The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

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Rhiannon

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Drumanone (Portal Tomb) — Folklore

My grandfather James Carroll who lives in Spa Boyle told me the following story about the Druids altar. There is a Druids altar in Tinnecara to the north side of the railway in Thomas Ballintinels land. The altar is made of three large stones two uprights and one over head. Each stone weighs about ten tons weight. The druids used to come home from Knockadoo and swim across Lough Gara to worship their god at this altar.
Recorded as part of the Schools Collection in the 1930s, and online now at Duchas.ie.

Wiltshire — Links

Wiltshire Museum, Devizes


Photos of the weird and lovely 'grape cups' (aka incense cups) found in the region.

Brewell's Hill (Stone Circle) — Folklore

There is another stone circle on "Brewel Hill" known as "The Piper's Stones.
The tradition about these stones is A lot of maidens were tempted to dance on an holy day, while a piper played for them. Like a flash of lightening they were all changed into stones.
Collected as part of the Schools Collection in the 1930s, and now online at Duchas.ie.

Crehelp (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Folklore

There is a standing stone in Cryhelp about three miles west of Dunlavin. It has a hole in the top of it about nine inches long and four inches wide. There is an old tradition about it, that it was not aways in that place, it was moved to mark the grave of Harold, chief prince who was killed in the battle of Glen Mama.
The corner of the field in which the Cryhelp stone is standing is said to have been a cemetery a long time ago, covered with trees. Near at hand is a nettle-covered hollow, which was at one time opened; there is an underground passage leading to a mound not far away. It is not said that this hole was used to cure anything.
Recorded as part of the Schools Collection in the 1930s, and now online at Duchas.ie.

Northern Ireland — Links

PRONI Historical Maps Viewer


Historical Ordnance Survey NI maps with stones and so on marked, courtesy of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.

The Split Rock, Killeenduff (Natural Rock Feature) — Links

Google Maps


This image by Niamh Ronane has sheep for scale.

The Split Rock, Killeenduff (Natural Rock Feature) — Folklore

This rock is probably over 300 tons in weight and is in a field beside Killenduff National School. It is split in two as if it were hewn by a saw. This is the tradition connected with it:-
Ages ago two fierce giants lived on the Ox Mountains. They argued about their respective strengths and what they could do. They agreed to put the argument to a test by throwning a stone. They selected two large stones of similar size, several tons in weight. The idea was to see who could throw the stone from the Ox Mountains to the sea, five miles distant.
The first took up the stone, flung it, and it fell into the sea. The second took his throw and it fell about half a mile from the sea in its present position. The second giant's rage was so great seeing that he had failed in his attempt that he seized his sword, ran towards the rock and with one fierce cut, split it in two.
Collected from Peg Judge in Croagh, and recorded in the Schools Collection of the 1930s (view at Duchas.ie.

Also in the Collection:
The tradition says that any body who walks through the Rock three times shall surely meet their doom. I have never heard of any body to go through it three times.
The DromoreWest website suggests your doom might come a bit quickly, as the rock will slam shut on you.

The Great Circle, North East Circle & Avenues (Stone Circle) — Links

English Heritage - YouTube


Tales from English Folklore.
The folktale from the stones enacted (followed by Ronald Hutton).

Tober Grania (Wedge Tomb) — Folklore

The floor of the chamber is covered with a deposit of mud. The tomb is locally considered to be a holy well and offerings of coins, some quite recent, medals, broken glass, etc., lie on the lower roofstone. The interior of the chamber is littered with broken glass.
From p128 in 'Survey of the Megalithic Tombs of Ireland, vol 1 - County Clare' by Ruaidhri de Valera and Sean O Nuallain (1961).

In an article called 'A Folklore Survey of County Clare' in Folklore v22, 1911, it says, "The mud of the dolmen or "well" of Tobergrania at Ballycroum cured sore or short-sighted eyes."

Stonehenge (Circle henge) — News

Source of sarsen stones pinpointed


David Nash and his team of researchers believe the sarsens come from West Woods, south west of Marlborough, and 25km from the circle. They've geochemically matched the site using a chip from Stonehenge that was taken during a restoration project in the 1950s. Two of the fifty remaining stones at Stonehenge don't match the West Woods site though...
Article on today's Guardian website.
The research paper can be read here in Science Advances.

The Rollright Stones (Stone Circle) — Links

Taylor and Francis Online


The Rollright Stones and their Folklore, by Arthur J Evans. From Folklore v6, 1895.

More folklore and etymological speculation about the stones than anyone can handle.

The Hoar Stone (Chambered Tomb) — Images (click to view fullsize)

<b>The Hoar Stone</b>Posted by Rhiannon

Througham (Long Barrow) — Miscellaneous

Witts, in his 'Archaeological Handbook of the County of Gloucester' (1883) says:
It is 100 feet long, its greatest width being 50 feet, and height five feet; its direction is east and west, the highest portion being towards the east.

The mound was cut in two about fifty years ago to make room for a cottage and some pigstyes; the latter now occupy the centre of the barrow! During the excavation one human skeleton was found. Probably this is the only instance in the county of a prehistoric burial place being turned into a pigstye!

Pole's Wood South (Long Barrow) — Links

The British Museum


A little pottery vessel found at the east end of the barrow. It's only about 10cm across. Check out the variety of impressions made to decorate it.

Pole's Wood South (Long Barrow) — Images

<b>Pole's Wood South</b>Posted by Rhiannon

Eyford (Long Barrow) — Links

The British Museum


The lovely flat shale bead found in the long barrow at Eyford. I love a nice shale bead. Imagine how nice it would feel in your hand.

Twizzle Stone Long Barrow — Miscellaneous

Not really tea-time viewing, but I've posted a photo of an apparently 'trephinated' skull found in a long barrow at Bisley (perhaps this very barrow... it's a bit confusing). It was found by Dr. W. H. Paine from Stroud, in 1863. We read: "this is only a partial trephination, the operation having been abandoned either on account of the death of the patient or an unwillingness on the part of the priest-doctor to proceed with it." How about the unwillingness of the patient?! This 1923 paper by Thomas Parry even has some photos showing his (patientless) experiments into how it might have been done. A fascinating and ghastly subject to ponder on.

Twizzle Stone Long Barrow — Images

<b>Twizzle Stone Long Barrow</b>Posted by Rhiannon

Bryn y Groes (Chambered Tomb) — Miscellaneous

In a field called Croeslechau about two miles eastward of this town or village [Talgarth] but in the parish of Bronllys and on a farm called Bryn-y-groes, is a cromlech, not merely interesting on account of its antiquity, but from the circumstance of a white thorn growing close, and indeed under part of it, which has gradually raised the horizontal or covering-stone several inches out of its original position; it is therefore not only venerable as a relic of very ancient days but as a natural curiosity.
Theophilus Jones, History of the County of Brecknock, v2, 1809.

The RCAHMW's 1986 inventory of ancient monuments in Brecknock puts the site 500m south west of Pontithel, and includes a description by Edward Lhuyd from about 1700.

In Ireland surely a barrow with a strange hawthorn (white thorn) would have been given a wider berth... an indication that the fairies were living there and wouldn't be happy about any disturbance. But maybe things don't work that way in Wales. The barrow was destroyed in the first part of the 19th century and it's not very obvious where it was.

Bryn y Groes (Chambered Tomb) — Images

<b>Bryn y Groes</b>Posted by Rhiannon

The Three Brothers (Natural Rock Feature) — Folklore

On the lower declivity of Warton Crag, in the parish of Warton (which abuts on Morecambe Bay and the Westmorland border), commanding a beautiful and extended prospect of the bay, a seat called "The Bride's Chair" was resorted to on the day of marriage by the brides of the village; and in this seat they were enthroned with due solemnity by their friends; but the origin and the object of the custom, which has now fallen in disuse, are unknown.

Not far from Warton Crag are three rocking-stones placed in a line, about forty feet asunder, the largest stone lying in the middle.

A cave is also mentioned by Lucas, named "The Fairy Hole", where dwarf spirits called Elves or Fairies, were wont to resort.
Lancashire Folk-lore: Illustrative of the Superstitious Beliefs and Practices, local customs and usages of the people of the county Palatine. By John Harland and TT Wilkinson, 1867. Online at the Internet Archive.

Wiltshire — Links

Issuu


Scanned version of Sir Richard Colt Hoare's "Ancient History of South Wiltshire" (The Ancient History of Wiltshire volume 1). What a classic! He dug into a lot of barrows (you can hear his enthusiasm. But at least he notes what he found).

Knowth — Images

<b>Knowth</b>Posted by Rhiannon

Dowth I (Passage Grave) — Images

<b>Dowth I</b>Posted by Rhiannon

Newgrange (Passage Grave) — Images

<b>Newgrange</b>Posted by Rhiannon<b>Newgrange</b>Posted by Rhiannon

Maeshowe (Chambered Tomb) — Images

<b>Maeshowe</b>Posted by Rhiannon<b>Maeshowe</b>Posted by Rhiannon<b>Maeshowe</b>Posted by Rhiannon

The Great Circle (Stone Circle) — Images

<b>The Great Circle</b>Posted by Rhiannon

Ruborough Camp (Hillfort) — Folklore

It is traditionally supposed that beneath the surface of this camp vast stores of gold and silver are hid in an iron castle, the door of which is guarded by spirits and can only be found at the full moon.

It is stated that many years ago some labourers dug there with the hope of finding the treasure, but were obliged to desist because of the mournful sounds they heard, caused no doubt, by the howling of the wind among the trees.

A story is also told of a Dr Farrer, who lived in the parish and was learned in books and who found out from them how to get into the castle. The day before the full moon he went over the field with a hazel rod, and when he came over the door, the stick stood upright in the ground. The doctor returned at night with his servant and tools for digging and also took his bible with him. He set his servant to work, giving him particular instruction that whatever he saw or heard he was not to utter a word for his life.

The man went on digging, and at last his spade struck on the iron door of the castle, when horrible groans and cries were heard, and spirits began to come out of the door. The man was so frightened that he forgot his master's instructions, and cried out "Lord, have mercy on my soul," when one of the spirits caught him by the leg and would have carried him off, but the doctor put the bible on his head and dragged him out with the other hand.

The pit was closed up, the door banged together, and its position was changed so that no one has been able to find it since.
ETNE.
In the Taunton Courier, 12th April 1958. It rather served him right, expecting his servant to do all the dangerous work. I have a vision a bit like 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'. Also, the castle being made of iron rather discounts the involvement of the fairies in this case.
There is a story told locally of two men, who, many years ago, lived on the Quantock Hills. One day, finding themselves in financial difficulty and not knowing where to obtain any money, they decided to go over to Ruborough Camp, Broomfield, to try to discover some of the money and treasure supposed to have been buried there. As soon as it was night-time they left their homes and with picks and shovels on their backs, proceeded on their way. As they entered the tree-covered lane leading to the camp, they walked with caution in case they disturbed the stags and foxes resting there, but all was well and at last they reached the Camp.

It was a clear moonlit night and no doubt they could see the old castle at Enmore and further away the town of Bridgwater. They found the mound of earth where money and treasure were supposed to have been buried and after removing their coats, started to dig. Suddenly the ground gave away from beneath them and they disappeared.

After some hours had elapsed their relatives at home became alarmed at their not returning and decided to go to look for them. On reaching the old Camp they discovered to their amazement two coats beside a very large hole, but there was no sign of the two men. Being superstitious people they hastily returned to their homes saying that the pixies had captured the two men, who were never seen again.

This story may not be true, but it was told to me by old people living in the district years ago.
A.H., BRIDGWATER.
In the Taunton Courier, 29th March 1958.
These stories seem pretty similar to the ones written down with even more elaboration by the Rev. J W Collins in 1857.

Wick Barrow (Round Barrow(s)) — Fieldnotes

I visited one of the nuclear power stations yesterday, and was delighted that when I asked one of the guides "Where's the Pixie's Mound?" they did not look at me like I was mad, but explained exactly where it was (next to the roundabout) and that I'd have a good view.

At the moment, at least, there are no check points you need to go through to get to the roundabout (the second now along the road). Though I imagine you'd potentially cause a bit of a stir if you stopped to get out. Especially if you were wielding a camera. But if you gave them some spiel about prehistory and fairies, it'd probably be put down to eccentricity, who knows? Maybe it's not worth the risk. I imagine you're on CCTV simply everywhere. The England Coast Path does skirt the edge of the field though, so perhaps you could view it more leisurely from there.

I enjoyed the fact that there seemed to be two thorn bushes on the barrow. I was also pleased to see that the road into Hinkley 'B' was named after the Pixie.

I explained to my colleague that it would definitely be bad luck for anyone to disturb the mound. He thought it was probably best if the builders of the new nuclear power station kept the pixies on their side.

Wincobank (Hillfort) — Folklore

Reporter lays the Sheffield "ghost"!
Early to-day I learnt the truth about the Wincobank ghost - there isn't one! All the "ghost's" visitations, beginning eight weeks ago with "a white form standing rigid under a gas lamp," can be accounted for. The "apparitions," like the figure under the gas-lamp, are now declared to have been really live persons ignorant of the scare they were creating.

