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The Whispering Knights (Burial Chamber)

Dr Stukeley tells a tale of a repentant Vandal, who having carried off one of the biggest stones to help make a bridge, saw a vision - and, being smitten with remorse, returned the stone to its original group.
Yes, but what did he See? Leave out the interesting bit why don't you. Perhaps there's more in the original, if anyone knows it.

Quote from 'Our Ancient Monuments and the Land Around Them' by CP Kains-Jackson (1880).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
13th September 2005ce

Dunino Den (Sacred Well)

Time travel at the Den?
Some years ago, when many of the roads in the east of Fife were still used but by few, a visitor to the district.. resolved to make a detour to visit [Dunino Church]. A somewhat rough track leads down to a bridge.. and a broad and well-made path , cut in the hillside [climbs] among the trees to the kirk and the manse. Leaving this for the moment he continued on the level track round the flank of the hill, and saw before him on thefarther side of the stream a picturesque hamlet. Some of the cottages were thatched, some tiled; but all were covered in roses and creepers.. At the east end.. a smithy closed the prospect, save for the trees that shut out the further windings of the Den.

No sound broke the stillness of the summer noon but the flow of the burn. At one or two of the doors there stood an old man in knee-breeches and broad bonnet, or a woman in a white mutch and a stuff gown, while in the entrance to the forge the smith leant motionless on his hammer... Half in a dream he turned and climbed to the church.. No sense of the abnormal had occurred to the intruder..

A year elapsed ere the wanderer came thither again.. This time he was accompanied by a companion to whom he had told the story of his glimpse of 'the most old-world hamlet in Fife'... they prepared to sketch the Arcady to be revealed. The cottages were gone. The burn flowed through the Den as when last he saw it, but its farther bank was bare...

.. The author is informed on excellent authority that there were at one time at least three or four cottages and a blacksmith's shop at the place described. It is said these were taken down "some time last century."
Edited from Wilkie's 1931 'Bygone Fife', quoted in K Briggs' 'British Folktales and Legends' (1977).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
9th September 2005ce

Bindon Hill (Hillfort)

Just recently an officer told me quite seriously that he could vouch for the fact that on certain nights a phantom Roman army marches along Bindon Hill to their camp on King's Hill. The thud of the trampling of horses and men is plainly heard and their indistinct forms seen as the fog drifts. On those nights no rabbits run and no dog can be induced to go near... one wonders if at any time an army lost its bearings in the fog and went over the very abrupt cliff which borders this hill...
Quote from 'Dorset, up along and down along', ed. Marianne R Dacombe (1935), p113.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
7th September 2005ce

Trent Barrow (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

More on Purejoy's pool:
Beside Trent Barrow near Sherborne is an old pit full of water and so deep that no one has ever been able to measure its depth and it is called the 'bottomless pit'. One dark and stormy night a coach, horses, driver and passengers plunged into the pit and disappeared, leaving no trace behind. But passersby along the road may still hear, in stormy weather, the sound of galloping horses and wailing voices borne by them on the wind.
(From 'Dorset, up along and down along', ed. M R Dacombe (1935)).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
7th September 2005ce

Poundbury Hillfort

Poundbury used to be stocked on May Day (this being the commoners' rights). "Dorchester folk were wont in olden time, it is said, to go forth to its flowery and airy sward a-maying and to drink syllybub of fresh milk."

Ah the rural idyll.

Quote from 'Dorsetshire Folklore' by John Symonds Udal (1922).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
6th September 2005ce

Bulbury Camp (Hillfort)

According to the information on Magic, this roughly circular univallate hillfort overlooks Poole harbour (though how the coastline differed in prehistory I can't say). One end of it is now built on with farm buildings.

From Dorset Folk-Lore, by J. J. Foster, in The Folk-Lore Journal, Vol. 6, No. 2. (1888), pp. 115-119.:
Some years a go several metal objects were found in a Keltic earthwork. Among them was a curious little grotesque bull, with a quaint tail curled up, which makes it somewhat like a dog. My friend heard that these things were in the hands of a certain old woman, and offered to buy them. "Han't got 'em - used to't - but there, 'twere loike this yer. My poor buoy, he wer terble bad, and he pined like a'ter they wold things. And ther - I thought myself how thick brass dog a noul'd ouver door'd do en a power o' good." And 'noul'd ouver door' it was found.

This remarkable find.. is fully described in Archaeologia v48, where the objects are figured... it's use as recently as 1881 as a prophylactic is surely an interesting fact to students of folk-lore.
Ah yes those Victorians middleclass intellectuals loved to imitate a quaint rural accent.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
6th September 2005ce

Marleycombe Hill (Round Barrow(s))

A golden coffin is buried somewhere on the Downs at Bowerchalke. It was stolen from one of the Britons' Barrows. The theft was discovered, and the coffin had to be hidden. At certain seasons seven men may be seen dragging the coffin over the Downs.
From Olivier/Edwards' "Moonrakings" (c1920) - a story they collected from a local WI member.

There are seven round barrows on the hill, and other earthworks, no doubt some of which are visible from the village below.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
6th September 2005ce

Vernditch Chase North (Long Barrow)

Two similar versions of the story, from Edith Olivier / Margaret Edwards' "Moonrakings - A Little Book of Wiltshire Stories" (c1920).

"Some time, before the memory of living man can definitely fix, a suicide was buried [here].. Legend has it that a girl from Bowerchalke, finding life too sad, drowned herself in a well near the churchyard.," the lane by the well being called 'Skit's Lane'.
"No bird is ever heard to sing there [at Kit's Grave]."
This version, told by Mrs John Butler, seemed confused as to whether the girl was buried there because she was a suicide and required unconsecrated ground, or whether it was because no parish would claim her (even though she'd specifically mentioned Bowerchalke!) so she was buried where three parishes met. Whatever, the theme of the weird nature of 'boundaries' clearly comes through.

The second version (p74) tells that "An old gypsy woman who used to frequent the Chalke valley was found in a well near Bowerchalke church. It was thought she had committed suicide, so she was taken and buried at the crossroads at night, with a stake through her heart. An avenue of trees leads to the spot, and no bird is ever heard to sing there. (This is indeed a very weird, eerie spot)."

Rather extreme measures (stakes through the heart at midnight) but I suppose you can't have these dead people wandering. I wonder whether there is any significance in the well being near the church: is it too much to read into it that it was a holy well? An inconsiderate and strange place to pick to kill yourself in.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
6th September 2005ce
Edited 6th January 2016ce

Martinsell (Hillfort)

On Palm Sunday, it was the custom, some years ago, for everyone in the village to visit Martinsell which is within easy walking distance. Here a Fair was held. Recruiting was also carried on at this Fair, at the last of which a local lad 'joined up' and afterwards served in the Russian War, taking part in the siege of Sebastapol. This fair was stopped about the year 1860. Since then religious services have been held on Martinsell on Palm Sunday. A Feast Day was always made of the Monday following Trinity Sunday, when a fair was held; but now for more than 20 years this has not been observed.
From 'Moonrakings' by E. Olivier and M. Edwards (c1920), p65.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
6th September 2005ce

Wandlebury (Hillfort)

The story of the ghostly knight at Wandlebury is told by Gervase of Tilbury, who was born c1150.
"Osbert, a bold and powerful baron, visited a noble family in the vicinity of Wandelbury, in the bishopric of Ely. Among other stories related in the social circle of his friends, who, according to custom, amused each other by repeating ancient tales and traditions, he was informed, that if any knight, unattended, entered an adjacent plain by moonlight, and challenged an adversary to appear, he would be immediately encountered by a spirit in the form of a knight. Osbert resolved to make the experiment, and set out, attended by a single squire, whom he ordered to remain without the limits of the plain, which was surrounded by an ancient entrenchment. On repeating the challenge, he was instantly assailed by an adversary, whom he quickly unhorsed, and seized the reins of his steed. During this operation, his ghostly opponent sprung up, and, darting his spear, like a javelin, at Osbert, wounded him in the thigh. Osbert returned in triumph with the horse, which he committed to the care of his servants. The horse was of a sable colour, as well as his whole accoutrements, and apparently of great beauty and vigour. He remained with his keeper till cockcrowing, when, with eyes flashing fire, he reared, spurned the ground, and vanished. On disarming himself, Osbert perceived that he was wounded, and that one of his steel boots was full of blood. Gervase adds, that as long as he lived, the scar of his wound opened afresh on the anniversary of the eve on which he encountered the spirit."
I haven't found the original but this is a retelling by Sir Walter Scott in 'Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border' , on line at the Tam Lin website.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
31st August 2005ce

