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Harold's Stones

Standing Stones

<b>Harold's Stones</b>Posted by jimmydImage © jim dyson
Also known as:
  • Trellech
  • Trelleck

Nearest Town:Monmouth (10km N)
OS Ref (GB):   SO499051 / Sheet: 162
Latitude:51° 44' 30.66" N
Longitude:   2° 43' 32.49" W


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Fieldnotes

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Visited 9.7.11

The second, and final, site of the day took us for a re-visit of the excellent Harold's Stones.
We again parked in the free public car park next to the church hall and took the footpath through the field (opposite Court Farm) which leads to the field in which the stones stand.
(Be careful crossing the road as it can be surprisingly busy).
I had to carry both Dafydd and Sophie as they were still asleep and that was no mean feat – particularly as I had to wade through nettles and brambles!
When we got to the stones (10 minutes walk) it brought a smile to my face.
I have been to a lot of sites since my last visit and that has only helped confirm that this is a special place. The stones are substantial yet slender and elegant (for a stone!)
Why here?, why in a line?, pointing / leading to what? – so many questions.
When visiting this wonderful site you are sure to leave with more questions than answers.
If you get the chance please visit – you won't be disappointed.
Posted by CARL
11th July 2011ce

Trelleck is a fantastic place to visit. Not only does it have Harold's Stones but it also has a motte, Holy Well and a broken medieval cross in the church yard - all within a short walk of the car park next to the village hall? There is a decent information board opposite said car park. The stones are easy to access but be careful crossing the raod as it was surprisingly busy when I visited. The stones are cracking. This is obviously a very special place. I wonder what it all means? Must visit again when I get a chance. Make the effort to visit this place - you won't be disappointed. Posted by CARL
9th June 2010ce

On this my third visit to this teriffic trio, the sun blessed us with bright sunshine, unlike the previous two times, but that was back when Wales didnt trust me, I like to think wev'e made some progress This time I was determined to pay special intrest to the cupmarks on the middle stone as I didnt even remember seeing them last time and only realised they were there when re-reading Burl, theyre really quite large as big as my hand, one above the other separate by a foot or so.
But as with both my other visits it's the whopper stone that simply demands your attention, it's got to be fifteen feet tall, leaning almost too far, yet giving the impression that the lean is intentional and it changes shape and character as you walk round it, its widest where it enters the ground almost looking like a, well you know what, aaaaand it's the most conglomeratey stone of the three conglomerate stones.
I'll come back again one day and see something different again.
postman Posted by postman
5th March 2009ce

A real find. The village is situated some 6 or 7 miles out of Monmouth, and on the approach you are aware of how you climb the hills to reach the site.

Trellech is a small village, built around the main road that cuts through the heart. The church of St Nicholas is approximately 3-400 yards from the stones. A visit to the church is a must when visiting the stones.

Parking for the stones can prove difficult - a lay by is some 200 yards from the site, but you then have to walk back along a busy road with blind bends to the stones. Children and animals will have to be kept under control and wheelchair users might find themselves feeling very vulnerable. Entrance to the paddock is via a kissing gate, again a barrier for wheelchair/pushchair, and something to be considered.

The stones are beautiful, a warm brown rock, coated with gossamer lichen that spreads in rosettes across the surface. One side of the rock felt much warmer than the other, despite the fact the sun had yet to make an appearance. Two of the stones have a pebble dashed appearance, for a moment raising the panic than some sort of 'renovation' has taken place.

The phallic properties of the rock shape are obvious, but lend a certain bawdy 'seaside postcard' feel to the site, which emanates a cheerful and rumbustious air. The sheep graze cheerfully around the stones and a small earth bank nearby creates archaeological curiosity. A 'For Sale' sign reveals the site and nearby farm are for sale, at 'Offers over £400,000'.

Leaving the stones, head back into the village to the church. There is parking for 3 or 4 cars outside the church, and entry is via a normal gate.

In the churchyard stands 'the pyramid', a collection of granite stones placed in formation, topped by a cross. In front, the 'Druids Altar', the sides of which bear faint shadow to the carving of Celtic Crosses, traceable by the finger, but not available to capture by the camera.

Inside the church, the sundial, with carvings of the stones around its base. Why a sundial indoors, why the carving?

This place raises more questions than answers. The sense of history runs deep and those with time to study will reap rewards.
Dominic_Brayne Posted by Dominic_Brayne
25th August 2004ce
Edited 26th August 2004ce

Visited 28th March 2004: After spending some time at Raglan Castle we headed east to the village of Trellech to see Harold's Stones. We parked to the south west where a track leads west off the B4293, and walked up the roadside to the stones (spotting a mole on the way).

The stones themselves are excellent great things (certainly reminiscent of something rude Jane). Very photogenic, but most of the photos I took are the same as those already posted. Not as atmospheric as I'd anticipated though.

I'd have thought that the name 'Trellech' would mean 'three stones' rather than 'Settlement of the Stones'. The word tre means three and llech means stones (it's that simple).
Kammer Posted by Kammer
17th August 2004ce
Edited 18th August 2004ce

Harold's Stones - 25.4.2004

First things first - these are ENORMOUS! After several trips in Cornwall (and other places) searching out the minor league stones and barrows, I'd almost forgotten what things like this looked like.

None of the posts on here actually said how big they are, and the only other report I had read also didn't mention the height, and the pic I saw made them look distinctly human size. I hadn't read the page in the TMA book before going - oops. However it actually made it better by not knowing what to expect. The largest stone (the cock stone as Jane says - or the 'Cock Rock' I reckon!) is actually about 14 ft tall and dwarfed us all.

The middle stone is strangely circular and looks a bit like a missile ready to fire. The third stone then looks a little out of place, as it is the smallest and most upright, is less rough and crumbly, and is more of a shape that you would find in a stone circle.
pure joy Posted by pure joy
27th April 2004ce

I spotted the stones in a field on the right just before entering the village of Trellech from the south. And WOW what an impact! I excitedly passed through the kissing gate into the field. Wading throught the wet grass, thistles and ovine faeces towards the menhirs, I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the stones and their slenderness and the mad angles which they tilted! The biggest looked for all the world like a really rather monumental cock, the angle of it making it inescapably look like a gigantic willy! Yes, I liked this place. It made me smile. Jane Posted by Jane
24th July 2003ce
Edited 29th July 2003ce

March 2003

Pleasantly surprised with our visit to Trellech. There are Harold's Stones, the Virtuous Well, Tump Turret (site of Norman motte and bailey) , the sundial in the church and a supposed Druid altar in the churchyard.

It was a bit of a miserable day but our youngest girl (3 yrs) seemed to enjoy the stroll once we got going and it even stopped raining.

I am intrigued that there are so many things to see in this village yet receives little publicity. The village could do so much more to promote itself.
Posted by griffp
7th July 2003ce
Edited 7th July 2003ce

Notes from the stones, 31 Aug 00

Harold's Stones or The Three Stones stand just south of the village of Trellech. While it's common for towns in Wales to have two spellings (or two different names) to relflect the two common languages used there, on the six mile road from Monmouth to Trellech we saw the roadsigns spelling the town's name four different ways! Local historians say there are eighteen spellings. The Modern Antiquarian says the name means 'three stones', but 'tre/tri' means 'place of' as well as 'three' (as in Treherbert, etc). Either way, the village is clearly named after the standing stones.

The stones are in ascending order of height and stand in a line about 5 metres apart, very close together for an alignment. The small one is a 'normal' standing stone - it stands perpendicular to the ground and has a wide edge and a narrow edge. The narrow edge faces the other two.

The other two are squared, having no obvious edge-face and flat-face. As I stand here with my back against the smallest one, the middle one is leaning out to the right at an angle of about 75 or 80 degrees, and the far one leans to the left at about 60 degrees. It doesn't feel like especially boggy ground or a field that gets waterlogged much (it stands above the adjacent road), so it seems doubtful that the stones have tipped, and quite possible that they were placed at these crazy angles.

The base of the almost laughably phallic tall stone doesn't lean at the same angle as the rest of the stone; even if this first metre and a half were at 90 degrees, the main part of the stone ould still be leaning at 70 degrees or so. This one has clearly been designed to be leaning, which suggests that the middle one was too.

The puddingstone they're made of is pebbles held together with a natural cement. The amount of pebbles in each stone varies; The small one looks like sandstone with the occasional pebble, there are far more in the middle stone. The tall one has so many that it looks like a 1970s council pebbledashing job.

It's been suggested that the stones are aligned with the winter solstice on the holy mountain of The Skirrid.

The church in Trellech is also a curious place. There's a sundial at the back by the vestry (an indoor sundial?!) whose base is a lot older than the sundial part on top. Three sides of the base are carved. One side has the three stones and the legend 'Maior Saxis hic fuit victor Harald'. A second side is carved with a circular dip representing The Virtuous Well, an ancient holy well just east of the village. On a third side is carved a rounded lump and 'magna mole', representing Tump Terret, 300 metres south of the church along the ancient trackway that is still a public footpath. Coming from the stones, it's just over the road and behind the cattleshed of the farm. The Modern Antiquarian says it is a 'likely prehistoric mound', but given its dimensions, I'm inclined to agree with local historians that it is a Norman motte.

Even the embroidered prayer cushions in the church are interesting - featured designs include a Celtic cross, and on another the Three Stones.

The red stone cross in the churchyard is also extraordinary. The church itself dates from the 13th (or possibly early 14th) century, but there was a wooden church on the site since at least the 7th century. Church historians confidently speculate that the stone cross predates even the oldest church building here, and write, 'romantics may picture priests of the Celtic church (continuous in this area right from Roman times) ringing their handbells to summon the faithful to open-air worship inside the holy enclosure'. Beside the base of the cross is an ancient altar carved with Celtic crosses.

The base of the cross is five concentric layers of stone blocks ascending in a pyramid. The cross and the base stones contain white rocks, like the standing stones. Clearly this place was still of great religious significance, because the Christians made it such a constant focal point.
Posted by Merrick
5th September 2000ce

Folklore

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There is St.Anne's well here (a first century saint), who is seen as the mother of the virgin mary, which may not be of interest to those on this site. But St.Anne is seen as replacing Anu - the earth mother of celtic paganism, and as church, stones and tumuli are so close together, its interesting that paganism should once more rear its head next to a church. 9 wells here though only 4 can still be seen.

Breverton - Book of Welsh Saints
moss Posted by moss
22nd July 2008ce
Edited 30th July 2008ce

This must link to the idea that Harold fought a battle here (and hence erected the memorial stones):
We have many place-names, whose folk-etymology recalls the long-past border wars and commemorates real or imaginary battles. [..] At Trelleck (Mon.) is the Bloody Field, on which no crops will grow, nothing but gorse. "Eh, but it have been ploughed again and again, but 'tis no use; because of the blood spilt there, 'tis no use."
[..]
Legend said [the stones Jacky Kent threw] could never be moved, but alas! gunpowder has accounted for one at least on the English side of the Wye.
p163 in Folk-Lore of the Wye Valley
Margaret Eyre
Folklore, Vol. 16, No. 2. (Jun. 24, 1905), pp. 162-179.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
27th April 2007ce
Edited 27th April 2007ce

This story is known in similar forms around Britain, for example Llanymynech Hill and Fiddler's Hill. It seems odd that although this one's based in Trelleck, the stones themselves aren't mentioned. Unless of course it was obvious to the teller and implied, but not known to the recorder.
There was a tradition at Trelleck, [so says Mrs Perrett or Bevan at Tregagle], of a fiddler having been lost in a cave; he was heard playing underground for years afterwards. Another story of the same sort, or possibly an explanation of the above, is that some people passing through a certain meadow used to hear lovely music. Several times they heard it, and at least they collected some folk together to investigate it. They traced the music to a certain spot, and there they dug in the ground, disclosing at last an underground cave wherein were two old men, hermit-like, playing, one a violin, the other a harp. They had been there many years, and used to take it in turns to go out at night and fetch food. Very old and decrepit they were, and soon after they were taken from underground they died.
p64 in Miscellaneous Notes from Monmouthshire
Beatrix A. Wherry
Folklore, Vol. 16, No. 1. (Mar. 25, 1905), pp. 63-67.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
27th April 2007ce

..there is another Trelleck tradition. If you ask your way to the three stones you will be answered, "The way to Harold's Stones? Yes Miss," and then directed. Specially will you be so answered if your informant is at all above the labouring class, and the information will be added that "Harold he did set them up because of a great battle he did win, and if you goes on, Miss, you'll see the great mound where they did bury all the dead."

The facts of that battle and that victory are real enough. The late Professor Freeman, in the second volume of his Norman Conquest, under the year 1063, quotes the chronicler Geraldus Cambrensis to this effect, that "Each scene of conflict was marked with a trophy of stone bearing the proud legend, 'Here Harold conquered.'" It is quite possible that Earl Harold may have taken to himself stones obviously not of his own raising, though there is no trace of an inscription on any of the menhirs at Trelleck..
Oh whatever. You lost me once you'd made your snobby comment about the labouring classes, Ms Eyre. She goes on to debate at length and somewhat pointlessly the roots of the legend. From:
Folk-Lore of the Wye Valley
Margaret Eyre
Folklore, Vol. 16, No. 2. (Jun. 24, 1905), pp. 162-179.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
1st January 2007ce

In a continuation of the Kentchurch woman's story posted at the Skirrid, she mentions another stone at Trellech which Jack O'Kent threw after he'd pitched the three that are famous:
".. and he threw another, but that didn't go far enough, and it lay on the Trelleck road just behind the five trees until a little while ago, when it was moved so that the field might be ploughed; and this stone, in memory of Jack, was always called the Pecked Stone [pecked meaning thrown]"
Quote in J. Simpson's 'Folklore of the Welsh Borderland' (1976) noted from B.A. Wherry "Wizardry on the Welsh Border" in Folklore 15, 1904.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
8th March 2005ce

As an alternative, it is said that Jack and the Devil met and quarrelled on Trellech Beacon - the hill directly to the East of Trellech. The Devil challenged Jack to a throwing match - Jack threw first.. the Devil threw a bit further.. Jack (probably with eyes closed and one hand behind his back) threw that bit further - and the Devil ran off in disgust.

(mentioned in Folklore 48 - Davies, the Folklore of Gwent)
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
4th March 2005ce
Edited 4th March 2005ce

As hamish mentions, there is a story that Jack o' Kent hurled the stones from the top of Ysgyrd Fawr in a competition with the devil - I just thought I'd point out that this is the Welsh name for the anglicised 'Skirrid' - which links with the idea above that the stones may be aligned on this mountain. Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
6th May 2003ce
Edited 8th March 2005ce

The village of Trellech is named after the stones; "The Settlement of the Stones"
Legends say they were erected in memory of a battle with the English under Harold, or in memory of a battle with the Romans, or they were thrown there by the Giant Jack o' Kent from Ysgyryd Fawr 14 miles away. They are however puddingstone and probably middle or late Neolithic.
hamish Posted by hamish
12th November 2002ce
Edited 12th November 2002ce

There was a recent sighting of a big cat in this area, so I was a bit wary as I ran around the wet field, so excuse the quality of the pictures I've submitted.

Today there was another report of a big cat on the prowl, the Beast of Bodmin on holiday?
Big Al Posted by Big Al
4th September 2002ce
Edited 27th April 2007ce