St Fillan’s Chair, Killin, Stirlingshire

Sacred Stone: OS Grid Reference – NN 56432 32010

Getting Here

Take the road to Auchlyne from Killin which follows the north side of the River Dochart, and on the edge of the village the stone will be seen on the left hand side behind a hedge, opposite the entrance to ‘Springburn’.

Archaeology & History

The chair is mentioned in Rev. Gillies’ exemplary work, In Famed Breadalbane (1938):

St. Fillan would appear to have had a great liking for stone seats.  Besides the one already mentioned…there is..a..flat stone on the top of a knoll about a mile to the west of the village, and on the north side of the river, on which he is said to have sat and taught

St Fillan’s Chair, ‘twixt road and river
The ‘seat’, facing the River Dochart

Two local ladies told us that the Chair had recently been uncovered from the vegetation. It is a flattish earth-fast slab of rock, which has on the right hand side a seat indentation, which faces the river bank about 12 feet away. Its proximity to the river bank would seem to limit its use as a preaching pulpit, and yet, well over a millennium after the death of Fillan, his ‘Chair’ is still remembered. Did the Chair serve another purpose, a purpose that long preceded Fillan and Christianity?

Here at Killin we are in an area of Scotland where Christianity was for long a veil worn very lightly over long-held ancient animistic beliefs and customs. Indeed in the early nineteenth century, missionaries were sent in the face of considerable local opposition by the Haldanes into Gaelic speaking Breadalbane to try to convert the locals to Christianity.

St Fillan and other saints had it seems become the named facilitators for healing at ancient places on behalf of the incoming religion from the Middle East.  To the west of Killin, there are the St Fillan’s Pools at Auchtertyre near Tyndrum, where he is reputed to have cured madness but which continued to be used for that purpose until the late eighteenth century at least.  There are stones for preventing measles and whooping cough near Killin that are still known and pointed out.  So what of our chair?

There is a nineteenth century story of a chair of St Fiacre (Irish born like Fillan) at the village church of St Fiacre near Monceaux in France being used to ‘confer fecundity upon women who sit upon it ‘.  The shape and proximity to the river may otherwise suggest St Fillan’s Chair was a birthing Chair?  Maybe some very old locals still know the true story of this Chair, but would they tell it?

References:

  1. Anon., Phallic Worship – a Description of the Mysteries of the Sex Worship of the Ancients, privately Printed: London 1880.
  2. Calder, Walter, Lawers, Lochtayside: A Historical Sketch, Macduff, Cunning & Watson, c.1930.
  3. Gillies, William, In Famed Breadalbane, Munro: Perth 1938.

© Paul T Hornby 2020

 

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  56.458306, -4.331382 St Fillans Chair

Trumpeter’s Well, Strathaven, Lanarkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – NS 66014 41685

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 203472

Getting Here

Trumpeters Well on 1864 map

Take the A71 road southwest out of Strathaven as if you’re heading to Kilmarnock.  After 2½ miles (4.1km) you reach the tiny hamlet of Caldermill (be careful or you’ll truly miss it!).  As you go out of the hamlet, on your left there’s a track up to Hillhead Farm with the small but tell-tale signpost saying ‘Trumpeter’s Well’ and the small dome-shaped stone monument in the field is what yer looking for.  If you’re coming from the Kilmarnock side, when you reach the Caldermill sign, it’s in the field immediately to your right.  Y’ can’t really miss it.

Archaeology & History

When the site was surveyed by the Ordnance Survey lads in the 1850s, the water supply had completely run dry.  It was later revived and the nine-foot tall circular stone building built to commemorate its history.  The water apparently now runs within the building, being supplied from Hillhead Farm.

Trumpeters Well, Caldermill

Folklore

The well is said to have gained its name after the local Battle of Drumclog (1679), when one rich Tory known as John Graham of Claverhouse was retreating for fear of his life; and because his own horse had been killed, the coward stole the horse of his young fourteen-year-old trumpeter.  In doing so, the young lad was subsequently killed and his body was thrown down the well.  Tradition also tells that other soldiers were buried in the same field.

