After a long visit to Bristol zoo (my favorite creature was a tiny bright green wasp) and a nice picnic on Durdham down in the centre of Bristol, I unveiled my megalithic plans for the rest of the day, they were less than enthusiastic it has to be said so I agreed to go easy on them, our first visit is to a dolmen that is no further from the road than someones house.......no really.
Along with Hamish's directions and the splendour that is Google Earth (streetview allows you to take a real look at what your looking for) it was a piece of cake to find the place even in the most hateful place on Earth... the city.
Parking was easy, the house is number 59 and there is a name plaque next to the front door saying Cromlech, just in case there was any doubt.
I gave the doorbell a push and the lady of the house soon came, wearing my most pleasant of faces I asked politely if she had a burial chamber in her back yard, and could we please have a quick look, I gave my camera bag a tap as if it would explian everything, she looked a bit perplexed for a second and I thought I'd got the wrong house, then realisation dawned upon her face and she said its over there behind you, "Really"? said I, "oh yeah, can we have a quick look"?
"Sure you can" she replied, I dont think she gets many visitors, which is a shame, because how many dolmens survive in these urban settings, more than you think but still not many.
The capstone is bigger and longer than I expected and looks as though only one upright is left kind of supporting the capstone, since the last TMAer visit five years ago the garden has come on really well from a gardening perspective
and I do really like gardens but not when it obscures me stones, take solace knowing that the stones are safe and might outlast the roads and houses it is surrounded by, as we walked back to the car, down the road is the only hint at what kind of view it would have enjoyed all those years ago, looking down into the wooded Avon valley, it then reminded of Gwal Y Filiast in Wales, and what does Avon mean? its Welsh of course for river.
To get to the dolmen you take Stoke Road by the water Tower, down Stoke Hill follow the road past the shops and up Druid Hill.The second to last house before you reach Druid Stoke Avenue on the left is the one you want.
Remember this is a private house and access must be asked for,it would be a shame if the gates were kept shut.
A CROMLECH.--Passing lately through the village of Stoke-Bishop, a little beyond the western side of Durdham Down, I observed in an angle of a field immediately facing the road to Westbury a remarkably fine cromlech. The cap-stone, which appears to weigh about a couple of tons, rests against the last remaining support. Two former "supports" are lying prostrate by the side of it, as well as a third stone, which stood probably at the head of the monument, to indicate the burial-place of a chieftain.
Being a stranger in the neighbourhood, I inquired of the first passenger whom I met ( a labourer) what name the stone in question bore, and what was known of it. He replied, that it had not stood very long in its present position; that an old man in the village had assured him it had been brought into the field under very mysterious circumstances; in short, that it had been found there one morning! This is a repetition of an old-wives' tale, as common in the East as in the West.
A second labourer, to whom I appealed for information upon the subject, said that nothing whatever was known about the stone; that some thought it very ancient indeed, and others that it was quite modern...
When 'discovered' in 1811 by the Rev. John Skinner, the site lay in a field. By 1880 it had been incorporated into the grounds of Druid Stoke House, and around this time was apparently used as a place of annual assembly by a sect of Druids. In 1904 the grounds were divided up and sold, and the present house was built in 1907. The (by then unfashionable?) druidic connection was incorporated into the houses and streets that were built: the Druid Stoke suburb grew in the 1930s with Druid Road, Druid Stoke Avenue, and Druid Hill.
The stones were probably part of a longbarrow with a false front entrance, and chambers along the sides. As they are 'dolomitic conglomerate' it's thought they may have come from Henbury or Kingsweston Hill. Although it's difficult to imagine now, the barrow is on a western spur of Durdham Down, and overlooked a stream. This origin fits nicely with the folklore Skinner collected from a local farmer. He was told that two giants had fought - one being at the Rock at Henbury, the other at St Vincent Rocks, Clifton. The Henbury giant threw a stone at his rival, but it fell short - and that's the capstone at Druid Stoke. His name was Goram, or Gorm, and he's also associated with the Giant's Grave longbarrow at Holcombe, Maes Knoll, and Wansdyke. You can visit 'Goram's Chair' at Henbury, and the cave of the other giant, Vincent, beneath the fort at Clifton.
(info from the 1979 volume (97) of Bristol + Glouc. Arch. Soc. Trans.)
Note on a Dolmen at Stoke Bishop. By M. H. Scott.
(Read February 10th, 1904.)
This monument stands to the left of the entrance gate of Druids' Stoke, and just inside the grounds. I quote Seyer's description [...] [Memoirs Historical and Topographical of Bristol and its Neighbourhood, Rev. Samuel Seyer, M.A., 1821, v1, p103].
"It consists of one large stone, and three small. The large stone is 10 1/2 (feet) in length, 2 1/2 thick, and 5 1/2 at the broadest. It has been thrown down, and having fallen on one of the smaller stones, which stood beneath, it partly rests upon it, and is prevented from lying flat on the ground, so that at first sight it appears a cromlech (i.e. dolmen) or altar stone.
Of the three smaller stones, the first has already been mentioned, as supporting the great stone; it is about three feet above the ground. Another lies close to it westward, and the third a few feet distant north-westward: the two last are broken off close to the ground, they may be fragments separated when the great stone fell down. That which was its northern or north-eastern face when it stood upright, which now lies nearest to the ground, is tolerably smooth, and of the natural colour of the stone; all other parts are eaten into deep holes by the action of the weather, and are slightly covered with moss, and the colour is dark and dirty.
The stone is a millstone grit, or breccia, and was probably brought from the foot of Kingsweston Hill, about a mile distant, where numbers of the same sort, although not of equal size, still lie scattered on the ground, and many more were formerly to be seen, until Mr. F. collected them for the foundation of his house.'
Mr. Seyer, though he seems inclined to doubt that this erection was a dolmen, does not suggest any other theory, and his remark that the under side of the large stone is not weather worn is in favour of this stone having been the covering stone of a dolmen. The presence of three smaller stones is also in accordance with this. They are not so large as one would expect the supports of a dolmen to be, but it is possible that some fragments may have been carried away.
Miss Munro, whose father, William Munro, Esq., formerly owned Druids' Stoke, says:--
"In my recollection, once a year a body of men calling themselves Druids, with a Priest (?) dressed in wonderful garments, used to hold a service at the Druid's Stone."
On my asking at what time fo the year this occurred, she says:--
"I am almost sure that the Druids' ceremony took place in the spring before the grass was put up for mowing. I have a dim recollection that the Druids wished to have the ceremony later, but were told that they could not be allowed to tread down the growing grass, as they came in considerable numbers."
So long as Mr. Munro had the property, as also his successor, Mr. Wedmore, this monument was safe enough. But since the death of the latter, the property having failed to find a purchaser, has been put up in separate lots, and it is quite possible, as the stones are so near the road, that at no distant date the land may be sold for building, and the stones removed. I therefore place this note on record.
From the Proceedings of the Bath Natural History and Antiquarian Field Club, v10 (1905), p318. Druids. Don't let them spoil your lawn.
Antiquarian excavation by F. Ware in 1913. Small scale excavations by George Smith in January 1983 in advance of development revealed traces of a terminal chamber with two or more cells. Report Smith 1989.