Creagantairbh, Ford, Kilmartin, Argyll

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NM 85952 01568

Getting Here

Stone on the 1875 map

From Kilmartin go north on the A816 Oban road, and after 1½ miles watch out for the small B840 road on your right, to Ford and Loch Awe.  Less than a mile along the winding road, just after the track to the farmhouse on your left, keep your eyes peeled for the standing stone on your right, whose top is peeking over the old walling.  If you’re not careful you’ll miss it!

Archaeology & History

From the roadside this looks like just a reasonably small standing stone, but closer inspection shows it’s been snapped halfway up—apparently in a great storm in December 1879.  If you look over the wall, just a couple of yards behind the upright you’ll see the larger section of stone that was attached to the 6-foot upright before its calamitous fall.  Originally it was said to have been 16 feet tall!

Broken bit laid flat
From the roadside

The first description of the stone is thought to be by the great J. Romilly Allen (1880) in his brief visit to Ford, saying simply that the stone “is close to the road on the east side, 1 mile from Ford. It is 14 feet high and 3 feet by 4 feet at the base.  The material is slate.  It inclines considerably from the perpendicular”—meaning, that he saw it before the stone had been broken.  Lucky bugger!

More than twenty years later David Christison (1904) visited the site and wrote his of his finds in an essay for the Society of Antiquaries, although in truth he said little more than anyone before and after has been able to say:

“A mile and a quarter south-south-west of Ford Church, 130 yards east by south of Creagantairbh Beag farmhouse, close to the west side of the highway, stands the base of an obelisk, at the foot of which the shaft lies prostrate.  The base is 5 feet 6 inches high,’and has an oblique ledge, half way up on to which the shaft would accurately fit.  If restored, the height of the stone would be 16 feet 2 inches above ground, and it must have had a very handsome appearance, tapering in width as it gradually does from 2 feet 6 inches to 2 feet.  It is 18 inches thick at the base and 10 inches to 12 inches at the top.”

Christison’s 1904 sketch

The name Creagantairbh derives from the Crag of the Bull, which is the sharp hill immediately in front of you to the north; and its geological consort, the Creag a’ Chapuill (or Crag of the Horse) rises to its immediate northwest.  A few hundred yards further along the road towards Ford is the large Auchinellan standing stone.

Folklore

When I lived in Ford many years ago, the olde folk told me how, in bygone centuries, bulls were sacrificed on the Creagantairbh above.

References:

  1. Allen, J. Romilly, “Note on a Standing Stone near Ford, Argyllshire,” in Proceedings Society Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 14, 1880.
  2. Campbell, Marion & Sandeman, M., “Mid Argyll: An Archaeological Survey,” in Proceedings Society Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 95, 1964.
  3. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Argyll – Volume 6: Mid-Argyll and Cowal, HMSO: Edinburgh 1988.
  4. Ruggles, Clive, Megalithic Astronomy, BAR: Oxford 1984.

Acknowledgements:  Big thanks for use of the 1st Edition OS-maps, reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Altar Stone, Stobo, Peeblesshire

Legendary Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NT 15710 35754

Also Known as:

  1. Arthur’s Stane

Getting Here

Altar Stone on 1859 map

Various ways to get here.  From Peebles take the A72 road west to Kirkurd, but after 4 miles turn left onto B712.  Several miles down, go past Stobo village and before crossing the bridge over  the River Tweed, turn left up minor road leading to Dreva and Broughton.  The track into Altarstone Farm is about a mile along and the stone is across the road from there.  The other way is going south along the A701 from Broughton village, where you take the left turn towards Stobo.  Go along here for just over 3 miles where you reach the woodland (park here where the small track goes into the woods).  A coupla hundred yards further along is Altar Stone Farm on your right and the stone is above the verge on your left.