References:

  1. Campbell, J. Ramsey, My Ain, My Native Tour – Stra’ven, J.M. Bryson: Strathaven 1943.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.650165, -4.130798 Trumpeter\'s Well

St. Bride’s Well, Avondale, Lanarkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NS 6983 4138

Archaeology & History

St Brides Chapel & Well on the 1864 OS-map

Shown on the 1864 OS map of the area as a ‘Well’ just at the front of St Bride’s Chapel—now a very pleasant old cottage—peasants and pilgrims would stop for both refreshment and ritual here as they walked down High Kype Road.  Although the chapel was described in church records of January 1542 as being on the lands of Little Kype, close to the settlement of St Bride, there seems to be very little known about the history or traditions of the well.  If anyone has further information on this site, please let us know.

Folklore

Bride or Brigit has her origins in early British myth and legend, primarily from Scotland and Ireland.  Her saint’s day is February 1, or the heathen Imbolc (also known as Candlemas).  Although in christian lore St. Bride was born around 450 AD in Ireland and her father a Prince of Ulster, legend tells that her step-father (more probably a teacher) was a druid and her ‘saintly’ abilities as they were later described are simply attributes from this shamanic pantheon. Legends—christian and otherwise—describe Her as the friend of animals; possessor of a magickal cloak; a magickian and a healer; and whose ‘spirit’ or genius loci became attached to ‘sacred sites’ in the natural world, not the christian renunciation of it.  St Bride was one of the primal faces of the great prima Mater known as the Cailleach: the greater Gaelic deity of Earth’s natural cycles, whose changing seasons would also alter Her names, faces and clothes, as Her body moved annually through the rhythms of the year.  Bride was (and is) ostensibly an ecological deity, with humans intrinsically a part of such a model, not a part from it, in contrast to the flawed judaeo-christian theology.

References:

  1. Paul, J.B. & Thomson, J.M., Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum: The Register of the Great Seal of Scotland AD 1513 – 1546, HMGRH: Edinburgh 1883.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.648467, -4.070063 St Bride\'s Well

Breckon Howe, Sleights Moor, Sleights, North Yorkshire

Tumulus:  OS Grid Reference – NZ 85374 03406

Also Known as:

  1. Brakken Howe
Breckon Howe on 1853 map

Getting Here

Along the A169 road between Sleights and Pickering, some two miles south of Sleights at the highest point on the moors just above the west side of the road, you’ll see a large mound with what looks like a standing stone on top of it.  A minor road turns off the A169 at this point, heading southeast, and the large mound is 150 yards from the roadside. You can’t really miss it!

Archaeology & History

Shown on the first OS map of the area in 1853, this conspicuous prehistoric tomb surmounted by a relatively recent boundary stone, sits at the highest point on the moors in these parts.  Despite this (as with others on these moors), very little has been written about the place and it has received only minimal attention in archaeology tomes.  Even the renowned pen of Frank Elgee (1912; 1930) gave it only passing mention.  Perhaps it aint a bad thing to be honest.

Breckon Howe, from the south

As well as being conspicuous, it’s large.  Rising some six feet above the natural ground level, it measures 26 yards across its east-west axis, and 29 yards north-south, with a rough circumference of 88 yards.  The boundary stone that surmounts its crown sits in a hollow that looks like it was opened up a century or two ago by antiquarians (much like ourselves).  But its position of the tomb in the landscape that is most striking.  The view from here is considerable, having a clear 360º view for many miles around.  Other prehistoric tombs can be seen from here, but more importantly this tomb can be seen on the skyline from many others.  This was probably a deliberate feature intended by its builders–and it’s not uncommon, as many of our upland regions are crowned with ancient tombs like Breckon Howe.  In all likelihood this would have been the resting place of some important ancestral figure: a tribal elder or a shaman, whose spirit after death could view and travel across the landscape they inhabited in life.

Although the tomb presently sits amidst an endless sea of heather (Calluna vulgaris) typical of moorland across our northern lands, the name of the site ‘breckon’, according to George Young (1817) derives from the dialect word meaning ferns or bracken.  This is echoed in Francis Kildale’s (1855) local dialect study and subsequently in Joseph Wright’s (1898) unequalled magnum opus.

Folklore

In the early 19th century, one George Calvert who lived in the area, collected as much folklore as he could, as it was dying off with the coming of the Church.  One such piece told that there was once a hob who lived by this old tomb.  A hob is generally known as a supernatural creature, but in this area it can also be a medicine man.  Some hobs were good, others were malicious.  We know not what type of hob lived lived here, but Calvert simply told us there used to be “T’ Hob of Brackken Howe”.  Nowt more!  It would be good to find the story behind this old character, if it hasn’t been lost entirely…

References:

  1. Elgee, Frank, Early Man in Northeast Yorkshire, Frank Bellows: Gloucester 1930.
  2. Elgee, Frank, The Moorlands of North-Eastern Yorkshire, A. Brown: London 1912.
  3. Kildale, Francis, A Glossary of Yorkshire Words and Phrases Collected in Whitby and the Nieghbourhood, J.R. Smith: London 1855.
  4. Home, Gordon, The Evolution of an English Town, J.M. Dent: London 1905.
  5. Wright, Joseph, English Dialect Dictionary – volume 1, .Henry Frowde: London 1898.
  6. Young, George, A History of Whitby and Streoneshalh Abbey – volume 2, Clarke & Medd: Whitby 1817.

Acknowledgements:  A huge thanks to Lindsay Mitchell for getting us up to see this great tomb and its companion.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  54.418942, -0.685822 Breckon Howe

Flat Howe (2), Sleights Moor, Sleights, North Yorkshire

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – NZ 85510 04614

Also Known as:

  1. Flat Howe (south)

Getting Here

Flat Howe-2 on 1853 map

Along the A169 road that runs may miles from Whitby to Pickering, as you go through the small town of Sleights, the road gets steep for a mile or so, until you reach the moorland tops, where the road runs dead straight.  After 1.2 miles (1.93km) along the straight road, a small minor road is to your right.  Go along here for literally half-a-mile (0.8km) where you’ll see a small dirt-track on your right, with a locked gate.  There’s room to park here.  Walk straight onto the moor towards the large rounded mound about 200 yards northeast.  That’s it!

Archaeology & History

Highlighted as a blip on the 1853 OS-map (see above) 250 yards south of Flat Howe (1), this is the slightly smaller of the two prehistoric cairns on this flat piece of moorland (which covered in scattered woodland at the time of its construction).  It has been severely robbed of stones by some land-owning fuckwits in the 19th century, who saw fit to build a shooting hut into the tomb itself!  Knob-heads!   As a result, much of the content of the cairn has been severely depleted, with only its western side having any real height to it.

Flat Howe 2 looking south (photo, James Elkington)
Flat Howe 2, looking east

Just like Flat Howe 1, it seems that it’s never been excavated, so we can only guess about how old it is; though it is very probably Bronze Age.  The cairn is roughly 25 yards across and oval in form, but was probably more circular before those morons built their hunting lodge into it.  Its western side stands some 4-5 feet tall, which was probably the uniform height all round it before it was vandalized.  A few yards to the south is what may be a cup-marking on one of the flat earthfast rocks, although I’m slightly sceptical of it.

The position of the site in the landscape is a fine one: living on a large flat open expanse of land, which was probably cleared of some trees when it was first built, allowing for a very wide view in all directions, just like its companion 250 yards to the north.  Well worth checking out.

Folklore

It’s worth repeating the myth we have of a place on Sleights Moor that I’ve also cited in the Flat Howe 1 site profile.  Although we have nothing specific relating to this tomb, an olde creation myth tells us that the local giants, Wade and his wife Bel, left their young son (whose name seems to have been forgotten) somewhere on Sleights Moor (which aint a big place).  The story was first written down by George Young (1817) in his magnum opus on Whitby and the tale was subsequently re-told by many others – Mrs Gutch (1901) for one:

“Young Wade, even when an infant, could throw a rock several tons weight to a vast distance; for one day when his mother was milking her cow near Swarthoue, the child, whom she had left on Sleights moor, became impatient for the breast, and seizing a stone of vast size, heaved it across the valley in wrath, and hit his mother with such violence, that though she was not materially hurt, her body made an impression on the stone which remained indelible, till the stone itself was broken up, a few years ago, to mend the highways!”

This rock was Bel’s Rock, whose exact location seems to have been lost.

References:

  1. Elgee, Frank, Early Man in Northeast Yorkshire, Frank Bellows: Gloucester 1930.
  2. Elgee, Frank, The Moorlands of North-Eastern Yorkshire, A. Brown: London 1912.
  3. Grinsell, Leslie V., The Ancient Burial Mounds of England, Methuen: London 1936.
  4. Gutch, Mrs, County Folk Lore – volume 2: Examples of Printed Folk-lore Concerning the North Riding of Yorkshire, York and the Ainsty, David Nutt: London 1901.
  5. Jeffrey, P. Shaw, Whitby Lore and Legend, Home: Whitby 1923.
  6. Roberts, Anthony, Sowers of Thunder, Rider: London 1978.
  7. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the North Riding of Yorkshire, Cambridge University Press 1928.
  8. Young, George, A History of Whitby and Streoneshalh Abbey – volume 2, Clarke & Medd: Whitby 1817.

Acknowledgements:  A huge thanks to Lindsay Mitchell for getting us up to see this great tomb and its companion; and to James Elkington for use of the photograph.

Links:  Flat Howe on The Megalithic Portal

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  54.429770, -0.683386 Flat Howe (2)

Flat Howe (1), Sleights Moor, Sleights, North Yorkshire

Tumulus:  OS Grid Reference – NZ 85483 04866

Also Known as:

  1. Flat Howe (north)

Getting Here

Flat Howe-1 on 1853 map

Along the A169 road that runs may miles from Whitby to Pickering, as you go through the small town of Sleights, the road gets steep for a mile or so, until you reach the moorland tops, where the road runs dead straight.  After 1.2 miles (1.93km) along the straight road, a small minor road is to your right.  Go along here for literally half-a-mile (0.8km) where you’ll see a small dirt-track on your right, with a locked gate.  There’s place to park here.  You’ll see the large rounded mound of Flat Howe-2 about 200 yards NE.  Head there, then another 250 yards north.  You’ve arrived!

Archaeology & History

Of the two ‘Flat Howe’ burial mounds on Sleights Moor, this is the northern one of the two, being 250 yards (230m) away from its southern companion (at NZ 85510 04614).  It’s quite a big fella too – and so you’d expect there to be quite a bit of information about it.  But there isn’t!  No recorded excavation has taken place here, despite the top of the monument being cut into.  But this might have occurred when the Ordnance Survey lads built one of their triangulation pillars into the side of it.  Thankfully it’s not done too much damage.

I was quite surprised to find that even Frank Elgee (1912; 1930) had little to say about either of the two Flat Howes, simply mentioning them in passing in relation to the numerous other prehistoric tombs on these moors.  Despite this, the archaeologist L.V. Grinsell (1936) thought this site to be one of “the finest peristalith barrows I have ever seen.”  And this one in particular is still very impressive.

Flat Howe from the south
Flat Howe (by James Elkington)

First shown on the 1853 OS-map, this large heather-covered mound of earth and stone is some six feet high and measures roughly 22 yards (20m) east-west by 19 yards (17.5m) north-south.  The tomb was originally constructed within a circle of reasonably large boulders, some of which were upright.  These can still be seen, mainly along the western and southern sides of the monument, although many have been dislodged over time and fallen at various angles, as you can see in the photo.  Whether or not these stones were erected first and then the mound built inside the ring, we do not know.  It’s the highest point in the landscape on Sleights Moor, with damn good views in all directions: an element that is common to many large prehistoric tombs, for obvious reasons.  Other tombs of similar size and probably similar periods in prehistory can be seen close by and on the skyline.  Whether this was a deliberate visual ingredient by our tribal ancestors is difficult to say, as the moors here were covered in scattered woodlands in prehistoric times.  Only detailed archaeo-botanical surveys would be able to tell us one way or the other.

Folklore

Flat Howe, with large stones defining its edge

Although we have nothing specific relating to this tomb, an olde creation myth told us that the local giants, Wade and his wife Bel, left their young son (whose name seems to have been forgotten) somewhere on Sleights Moor (which aint a big place).  It is worth narrating simply because it may have related to this tomb or its companion close by.  Giant legends have long been associated with the creation of many prehistoric tombs in this country and abroad.  The story was first written down by George Young (1817) in his magnum opus on Whitby and the tale was subsequently re-told by many others – Mrs Gutch (1901) for one:

“Young Wade, even when an infant, could throw a rock several tons weight to a vast distance; for one day when his mother was milking her cow near Swarthoue, the child, whom she had left on Sleights moor, became impatient for the breast, and seizing a stone of vast size, heaved it across the valley in wrath, and hit his mother with such violence, that though she was not materially hurt, her body made an impression on the stone which remained indelible, till the stone itself was broken up, a few years ago, to mend the highways!”

This rock was Bel’s Rock, whose exact location seems to have been lost.

References:

  1. Elgee, Frank, Early Man in Northeast Yorkshire, Frank Bellows: Gloucester 1930.
  2. Elgee, Frank, The Moorlands of North-Eastern Yorkshire, A. Brown: London 1912.
  3. Grinsell, Leslie V., The Ancient Burial Mounds of England, Methuen: London 1936.
  4. Gutch, Mrs, County Folk Lore – volume 2: Examples of Printed Folk-lore Concerning the North Riding of Yorkshire, York and the Ainsty, David Nutt: London 1901.
  5. Jeffrey, P. Shaw, Whitby Lore and Legend, Home: Whitby 1923.
  6. Roberts, Anthony, Sowers of Thunder, Rider: London 1978.
  7. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the North Riding of Yorkshire, Cambridge University Press 1928.
  8. Young, George, A History of Whitby and Streoneshalh Abbey – volume 2, Clarke & Medd: Whitby 1817.

AcknowledgementsA huge thanks to Lindsay Mitchell for getting us up to see this great tomb and its companion; and to James Elkington for use of the photograph.

LinksThe Megalithic Portal on Flat Howe

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  54.432038, -0.683730 Flat Howe (1)

St. Bride’s Well, London, Middlesex

Holy Well (covered):  OS Grid Reference – TQ 3157 8111

Archaeology & History

St Brides Well on 1896 map

Close to the centre of that corporate money-laundering place of homo-profanus that is the City of London, was once a site that represents the antithesis of what it has become.  Tacked onto the southeastern side of St. Bride’s church along the appropriately-named Bride Lane, the historian Michael Harrison (1971) thought the Holy Well here had Roman origins.  It “was almost certainly,” he thought,

“in Roman times, the horrea Braduales, named after the man who probably ordered their construction: Marcus Appius Bradua, Legate of Britain under Hadrian, and the British Governer in whose term of office the total walling of London was, in all likelihood, begun.”

This ‘Roman marketplace of Bradua’ that Harrison describes isn’t the general idea of the place though.  Prior to the church being built, in the times of King John and Henry III, the sovereigns of England were lodged at the Bridewell Palace, as it was known.  Mentioned in John Stow’s (1720) Survey of London, he told:

“This house of St. Bride’s of later time, being left, and not used by the Kings, fell to ruin… and only a fayre well remained here.”

The palace was eventually usurped by the building of St. Bride’s church.  The most detailed account we have of St. Bride’s Well is Alfred Foord’s (1910) magnum opus on London’s water supplies.  He told:

“The well was near the church dedicated to St. Bridget (of which Bride is a corruption; a Scottish or Irish saint who flourished in the 6th century), and was one of the holy wells or springs so numerous in London, the waters of which were supposed to possess peculiar virtues if taken at particular times.  Whether the Well of St. Bride was so called after the church, or whether, being already there, it gave its name to it, is uncertain, more especially as the date of the erection of the first church of St. Bride is not known and no mention of it has been discovered prior to the year 1222.  The position of the ancient well is said to have been identical with that of the pump in a niche in the eastern wall of the churchyard overhanging Bride Lane.  William Hone, in his Every-Day Book for 1831, thus relates how the well became exhausted: ‘The last public use of the water of St. Bride’s well drained it so much that the inhabitants of the parish could not get their usual supply.  This exhaustion was caused by a sudden demand on the occasion of King George IV being crowned at Westminster in July 1821.  Mr Walker, of the hotel No.10 Bridge Street, Blackfriars, engaged a number of men in filling thousands of bottles with the sanctified fluid from the cast-iron pump over St. Bride’s Well, in Bride Lane.”  Beyond this there is little else to tell about the well itself, but the spot is hallowed by the poet Milton, who, as his nephew, Edward Philips records, lodged in the churchyard on his return from Italy, about August 1640, “at the house of one Russel a taylor.”

In Mr Sunderland’s (1915) survey, he reported that “the spring had a sweet flavour.”

Sadly the waters here have long since been covered over.  A pity… We know how allergic the city-minds of officials in London are to Nature (especially fresh water springs), but it would be good if they could restore this sacred water site and bring it back to life.

Folklore

Bride or Brigit has her origins in early British myth and legend, primarily from Scotland and Ireland.  Her saint’s day is February 1, or the heathen Imbolc (also known as Candlemas).  Although in christian lore St. Bride was born around 450 AD in Ireland and her father a Prince of Ulster, legend tells that her step-father (more probably a teacher) was a druid and her ‘saintly’ abilities as they were later described are simply attributes from this shamanic pantheon. Legends—christian and otherwise—describe Her as the friend of animals; possessor of a magickal cloak; a magickian and a healer; and whose ‘spirit’ or genius loci became attached to ‘sacred sites’ in the natural world, not the christian renunciation of it.  St Bride was one of the primal faces of the great prima Materknown as the Cailleach: the Gaelic deity of Earth’s natural cycles, whose changing seasons would also alter her names, faces and clothes, as Her body moved annually through the rhythms of the year.  Bride was (and is) ostensibly an ecological deity, with humans intrinsically a part of such a model, not a part from it, in contrast to the flawed judaeo-christian theology.

References:

  1. Foord, Alfred Stanley, Springs, Streams and Spas of London: History and Association, T. Fisher Unwin: London 1910.
  2. Gregory, Lady, A Book of Saints and Wonders, Colin Smythe: Gerrards Cross 1971.
  3. Harrison, Michael, The London that was Rome, Allen & Unwin: London 1971.
  4. McNeill, F. Marian, The Silver Bough – volume 2, William MacLellan: Glasgow 1959.
  5. Morgan, Dewi, St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, in the City of London, Blackfriars: Leicester 1973.
  6. o’ Hanlon, John, Life of St. Brigid, Joseph Dollard: Dublin 1877.
  7. Sunderland, Septimus, Old London Spas, Baths and Wells, John Bale: London 1915.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

St Bride's Well

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St Bride\'s Well 51.513575, -0.105216 St Bride\'s Well

Giant’s Stone, Tweedsmuir, Peeblesshire

Standing Stones:  OS Grid Reference – NT 0953 2398

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 48527
  2. Menzion Farm

Getting Here

The small Giant's Stone

The small Giant’s Stone

Take the long long A701 road betwixt Moffat and Penicuik, and in the middle, somewhere, keeps your eyes attentive to the Tweedsmuir hamlet, across the small bridge almost lost in the expanse of old hills.  Once over the bridge, park up by the edge of the forest.  Walk along the small road that follows the riverside – and after a few hundred yards you’ll see, either side of the small road, three stones. Our “giant” is the tallest of the smallests here, right by forestside.

Archaeology & History

Giant's Stone & Grave on 1865 OS-map

Giant’s Stone & Grave on 1865 OS-map

Hiding away in the Back-of-Beyond, amidst a small cluster of other small megalithic remains, sleeps this quiet standing stone and its companions – three of them altogether, almost lost to anyone but old locals, whose tongues have sadly all but died.  Very little has been written about the place in any archaeology tomes and the earliest mention of the site seems to have been in the Second Statistical Account of 1845, when the surveyors told:

“Close by the road leading from the church to Menzion House, there are the remains of a Druidical temple or Pictish court of justice. Only one stone is left of a number similar in appearance and size which stood together, and which have been removed for the purpose of dike-building, &c. It is called the Standing Stone, and is five feet above the surface of the earth.”

Stone 2, across the road

Stone 2, across the road

More than a century later, the Royal Commission (1967) lads got round to checking the place out, but there seems to be some slight confusion as to what they recorded and the situation as it stands today.  The present Royal Commission lads reports the existence of what they call the Menzion Stones: quite separate standing stones—although ‘fallen’—just a short distance from the Giant’s Stone (Canmore ID 48561), citing them as described in the Peeblesshire (1967) survey which, oddly, neither includes nor names the Giant’s Stone which is only yards away.  It seems safe to assume that the respective Royal Commission inspectors have made erroneous judgements here, brought about due to the repositioning of the original Giant’s Stone when the Forestry Commission afflicted the place and, it seems, damaged the site.  It’s difficult to say with any certainty—but there are definitely some official errors in the description of this site.  Anyway, if we assume that the ‘Menzion’ standing stones in the Peeblesshire Inventory were actually the Giant’s Stone and its companions, this is how they reported it following a visit here in 1956:

“A quarter of a mile NE of Menzion farmhouse, the road to Tweedsmuir passes between two standing stones. The more northerly stone, situated 10 yds W of the roadway measures about 2 ft. 3 in square at ground level and stands to a height of 2 ft 6 in. The other stone is 25 yds SE of the first and 12 yds E of the roadway. It, too, is almost square on plan, measuring about 2 ft 2 in along each side at ground level, and stands to a height of 2 ft.”

Even more peculiar is that today we have three standing stones at this spot!  Like those at Perthshire’s Tigh nam Bodach, perhaps the metamorphosized spirit of the site is reproducing!

Folklore

In the very same Second Statistical Account (1845) was recounted the folklore of the largest stone, which had obviously been told them by local folk.  Twas said that,

“From behind it, a person of diminutive stature, known by the name of Little John, discharged an arrow at the head of a freebooter of formidable dimension who greatly annoyed the peaceful inhabitants, and who, though on the opposite side of the Tweed, was unable to elude the deadly stroke.”

Folklorists Janet & Colin Bord narrated a variation on the above story, telling that,

“This stone and the two nearby mark the place where Jack the Giant Killer despatched his last victim. Jack hid behind the Giant’s Stone to shoot, but unfortunately the mortally wounded giant managed to get a punch in and Jack was himself killed. The stone now acts as his gravestone.”

All three stones together

All three stones together

Invariably, references to “giants” in folklore—be it in mountains or standing stones—indicates early Creation Myth stories that tell about the origin of the given site.  In the case of this standing stone and its companions, and the related Giant’s Grave tomb 320 yards WNW across the River Tweed, it would seem to indicate a folk memory of the hero-figure or giant who was buried here thousands of years ago, and whose spirit inhabits the stone.  This motif is widespread and very archaic.

References:

  1. Bord, Janet & Colin, Atlas of Magical Britain, Sidgwick & Jackson: London 1990.
  2. Eliade, Mircea, A History of Religious Ideas – volume 1, University of Chicago Press 1978.
  3. Johnson, Walter, Folk Memory, Oxford University Press 1908.
  4. Maclagan, David, Creation Myths, Thames & Hudson: London 1977.
  5. Roberts, Anthony, Sowers of Thunder, Rider: London 1978.
  6. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Peeblesshire – volume 1, Aberdeen University Press 1967.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.501225, -3.433425 Giant\'s Stone

Giant’s Grave, Tweedsmuir, Peeblesshire

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NT 0925 2410

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 48535

Archaeology & History

Giant's Grave & Stone on 1865 OS-map

Giant’s Grave & Stone on 1865 OS-map

Marked on the 1865 OS-map as a “tumulus”, it was destroyed by some idiot in 1818 due to some basic lacking; but we can see from the old map how close it was to the Giant’s Stone on the south-side of the River Tweed, to which it may have had an archaeological connection with.  When it was destroyed, the New Statistical Account in 1845 described there being a six-foot long stone coffin (cist) beneath the tumulus, containing the usual burial urn.

Folklore

When the 18th century writer Alexander Pennecuik (1715) wrote about this old tomb, he narrated the tradition of the site as told him by the local people, telling:

“….upon the head of a burn on the south side of Tweed, stands the old-house of Hawkshaw, belonging (to) Porteous, from a numerous race of Ancestor’s Chiefs of that surname.  Over against the foot of Hawkshaw-Burn in a Kairn beside the High road is the Giants Grave, so called from a huge and mighty Fellow, that robbed all on the way, but was at length from a Mount in the over side of the River supprised and shor to Death as Tradition goes.”

References:

  1. Pennecuik, Alexander, A Geographical, Historical Description of the Shire at Tweeddale, John Moncur: Edinburgh 1715.
  2. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Peeblesshire – volume 1, Aberdeen University Press 1967.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.502464, -3.438224 Giant\'s Grave

Robin Hood & Little John Stones, Whitby, North Yorkshire

Standing Stones (destroyed?):  OS Grid Reference – NZ 9171 0952

Also Known as:

  1. Robin Hood’s Pillars

Archaeology & History

The 2 stones on 1853 map

The 2 stones on 1853 map

References to these old standing stones are scarce—at least in archaeology books anyway.  Even the usually diligent masters of Burl (1993) and Thom (1990) missed them!  But thankfully our folklorists and antiquarians with their keen interest in popular culture have written about these long lost monoliths, which could once be seen in fields just a mile or so south of Whitby town.

