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Mattocks Down

Standing Stones

Also known as:
  • Maddock's Down

Nearest Town:Ilfracombe (9km WNW)
OS Ref (GB):   SS601439 / Sheet: 180
Latitude:51° 10' 35.88" N
Longitude:   4° 0' 5.86" W

Added by Rhiannon

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On this down and its environs, are a number of rocks and columnar stones, of various sizes and in various figures. They are thus noticed by a correspondent of Dean Milles:

"On Maddoc-common, one stone is of a remarkable size, and one only. It is of a conic figure, not so large at the base, as near its center, occasioned by the sheep rubbing against it. At the center, it measures fifteen feet four inches. The height, about which I could not be so exact, I take to be eleven feet, if not more. In a line parallel to this great stone, from south to north, and at the distance of twenty-four paces, lies a trunk of stone, about a foot from the ground, whose diameter is two feet eight inches. About twelve paces distant from this, in a line from west to east, is a stone not a foot above the ground, and about a foot in diameter. Were there another to correspond to the large one, these four would include a space of ground, whose opposite sides would be equal.

I counted more than an hundred clusters of stone in different parts. In some places, six, eight, or more are to be seen together, but not remarkable for their height. At one groupe of six, the eye is particularly engaged. These stand circular-wise, and are the only ones in which the circular figure can be discovered. At the distance of four paces from this circle, is the trunk of a stone, nearly three feet above the surface, whose diameter measures about three feet.

The opinion of the country is, that the first stone I have described being one entire solid stone, was erected by human hands. Concerning these stones, we have two traditions. One is, that there was a battle fought between Biry, or Berry, and Maddoc, two potent lords; and that Maddoc erected these monuments to perpetuate his victory.

The other tradition is, that two Lords had a battle on this spot of ground, and that, though the conqueror is forgotten, the name of the vanquished was Maddoc, and that the slain were all buried in a common adjoining to this, hence called Deadbury common: Yet I could perceive no tumuli there."
Thus writes a Gentleman from Barnstaple in 1751.

[.. Another correspondent] writes "On the north-side of the parish of East-Down, is an estate which, though now inclosed, still bears the name of Maddoc's-Down. On this place stands a remarkably large stone of the spar kind - in the midst of a plain, about twelve feet above ground, and of a size too large ever to have been fixed there by art. At the distance of some yards, are several other stone, lying flat - which they call the Gyants' Quoits."
From Volume 1 of Richard Polwhele's 'Historical Views of Devonshire' (1793).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
27th June 2011ce
Edited 27th June 2011ce

Practically in Exmoor, one of the standing stones here (at SS601439) is 2.5m high - or at least it was before being struck by lightning very recently. The other (at ss603438) lies down and is 2.8m long (with another bit unattached slightly to the north, according to the SMR Magic record). Also on Mattocks Down, in the vicinity of the first stone, are four round barrows.

Lilian Wilson's 1976 book 'Ilfracombe Yesterdays', gives the local view of the standing stone: "This is a rock believed to be a 'Gathering Stone' around which chiefs and tribes of that part of Devon met in times of trouble, or when they had matters to discuss."
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
13th December 2005ce
Edited 27th June 2011ce