St. Helen’s Well, Barmby-on-the-Marsh, East Yorkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 6900 2841

Archaeology & History

Site shown on 1853 map

One of two holy wells in Barmby village which, like its compatriot St Peter’s Well, was destroyed sometime in the 19th century.  Not good!  It was located in the southwest section of the graveyard of St Helen’s Church and was apparently alive and running when the Ordnance Survey lads visited here in 1851 (as shown on their 1853 map).  But when the site was revisited by them in 1905, it seems to have gone.  However, as with the neighbouring St Peter’s Well, there are conflicting reports as to when it was destroyed, for although the Ordnance Survey lads spoke of it in the present tense when they went there, Thomas Allen (1831) told that “within the last six years (it has) been wantonly filled up.”  Despite this, less than ten years later William White mentioned it in the present tense, also saying how it was “said to possess medicinal properties.”  These healing qualities were, according to Allen, due to its iron-bearing or chalybeate nature, meaning that it would revive a weak and feeble constitution.  Iron-bearing wells are damn good for such things!

As the years passed, St. Helen’s Well fell into folk memory.  When William Smith (1923) surveyed the many holy wells in this part of the world he found how “old parishioners have said that as school-children they both drank of and washed in its water”, but little else.

References:

  1. Allen, Thomas, A New and Complete History of the County of York – volume 2, I.T. Hinton: London 1831.
  2. Gutch, E., Examples of Printed Folk-lore Concerning the East Riding of Yorkshire, Folk-Lore Society: London 1912.
  3. Harte, Jeremy, English Holy Wells – volume 2, Heart of Albion press: Wymeswold 2008.
  4. Smith, William, Ancient Springs and Streams of the East Riding of Yorkshire, A. Brown: Hull 1923.
  5. White, William, History, Gazetteer and Directory of the East and North Ridings of Yorkshire, R. Leader: Sheffield 1840.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Chesters House, Humshaugh, Northumberland

Cup-and-Ring Stone (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NY 909 702

Archaeology & History

Chesters carving 1887

The whereabouts of this carving is somewhat of a mystery.  Originally found three or four hundred yards away to the northeast of Chesters mansion, it was moved from there into the porch entranceway of the place—and here it lived for, hmmmm….well, we’re not quite sure how long it was here.  The only description of the carving seems to have been made by the Rev. G.R. Hall in 1887, and between then and sometime in the 20th century, it’s disappeared to who-knows-where.  The only known photo of the carving (right) suggests that the original design was somewhat bigger as the stone looks to have been broken off from a larger piece.  Mr Hall told us:

“this stone is 3 feet in length by 2 feet 6 inches in breadth, of irregular form.  It has five incised cups on each side of a wide, slightly curved channel, which crosses the stone at nearly its widest part.  Two other grooves intersect this longest channel, one forming a segment of a circle.  At the opposite end of the slab are two nearly parallel grooves passing towards the largest hollow. The ten cups vary from 1½ inches to 3 inches in diameter, and are from half an inch to an inch in depth.”

All being well, the carving is hiding in a wall somewhere, or maybe beneath His Lordship’s bed.  Hopefully it’ll re-appear sometime soon…

References:

  1. Beckensall, Stan, Northumberland’s Prehistoric Rock Carvings – A Mystery Explained, Pendulum: Rothbury 1983.
  2. Hall, G.R., “On Some Cup-incised Stones, found in an Ancient British Burial-mound at Pitlands Hills, near Birtley, North Tynedale,” in Archaeologia Aeliana (2nd Series) volume 12, 1887.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

Mountain Farm, Whittingham, Northumberland

Cup-and-Ring Stone (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NU 053 128

Archaeology & History

This lost carving may have been brought to light as a result of field ploughing which, quite fortunately, uncovered a Bronze Age burial site with a cup-and-ring stone therein.  It was reported by the regional historian David Dixon (1895) in his classic work on this area, although his description was brief and he made no sketch of the design.  He told us:

“A stone-lined grave or cist, similar to that discovered at Mile, was found several years ago on Mountain Farm, in or near to which was a sandstone slab, covered with a fine example of the incised circles, such as are found in the rocks at Routin Lynn, Bewick Hill, Chatton Law and Lordenshaws Camp.”

