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Giant Goram and Bristol


One of the main characters in Bristol folklore is that of a giant called Goram, who is attributed to the making of the Avon Gorge, with another giant who was named Ghyston. The fullest story we have of these two giants, is, one that is known as Ghyston and Goram. In the tale:-

These two giants lived near Bristol. They were friendly, though different in nature, Ghyston was industrious and energetic, where as Goram liked to take things easy. At the time that these two giants lived there was no River Avon or Avon Gorge and so all the animals of the area had to go to the Mendip Hills to get a drink.
Ghyston and Goram thought it would be a good thing to do something which would make them remembered for ever and accordingly they decided to make a gorge so that the animals would not have to go so far for water. They set to. But, having only one axe between them they stationed themselves a few miles apart. Firstly Ghyston hewed away and when he got tired he threw the axe to his friend Goram, who spent his time sunbathing, waiting for his turn. Then Goram began to cut at his end and threw back the axe when he had had enough.
So they worked and soon a stream began to trickle through the gorge. Then, Ghyston threw the axe back extra hard to Goram, who had in the meantime fallen asleep. The axe hit the sleeping giant on the head and killed him. Ghyston, surprised not to hear the sound of his friend working, went to see what was wrong. He was overcome with grief when he found what had happened and so laid Goram's body to rest at the place now known as Penpole Point.
Ghyston wandered far and wide, trying to forget his grief and eventually returned home. As he sat meditating by the river he died and fell into the River Severn where it was covered with sand and silt. But, at low tide it is said, that it is still possible to see his outline in a low sandbank.

Now Giant Goram was said to have lived in the district of Blaise Castle, which has long been associated with him. Visiting the area, one soon realizes that they have entered the home of this giant who was reputed to have been over 7 feet tall. The Concise Oxford Dictionary states that a giant is of :-

human form but superhuman stature: or an abnormally tall person.

This would surely give substance to the theory that giants were not necessarily legendary beings from Greek Mythology who warred against the Gods. But, just taller than their compatriots. One such person was Sir John Hauteville who lived at Norton Malreward in the thirteenth century.

Various feats of strength are told of Sir John. He is credited with having tossed a great rock from Maes Knoll to Stanton Drew, a mile and a half away.

This was a rehearsal for a match with the Devil, which Sir John won, for he threw his rock from Shute Shelve to Compton Bishop - again a mile and a half - and the Devil's throw was three furlongs shorter.

Returning to Blaise Castle and walking up the path from the fields near Henbury, almost to the top of the hill where the folly stands, there can be found a boulder which has a footprint embedded in it. This is said to be the footprint of Giant Goram as he walked that way one day. The Giant's Footprints are in fact of limestone erosion, unusual for this part of Britain. Legend blames the footprints on Goram, who stamped his feet into the solid rock while in a tantrum. Perhaps the credit for the footprints and the cutting of the Hazel Brook Gorge, more rightly belong to Goram's cousin, Jack Frost. - Frost personified.

Walk down into the valley, which lies at the bottom of the hill on the other side and one can soon see Goram's Soap Dish by the Henbury Trym. Looking up from here to the right of the rock face and carved into the rocks is the shape of a chair, known as Goram's Chair. Here, the legend is that Goram and Vincent, (Ghyston), both fell in love with Avona, (Avolon), a Wiltshire born merry bell. Avona promised to marry the giant who could first drain the great lake, which then stretched from Bradford-on-Avon to Rownham Hill. Goram chose to dig his way through the Henbury Hills, while Vincent opted for the Durdham Downs. The work was hot and thirsty and Goram, having drunk a little to much beer, soon fell asleep in his favourite stone-winged chair. Vincent furiously dug his way through to Sea Mills and so claimed the fair Avona. Avona gave her name to Vincent's Avon Gorge, while poor old Goram, his heart broken, hurled himself into the Severn where his head and shoulder can still be seen poking out of the mud as Flat Holm and Steep Holm. We are not told who it was that finished off Goram's channel through the Hazel Brook Gorge.

Is Avona actually a river, she gave her name to the Avon Gorge. So it must be said about the River Avon. In the 'Ulster Cycle', a collection of Irish heroic legends. Avon Dia, was a stretch of river, that held back its waves for fear of the mighty duel, in the river ford, between the champions, Cuchulain and Ferdia. Are Goram and Vincent, variants of Cuchulain and Ferdia. Or are the two Bristol Giants, role-playing an ancient mythological cycle. Which had been handed down through the years, by word of mouth.