Berwick Law (Hillfort)

Well I don't know how good your Middle Scottish is, but this is the tale of Gyre Carling, a giant witch /earth mother /that sort of thing. It's not for the delicate minded.
In Tyberius tyme, the trew imperatour,
Quhen Tynto hills fra skraiping of tour-henis was keipit,
Thair dwelt ane grit Gyre Carling in awld Betokis bour,
That levit upoun Christiane menis flesche, and rewheids unleipit ;
Thair wynit ane hir by, on the west syde, callit Blasour,
For luve of hir Iauchane lippis he walit and he weipit ;
He gadderit ane menzie of modwartis to warp doun the tour;
The Carling with ane yren club, quhen yat Blasour sleipit,
Behind the heil scho hat him sic ane blaw,
Quhil Blasour bled ane quart
Off milk pottage inwart,
The Carling luche, and lut fart
North Berwik Law.
.. from which I gather her neighbour fancied her and sent some moles to undermine her house - but she bashed him over the head and laughed so much she farted out North Berwick Law. Ahem.

The rest of the anonymous poem is written in the 'Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border' by Sir Walter Scott, online at the Tam Lin pages:
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
31st August 2005ce

Swayne's Jumps (Standing Stones)

According to Berta Lawrence in her 'Somerset Legends' (1973) during the civil war there was a man called Jan Swayne who lived in Moorlinch. Found to be a 'rebel' he was dragged from his bed to be taken to Bridgwater where he was to be hanged. Somehow he persuaded the troopers who came for him to untie him to show his crying children a last entertainment of how far he could leap (the 'police' are always stupid in films today too, so no change). Naturally he took three immense leaps - a hop, skip and a jump - which took him into the impenetrable and swampy Loxley Woods where he could hide safely.

The site of his leaps is known as 'Swayne's Jumps' or 'Swayne's Leaps' and you may find four (or even five) small stones in a line. The Somerset Historic Environment Record mentions them being in the SMR records, but I don't see a mention on Magic. Perhaps they're old, perhaps not? In the distant past perhaps this area would have been even boggier. Take your wellingtons and have a look. Apparently an old sign designates the place 'Jan Swaynes Jumps'.

The folklore is similar to that attached to other pairs or lines of stones (eg the Deerleap Stones).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
30th August 2005ce

Battlegore (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

One night during one of their last incursions, the Danes raided and burnt Watchet, and then they streamed inland plundering and burning as they went. The Saxons managed to ambush them at what is now known as Battlegore - many were killed though some escaped back to their ships. The mound at the site has long been called the burial place of the Danes.

According to Berta Lawrence, in 'Somerset Legends' (1973).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
30th August 2005ce

Wick Barrow (Round Barrow(s))

More local stories about the Pixies' Mound, from Berta Lawrence's 1973 'Somerset Legends'.

The hill was excavated in 1907 but local workmen were not keen to help. Some of those that did lend a hand experienced bad luck or illness - just as many people had predicted - and their wives persuaded them not to return to the work. After dark strange pixy music had been heard, and a circular wall of stones was discovered inside the mound - surely proof of the pixies' house?

When work was interrupted, some people said King Edward VII himself had stopped it because the excavation was so unlucky. The digging turned up 'a stone sword as long as a man's arm' and 'a wonderful bronze flagon' (somewhat exaggerated descriptions of the flint knife and pottery beaker that were found). A crouched skeleton was removed to Taunton museum. Was it Hubba himself (see the folklore at nearby Cynwit Castle)?
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
30th August 2005ce

Cannington Camp (Hillfort)

I saw this wooded hill fort from the road; although it doesn't seem there is access over it, paths do lead around its base.

According to Berta Lawrence in 'Somerset Legends' (1973) it was "not many years ago" that people referred to this fort as "the place where they came from Athelney to fight."

Athelney (not so far away, the opposite side of Bridgwater) is where King Alfred was recuperating after coming off worst with the Danes. And now they were back. Odda spotted their ships from Longstone Hill on the Quantocks and set a beacon fire. He led his men (and one assumes, those from Athelney) to Cynwit Castle, meeting the Danish soldiers at the bottom of the hill, before nipping up into the safety of the camp to think.
When the pagans saw the stronghold unprepared and unguarded except for defenses built after our manner, they did not venture to storm it because from the nature of the ground the place was very secure on every side except on the east, as I myself have seen; instead they began to besiege it, thinking that those men would quickly be forced to surrender because of hunger and thirst, for there was no water near. But it did not turn out as they expected. For the Christians, before they suffered any such straits, prompted by God to believe it much better to win either death or victory, at dawn made an unexpected sortie upon the pagans, and shortly slew most of them, together with their king, only a few escaping to the boats.
(from Bishop Asser's 'Life of King Alfred', quoted at the Medieval Sourcebook.

Lawrence says that 1200 Danes were slaughtered, and were buried together where the modern quarry is now. She adds the ghastly detail that the quarrying left skeletons protruding from the soil and that they were 'quite a familiar sight to blackberry pickers'! (ugh)

Perhaps this idea of bones comes from a shrine/cemetery on the hill dating possibly from Roman times - see the story about the 'child of Cannington' on the Cannington Web Pages here:
It seems that areas of the hill have been quarried into regardless of the fact that they are a scheduled monument, and the Somerset Historic Env. Record says that the EH boundary markers appear to have been moved. Tsk. What has been lost? The hill has obviously been of great importance over a very long period of time, and finds have been made of pre Iron-Age objects. It's possible (according to the Cannington web pages) that the quarry may be reopened.

Lawrence adds in her book that the few Danes remaining buried their chief, Hubba, in a mound of his own. Near Chippenham there is Hubbaslow - Chippenham being the site of an earlier battle - but she suggests that everyone knows his burial mound is the one at Wick, next to Hinkley Point power station. (Of course we can say that both mounds are prehistoric and nothing to do with the Danes, though they might have been reused).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
30th August 2005ce

Dowsborough (Hillfort)

Dowsborough hill is replete with all sorts of strange names that beg for explanation: Great Bear, Robin Upright's Hill, Knacker's Hole.. One of them (mentioned below), 'Dead Woman's Ditch' is supposed to refer to the murdered wife of John Walford. The place he was left to hang in irons is now called 'Walford's Gibbet'. Ruth Tongue collected a little tale about the site from a farmer's daughter in Cannington.
Arter Walford were 'anged up there to Dowsburgh, there was a lot o' talk down to the Castle o' Comfort Inn, and they got to talking, and then they got to drinking zider and then one vellow getting a bit over-merry, they dared 'en to go up to Walford's Gibbet. Well, 'twere getting late at night, and being over full o' zider, 'e said 'e would, and off 'e goes. Well no sooner be 'e out o' front door than a couple o' rascals gets out by back door, and straight up over the 'ill. Laughing to themselves, they come up through the barn and the bushes like, till they come to the foot o' the gibbet, and they 'ided in bushes. And bye and bye they 'ears bootses coming up 'ill, getting a bit slower like, as they comes nearer to where gibbet was, and they chuckles to theirselves, and then boots comes a bit slower, like, and then, out o' the air above 'em comes a voice - "Oh! Idn't it cold up 'ere! Be yew cold too?"
Well by the time the vellow with the boots, and they two got down to Castle o' Comfort, they weren't cold no more.

You can still visit the Castle of Comfort today, it's marked 'hotel' on the map. But perhaps you'll only want to walk up to the Walford's Gibbet during the daylight.