These other petroglyphs he mentions are bloody impressive!  Sadly they’re not yet on TNA. (site profiles required of them are considerable in size – if anyone would like to write them 😉 )

References:

  1. Beckensall, Stan, Northumberland’s Prehistoric Rock Carvings – A Mystery Explained, Pendulum: Rothbury 1983.
  2. Dixon, David D., Whittingham Vale, Northumberland, Robert Redpath: Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1895.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Whitelaw, Kirknewton, Northumberland

Cup-and-Ring Stone (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NT 942 295

Also Known as:

  1. Whitelaw Stone

Archaeology & History

Sometime at the end of the 1860s, a local man—Mr William Wightman of Wooler—was in possession of this impressive-looking petroglyph which, we presume, he uncovered.  The carved stone was, as we can see, broken off from a larger piece and so it’s very evident that this was originally a larger design than the one illustrated here in Mr Middlemass’ (1872) drawing.  The only information we have about it are from his short notes,

The Whitelaw Stone

“was found on the north side of a hill called Whitelaw, the next eminence south-east from Yeavering Bell.  The stone is a very hard gritty sandstone, and bears distinctly the tool marks by which the circles have been cut. The tool must have been of iron or bronze, as the material is too hard to be operated upon by stone implements; moreover, the tool marks shew that the instrument used had a sharp round point, and must have been held in a similar way to the modern chisel.  The marks shew the size of the point.  The object of the artist evidently has been to fill the stone with ornament as between the two great circles; and at the corners he has placed smaller circles to suit the space. The similar nature of the circles on all the stones hitherto figured would seem to show that such stones, if monumental, were not legendary, but, most probably of a religious character; serving, like the Christian cross, to invite the traveller to pay his devotions on a spot rendered sacred by the emblems of worship.”

Searches for this have been made by Stan Beckensall (1983) and his acolytes, but it remains lost. (the grid-ref is an approximation)

References:

  1. Beckensall, Stan, Northumberland’s Prehistoric Rock Carvings – A Mystery Explained, Pendulum: Rothbury 1983.
  2. Middlemass. Robert, “On an Inscribed Stone in the Possession of Mr William Wightman, Bank, Wooler,” in History Berwickshire Naturalists Club, volume 6, 1869-72.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Tom Tallon’s Grave, Kirknewton, Northumberland

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

Also Known as:

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

Archaeology & History

Site on the 1866 OS-map

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

Folklore

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

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

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

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

References:

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

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Cartington Cove, Rothbury, Northumberland

Cup-and-Ring Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NU 0444 0186

Archaeology & History

In an area teeming with prehistoric sites from the neolithic and Bronze Age periods, we had a rare example here of some cup-and-rings that had been carved within a small cave or rock shelter of some kind.  Sadly it got destroyed in the mid-19th century due to quarrying operations—but not before George Tate (1864; 1865) had a final sniff of the place and was very lucky to see some of the remains before they finally bit-the-dust.  He told us:

“The great sandstone ridge ranges from Eglingham and Beanley across the central part of the county towards Rothbury, near to which is a cave in the rock called “Cartington Cove;” concentric circles with central hollows were incised within this cave.  Mr. Williamson of Alnwick, from whom I had this information, played around them when a boy more than fifty years ago; and they were then popularly called “Cups and Saucers.”  Nearly all of them have been destroyed by the wedges and hammers of quarrymen; but on visiting the spot in 1859, I found sufficient traces to confirm Mr. Williamson’s testimony.”

But they were gone a few years later thanks to the lads at the quarry.  Although the site was subsequently described in Beckensall’s modern surveys (1992; 2006), nothing more was found about them.

Folklore

Whilst David Dixon (1903) reiterated Mr Tate’s notes on the “series of incised concentric circles and central hollows” here, he also mentioned an old piece of folklore:

“At Cartington Cove (is) a recess or cave which, local tradition says, is connected by a subterranean passage with Cartington Castle, three miles distant!”

Intriguing ingredients: caves – Underworld journey – north – all symbolic of Death in pre-christian lore.  Just saying…

References:

  1. Beckensall, Stan, Prehistoric Rock Motifs of Northumberland – volume 2, Abbey Press: Hexham 1992.
  2. Beckensall, Stan, Circles in Stone: A British Prehistoric Mystery, Tempus: Stroud 2006.
  3. Dixon, David D., Upper Coquetdale, Northumberland, Robert Redpath: Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1903.
  4. Tate, George, “The Ancient British Sculptured Rocks of Northumberland and the Eastern Borders,” in History of the Berwickshire Naturalists Club, volume 5, 1864.
  5. Tate, George, The Ancient British Sculptured Rocks of Northumberland and the Eastern Borders, Henry Hunter Blair 1865.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Yeavering, Kirknewton, Northumberland

Cup-and-Ring Stone (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NT 931 302

Archaeology & History

Little is now known of this carving which was described briefly by Stan Beckensall (1983):

“A cup and ring marked stone was found in the field north of Yeavering Bell in the neighbourhood of the monolith.  The last heard of it, according to the Northumberland County History (14:67) was the it was in the grounds of Ewart Park.”

The monolith he speaks of would be the one called the Battle Stone (NT 9299 3038) and Ewart Park is 2 miles ENE of here.  The carving remains lost. (the grid reference where the stone was originally located is an approximation, but a pretty good one)

References:

  1. Beckensall, Stan, Northumberland’s Prehistoric Rock Carvings – A Mystery Explained, Pendulum: Rothbury 1983.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian