not regular, but tending to a square; the circumference is 1792 yards, (i.e., one mile and 32 yards,) inclosing an area of forty-eight acres, one rood, and thirty-four perches.  On the north, east, and south sides it is single trenched: on the north and east sides the ground is dry and level (being arable land), and the trench from frequent ploughing almost filled up: on the south side is a deep morass: on the west side, which runs parallel with the river Roding, and at a short distance from it, is a double trench and bank: at the north west corner was an outlet to a very fine spring of water, which was guarded by an inner work, and a high keep or mound of earth.  Mr. Lethieullier thinks that this entrenchment was too large for a camp: his opinion therefore is, that it was the site of a Roman town.  He confesses that no traces of buildings have been found on that spot, which he accounts for on the supposition that the materials were used for building Barking Abbey, and for repairing it after it was burnt by the Danes.  As a confirmation of this opinion, he relates, that upon viewing the ruins of the Abbey-church in 1750, he found the foundations of one of the great pillars composed in part of Roman bricks. A coin of Magnentius was found also among the ruins.”

But this is a spurious allusion; albeit an understandable one when one recognizes that the paradigm amongst many writers at the time was to say that anything large and impressive was either a construction of the Romans or the Danes, as the early British—it was deemed—were incapable of building such huge monuments.  How wrong they were!

In Mrs Ogborne’s (1814) description of Uphall Camp, she thought that its form and character betrayed anything Roman and—although she wasn’t specific—seemed to prefer the idea that our earliest Britons had built this place.  And she was right!  She wrote:

“There is, about a quarter of a mile from Barking, adjoining Uphal farm, on the road to Ilford, an antient entrenchment, a mile and 32 yards in circumference, with the corners rounded off; the west side, parallel with the river Rodon, has a double trench and bank, and a high keep, or mound of earth, about 94 yards round the base, about nine in height, on the side of the river, and seven on the opposite side: there was an outlet to a spring of water at the north-west corner; the south side has a morass; the north and east sides are single trenched, which is almost lost by cultivation, and in some places barely discernible.”

Uphall Camp on 1873 map

Uphall Camp on 1897 map

When the Ordnance Survey lads gave the site their attention in the 1870s, they showed its real size for the first time—cartographically at least!  As the two old maps either side here show, it was a big one!  Although some sections of the edges of the ‘camp’ were diminishing at the time, much of it was still in evidence.  And when the local writer Edward Tuck (1899) wrote about it, he told us,

“On the north and east sides the ground is dry and level (being arable land) and the trench from frequent ploughings is almost filled up. On the south side is a deep morass; on the west side which runs parallel with the river Roding, and at a short distance from it is a double trench and bank; at the north-west corner is an outlet to a very fine spring of water, which is guarded by an inner work and a high keep or mound of earth designated “Lavender Mound.”  Mrs. Ogborne in her History of Essex gives a charming drawing of this mound as it was in 1814, and says that the mound was then about 94 yards round the base, and about nine yards in height, with trees growing upon it, and its surface covered with soft verdure.”

Uphall earthworks in 1893

Several other writers mentioned the remaining embankments of Uphall Camp, which was beginning to fade fast as the city-builders spread themselves further afield.  A chemical factory did most of the damage (as they still do, in more ways than one!).  When the Royal Commission (1921) lads came here they curiously deemed it as an “unclassified” structure; but in those days unless things were Roman in this neck of the woods, it could unduly puzzle them!  Their account of it told that,

“the remaining earthworks consist of a short length of rampart with an irregularly shaped mound at the north end, which is known locally as Lavender Mount, and another short length north of the farmhouse; there are also traces of the east side of the camp running parallel with Barking Lane.  An early plan shows part of the north and east sides of the earthwork and suggests that it was roughly rectangular in outline.  In 1750 the north, east and south sides are said to have had a single trench, and the west side a double trench and bank.

“The mound is 21 ft. high and 85 ft. in diameter at the base. The date of the earthwork is doubtful, but it does not appear to be pre-Roman.”

1908 photo of Lavender Mount

1814 sketch of Lavender Mount

The ‘Lavender Mount’ aspect in this monument, seemed a peculiar oddity.  Even modern archaeologists aren’t sure of what it might have been, erring on the side of caution with interpretations saying it was a keep of some sort, or a small beacon hill.  It might have been of course; but if it was a beacon hill, there would very likely be some written account of it – but none exist as far as I’m aware.  Initial impressions when just looking at the images is that it was a tumulus, but the position of the mound on top of the raised earthen embankments tells us that it was constructed after the Iron Age ramparts.  Writers of the Victoria County History (1903) said the same, suggesting a Saxon or more likely Danish origin.  The area around Lavender Hill was eventually explored by archaeologists in 1960, and several times thereafter – and what they uncovered showed us a continuity of usage that spanned several thousand years!