Archaeology & History

Altar Stone, Stobo

Archaeologically speaking, there’s nowt much to say about this site apart from the usual tedium of its measurements and the rock-type.  I’ll give the latter a miss, but the stone stands at nearly five feet high and nearly as broad; with its upper face relatively smooth and the top of it pretty flat.  A section from the top of this stone was cut and sliced off a few centuries ago and this was said to have been taken to Stobo church a few miles away, where it was fashioned into a stone font for baptisms.  If this is true, it’s possible that this stone was once an authentic squat standing stone, but we’ll probably never know.  Also on top of the stone you can see a number of geophysical scratches, one of which looks as if it may have been worked by human hands and which has some relevance to the folklore of the stone.

It is shown on the 1859 OS-map of the area and was mentioned in the Ordnance Name Book where they told how it was “supposed to have formed the Altar of a druids Temple or some such object,” but they could find no local verification of such lore at the time of their visit… or at least, no one was telling them anything about it…

Folklore

This fascinating bit of rock—or possible sliced standing stone—is of note due to its association with that old shaman of shamans known as Merlin!  Near the end of His days, when He’d truly retired from the world of men and wandered, they say, mad amidst the great lowland forests, an old christian dood by the name of Kentigern—later known as St Mungo—who’d been trying to convert our old magickian away from the animistic ways of Nature.  Legend says that He succeeded.  The old Scottish traveller Ratcliffe Barnett (1925) wrote:

“Merlin is the real genius of Drumelzier.  Dumelzier means the Ridge of Meldred, a pagan prince of the district.  And it was Meldred’s shepherds that slew Merlin the bard.  The heathen bard was present at the battle of Arthuret in the year 573, when the christian army gained a victory over the Heathen Host.  Merlin fled to the forest of Caledon at Drumelzier and there ever after the old Druid spent his life among the wild hills with a repute for insanity.  This poet priest was doubtless heart-broken at the defeat of his pagan friends.  The old order was changing.  But the christian king had brought his friend, St Kentigern or Munro, to preach the gospel in upper Tweedside at Stobo.  One day Kentigern met a weird-looking man and demanded who he was.  “Once I was the prophet of Vortigern (Gwendollen).  My name is Merlin.  Now I am in these solitudes enduring many privations.”

“So Kentigern preached the gospel to the old nature worshipper and won him to Christ.  Up yonder, at the east end of the Dreva road, you will find the rude Altar Stone where, it is said, Kentigern received the Druid into the christian church and dispensed the sacrament.  But in those dark days of the faith, the Druids and their pagan adherents fought hard against the new religion.  So immediately after the admission of Merlin to the Church, the shepherds of Meldred sought him out, stoned him to death on the haugh of Drumelzier, and there, where the Powsail Burn falls quietly into Tweed, Merlin the Martyr was buried.  For long his grave was marked by a hawthorn tree.”

These shepherds were said to have stoned him and then threw his body upon a sharp stake and then into the stream. (stone – wood – water)

If there is any hint of truth in this tale, it is unlikely Merlin would have given himself over to the christian ways unless—as any shaman would—he knew of his impending death.  In which case it would have done him no harm to pretend a final allegiance to the unnatural spirituality that was growing in the land.  But whatever he may have been thinking, it is said that this Altar Stone was where he made such a deed.

Scratch-marks of the mythic hare
Altar Stone, Stobo

An equally peculiar legend—variations of which are found at a number of places in the hills of northern England and Scotland—speaks of another shamanic motif, i.e., of humans changing into animals and back.  For here, legend tells, an old witch was being chased (by whom, we know not) across the land.  She’d turned herself into the form of a hare and, as she crossed over the Altar Stone, her claws dug so deeply into the rock that they left deep scars that can still be seen to this day.  From here, the hare scampered at speed downhill until reaching the River Tweed at the bottom, whereupon transforming itself back into the form of the witch, who promptly fled into the hills above on the far side of the river.

One final thing mentioned by Barnett (1943) was the potential oracular property of the Altar Stone:

“You have to only place your hand on top of this rude altar, shut your eyes, and if you have the gift you will see visions.”

