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St: Arilda, Winterbourn Down & The Land Of The Ancients.

St: Arilda. Oldbury-on-Severn.

St Arilda is the patron saint of the church that stands on Cowhill, Oldbury-on-Severn, there are no other churches dedicated to this saint. St Arilda or Arildis, was a 'virgin martyr'. Her name in the form of Arild is Anglo-Saxon and connected with the name Hilda which means 'battle maiden'. Also as St: Afrella, born circa AD448 in Wales and died circa the 5th: century. But, what of her history?

In the Lady Chapel of Gloucester Cathedral are empty niches which originally held the statues of three major and thirty-six minor saints. The central niche of the three minor ones on the extreme south edge once held a statue of St Arilda and the mason's aide-memoire can still be seen scratched into the stone. She has also been identified, less certainly in a light in the east window of the Lady Chapel.

There is also a feast day on 20. July to St: Arilda - in the Celtic Calendar, that is the day given to St: Afrella - and a hymn about her, which was sung on that day and this shows that she was a 'virgin consecrated to God and a martyr', having 'three times fought the power of sin'. A translation of the hymn follows below:-

Acclaim, O Mother Church,
Our voices raised in duteous salute,
Hymning at last
Arildis' memory.
Avowed to Christ,
The three-fold foe o'erthrown,
Self set at nought
She walked with God.
Wise virgin, Christ's betrothed,
Holding the world in scorn
You put on grace
Enrobed in light.
With body chaste and pure in mind,
Struggling 'gainst fleshly laws,
Never in human love to be held dear,
In highest heaven.
Gloucester, its people and its lands
Are lighted by thy bones.
Succour our misery, that we through thee
May live in peace.
O Arildis, of our monastery the advocate
And hope of balm,
Mother, to thee thy children cry to share
Maternal joy.
Speak to thy Christ on our behalf.
Make us in His sweet aura
Acknowledge thy betrothed, through whom
the chosen Angels look down.
God, who hast adorned virginity by the blessed honour of Arildis' martyrdom, and hast illumined that region with her sacred remains, grant to us pardon through her prayers, and to that place eternal safety through Our Lord.

John Leland, tells us that St Arilda, was martyred at Kington, near Thornbury by Muncius, a Romano-British tyrant who cut off her head because she would not consent to lie with him and that she had also done many miracles. At Kington we find St: Arilda's Well. - Some of these Holy Wells and Springs throughout Britain were used for divinatory purposes, or for seeking blessings upon oneself and one's family, or for cursing one's enemies. A large number, having been hijacked and 'sainted' by the early Church, became places of pilgrimage connected with the cult of a local saint. Virtually all of these Holy Wells had their rituals which had to be performed in order to 'activate' the power of the water. This usually involved visiting the place only on certain acknowledged days. The Christianised or 'sainted' wells almost always had to be visited on the appropriate saint's day or on such dates as Easter Sunday or Whit Sunday. - Local tradition has it that the water runs red with her blood. The stones in the well's outflow are stained red. But not with the iron associated with chalybeate springs, but from a freshwater alga called Hildebrandia rivularis. St: Arilda's sister was St: Anna or Anne, who has two churches dedicated to her in Gloucestershire, at Oxenhall & Siston. She also has a Holy Well at St: Anne In The Woods, Brislington. St: Anna's first husband was Cynyr Ceinfarfog, his foster-son being King Arthur. The two sisters father was Vortimer Fendigaid, King of Gwerthefyriwg, eldest son of Vortigern Vorteneu. His other daughter was St: Madrun, probably named after the Romano-British mother goddess, Matrona. Legend has it, that Madrun and her handmaiden St: Annun, once stopped for the night at Trawsfynydd. Here they both had an identical dream in which they were commanded to build a nunnery where they slept. Amazed by this co-incidence, they did as required.

But, what of Cowhill? A circular churchyard which indicates an ancient holy site and Roman remains have been dug up there, pointing to a possible pre-Christian origin, particularly as the hill itself has always been a navigation mark for shipping on the River Severn. Four ley lines run from Cowhill, - The term 'ley' is a generic term for archaic linear features of all kinds. These lines appear in many different cultures and periods and manifest themselves in varying forms. Ultimately they and other linear features, lore and traditional concepts can be found to have a 'spirit' element of some kind, often spirits of the dead. But, if ley lines are the old straight track, then a standing stone, lone tree on a hill, etc: would always help you to find your way to a hill fort or stone circle. The first ley line passes through St: Arild's and Kington up to the Iron Age Hill Fort at Grovesend. The second from Cowhill, runs through Hay Wood to Henley Hill and then to the Iron Age Hill Fort, to Old Down and on to the Church at Tockington. Whereas the third goes from Cowhill, to a lost Standing Stone west of Pullens Green, across Oldbury Naite Rhine to an Iron Age Hill Fort. The fourth and longest runs from Cowhill, Titters Hill Tumulus, Old Down, site of a Roman Villa, Hortham Wood, Bradley Brook, St: Michael's Church at Winterbourne, Beacon Hill, Pye Corner, River Frome, Whiteshill, Mangotsfield, Staple Hill, Rodway Hill to Siston Common. From here the ley line is extended to Warmley, Cowhorn Hill, Earthworks, St: Mary's Church at Bitton and then to the River Avon.