The 1960 excavation took place where, adjacent to the embankment, “the bank and ditch contained middle-Iron Age pottery”, along with traces of the large wooden fencing-posts (palisade) that initially surrounded and protected the enclosure. In Pamela Greenwood’s (1989) archaeological report, she told us that in further digs in 1983-4 there were discoveries of neolithic and Bronze Age flint remains.  The finds included,

“a leaf-shaped arrowhead and a discoidal scraper… fragments of an Ardleigh type urn, probably from a middle Bronze Age burial disturbed by later activity.  An L-shaped ditch, possibly part of an enclosure or field boundary, was found during the watching-brief. It contained flint-gritted pottery, perhaps attributable to the Bronze Age.”

But the majority of the finds at Uphall came from the mid-Iron Age period.  Greenwood continued:

“The settlement, judging from the relatively small area of the fortification actually excavated, was laid out in a regular way.  As might be expected, the round-houses appear to be aligned, indicating some sort of street-pattern.  ‘Four-poster’ structures have been located in particular areas, again pointing to some sort of designation of special zones of activity. Large quantities of charred grain from the post-pits and surroundings would confirm that these structures are granaries….

“The middle Iron Age structures are of several types: round-houses or round-buildings, pennanular enclosures, (wooden) ‘four-posters’; rectangular structures, ditches, post-holes and innumerable and ill-assorted small pits, small gullies and holes dug into the gravel.  Many of the last three types are undatable and could belong to the Iron Age, Roman, medieval or later activity on the site.”

I could just copy and paste the rest of Greenwood’s report here, but it’s quite extensive and interested readers should refer to her own account in the London Archaeologist .  It’s a pity that it’s been destroyed.

References:

  1. Crouch, Walter, “Ancient Entrenchments at Uphall, near Barking, Essex,” in Essex Naturalist, volume 7, 1887.
  2. Crouch, Walter, “Uphall Camp,” in Transactions of the Essex Archaeological Society, volume 9 (New Series), 1906.
  3. Doubleday, H.A. & Page, William (eds.), Victoria History of the County of Essex – volume 1, Archibald Constable: Westminster 1903.
  4. Greenwood, Pamela, “Uphall Camp,” in Essex Archaeology & History News, 1987.
  5. Greenwood, Pamela, “Uphall Camp, Ilford, Essex,” in London Archaeologist, volume 6, 1989.
  6. Hogg, A.H.A., British Hill-Forts: An Index, BAR: Oxford 1979.
  7. Kemble, James, Prehistoric and Roman Essex, History Press: Stroud 2009.
  8. Lysons, Daniel, The Environs of London – volume 4, T. Cadell: London 1796.
  9. Millward, Jonathan, London Borough of Redbridge: Archaeological Priority Areas Appraisal, Oxford Archaeology 2016.
  10. Morant, Philip, The History and Antiquities of Essex – volume 1, T.Osborne: London 1768.
  11. Norris, F.J., “Uphall Camp”, in Gentleman’s Magazine, 1888.
  12. Ogborne, Elizabeth, The History of Essex, Longmans: London 1814.
  13. Royal Commission Ancient & Historical Monuments, England, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex – volume 2, HMSO: London 1921.
  14. Tuck, Edward, A Sketch of Ancient Barking, Its Abbey, and Ilford, Wilson & Whitworth: Barking 1899.
  15. Wilkinson, P.M., “Uphall Camp,” in Essex Archaeology & History, volume 10, 1979.
  16. Wright, Thomas & Bartlett, W., The History and Topography of the County of Essex – volume 2, G. Virtue: London 1831.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Uphall Camp

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Uphall Camp 51.546450, 0.072906 Uphall Camp

Denoon Law, Glamis, Angus

Hill Fort: OS Grid Reference – NO 35464 44395

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 32139
  2. Law of Denoon

Denoon Law on 1865 map

Getting Here

Travelling north through Balkeerie on the Newtyle/Glamis road, turn right onto the Denoon road and follow it to the T-junction.  Turn right and, a few hundred yards on to your left, the large hillfort of Denoon Law rises up to your left.  You can’t really miss it!