Story copied from 'English Folktales' by Briggs and Tongue, 1965.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
26th August 2005ce

Battlegore (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

This is what happened after the episode at the Whit stones. It was some time later, after the Devil had dried out a bit, but he was still feeling embarrassed and angry. He and the Giant met up on the hill above West Quantoxhead for the next round of their throwing competition. He had his eyes to the ground to find a suitable stone when before he could react, the giant had picked his up and thrown it right over to Battlegore, six miles away. "It'll be your turn now," the giant said.

Well Old Nick was dancing with rage because he'd missed his chance to cheat. And perhaps his temper made his hand shake becuase when he'd thrown his stone, the giant's was further off. "Now," says the giant, "It's your promise to go away from round here, and never come back no more. But as no one don't trust you, I'll make sure." And he picked up the devil by his tail again and waded out into the Severn Channel until he was up to his armpits. Then he gave him a good swing, three times round his head, and let go. He probably hit the water somewhere near the West Indies - wherever, he had a good long swim back. He's back now of course, but you won't see him in Somerset because he doesn't want to bump into the giant.

(retold from Ruth Tongue's version heard in Minehead in the 50s, in 'Folktales of England' Briggs/Tongue 1965)
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
26th August 2005ce

Whit Stones (Standing Stones)

The Giant of Grabbist and the Devil had had quite enough of each other. Exmoor wasn't big enough for the both of them. They decided to have a competition and whoever lost would have to leave the place for good.

They met up on Bossington Beacon; it was to be a throwing contest, and they'd each throw a big stone over to Porlock Common, about four miles away. The devil went first. His stone sailed up through the air and landed -douf- on the common, pointing up to the sky. Then it was the giant's turn. Just as he was about to release his stone- "A-HEM," the devil coughed. The stone still flew through the air to the common, but landed about three feet short of Old Nick's.

Well it was obvious: the giant would have to leave. Like heck he was - he gave the devil a shove and sat down on top of him. The devil was squirming and crying, but the giant just took out his pipe and calmly began smoking. When he'd finished he tapped his pipe out on the devil's head, picked him up by the tail, and said "I don't think that was a fair throw. We'll throw from Quantock later on. In the meantime you go and cool your head." He tossed the devil up in the air and batted him out into Porlock Bay.

(retold from a version by Ruth Tongue, who heard it locally in the 1940/50s; Tongue and Briggs, 'Folktales of England' 1965)
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
26th August 2005ce

The Long Man's Grave

Stuart McHardy, in his 2005 'On the Trail of Scotland's Myths and Legends', says that the Lang Man was a "weel-kennt and successful horse trader who regularly visited the annual fair held in the glen." He cut an imposing tall figure but "one of the great delights of the fair was [to have] a dram with the Lang Man."

One year the Lang Man disappeared and when the fair finished, his tent was still there with his horse tethered up next to it. No one knew what had happened to him and people felt scared and suspicious. Was it witchcraft? No-one wanted to take down the tent and gradually it deteriorated over the years in the wind and rain. "The tale began to spread that he had been murdered for his poke o gowd and buried beneath the great stone lying by the road."

The stone has been treated with reverence: "for many years the roadmen cleaned the small gravel bed surrounding it." McHardy says "perhaps we will never know if anyone lies in the Lang Man's Grave, but its proximity to Dunsinane and the reverence shown to the stone have led to suggestions that this is where the original Stone of Destiny was buried when it was taken away from Scone at the approach of the English army in 1296."
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
25th August 2005ce

Hamdon Hill (Hillfort)

Ham Hill has a feature called the 'Frying Pan' which was thought to have been a Roman amphitheatre at one time - but it's really a bit small. According to an informant from Stoke under Ham in 1908, every girl or woman who visits must sit down and slide from top to bottom of the bowl - 'it's lucky'. Ruth Tongue adds: "Surely here is a relic of pagan rites such as those embodied in the game of Trundles and others." Well, maybe and maybe not. And what is this game of Trundles anyway? The word must come from OE trendle = a circle; there are other round Trundles you can visit at ancient sites.

from 'Somerset Folklore' by Ruth Tongue, 1965.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
24th August 2005ce

Dunkery Hill Barrows (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

Miss Acland told me.. in 1902 the Horner [village] churchgoers would not go to evensong in the winter at Luccombe because [the Exmoor forest demon] waited for them at Dunkery foot by the ruined chapel, as a stag or ram. The Reverend Acland therefore used to hold the service in the afternoon.
What a dilemma. Shun the locals' superstitious fears or end up with no congregation. The reverend obviously didn't want to end up talking to himself. Or perhaps he wasn't that keen on the dark either.

The ruined chapel referred to is a funny place for the demon to wait, as it used to be a particularly feared spot for such creatures. St Dubricius of Dunkery built the chapel (he lived 150 years in Porlock, don't you know, and officiated at King Arthur and Guinevere's wedding). At the sound of the chapel's bell the hideous forest fiends and dragons went deeper into the moor, and even the devil found things to do somewhere else. Under its altar St D. buried a chest full of gold, which was to be spent on keeping the bell(s) in order and for giving to anyone who had to cross the 'dreadful waste' on their own in order to get to market. You can see the site of the chapel "but nobody can find the gold." This was told to Ruth Tongue in 1950 by Jane Rudd, then 11.

Quote from 'Forgotten Folktales of the English Counties' (1970) and info from 'Somerset Folklore' (1965), both by Ruth Tongue.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
24th August 2005ce

Mynydd Aberdare (Cairn(s))

There is more than one Bronze Age cairn on the top of the mountain here, and flint arrowheads have been found in the area in the past. Perhaps these things helped contribute to the development of the following story, told by Wirt Sikes in 'British Goblins' (1880):
There is a tradition among the Glamorgan peasantry of a fairy battle fought on the mountain between Merthyr and Aberdare, in which the pygmy combatants were on horseback. There appeared to be two armies, one of which was mounted on milk-white steeds, and the other on horses of jet-black. They rode at each other with the utmost fury, and their swords could be seen flashing in the air like so many penknife blades. The army on the white horses won the day, and drove the black-mounted force from the field. The whole scene then disappeared in a light mist.
Unusual to have fairies with steel blades - perhaps they were flint really. Flint arrowheads have been widely interpreted as 'elf shot'. A spring is very close to one of the cairns; it is called 'Ffynnon y Gro' (spring of gravel? - or perhaps it was 'Croyw' in the past, which would mean fresh/sweet water?).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
19th August 2005ce

Winkelbury (Hillfort)

Kathleen Wiltshire's story below apparently harks back to when General Pitt Rivers excavated a round barrow here. Winkelbury was his first full season of serious, well-recorded excavations of enclosures and settlement sites, in winter 1881-2. He removed a dead yew tree, known locally as a 'scrag' from the round barrow. 'The villagers were troubled by his disturbance of the dead and removal of the ancient tree which they believed protected them from malign influences; they were only placated when another dead yew was 'planted' with all due ceremony some time later.'

From Martin Green's book 'A landscape revealed - 10,000 years on a chalkland farm' (2000).

Yews and hawthorn obviously figure prominently in people's lists of important trees. The idea of a dead tree being protective seems quite strange? but maybe it's not uncommon. It reminded me of the anecdote connected with Big Tree longbarrow in Somerset.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
18th August 2005ce

Craig-y-Ddinas (Promontory Fort)

This narrow fort on a promontory above Pontneddfechan is fantastically well defended by its sheer cliffs. There's a car park conveniently at the bottom, and a bridleway makes its way up to the top.
Wirt Sikes has this to say:
Especially does a certain steep and rugged crag [in the Vale of Neath] called Craig y Ddinas, bear a distinctly awful reputation as a stronghold of the fairy tribe. Its caves and crevices have been their favourite haunt for many centuries, and upon this rock was held the court of the last fairies who have ever appeared in Wales*. Needless to say there are men still living who remember the visits of the fairies to Craig y Ddinas, although they aver the little folk are no longer seen there. It is a common remark that the Methodists drove them away, indeed there are numberless stories which show the fairies to have been animated, when they were still numerous in Wales, by a cordial antipathy for all dissenting preachers. In this antipathy, it may be here observed, teetotalers were included.
*Don't take this to heart as it is an obvious lie. Quote from Sykes's 'British Goblins', 1880.

Edwin Sidney Hartland, in 'The Science of Fairy Tales' (1891) explains the Arthurian connection of the site:
A Welshman, it was said, walking over London Bridge with a hazel staff in his hand, was met by an Englishman, who told him that the stick he carried grew on a spot under which were hidden vast treasures, and if the Welshman remembered the place arid would show it to him he would put him in possession of those treasures.

After some demur the Welshman consented, and took the Englishman (who was in fact a wizard) to the Craig-y-Ddinas and showed him the spot. They dug up the hazel tree on which the staff grew and found under it a broad flat stone. This covered the entrance to a cavern in which thousands of warriors lay in a circle sleeping on their arms. In the centre of the entrance hung a bell which the conjurer begged the Welshman to beware of touching. But if at any time he did touch it and any of the warriors should ask if it were day, he was to answer without hesitation "No; sleep thou on."

The warriors' arms were so brightly polished that they illumined the whole cavern; and one of them had arms that outshone the rest, and a crown of gold lay by his side. This was Arthur; and when the Welshman had taken as much as he could carry of the gold which lay in a heap amid the warriors, both men passed out; not, however, without the Welsh-man's accidentally touching the bell. It rang; but when the inquiry: "Is it day?" came from one of the warriors, he was prompt with the reply: "No; sleep thou on."

The conjurer afterwards told him that the company he had seen lay asleep ready for the dawn of the day when the Black Eagle and the Golden Eagle should go to war, the clamour of which would make the earth tremble so much that the bell would ring loudly and the warriors would start up, seize their arms, and destroy the enemies of the Cymry, who should then repossess the island of Britain and be governed from Caerlleon with justice and peace so long as the world endured.

When the Welshman's treasure was all spent he went back to the cavern and helped himself still more liberally than before. On his way out he touched the bell again: again it rang. But this time he was not so ready with his answer, and some of the warriors rose up, took the gold from him, beat him and cast him out of the cave. He never recovered the effects of that beating, but remained a cripple and a pauper to the end of his days; and he never could find the entrance to the cavern again.
Both books are online at the Internet Sacred Texts Archive at
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
17th August 2005ce

Round Hill Tump (Round Barrow(s))

In the Reverend John Collinson's 'History and Antiquities of the County of Somerset' (from the 1780s) he spoke of "an immense tumulus at the extremity of the parish [of Wellow]". I initially assumed he was talking about Stoney Littleton but actually he was writing about the hamlet of Woodborough - where this barrow lies. It was "said to be the burial place of Saxon chieftains slain in a bloody battle."

Camerton was the Roman town that it became part of - although the site is open fields now. The round barrow has interestingly survived through everything. If you know a local name please tell me! It is still an impressive 6m high, crowned with trees and easily visible from the road. There are the remains of another round barrow in the field apparently, and archaeological work has found traces from the Neolithic too.

The field in which the barrows lie is called 'Tump Ground'. A large oak formerly stood on top of the larger barrow (the Roundhill) but was removed in the 1930s. Local people claimed that if you attempted to cut or damage the tree, blood would run from the wound.

Wedlake (in 'Excavations at Camerton 1926-56' 1958) also writes that "Local legend still has it that the mound contains the remains of soldiers killed in a battle when a town which extended from Wellow to Paulton was attacked." (This idea of the town seems quite weird, but could it be recognition of the lost Roman settlement in the area?)

The Reverend Skinner excavated the mound in September 1815 (it was a busy time for him, see the Priddy Nine Barrows). He used an interesting and unusual technique, hiring local coalminers to drive a tunnel in from the side (rather like at Silbury, I suppose). When they got to the middle they found someone had sunk a shaft from top to bottom in the past anyway.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
17th August 2005ce
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