Winterbourn Down.

Bury Hill Camp near Winterbourne Down, is said to be an Iron Age contour fort originally built by Celtic peoples and later used by the Romans from about 47AD to the 3rd: & 4th: centuries as a fortified camp. The fort is a round cornered rectangle in shape, on an approximately north/south axis. The long western side of the fort is along a steep hill edge above the River Frome and has been destroyed by quarrying, while the other three sides are generally on fairly flat land and make up a central ditch, with ramparts built on both the inner and outer sides of the ditch, with the outer rampart the higher. There is also a well which is fed by a spring. The Iberians buried their dead in large round mounds - Barrows - and it is believed that one such mound is in the grounds of Hillcrest, - (the highest point in the Parish), - near Winterbourne Down Church. From the 7th: Century BC onwards, however, there were a number of invasions by Celtic tribes from north west Germany and the Netherlands who defeated the Iberians largely on account of their superior weapons. The Iberians built strong defences against invaders and in recent years evidence has come to light that this Camp, was one of their defences.

The names Winterbourn(e) and Winterbourn(e) Down refer to a winter borne stream that dries up in summer. From Bury Hill Camp, cross over the River Frome to Winterbourne Down, up Hillcrest and passed the church - dedicated to All Saints - along Dragon Road to Beacon Lane in nearby Winterbourne, which derived its name from the fact that it was part of the highway leading from Almondsbury Hill to Hillcrest - two high points or places where Beacons used to be lit. - Is this a ley line? There are many legends of dragons and wells in England. The motif is always the same, a dragon prevents local people reaching the well, spring or other source of water. But is eventually slain by the hero. The dragon represents an energy path linking one reality to another, while wells mark a point where two realities meet. The Welsh call ley lines, dragon lines. They were called this, because the white dragon represented all that is good and wholesome in the world, whereas, the black dragon represented all that is bad and evil in the world. In Wales, the Goddess Elen of the Ways, who ruled sunrise and sunset, was also the guardian of the old paths. The paths of the Dragon today, are called ley lines. These lines of energy run absolutely straight, taking in most stone circles, standing stones, barrows, tumuli, wells, moats, hill forts and earthworks. When the Christian church arrived in Britain, many churches were built at places of ancient sanctity; therefore, today most old churches are on ley lines. The new dragon killer - church - took over the high ridges, while the old god took over the lowlands.

Winterbourne Down is steeped in tradition and the memory of a group called the 'Christmas Boys' who performed a play every Boxing Day, around the houses in the village lives on. The Christmas Boys Of Winterbourne Down perform their Mummers' Play each year. Although usually a broadly comic performance, the folk play seems to be based on the underlying theme of duality and resurrection and generally involve a battle between two or more characters, perhaps representing good against evil. Usually they feature a doctor who has a magic potion which is able to resuscitate a slain character. Some of the mummers' faces are blackened by way of disguise. The word mummer is sometimes explained to derive from Middle English mum ('silent') or Greek mommo ('mask'), but is more likely to be associated with Early New High German mummer ('disguised person'), and vermummen ('to wrap up, to disguise, to mask ones faces'). Today, they are joined by Winterbourn Down Border Morris. There is no known history of Morris dancing in the area prior to 1978, the side being originally formed as an all female side, largely from the partners of The Christmas Boys, as a means of providing more entertainment for the growing audiences.
Winterbourn Down Border Morris use music which is suited to their step-hop style, namely traditional hornpipes, jigs and polkas. Morris dancing is a form of English folk dance accompanied by music. It is based on rhythmic stepping and the execution of choreographed figures by a group of dancers. Dressed in clothes decorated with ribbons and with a small strip of bells. Implements such as sticks, swords, brooms and handkerchiefs are wielded by the dancers. While there is still some dispute over the origin of the term 'morris', the most widely accepted theory is that the term was 'moorish dance'. While the term Border Morris refers to a collection of individual local dances from villages along the English side of the Wales/England border and is a simpler, looser, more vigorous style.

Bristol & South Gloucestershire Sites Of Antiquity.

Using an OS Map 172 Bristol & Bath, most of the following sites are easily accessible.

Cowhill. - Ancient holy site.

A chamber tomb is a tomb for burial used in many different cultures:-
Druid Stoke. - Chambered Tomb. ST561762.
Wick. - Burial Chamber. ST706719.

A hill fort is a fortified refuge or defended settlement, located to exploit a rise in elevation for military advantage:-
Blaise Castle. - Hill Fort. - Iron Age. ST559784.
Goram. - Giant's Footprint. - A petrosomatoglyph is an image of parts of a human or animal body incised in rock. Many were created by the Celtic peoples. These representations date from the Early Middle Ages, others of uncertain purpose date back to megalithic times. They were an important form of symbolism, used in religious and secular ceremonies, such as the crowning of kings. Some are regarded as artefacts linked to saints and folklore heroes, such as King Arthur. The word comes from the Greek petros ('stone'), soma ('body'), and glyphein ('to carve'). Feet are the most common.
Gorm. - In the Saga of Gudmund and the Glittering Plains. King Gorm of Denmark undertakes a journey of discovery to the Glittering Plains and comes across the giants Geirrod & Gudmund, guardians of the land and who protect all men from peril, who sojourned there. King Gorm the Old, of Denmark, - (see the above saga) - had a stone monument raised in memory of his queen, Thyra. The runes carved on the stone read, 'King Gorm made this monument to Thyra his wife', while on the back is written, 'The jewel of Denmark'. Danish archaeologists have unearthed Gorm' Cup. While Harald's stone, was erected by Harald Bluetooth, in memory of his parents, King Gorm and Queen Thyra.
In a similar tale to that of Saint Christopher, by helping people across a river, Giant Gorm becomes known as 'Christofero', the Christ-carrier.
Gorham. - Gorham's Cave, Gibraltar was discovered in 1907, when Captain A. Gorham of the 2nd: Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers opened up a fissure at the back of a sea cavern. Captain Gorham inscribed his name and the date on the wall of the cave and since then, the cave has borne his name.

Bury Hill Camp. - Hill Fort. ST652791.
Clifton Camp. - Hill Fort. - Known to the Britons as Caer Oder. ST566733.
Dryham & Hinton. - Hill Fort. (Also, Long Mound with possible Chambered Tomb). - Possibly used by Ceawlin, King of the West Saxons, after his defeat of the Britons at Deorham, in 571 or 577.
Elberton. - Hill Fort.
Grovesend. - Hill Fort.
Kingsweston Hill. - Hill Fort. ST557782.
Knole Park Camp. - Hill fort. - Overlooks the River Severn and the district of the Silures.
Oldbury Court. - Hill Fort.
Oldbury-on-Severn. - Hill Fort. - Known as The Toots.
Old Down. - Hill Fort.
Sodbury Camp. - Hill Fort.
Stokeleigh Camp. - Hill Fort. ST559733.
Tytherington. - Hill Fort. - Probably of British origin.

A holy well or spring usually has a tradition of veneration or association with a religious or magical experience:-
Brislington. - St: Anne In The Wood Holy Well.
Kington. - St: Arild's Well.

Fishmonger's Swallet. - Human remains found date from the Iron Age.

A long barrow is a prehistoric monument dating to the early Neolithic period:-
Fox Covert. - Long Barrow with possible Chambered Tomb.
Lockleaze. - Long Barrow.
Tormarton. - Long Barrow.

Round barrows are one of the most common types of archaeological monuments:-
Alveston. - Round Barrow.
Bitton. - Round Barrow(s) & Earthworks. - Close to a Roman road which ran from Aquae Sulis to Venta Silurum. This had the name, Trajectus. ST678694.
Over Park. - Round Barrow.
Redhill. - Round Barrow.
Shortwood Hill. - Round Barrow. ST68457600.
Southmead. - Milltut Round Barrow.
Titters Hill. - Round Barrow.

Abson Church. - Sculptured Stone & Saxon knotwork stone. ST705749.

Standing Stones, a large block of stone, usually one of several which were set upright in the ground in the late Neolithic and Early Bronze Ages to form a circle or other significant shape:-
Armoury Square, Bristol. - Standing Stone. ST602738.
Portbury. - Standing Stone. ST503755.
Redland Park. - Standing Stone. ST579749.

Reference the following:-

Stewart Guy.

Posted by Stewart Guy
19th June 2008ce

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