In days gone by at Blaise Castle there was held once a year, Giant Goram's Fayre. At this fair an effigy of Goram was burnt on top of a bonfire. Recently , the fayre was revived. But, unfortunately only a shadow of its former self. The fayre has been held on several dates in the past - May, July and August. - But was said to have been held on Goram's birth or death, it is not quite sure which one it was nowadays.

But why should there be an effigy burning of this giant. Perhaps in times gone by, Goram was regarded as a sun-king, hence the fire burning. However, fire festivals have mostly died out now. The meaning of these bonfire customs, perhaps suggested an even more paganistic meaning of sacrificial rites. As the earlier spelling was, bonefire.

The tale of Vincent and Goram differs slightly from that of Ghyston and Goram, in as much, as the ending has been altered.

One day Vincent and Goram, two giants, decided to make the Avon Gorge. But Goram being lazy fell asleep, which left Vincent to do all the work.
After Vincent had finished making the gorge he stood on the edge and threw his pickaxe away. But, unfortunately. He lost his balance and fell into the gorge, killing himself.

There is also part of a story that Vincent and Goram were brothers, although in the Somerset tale about the making of Maes Knoll, Vincent is reputed to be the Lord of the Avon, (Annwn). In Welsh Mythology, Annwn is a Celtic otherworld or underworld, associated with fairy-folk, as a place of water-crossings and islands. Is Vincent the Devil or a Fairy Lord, who lived in the underworld. His home was a cave, after all. The Celts held hills in awe, as dwelling-places of spirits and otherworldly beings. Gwyn Ap Nudd, - (White Son Of Night), held his realm from the Vale Of Neath, South Glamorgan to Glastonbury Hill, Somerset. But who lived there? If this hill is associated with Annwn. Then it was the Plant Annwn and their maidens, the Gwragen Annwn. Along with their fairy cattle, the Gwartheg Y Llyn and their swift white hounds, the Cwn Annwn. Does this mean that Sir John Hauteville, Ghyston - Vincent and Goram - Gorm are of the Plant Annwn from Celtic Mythology? Although Vincent and Goram were brothers, they had a fight, - not on the Mendip Hills. - But on the Blackdown Hills. Or, perhaps this is a reference to a stone throwing contest between the Devil and a Giant. Was there a stone circle, quoits or standing stones near Blaise Castle?

It is also said of Vincent and Goram, that they lived in this area as guardpoints for the trackways that ran from the south of the River Avon into Gloucestershire. This may be a reference to ley lines, as there are many in this area. Ley lines are the track ways of the Ancient Britons - Old Celtic, Brittos - and are associated with many of our prehistoric monuments. These run in a direct line, whether viewed from a map or as field-work.

For example:-

Towns or Villages - beginning or ending with leigh or ley.
Standing Stones.
Holy wells/ponds.
Long or Round Barrows.
Churches - which have been dedicated to St: Micheal or a local saint.
Hills - e.g. Beacon Hill, etc:

The first ley line runs from Beggars Bush, associated with the idea that it was used as an astronomical sighting point and therefore its original name was perhaps, Burning Bush, because as the sun rises in the sky the leaves look red. Through the Iron Age camp at Stokeleigh, across the River Avon, along the Celtic Fields to Ashley Down, where at one time bonfires were lit. From Ashley Down, the ley line continues to the Long Barrow at Lockleaze and from there onto Coldharbour Farm, Stoke Gifford - another astronomical sighting point. A matter of 6 miles. This first ley line also extends its self on to Whatley's End. From here it crosses over the River Frome, towards Tubb's Bottom, keeping Beech Hill on the left. A second crossing of the River Frome and the ley line continues to Bury Hill. From here, through Burnt Wood and Littley Wood to Inglestone Common. A 7 ¼ mile journey. This makes the complete ley line 16 ¼ miles long, from start to finish. Which also crosses the church on Pigsty Hill, Bishopston. This church was built on a round barrow, clearly visible. It must also be noted that this ley line can not be extended southwards from Beggar's Bush.

The other ley line to run from the south, starts at Stokeleigh Camp, through Leigh Woods and across the River Avon and then on up to the two Iron Age hill forts at Blaise Castle. Being only 3 ½ miles long. Whether this ley line then went on to Spaniorum Hill is hard to tell.

It has also been suggested that Goram was a highwayman. Which is probably a throw-back to the legend of the ancient trackways. Not the type of mounted robber that held up people on the roads. As characterised by Louis Jeremiah Abershaw, Captain James Hind, etc:

Another variant on the gorge making theme, is that Goram is spelt with an h - making it G-O-R-H-A-M and not the usual way of G-O-R-A-M. In this story, Vincent is stated as being Gor(h)am's brother and after forming the gorge, Gor(h)am rested at Gor(h)am's Chair in Blaise Woods, while Vincent was turned to stone and became the rock called Vincent's Rock by the side of the Gorge.

It is my belief that Vincent is Ghyston. Mainly because near the Observatory at Clifton there once was a sign which read:-

'Ghyston Giant's Cave, St: Vincent's Rock, about 400 years ago'.

This sign stood there in the Victorian heyday but since then has disappeared. Also the name Ghyston can be traced back to 1481. Vincent was probably substituted for Ghyston, in an attempt for easier spelling and pronunciation. Or, because this was a result in the Christianisation of the name Ghyston.

There again, the cave was used by Ghyston and a hermit and bearing in mind, the close proximity of St: Vincent's Rock. Which may suggest, that the hermit was a follower of Vincent De Paul, founder of 'the congregation of priests of the mission'. Time has perhaps, clouded and confused the two names into one. Leaving us with, Vincent's or St: Vincent's Rock. Along with Clifton St: Vincent Football Club, who are members of the Bristol Downs League. Having at one time, been founder members of the Gloucestershire County League, until the late 1970's. Also, not forgetting the Giant Goram Public House, at Barrowmead Drive, Lawrence Weston, Bristol.

In Somerset Folklore, there is a giant whose name is spelt as G-O-R-M or G-O-R-M-E. This giant is attributed to the same stories as Goram. The question is that, is Gorm(e) really Goram? I am positive that the answer is yes. That Gorm(e) is a corruption of the spelling of Goram.

Giant Goram has three graves ascribed to him in Somerset. In Irish Mythology, the number 3 is associated with the Winter Goddess of Death, pictured as The Three Fates, or The Three Furies, or The Three Graeae, or The Three-headed Bitch. One grave is on Charnborough Hill, near Holcombe. A tumulus which stands on a ley line. Running centre of two tumuli near East Horrington, the ley line passes Athwick Church, a tumulus, Holcombe, Luckington Cross, Mells Down, until it reaches a Long Barrow. The second grave, now destroyed at Combe St: Nicholas, was probably a tumulus. Whereas, the third, was two groups of tumuli on either side of Cam Brook, a branch of the Wellow. Whereas Giant Gorm(e) is said to be responsible for the forming of the Avon Gorge. However, he quarrelled with someone (?) and was obliged to flee. As he did so, he tripped and fell and his bones became Brean Down, Flat Holm and Steep Holm.

Giant Gorm is also attributed to making Maes Knoll, while walking across the Mendip Hills with a shovel full of earth he disturbs Vincent, who has now become the Lord of the Avon and as he runs away he trips and falls to the ground. The earth then comes off of the shovel and lands on the ground to become Maes Knoll. Where the shovel scraped the ground, it became known as Wansdyke.

If I may return to expound the theory that Gorm(e) is Goram, we have now four spellings; G-O-R-M, G-O-R-M-E, G-O-R-A-M and G-O-R-H-A-M. Making a table, they become broken down in this manner:-


The dialect for Gor is Gaum - Understanding. But the Old English Gar meaning spear, with reference to shape of spearhead. - Individual or group chosen to lead a thrust or attack, act as spearhead of (attack etc:). - Gorm Glas was the sword of Conor Mac Nessa. Also, Gorm, Blue, is the colour correspondence associated with Gort. The 12th: Ogham character, of the Celtic Tree Alphabet. Being that, of the flowering season, 30. September until 27. October. In the Baski or Basque language, Gora means tall or high. Whereas, Ham - Heavy-handed, clumsy. Old English Ham, Hom, - Old High German Ham(m)a, Old Norse Hom from Germanic Ham(m) - Be crooked. - Deformed.



From the stories related, we can form an opinion that Goram was not only lazy. But, also clumsy. So perhaps he was part of some ancient British spearhead. Also ham can be traced to deformed and for an abnormally tall person Goram would have obviously been called a giant, if he did exist at all. But Bristol is not alone in claiming Goram for their own. Viking Mythology has mention of Earl Gorm from Ethiopia. Gromer Somer Jour. - 'Man of the Summer's Day'. Is a kind of old nature spirit. The summer equivalent of The Green Knight? Grom. - Old Norse word meaning 'child'. In Tristan and Isolde, Morholt was brother-in-law of King Goram of Ireland. Goram had married Isolde the Elder, sister of Morholt who was a giant and powerful knight. Tantris - (Tristan) - spent many days with Goram's daughter, teaching her the art of playing the harp. King Goram had promised to reward any hero, his daughter's hand in marriage, if the suitor could kill the dragon…… Goram's seneschal had found the dead dragon…… Queen Isolde brought Tristan's claim to her husband Goram…… Goram set the next day for the duel. Since Goram's wife had favoured Tristan's claim.

As for the spelling of Ghyston, Ghy has evaded any possibility of being translated as yet. But Ston may be derived from the Old English Stan, - Old Saxon Sten which has today become the word stone. So, the last part of Ghyston, suggests a stone throwing giant, of some calibre. In Basque, Vinze means at the foot of, - as Goram's brother, Vincent, is said to be buried below St: Vincent's Rocks in the Avon Gorge.

Another old legend concerning Vincent and Goram and the origin of the Avon Gorge and the ravine at Blaise Castle, along with Goram's Chair, which was written down by a rhymer, unfortunately, long forgotten.

In it, he tells of the two giants height:-

'They'd have nursed the Colossus of Rhodes as a doll,
And performed a fit feat for mankind to admire:
As a humming top using the Dome of St: Paul
Or have made it a peg top with Salisbury Spire'.

The legend goes on to tell, how the brothers decided to do something to make them, forever famous. Goram's idea was to raise a lofty mound of rocks, mingled with the bones of huge creatures. But, Vincent suggested that a great gorge should be hewn through the massive rocks to form a wonderful channel for a river.

Vincent set to work and progressed so well that Goram became envious and so decided to hew a rival gorge. But not having a pick-axe, he had to borrow the one that Vincent was using. Goram started, as the legend states, by:-

'Hewing himself a great arm chair,
Wherein he might sit with an easy air,
And cool his toes in the stream below'.

A shout of warning was always to be given before the axe was thrown the three mile distance. But as we have heard before, Goram fell fast asleep and the axe hit Goram, splitting open his skull. Vincent's remorse was terrible. In an attempt to forget his share in the tragedy, he worked doubly hard at his gorge, the Avon Gorge.

The tale ends, telling of Vincent:-

'With such a view, it was he who threw
The stones together at Stanton Drew,
And ranged in rank, on Salisbury Plain,
Those wondrous piles that yet remain.
Then swam across to the Emerald Isle,
And built the Giant's Causeway there'.

Before returning to his gorge to pass his last hours, seated upon the rocks which bear his name.

It is uncertain. But, probably the rhymer was reminiscently, recalling Greek Mythology and that of the Hyperboreans, when he wrote those lines.

Before we leave Blaise Castle, there is another Ley Line which runs from St: Vincent's Rocks to Blaise Castle and has connections with Druidry.

Mention has already been made of Stanton Drew, (Stan Tren. - The stone enclosure) and its Standing Stones, said to represent a wedding party turned to stone for continuing their Saturday night revels into Sunday morning.

The Stones consist of three stones circles, two of which have stone avenues extending eastwards from them, a 'cove' and a single stone known as Hauteville's Quoit. In the 18th: century a second stone was near it and both were standing. The survivor today, much damaged, is 7 feet long and fallen.

A line through the centres of the north-eastern and central circles will pass through the 'cove'. Also a line drawn through the centres of the south-western and central circles will, if projected north-eastwards, continue to Hauteville's Quoit. The 'cove' is a u-shaped setting of two large uprights with a fallen stone between them.

The folk tale regarding the stones, is that of the Devil as fidder, played faster, as wedding guests danced quicker. A single cock crowed, at dawn, on Sunday morning and all were turned to stone. Does this tale hold an older truth for the stones. The 'cove' was said to have been used by Druids and the horseshoe of the Old Mother. The wedding feast could be human circle dancing. The summer sunrise is in the north-east and of highest inspiration and power, the high force of light at the midsummer solstice - 21. June. (Alban Heruin). The male or bisexual, powerful mature sun. Water. Og or Trutates. Ancient ceremonial circle - The Skryer. Modern ceremonial circle - Summer Solstice. The Right-hand Pillar. The Pendragon. A Sun circle. - Union of male with female. East is represented by Jupiter, the rays from the equinoxes and the times of balance - 23. September. (Alban Elued). Main season of gathering crops. Air. The Dagda or Ceridwen. - 21. March. (Alben Eiler). The growing youth. Fire. Aenghus Og. Ancient ceremonial circle - The Elevated Chair. Modern ceremonial circle - Place of Equinox. The High Seat. The Aberth. The Ancient One. A Jupiter circle. - Father-mother. While the winter sunset is in the south-west. - 21. December. (Alban Arthuan). The seed - period of the life-spirit. Earth. Great Mother as Mabinog, is clearly a Mother-goddess ceremony. Ceridwen and Hu-Hesus. Modern ceremonial circle - Herald. A Moon circle. - Power. Was the Devil as fiddler, said to return to play again and set them free, a reminder that people do not dance around stones, without making rhythmic sounds. Not all menhirs are humanized. But, the continual mention of dancing, linked with names of stones, implies it.

Were the peoples living at Stanton Drew sun worshipers, as at Bath. The sun is distinctly Beli, Bel or Belinus. Forming a pair with the Great Mother. - Feminine, Sul or Suet. Sul is a water mother. The River Chew runs close by to the north-east circle, so there could have been river worship here as well.

The north-east circle has 13 stones - standing and fallen. The great circle has 15 stones - standing and fallen. The south-west circle has 5 stones - standing and fallen. The 'cove' has 3 stones - 2 standing and 1 fallen. In numerology:- Three - creative energy, triangle, 3 rays, Saturn: One + Three = Four - balance, Earth, Jupiter: Five - intelligent, energy, Mars: One + Five = Six - double triangle, balance and union of male and female, Sun.

Ruled by the White Goddess whose sacred number is thirteen, in so far as, her courses coincide with the Solar Year. But, fifteen, in so far as, the Full Moon falls on the fifteenth day of each lunation. Fifteen is also the multiple of three and five. Three expressing the three phases of the Moon and the Goddess's three aspects of maiden, nymph and hag. While, five expresses the five stations of her year, birth, initiation, consummation, response and death. This all points to Stanton Drew being an astrological calculator, as is the Avebury complex and Stonehenge.

During November 1997, nine concentric circles of wooden postholes were discovered at Stanton Drew, making it the largest Neolithic temple in Britain. Being twice the size of Stonehenge and probably 500 years older. The wooden temple is more than 400 feet across including its outer ditch and contained nine circles of carved oak posts which may have been up to 25ft: high.

Are Blaise Castle, Star Hill, St: Vincent's Rocks, Brandon Hill, Crew's Hole, Bower Ashton, Durley Hill and Maes Knoll part of a bigger Zodiac encircling Bristol. Or are they a stylised mandala, which the unconscious of some, takes hold of and projects on to the landscape? Research using Pegasus - 'of the springs of water' and Orion - 'lord of the chambers of the south' and sites, major, secondary and minor around the area, the results were 50/50 and incomplete and would Goram be Pegasus/Orion. But, 'as above, so below'.

Today, the twin giants and mythical founders of Bristol, Vincent and Goram, are five lines in a leaflet about the Blaise Castle Estate.

Stewart Guy.

Posted by Stewart Guy
1st June 2007ce

Comments (2)

Great stories and a fascinating read, its good to see this area mythologised, does the Goram story tie in with the two hillforts facing each other across the gorge?
moss Posted by moss
2nd June 2007ce
To Moss: -
* The Iron Age camp at Stokeleigh lies on a ley line - as stated above in my article - and therefore part of the stories. The other ley line runs from Stokeleigh Camp and runs up to the two Iron Age hill forts at Blaise Castle.

On Wikipedia, there is a post for Goram & Vincent, which someone posted that I gave incorrect speculations about the names. Just to re-iterate: -
* Gorham g(o)-rham, gor-ham is of Old English origin, and means ‘village near the wedge-shaped piece of land’. Place name. Also possibly meaning ‘spear village‘.
Gorm was originally a Gaelic noun, gomal, meaning a stupid-looking person. This became the Anglo-Irish noun gaum, with the same meaning. Then it shifted into English as gorm in adjectival mode as stupid.

Also, Ben Goram (Binn Ghorm ‘the blue peak’ in Irish) is a mountain in the west of Ireland in County Mayo.

** Druid Stoke burial chamber, Druid Hill, Stoke Bishop. A Neolithic long barrow, is said to have been made when Goram & Vincent had a fight. Goram stood at The Rock, while Vincent stood at St: Vincent Rocks. Goram threw a stone at his rival, which fell short and became the capstone. Excavations found a human fifth metatarsal bone dated between 2889 - 2460 BC and a fragment of oak charcoal dating between 890 - 1220 AD.

The Giants Grave - long barrow - at Charnborough Hill, Holcombe is said to be the site of a great battle and is situated in a field called ‘Giant’s Ground‘.

Ghyston (Giant’s) Cave is also known as the Giant’s Hole.

*** Clifton Camp was attributed to Ghyst, a giant, by William of Worcester.

Near the Giant's Hole, the rocks are known as Ghyston Cliff.

A poem by H. D. Rawnsley, is entitled, 'Pleasures Of Imagination; Or The Jackdaws Above Ghyston Cave'.

Revised. - 5. November 2007. 19. November 2007. 5. January 2008.

Stewart Guy.
Posted by Stewart Guy
5th November 2007ce
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