References:

  1. Ardrey, Adam, Finding Merlin, Mainstream 2012.
  2. Barnett, Ratcliffe, Border By-Ways and Lothian Lore, John Grant: Edinburgh 1925.
  3. Buchan, J.W. & Paton, H., A History of Peeblesshire – volume 3, Glasgow 1927.
  4. Crichton, Robin, On the Trail of Merlin in a Dark Age, R. Crichton 2017.
  5. Glennie, John Stuart, Arthurian Localities, Edmonston & Douglas: Edinburgh 1869.
  6. Moffat, Alistair, Arthur and the Lost Kingdoms, Phoenix: London 1999.
  7. Rich, Deike & Begg, Ean, On the Trail of Merlin, Aquarian: London 1991.
  8. Wheatley, Henry B., Merlin, or, The Early History of King Arthur – 2 volumes, Trubner: London 1865.

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

Market Cross, Hastings, Sussex

Cross (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TQ 828 099

Also Known as

  1. North End’s Cross

Archaeology & History

This long-lost stone cross should not be confused with the more recent one, erected by one Mr H. C. Richards in 1901 to commemorate some malarky about Edward VII.  The one in this profile was much older than that, although both of them were erected close to each other.  The older cross was found, said T.H. Cole (1884), “at the head of the Town, near All Saints’ Church.” Also known as the North End’s Cross, the old market was held here and close by were the gallows, the whipping post and the stocks.

References:

  1. Cole, Thomas H., The Antiquities of Hastings and the Battlefield, Hastings St Leonards Phil. Society 1884.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Market Cross, Aynho, Northamptonshire

Cross (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SP 514 332

Archaeology & History

In John Bridges’ (1791) account of the parish of Aynho, he made mention of an old market cross that stood in the village, but even in his day it had been removed and so we know little about it.    Chris Markham (1901) included it in his inventory of crosses, but could find no additional details to those provided by Mr Bridges.  He told us:

“In the seventeenth year of Edward II (1323-4) John de Clavering was lord of the manor of Eynho, and obtained the King’s charter for a weekly mercate, or market, to be held every Tuesday, and a yearly fair on the vigil and day of St. Michael and two days following.  This market was continued until the twentieth year of James I (1622-3), when Richard Cartwright obtained a new charter for holding the market and fair, with the addition of another yearly fair on the Monday and Tuesday after Pentecost.  Bridges, however, writing about 1700, says that the market had been discontinued for some sixty years, and that the market cross had been then long since taken down. Since then the fairs have also sunk into desuetude.”

References:

  1. Bridges, John, The History and Antiquities of Northamptonshire – volume 1, T. Payne: Oxford 1791.
  2. Markham, Christopher A., The Stone Crosses of the County of Northampton, Simpkin Marshall: London 1901.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Balgair Moor, Fintry, Stirlingshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NS 60774 90383

Getting Here

Balgair Moor stone

Go up the B822 road from Fintry for literally 2.5 miles (about 500 yards below the small copse of trees that almost hide Balafark Farm above you) and at a very small ‘parking’ spot are 2 farm-gates.  Go through the lower of the two and head downhill, crossing the small burn and up the other side for just over 100 yards where you’ll meet a very low, old and very overgrown wall.  Keep your eyes peeled for it!  Walk left along this wall, uphill, for another 100 yards till you meet a a dried-up dyke that runs downhill.  10-15 yards down this, a small stone greets you…

Archaeology & History

It’s difficult to call this a ‘standing stone’ and, as far as I’m concerned, is even more troublesome to cite it as a legitimate prehistoric monument.  Nevertheless it is shown on the modern OS-maps as such and was listed by the Royal Commission (1963:1) lads in their standing stones inventory.  But it’s really pushing it to be honest!  They told us:

“This stone stands about 180 yds NW of a gate which opens off the Fintry-Kippen road, 340 yds N of its crossing of the Lernock Burn.  It is triangular in profile and wedge-shaped in section, measuring 3’3″ both in height and breadth along its base, by 1’7″ in greatest thickness.  It may well have been a boundary stone as it is near the corner of some ground which is enclosed by a turf dyke and has been cultivated.”