The earliest known account of the site is as the “Robyn-Hood-stone” in records dating from 1540 CE cited in the Cartularium Abbathiae de Whiteby (1881).  It was later described in land registers in 1713 and the fields in which they stood were—and still are—respectively known as Robin Hood’s Close and Little John’s Close.

These Whitby monoliths—like their namesakes in Northamptonshire— weren’t too big.  In Mr Young’s (1817) early description, when the stones were still visible, he told how Robin Hood’s stone was “a stone pillar about a foot square and four feet high”, and Little John’s Stone was “a similar pillar about two-and-a-half feet high.”  Mr J.C. Atkinson, the editor of the Cartularium (1881), also told that the two stones were “still in situ in the earlier part of the present century,” continuing:

“Both stones have now been removed, and are, I was informed, set up again near the enclosing fence of the field in which they stood. Almost beyond question , like the other monoliths of the district, they marked the site of ancient British interments.”

So—do the remains of these old stones still exist somewhere close by as J.C. Atkinson said, either in the walling, as a gatepost, or just pushed over and now covered in grass (like the long lost Thief Thorne standing stone near Addingham)?  Are any northern antiquarians living close by who might enable their rediscovery?

Folklore

A number of writers exploring the mythic histories of Robin Hood have included this site in their surveys, usually repeating the earlier creation myths about them that could be heard in popular culture.  The Whitby historian George Young (1817) told the tale:

“According to tradition, Robin Hood and his trusty mate, Little John, went to dine with one of the Abbots of Whitby, and, being desired by the Abbot to try how far each of them could shoot and arrow, they both shot from the top of the Abbey, and their arrows fell on the west side of Whitby Laithes, beside the lane leading from thence to Stainsacre; that of Robin Hood falling on the north side of the lane and that of Little John about a hundred feet further, on the south side of the lane.”

Whitby folklorist P.S. Jeffrey (1923) took this myth literally, saying how the distance of the arrows fired by the respective folk heroes was “scarcely credible, as the distance in each case is about a mile-and-a-half.”  However, the earlier historian Lionel Charlton (1779) thought the incredible feat quite credible!

The distance between the Abbey and the stones is 1.36 miles (2.2km); but it may be that the direction related in the tale was more important than the distance, as the alignment between the two sites runs northwest to southeast—or southeast to northwest, whichever you prefer!—and may relate to an early astro-archaeological alignment.  Might…..

References:

  1. Anonymous, “Robin Hood in Yorkshire“, in Yorkshire Folk-Lore Journal – volume 1, T.Harrison: Bingley 1888.
  2. Anonymous, “Whitby Arms,” in Yorkshire Folk-Lore Journal – volume 1, T.Harrison: Bingley 1888.
  3. Benedicti, Ordinis S., Cartularium Abbathiae de Whiteby – volume 2, Andrews: Durham 1881.
  4. Burl, Aubrey, From Carnac to Callanish, Yale University Press 1993.
  5. Charlton, Lionel, The History of Whitby and Whitby Abbey, T. Cadell: York 1779.
  6. Doel, Fran & Goeff, Robin Hood: Outlaw or Greenwood Myth, Tempus: Stroud 2000.
  7. Green, Barbara, The Outlaw Robin Hood – His Yorkshire Legend, KCS: Huddersfield 1992.
  8. Gutch, Mrs, County Folk-lore – volume 2: North Riding of Yorkshire, York and the Ainsty, David Nutt: London 1901.
  9. Jeffrey, P. Shaw, Whitby Lore and Legend, Whitby 1923.
  10. Mitchell, W.R., Exploring the Robin Hood Country, Dalesman: Clapham 1978.
  11. Parkinson, Thomas, Yorkshire Legends and Traditions – volume 2, Elliot Stock: London 1889.
  12. Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Stone Rows and Standing Stones – 2 volumes, BAR: Oxford 1990.
  13. Young, George, The History of Whitby and Streoneshalh Abbey – volume 2, Clark & Medd: Whitby 1817.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Robin Hood & Little John stones

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Robin Hood & Little John stones 54.472767, -0.586328 Robin Hood & Little John stones