Archaeology & History

Denoon Law from Murleywell

Denoon Law is an impressively lush and green hill fort hidden away in the Sidlaw Hills, in the Denoon Glen, parallel to the Vale of Strathmore. It can be entered froma gap in the ramparts on the north side. Be careful of the precipitous drop from the south east side!

In the County Angus survey by the Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland (1983), they describes it thus:

This fort crowns the summit of Denoon Law, a steep-sided volcanic plug on the NW side of Denoon Glen, a narrow valley at the N end of the Sidlaw Hills. The fort is roughly D-shaped on plan with the chord of the D formed by a long straight rampart that stands above the precipitous SE flank of the hill. It measures 105m from NE to SW by 55m transversely within a rampart that measures up to 17m in thickness and over 5m in external height but is clearly of more than one phase. Where the differentiation is clear, the latest phase of rampart measures about 6m in thickness and overlies the remains of a much thicker earlier rampart. Intermittently visible at the SW end of the fort is an outer face to the later rampart, comprising drystone walling that has, in places, been displaced downslope by the weight of core material behind. This outer face comprises no more than four or five courses of thin sandstone slabs and, although what is currently visible will only be the top of the surviving wall-face, a wall constructed of such material cannot have stoodto  any great height and what we see today is likely to be the remains of some form of comparatively low revetment. In both the earlier and later ramparts there is very little evidence of stone within the core and it appears that the material (boulder clay) for both has largely been derived from several large quarries within the interior of the fort. At the SW corner of the fort most of the rampart has been removed, leaving only the lower part of the outer talus. The fort, or at least its latest phase, had two entrances, one on the NE and another on the NW, both of which are crossed by the remains of a narrow, later, wall that runs around the entire circuit of the fort and may be associated with at least some of the buildings within the interior.

Outwith the main rampart there is a series of three outer ramparts, again with very little evidence for the use of stone in their construction, which run from the edge of the very steep slope at the NE end of the fort, around the N side to the entrance on the NW. All three lines of defence have been reduced to little more than terraces, though there is no evidence for them ever having been cultivated. At the entrance on the NW, the terminals of these ramparts (on both sides of the entrance) are obscured below outwash deposits from the slope above. To the SW of the entrance it is not at all clear what the relationship is between the defences of the fort and the enclosure that occupies the rocky and extremely uneven SW flank of the hill. This enclosure, which has an entrance on the W, could be some form of annexe or it could represent the SW end of an enclosure that once took in both this area and the rest of the summit.

Within the interior of the fort there are the remains of at least nine rectangular buildings, two of them large and open-ended and each overlain by a smaller, later structure. The freestanding buildings are represented by the footings of walls with inner and outer stone faces; close to the entrance on the NE, however, there are two buildings represented by simple rectangular platforms cut into the rear scarp of one of the prehistoric quarries in one case and the hollow of the entrance passage in another. On the N flank of the hill, overlying the outer defences, there are a number of structures, either taking the form of subrectangular structures with walls (and in one case an entrance) or simple scoops into the slope.’

Entrance from the NW

David Dorward’s definition of the name Denoon is from the Gaelic:

‘dun obhainn (+ Scots law) – [hill of the] fort of the streamlet.’

The streamlet is the Ewnie Burn flowing south-east of the Law.

The lush green centre

Folklore

James Cargill Guthrie, in his The Vale of Strathmore: Its Scenes And Legends, gives the following story from an,

early time, weird-like, a legend’s muffled chime ‘.

The Hill of Denoon was at that remote period accounted sacred or haunted ground. It was the mythical abode of the elfins and fairies, and formerly a fitting haunt for their midnight revelries.

When the silvery moonbeams lovingly slept in dreamy beauty on the green slopes of the enchanted Hill, and the blue bells and the purple heather were wet with the dew of angels’ tears, arrayed in gossamer robes of bespangled gold, with wands of dazzling sheen and lances of magical bright-ness, would the troops of elfins flauntingly dance to the music of the zephyrs, until the shrill cry of the chanticleer put an end for the time to their mystical enchantments.

Suddenly, as in blue clouds of vapour, they noiselessly vanished away, no sound remaining to break the oppressive stillness, save that of the mountain rivulet, as it fretfully leapt from crag to crag, as if piteously regretting the mysterious departure of its ethereal visitors.

South-east rampart

Having forsworn the presence and companionship of the terrestrial inhabitants of earth, it was a sacred dictum in the code of the fairies that no habitation for human beings should be permitted to be built within the hallowed precincts of the enchanted ground. Unable of themselves to guard against such sacrilegious encroachment, they had recourse to the aid of, and formed a secret compact with the demons, or evil spirits, whose sole avocation consisted in doing mischief, and bringing trouble and misfortune on those under the ban of their displeasure. By this compact these evil spirits became solemnly bound to prevent any human habitation whatever from being erected on the hill, and to blast in the bud any attempts whensoever and by whomsoever made to break this implacable, unalterable decree.

It was about this time the alarm-note was sounded, as the Queen of the Fairies, who, with an eye more observant than the rest of her compeers, observed one evening in the moon-light, certain indications of the commencement of a human habitation. Horror and dismay were instantly pictured on the fair countenances of the masquerading troops of merry dancers as the awful truth was ominously revealed to them by the recent workmanship of human hands.

The sheer slope to the south-east

A council of war was immediately held, when it was determined to summon at once the guardian spirits to their aid and protection.

“By our sacred compact,” cried the Queen, “I command the immediate attendance of all the demons and evil spirits of the air, to avenge the insult now offered to the legions of Fairyland, and to punish the sacrilegious usurpers who dare infringe the sanctity of their mystical domains.”

These demons instantly obeyed the haughty summons, and, in the presence of those they had sworn to protect, they in a twinkling demolished the structure, hurling the well-proportioned foundations over the steep rock into the vale beneath !

The builder, doubtless very much surprised and chagrined when he returned to his work in the early dawn of the following morning, was sorely puzzled to account for the entire disappearance of the solid foundations of the great castle he intended to be erected on the Hill. He did not, however, waste much time, or use much philosophic argument, on the matter, and gave orders to prepare new foundation of even a more durable character.

The demons, to show their invincible power, and for the sake of more effect, allowed the new foundations to rise a degree higher than the former, before they gave out their fiat of destruction. In an instant, however, they were again demolished, and the builder this time gravely assigning some fatal shock of Nature as the cause of the catastrophe quietly resolved to repair the damage by instantly preparing new and still more solid foundations.

Additional and more highly skilled workmen were engaged, and everything for a time went favourably on, the walls of the castle rising grandly to view in all the solidity and beauty of the favourite architecture of the period.

Biding their time, the demons again ruthlessly swept away as with a whirlwind every vestige of the spacious halls, razing the solid massy foundations so effectually that not one stone was left upon another !

Things were now assuming a rather serious aspect for the poor builder, who, thinking that he had at last hit upon the true cause of these successive disasters, attributed his misfortunes to the influence of evil spirits. A man of courage and a match, as he imagined, for all the evil spirits of Pandemonium, supposing they were let loose at once against him by the Prince of Darkness, he unhesitatingly resolved to keep watch and ward on the following night, and to defy all the hosts of hell to prevent him rebuilding the projected edifice. The night expected came ; but, alas, alas !

His courage failed when on the blast
A demon swift came howling past,
Loud screeching wild and fearfully,
This ominous, dark, prophetic cry
“Build not on this enchanted ground !
‘Tis sacred all these hills around ;
Go build the castle in a bog,
Where it will neither shake nor shog !”‘

So, if you are planning to visit Denoon Law – remember: RESPECT THE FAERIES!

References:

  1. Guthrie, James Cargill, The Vale of Strathmore: Its Scenes And Legends, Edinburgh, William Patterson, 1875.
  2. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. The archaeological sites and monuments of Central Angus, Angus District, Tayside Region, The archaeological sites and monuments of Scotland series no 18. Edinburgh, 1983.
  3. Dorward, David, The Sidlaw Hills, Forfar, The Pinkfoot Press, 2004.

©Paul T Hornby 2018

 

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  56.587005, -3.052467 Denoon Law hillfort

Castle Craig, Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire

‘Fort’ (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NS 9116 9769

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 48294

Archaeology & History

This ancient fort could once be seen in the ancient woodlands on the western side of the Mill Glen, above the village, going into the Ochils—but it was completely destroyed, as usual, by the Industrialists when they quarried the entire structure out of existence.  It was a big thing too, by all accounts.  When Stewart Cruden (1964) saw it, shortly before its final demise, it was still impressive to look at.  He told that the fort consisted of a deep rock-cut ditch with a stone wall on the inside and the remains of a stony rampart on the outside.  Although damaged it still measured 300 feet across.  Its interior contained an almost precise circular enclosure, more than eighty feet across inside the remains of a large stone wall some twelve feet thick.

Nearly a hundred years earlier, Miss Christian MacLagan (1875) told it to be much bigger!  Not only did she report how locals remembered a stone roof on top, but it possessed three concentric circular walls, thirty-five apart, with the central area eighty feet in diameter—much as Cruden later reported.  However, even in MacLagan’s day, she told how many of the stones from the fort were being used to construct sheepfolds.  This destruction was being lamented by the local historian William Gibson (1883), who wrote:

“On the west side of the burn, and overtopping the village, stands the beautiful Castle Craig, wooded to the top, and on which stood, in ancient times, a round Pictish fortress, the traces of which can still be distinctly seen. This craig is, I think, one of the most picturesque objects on the Alva estate, and it is a very great pity that it should be so disfigured by the extensive quarrying operations that are being at present carried on at it.”

On the top of the quarry edges can still be found old walled remains crumbling at the edge of the huge cliffs, but these are unlikely to have been attached to the ancient fortress, and may just be the fragmentary memories of the sheepfolds built from the old fort.

Folklore

Tradition told that this was one of the old forts of the Picts who lived in the Ochils.  If it was a fort, then the Pictish tradition is probably true.  Old lore also told that some of the stones from the fort were used in the construction of Stirling Castle, 7.8 miles (12.6km) to the west.

References:

  1. Corbett, L., et al., The Ochil Hills, Forth Naturalist & Historian 1994.
  2. Cruden, Stewart H., “Castle Craig, Tillicoultry,” in Discovery & Excavation Scotland, 1964.
  3. Feacham, Richard, Guide to Prehistoric Scotland, Batsford: London 1977.
  4. Gibson, William, Reminiscences of Dollar, Tillicoultry and other Districts Adjoining the Ochils, Andrew Elliot 1883.
  5. Maclagan, Christian, The Hill Forts, Stone Circles and other Structural Remains of Ancient Scotland, Edinburgh 1875.
  6. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the Counties of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, HMSO: Edinburgh 1933.
  7. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Clackmannan District and Falkirk District, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 1978.
  8. Watson, Angus, The Ochils: Placenames, History, Tradition, PKDC: Perth 1995.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.159423, -3.754137 Castle Craig

White Caterthun Carving, Menmuir, Angus

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NO 54671 66022

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 35007

Getting Here

White CaterthunCR01

The carving below the walling

Many ways here, but from the nearest town of Brechin, take the minor north road out of town (not the B966) to Little Brechin, heading roughly north to the renowned hillforts of White and Brown Cathertun (ask a local if needs be).  Park up and walk up the slope to White Cathertun, following the immense walling around to the right.  Near where you reach the opposite side of the hillfort, look down the rocky slopes for a large boulder, just on the edge of the walling.  You’ll find it!

Archaeology & History

Although Canmore include this cup-marked stone in the site-profile of the incredible White Caterthun hillfort, it should really have an entry of its own, as it’s age and nature very probably pre-date the construction of the giant fortress.  But, this aside, if you’re visiting the hillfort (an incredible place!), at least give this heavily cup-marked stone your attention too.

Looking across the carving

Looking across the carving

Close-up of the main cups

Close-up of the main cups

Probably neolithic in origin, there was a small portable cup-marked companion found 30 yards away, suggesting perhaps that a cairn might once have stood on this hilltop—but tradition is silent on the matter.  No other petroglyphs of any note have been located nearby, which is unusual.  In all probability other carvings remain undiscovered, particularly in the hills immediately to the north.

Consisting of around 80 cup-marks, several of which appear linked by carved lines, the stone has been bound together with concrete and metal bolts after some idiot damaged it in the 19th century.  It was first described by Miss Christian Maclagan (1875) in her stunning megalithic survey of the period.  She wrote:

“To Sir James Simpson’s list of cup-markings we are able to add the one at the Caterthun, on a large block 6 feet long, which is quite covered with very distinctly cut cup-markings.  It is a block of basalt…and the cups are so very clear and sharp in their lines that their freshness can only be accounted for by the stone having lain with the markings buried in the ground.  This curious stone has been quite recently broken in two.  It is a pity to see it so destroyed, because it is valuable to the antiquary in helping to establish a very remote antiquity for the fortification.  It lies on the north side of the fort, among a chaos of stones, having probably once formed the side of a gateway.”

A few years later the late great J. Romilly Allen (1882) visited the site and gave us his description, telling:

“On the west side (of the hillfort), 10 yards north of the boundary of the fir plantation that covers one-half of the hill is a cup-marked boulder… The stone has been broken in two, and one portion of it lies at the foot of the stone rampart just above the first outer ditch, whilst the other half has been rolled down the hill by some mischievous person with more muscles than brains, and is to be found immediately below, where its further progress was arrested by coming in contact with the outermost wall.  The two fragments when placed together measure 6 feet 9 inches long by 3 feet wide, and 1 foot 9 inches thick.  The stone is greenish quartzose slate, and on its upper surface are carved eighty cups, varying from 1½ to 2½ inches diameter.  In two cases two cups are united into one by a connecting groove.”

J. Sherriff's 1995 drawing

J. Sherriff’s 1995 drawing

J.R. Allen's 1882 drawing

J.R. Allen’s 1882 drawing

The most recent description and illustration of the stone is in John Sherriff’s (1995) survey. When we visited the carving recently we noticed three cup-marks etched onto the side of the stone, with a possible carved line running above one of them—but due to the bright sunlight on of the day of our visit, it was difficult to say whether this was a geological in nature or not (bright daylight can hamper good visibility of many carvings).  Check it out!

References:

  1. Allen, J. Romilly, “Notes on some Undescribed Stones with Cup Markings in Scotland,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries Scotland, volume 16, 1882.
  2. Kenworthy, J., “White Caterthun: Cup-Marked Stone”, in Discovery & Excavation, Scotland, 1980.
  3. MacLagan, Christian, The Hill Forts, Stone Circles and other Structural Remains of Ancient Scotland, Edmonston & Douglas: Edinburgh 1875.
  4. Sherriff, John, “Prehistoric Rock-Carvings in Angus,” in Tayside & Fife Archaeological Journal, volume 1, 1995.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.783562, -2.743499 White Catherthun carving

Manor Farm, Bolnhurst, Bedfordshire

Hillfort:  OS Grid Reference – TL 0849 5985

Also Known as:

  1. The Camp

Archaeology & History

Wadmore's 1920 groundplan

Wadmore’s 1920 groundplan

This much disturbed Iron Age ‘hillfort’ is effectively a large enclosure of Iron Age origin, much ruined by farming and subsequent landscape alterations through the centuries, with much of it re-fashioned as a medieval moat more than a thousand years after first being built.  Even when the site was visited and described in Mr Wadmore’s (1920) fascinating work he told of the variants in its apparent construction phases:

“This large earthwork is situated on flat level ground, a few yards off the Bedford-Kimbolton Road, at the VIIth milestone out of Bedford.  In shape it is very irregular and presents little to aid one in arriving at an estimate of its original form, except the construction of its defensive lines, which are of two totally different characters and suggest that a comparatively modern manor has been added to an older work.

“The portion which I take to be the older, lies to the south, and is contained on this and the western side, as far as and including the great sweep bending east, by a strong vallum with a parapet and external fosse.

“The modern portion appears to me to commence between the east and west faces where the lines run north, and are purely the remains of a fosse without any indication of a parapet.  The extension of these lines, so far as can be traced, would tend to prove that the work occupied both sides of the road; but such a fact should not prejudice one’s view concerning the work as a whole….”

Section of the earthworks drawn by Wadmore

Section of the earthworks drawn by Wadmore

Adding with a good sense of humility that, “I am quite willing to admit that I may be mistaken, as the matter is entirely speculative.”  But modern archaeological analysis tends to prove that much of Wadmore’s words were correct and the remaining northern section of these earthworks is where the medieval moated section was built.  Roman remains and other period artifacts have also been unearthed in and around the site.

A few hundred yards southwest of the hillfort we find a place called Greenbury Farm.  This place was known in the 14th century as ‘Grymesbury’, which has been taken by some students as relating to the Norse deity, Grim.  However, Mawer & Stenton (1926) point out that in this instance,

“The Grym family had a holding in Bolnhurst in 1302 and bury is here used in the manorial sense. Hence ‘Grym’s Manor.’”

References:

  1. Mawer, A. & Stenton, F.M., The Place-Names of Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire, Cambridge University Press 1926.
  2. Wadmore, Beauchamp, The Earthworks of Bedfordshire, Bedfordshire Standard: Bedford 1920.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 2016

 

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  52.226082, -0.413221 Manor Farm hillfort

Abbey Craig, Stirling, Stirlingshire

Hillfort:  OS Grid Reference – NS 8094 9566

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 47113
  2. Wallace Monument Fort

Getting Here

Abbey Craig on 1866 map

Most folk visiting here are coming from Stirling city.  There are various buses to get here, which head out over Stirling Bridge along Causewayhead Road (the A9) for half-a-mile where, at the roundabout and the William Wallace pub, go straight across up the minor road, zigzagging back on itself, until you reach the signs for the Wallace Monument.  Follow the well-defined footpath and, once on top of the hill, walk round the back of the mightily impressive tower.

Archaeology & History

Located right where the impressive Wallace Monument proudly stands, this prehistoric precursor to Sir William Wallace’s memory was where Scotland’s legendary hero and his men cast a clear and easy view over Bannockburn, where the halfwit english came for a fight—and deservedly lost!   The structures that used to be inside the now denuded hillfort would, no doubt, have been used by Wallace’s men; but much of those prehistoric remains have now been destroyed.  The visible remains of the fort can be seen round the back of the Wallace Monument: elongated rises of overgrown walling that run almost all the way round, getting slightly higher as you approach the more northern edges, like a semi-circular enclosure.

Royal Commission plan
Abbey Craig – and the great Wallace Monument

The site was described very briefly in William Nimmo’s (1880) early survey of the area, where he told that in 1784, “eleven brazen spears were found on the Abbey Craig, by a Mr Harley”, which he thought came from the time when the earlier ‘castle’ stood here.  He was probably right.  Many years later, the prehistoric remains were included in the county survey of archaeological sites by the Royal Commission lads (1963), who told that, near the north end of the summit of Abbey Craig,

“there is a fort which has been damaged by the construction within it of the Wallace Monument.  All that remains is a substantial turf-covered bank, cresentic on plan and 260ft in length, the ends of which lie close to the brink of the precipice that forms the west face of the hill.  The bank stands to a maximum height of 5ft above the level of the interior and presumably represents a ruined timber-laced wall, since numerous pieces of vitrified stone have been found on the slopes immediately below it.

The entrance to the fort presumably lay between one end of the bank and the lip of the precipice, but both the areas concerned have been disturbed by the construction of the modern approaches.  The interior of the fort measures about 175ft from north to south, by about 125ft transversely and the interior is featureless.”

The fort was probably built sometime in the early Iron Age; so the next time you visit this fine spot, check the remains out round the back of the tower—and remember that our ancestors were living up here 2500 years ago!

References:

  1. Aitchison, N.B., “Abbey Craig Rampart’, in Discovery & Excavation, Scotland, 1981.
  2. Feacham, Richard W., Guide to Prehistoric Scotland, Batsford: London 1977.
  3. Hogg, A.H.A., British Hill-Forts: An Index, BAR: Oxford 1979.
  4. Nimmo, William, The History of Stirlingshire – volume 1 (3rd edition), T.D. Morison: London 1880.
  5. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments Scotland, Stirling –  volume 1, HMSO: Edinburgh 1963.
  6. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Stirling District, Central Region, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 1979.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.138744, -3.917531 Abbey Craig hillfort

Castlehill Wood, St Ninians, Stirling, Stirlingshire

Dun:  OS Grid Reference – NS 75074 90902

Also Known as: 

  1. Canmore ID 46233
  2. Castlehill Wood

Getting Here

In ghostly mist and bracken

Take the Gateside Road from St Ninians or Polmaise Road out of Torbrex across the M9, heading out west onto the southern moors of Touch Hills, passing the Wallstale dun in the trees and then the Castlehill dun just off the road.  Keep going uphill for just over half-a-mile, keeping your eyes peeled on the right for where the MOD lads play some of their war-games.  Walk along the track here, following the line of the woods, until it gets to the spot where it doubles back on itself.  Just here, about 30 yards in front of you, a rounded walled knoll gives the game away!

Archaeology & History

Artists impression of the reconstructed site (PSAS 1959)

An impressive-looking site, not too far off the moorland road, it is one of more than half a dozen hillforts and duns found to the west of Stirling, all of them relatively close to each other—showing that a lot of human activity was going on here in the Iron Age and, probably, much earlier.  Looking like a cross between a broch and a traditional hillfort, the site is best visited in the Winter and Spring months before the bracken starts to encroach and cover it.

Officially rediscovered in 1952 and excavated three years later, it was thought to have been built in the 1st century AD and used for a few hundred years thereafter.  As you walk up to the eastern edge of the monument, a large entrance, 4½ wide, allows you into the large open space within.  From here, and walking around both the inner and outer walls, you get an idea of the huge amount of work it must have taken to build this structure.  The walls alone which constitute the main of Castlewood Dun are, on average, 16 feet thick!  The Royal Commission report for the area (summarizing the archaeological work of F.W. Feacham in the ’50s) gives the basic architectural features of the place:

“The dun is oval in plan…and measures 75ft from NE to SW, transversely within a drystone wall 16ft thick.  The faces of the wall are composed of large, angular blocks, and the core of boulders, small rubble and earth.  The entrance in the E arc, is provided with door-checks.  Within these, the passage measures 4ft 6in in width, and outside them 3ft 9in.  A few paving-stones were laid to level the rough rock surface of the passage-floor.  Traces of what might have been the bottom step of a stair, rising up the inner face of the wall, were found at a point 8ft N of the entrance.  The dun had no mural stair or galleries, but two sets of mural chambers were located, one in the W and the other in the S acr of the wall.  The former consisted of an entrance-passage, 6ft in length, which varied in width from 2ft at the outer to 3ft at the inner end, where it opened into a circular chamber 4ft in diameter.  From either side of the passage a narrow duct or flue, about 19ft in length and 1ft 6in in width, led off obliquely through the core of the wall to debouch into the interior of the dun.  The construction in the S arc consisted of a similar passage, one flue and a smaller chamber.  Ash and a clinker of very light weight were found in the form of deposits in both passages and all the flues. …The excavator suggested they might have been corn-drying installations.”

Groundplan of site (PSAS 1959)
Entrance details (PSAS 1959)

Apart from a small piece of Roman glass, quern fragments, anvils stones and a pot lid, the excavators found very little inside the dun—not even any hearths.  The walling on the southwest and western edges was built onto a small cliff, making access slightly difficult from that side.

From the site itself, views are excellent, particularly in an arc through the north, east and southeast, with the western skylines being only a short distance away.  This enabled relatively easy tribal communication with people at the other brochs, duns and forts in the area, across an otherwise large but difficult landscape in prehistoric times.  A few hundred yards to the northeast, on the other side of the recently planted tree-farm (forestry plantation), a large D-shaped structure—possibly Iron Age, possibly medieval— is accompanied by lines of ancient walling running down the slopes.

References:

  1. Feachem, R W., “Castlehill Wood Dun, Stirlingshire“, in Proceedings Society Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 90, 1959.
  2. Feachem, R W., “Castlehill Wood, Polmaise”, in Discovery & Excavation Scotland, 1955.
  3. MacKie, E W. “English Migrants and Scottish Brochs’, in Glasgow Archaeological Journal, volume 2, 1971.
  4. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments Scotland, Stirling – volume 1, HMSO: Edinburgh 1963.
  5. Royal Commission Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Stirling District, Central Region, Edinburgh 1979.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  56.094510, -4.009638 Castlehill Wood

Winsbury Hill, Marksbury, Somerset

Enclosure (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – ST 6706 6307

Also Known as:

  1. Windsbury Hill

Archaeology & History

Winsbury Hill earthworks
Winsbury Hill earthworks

Apparently, all traces of the possible prehistoric camp or enclosure that were located by Edward Burrow in the 1920s, seems to have vanished.  Very little remained of it even then.  Lower down the slopes are a distinct series of ancient lynchets (or cultivation terraces), which may date back to the Iron Age—these are clearly visible on the eastern and western sides.  Mr Burrow’s (1924) account of the site was as follows:

“Just south of Stantonbury Camp, near Bath, on the adjoining height known as Winsbury Hill, I have traced the almost obliterated remains of a ditch running round the shoulder of the hill, which I have indicated on my drawing. (above)

“On the south and eastern slopes of this prominent hill there are various terraces and scarps, which would repay further investigation.  Possibly Winsbury was fortified as an outlier of the more pronounced Stantonbury Camp, standing directly on the line of the Wansdyke, which runs across the valley towards English Combe.”

References:

  1. Burrow, Edward J., Ancient Earthworks and Camps of Somerset, E.J. burrow: Cheltenham 1924.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Winsbury Hill

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Winsbury Hill 51.365777, -2.474392 Winsbury Hill