Looking southwest
Looking up to the ancient cairn of Stronend

In truth, if we call this a standing stone, then there are hundreds of others that I’ve come across over the years—frobbling off-path across huge swathes of moorland—that must also be added to our prehistoric inventories, as the height of this isolated rock is echoed in countless others which are off the archaeological listings.   One such stone ‘stands’ 100 yards northeast of here—although there are many others with  much greater potential.  …I think the only thing that may sway this as being a possible prehistoric upright is the fact that the top of the stone appears to have been broken off, albeit a few hundred years ago if the weathering is owt to go by.   But a cursory look for any broken top-piece found nothing.

References:

  1. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments Scotland, Stirling – volume 1, HMSO: Edinburgh 1963.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Village Cross, Leighterton, Gloucestershire

Cross (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – ST 824 910

Archaeology & History

Charles Pooley (1868) gave a somewhat vague description of this site, telling that, “there is authority for believing that at one time a Cross was set up in the village.”  I can find no other reference to this monument which, I presume, has been destroyed.  (the grid reference cited is an approximation near the centre of the village, where village crosses were usually located)

References:

  1. Pooley, Charles, Notes on the Old Crosses of Gloucestershire, Longmans Green: London 1868.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

High Cross, Elkstone, Gloucestershire

Cross (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SO 9674 1321

Archaeology & History

High Cross on 1883 map

First shown on a 1775 map of the region, this long-lost site is preserved in several place-names near the old crossroads a half-mile north of Elkstone village.  It is mentioned, albeit briefly in Charles Pooley (1868) county survey, where he told that, “in former times a very handsome and lofty High Cross stood in this parish.”  However, there’s the possibility that the name ‘High’ cross may here derive simply from a cross located at a high point in the landscape.

An old ‘Guide Post’ marked on the early Ordnance Survey map at the same spot has been suggested by Danny Sullivan—and not without good reason—to be a prehistoric standing stone.  He may be right.

References:

  1. Pooley, Charles, Notes on the Old Crosses of Gloucestershire, Longmans Green: London 1868.
  2. Sullivan, D.P., Old Stones of the Cotswolds and the Forest of Dean, Reardon: Cheltenham 1999.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Churchyard Cross, St Briavel’s, Gloucestershire

Cross (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SO 559 047

Archaeology & History

At the church of St. Mary at the northern end of the village, Charles Pooley’s (1868) county survey told that,

“There was formerly a Cross in the churchyard near the south porch, but it was removed in the year 1830, when the new tower was built.”

It would seem there is no longer any trace of the monument.

References:

  1. Pooley, Charles, Notes on the Old Crosses of Gloucestershire, Longmans Green: London 1868.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Market Cross, Lechlade, Gloucestershire

Cross (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SU 214 995

Archaeology & History

In days of olde, Charles Pooley (1868) told us that “an old cross formerly stood in the Market-place” in the centre of the town where the old crossroads meet—as was customary for crosses and maypoles—just outside the church of St. Lawrence.  Pyramidal in form, it was mentioned in an old manuscript cited by Adin Williams (1888), which told us,

“Leland saith that in his days there was a Piramid of Stone at ye west end of ye Church, whose foundations are to be seen near Slaughter’s Well, which is said to be medicinal water.”

And although we don’t know when the cross was erected, we know when it was destroyed.  Williams again tells us:

“About 1770, Sir Jacob Wheate pulled down this cross.  He is said to have taken the stones to the house he was building.”

References:

  1. Pooley, Charles, Notes on the Old Crosses of Gloucestershire, Longmans Green: London 1868.
  2. Williams, Adin, Lechlade: Being the History of the Town, Manor and Estates, The Priory and the Church, E.W. Savory: Cirencester 1888.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Village Cross, Deerhurst, Gloucestershire

Cross (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SO 870 299

Archaeology & History

In Charles Pooley’s (1868) definitive account of Gloucestershire county crosses, he informs us that,

“there was formerly a Cross erected in this village, but it has long since disappeared.”

He gives no further information about its history, but we must surmise that it was either associated with the ancient priory on the north side of the village, or in the traditional place at the centre of the the village. The grid-reference cited places the lost cross in the grounds of the priory.

References:

  1. Pooley, Charles, Notes on the Old Crosses of Gloucestershire, Longmans Green: London 1868.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian