Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo
Date Published: Friday 10 June 2005
AN ancient standing stone from a lost sun temple has been unearthed by dowsers in east Dorset.
Students on a local dowsing course discovered the hidden Bronze Age relic at Knowlton Henge, two miles south of Cranborne... continues...
Sign posted off the B3078. You can park right next to the site.
This is one of those sites that I had been looking forward to visiting for a long time.
I am pleased to say I wasn’t disappointed – despite the heavy rain coming down.
(At least I had the site to myself!)
This is pretty much as easy a henge you are ever likely to visit. It has obviously suffered from erosion over the years but it is still in pretty good condition. It must have been very impressive when first constructed.
What surprised me was the old yew tree at the far side of the henge which was covered in clooties, bells, feathers, messages etc. Some of the messages were quite moving. It is nice that some people keep the old traditions alive.
The ruined church is also an obvious place to have a look around.
Inside the church were many tea lights scattered about the floor.
Knowlton Henge is well worth visiting if you are in the area.
That’s another English Heritage site knocked off the list!
Charlie and I visited this site again today. This time it was late afternoon and the sun was setting fast as we got out of the car and took some photos of the henge on this Halloween night. Last time we we here in the middle of the day and the ground was covered in snow. Today the place took on a completely different feel as night set in, and we saw the place for the first time in relation to the night sky. There is some work going on inside the church at the moment, and the scaffolding inside from some angles somewhat spoils the overall vibe of the place, as does the portaloo right at the entrance to the henge. However this didn't detract from our time, walking around the henge in the dark, lit only by the moon and stars with the sounds of owls hooting and far away farm dogs barking into the night.
I travelled down after reading the reviews, looking forward to seeing the site, which didn't disappoint.
Although the church has somewhat taken over the site, the fact that it's also in ruins just added to the atmosphere at the site, suggesting that no belief is constant...
I'd expected to see the two magnificent yews flanking an entrance from the entries here, but the placement of the trees is more in line with the church than the henge, which is unbroken by the trees (see photo)
Loved this site! Very easy to reach from the roadside although no direction signs .Very peaceful place only saw 2 other people. The church and henge are very accessable grass is kept very short. Earlier in the day we visited Badbury Rings hoping to find peace but found a heaving carpark and hoards of people walking off their Christmas dinners!
It seems the early Christians made a habit of taking over the old religious sites such as Knowlton Henge. This could be blamed on Pope Gregory who in 601 C.E. said..
"The temples of the idols in the said country ought not to be broken; but the idols alone which be in them . . . If the said temples be well built, it is needful that they be altered from the worshipping of devils into the service of the true God."
I drove from Southampton to Knowlton with Charlieboy - it's the nearest of the Antiquarian sites to Southampton and it was a sunny day.
Knowlton is easy to find from a road atlas and is right at the side of the lane. It's spectacular to look at - a ruined church inside a henge, one religion following another and in the end all gone and just the countryside left ongoing. The knarled old Yew trees at the far end of the henge give a traditional spiritual feel.
There are apparently a whole complex of henges, enclosures etc all around, possibly making one of the most important sites in Wessex, but most of it is just vaguely discernable, ploughed out.
This was Charlieboy's first experience - a Megalithic virgin! He was well broken in by Knowlton Henge.
There is a very good site that forms part of the Stone Circle Webring - can't remember URL or name! - which gives good detailed information about this site. What you see is a lovely little henge, a big barrow and a tiny church. Visited it by accident when at Bournemouth Uni a few years back. The site on the Web-ring reveals a much larger ritual area that points to a very complex and important site in antiquity. Well worth a visit, I found it most relaxing.
I cycled there with a friend a few weeks ago, (from Bournemouth where I live its only anbout 10 miles). A glorious sunny day, I feel this place is very unique. Of all the sites I have visited, there's something intimate and homely about Knowlton.
We had a small picnick and a smoke (ran out of matched and had to ask two gentile mature artists painting watercolours on easels, for a light).
Two ancient Ewe trees that grow at a gap in the Henge, like living guardians either side an entrance. At the base of each, in little alcoves amongst the roots and undergrowth, were symetrical offerings of a fresh Strawberry, a Clover flower and a pretty stone.
Learnt a lesson not to follow directions from TMA that refer to smell i.e. we missed the big smelly farm because it wasn't smelly on the day we went. We'll rely on more visible landmarks in future . Any way only took one wrong turn. Also saw no sign of angry canine, still best to be prepared.
Nice site, sort of small and compact. Left quickly as locals appeared to be meeting for large group picnic, not sure of country code or etiquette so left them to it. They had a kid that stared at us in a funny way.
"In walking from Blandford to Damerham in September, 1852, I shaped my course by Horton, with a view to seeing Monmouth's ash on Horton Heath. Having reached the roadside inn, I found that the ash was four miles distant, and not having time to proceed thither, I waited at the inn.
Whilst waiting I saw a small ruined tower at the distance of half-a-mile or so, and, on asking a man, found it was the ruin of Knowlton Church. He also told me that at a very distant period there was a very valuable bell in that tower, so much so that it excited the cupidity of some fellows, who planned to steal it, take it to the coast, and, having crossed the Channel, sell it in France. This, considering the loneliness of the church, could be no very difficult matter; but somehow, after they had got the bell out of the tower, they were discovered, pursued, and overtaken at the bridge of Sturminster Marshall, and, being unable to proceed further with it, they threw it into the Stour and made off.
The Knowlton people let down ropes and pulled it up nearly within reach of hand, when down it went, without there being any apparent reason for the ropes breaking. A second and a third attempt were attended with the same result till, weary and dispirited, they gave it up. The old man said that there was a verse to the effect that
'All the devils in
Could never pull up Knowlton bell.' "
The writer says here that he considered this tale very pointless and incomplete but then found Hutchins' version:
"There is a tradition current among some of the old people in the village that many years ago the bellringers (or a party) of this village went secretly and removed one of the bells from the old ruined church at Knowlton [...]. They were successful so far, but, as there came a fall of snow during the expedition, they were afraid of being discovered by their tracks, and to baffle pursuit in case of discovery they reversed the shoes of the horses on their return. Arriving at the old bridge of White Mill, which is distant from Sturminster Church about half-a-mile, they sent on two of their party in advance to the village to see that the course was clear. As they were so long gone the remaining party thought something was a miss and that they were discovered, and, suspecting that the people of Knowlton were on their track, they, to dispose of the bell and put it out of sight, threw it into the River Stour, in a deep hole (now called Bell Hole or White Mill Hole). Hence the following doggerel:-
'Knowlton bell is a-stole
And thrown into White Mill Hole'."
[There was] an old ruined church in the neighbourhood of the farm where he was shepherd. It was roofless, more than half fallen down, and all the standing portion, with the tower, overgrown with old ivy; the building itself stood in the centre of a huge round earth-work and trench, with large barrows on the ground outside the circle. Concerning this church [Caleb] had a wonderful story: its decay and ruin had come about after the great bell in the tower had mysteriously disappeared, stolen one stormy night, it was believed, by the Devil himself. The stolen bell, it was discovered, had been flung into a small river at a distance of some miles from the church, and there in summertime when the water was low, it could be distinctly seen lying half buried in the mud at the bottom. But all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't pull it out; the Devil, who pulled the other way, was strongest. Eventually some wise person said that a team of white oxen would be able to pull it out, and after much seeking the white oxen were obtained, and thick ropes were tied to the sunken bell, and the cattle were goaded and yelled at, and tugged and strained until the bell came up and was finaly drawn right up to the top of the steep, cliff-like bank of the stream. Then one of the teamsters shouted in triumph, "Now we've got out the bell, in spite of all the devils in hell," and no sooner had he spoken the bold words than the ropes parted, and back tumbled the bell to its old place at the bottom of the river, where it remains to this day. Caleb had once met a man in those parts who assured him that he had seen the bell with his own eyes, lying nearly buried in mud at the bottom of the stream.
From 'A Shepherd's Life; impressions of the South Wiltshire downs' (1921), by WH Hudson.
A cluster of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments near Knowlton. The principal features are the henge monuments and the Great Barrow, while a number of round barrows and ring ditches are also focused on the area. Until recently, little fieldwork has been undertaken in the area. Some stray finds of Neolithic date have been reported, while some flint scatters have been examined on the opposite side of the Allen Valley to the monuments. A research programme undertaken by Bournemouth University in 1993-5 included geophysical survey on various monuments in the area as well as some trial excavation at the southern henge (SU 01 SW 101). The monuments in this group are visible on aerial photographs and have been been mapped by EH's Knowlton Circles Project. See child and associated monument records for details about individual sites. The core of the site is in the care of English Heritage.