[...] The "ghost" that disappeared from the top of a banking or ridge on Newman road was undoubtedly a man who had been collecting some white flowers from a garden and had tripped on the banking and fallen backwards. There is not the slightest doubt that a man did fall in this manner at the same place where the "ghost" was seen, and at the same time, and some time later this same man was helped home by a friend. I talked this morning with some of the searchers, who were of the opinion that mysterious "objects" which they had seen were nothing more than the result of white smoke from a smoldering garden fire shimmering against the background of the trees.

[...] But Wincobank is a place with a history, and there are some who will never allow their "ghost" to escape them. If you talk to some of the oldest residents you will hear tales of the old Roman settlement and the ghosts of Roman soldiers which march up and down, and of ghosts of more recent days which are connected with old Wincobank Hall, which is said to have been full of secret passages and panels.
From the Sheffield Independent, 11th August 1937.

Pendle Hill (Sacred Hill) — Links

Lancashire Life


Photos of the Devil's footprints (and a description of how to find them).

Cley Hill (Hillfort) — Folklore

BUGLEY FAIR. - There was a very small attendance of pleasure seekers at this fair, which as usual was held on Cley Hill on Palm Sunday. It is to be hoped that next year a still smaller number will be present.
Straight from the Warminster Killjoy Association. The miserable beggers. Reported in the Warminster and Westbury Journal, 8th April 1882.

Whether a relic of Druidism, or whether merely the vestige of some observance of Roman Catholic times, it has been a well-known custom for many generations to hold certain festivities on Palm Sunday upon Cley Hill, Bidcombe Down, and other lofty elevations in this neighbourhood. Crowds used to assemble in times past on these hills upon this particular Sunday, and amuse themselves in a variety of rough sports, from backsword playing to harmless competitions in rolling down the hill. It may be well imagined that such proceedings were not always of the most orderly kind, and that they were not particularly desirable on Sunday of all days of the week. Fortunately of late years the observance has almost entirely declined, and though a few people still keep up the old custom by walking up the hill and walking down again, no harm is now known to result from their so doing. It was stated that the old observance was to be revived on Sunday last by the Salvation Army, who, it was understood, intended to hold an open air service of a very demonstrative kind upon the top of Cley Hill. It had been feared that such a proceeeding might have revived the old abuses of the day to a certain extent, and it is therefore probably a matter for thankfulness that the Salvation Army did not carry out any such intention.
Warminster and Westbury Journal, 24th March 1883. What's worse, riffraff or noisy evangelisers?


But
The usual practice of setting fire to various parts of Cley Hill on Palm Sunday was again observed this year. On the Warminster Downs, too, a fire was kindled in the afternoon, leaving a big black patch.
Bad luck, sounds like things got even more anarchic.
Wiltshire Times, 26th March 1910.

St Patrick's Chair and Well (Bullaun Stone) — Folklore

Altadavin - St. Patrick's Altar and Chair.

Altadavin though belonging to this parish of Errigal Truagh is situated in the County Tyrone. It is a picturesque wooded glen. Various explanations of the name have been given:- "The high place of Daimen." Daimen was high King of Airghialla 513 AD. It also means "Glen of the Gods" or "Glen of the Demons."

The glen is entered by a narrow path running by a clear stream, the precipitous sides being clothed with a dense growth of under wood surmounted with stately forest trees. About midway down the glen, a vast mass of rock, some three or four hundred yards long, covered with wood of natural growth, rises up leaving a choice of paths in the two narrow ravines. Keeping to the right a little green velvet lawn opens out before us. Right under the rock, that rises sheer and steep from the green sword, is a spring well issuing from a stone.

This lovely glen has an interesting history, a mingling of the older and the newer faiths. Tradition has it that in Pagan times the glen was sacred to the rites of Druidism. It is a very reasonable probability that St Patrick, on one of his visits to Clogher, made it his object to overthrow this centre of Druidical Cult, and following his usual course, dedicated this home of heathenism to the true God. Here, surrounded by tangled under wood is a rude altar formed of solid rock. The ledge that forms its table is four feet high, six feet long and two feet wide. Towards its centre is roughly chiselled to a smooth surface. It shows no other tool marks.

Opposite the Gospel side of the altar is a large rock, in the form of a high-backed chair, known as St Patrick's chair. The seat of this natural chair is about four feet high from the present ground level, and the back rises to a height of eight feet from the ground.

On a rocky platform overlooking the stretch of green, and some twenty feet above it, is a large square stone about five feet high in the top of which is scooped out a basin fourteen inches in diameter and twelve inches deep. There is a detached boulder sitting on other detached boulders, yet the basin on the driest summer day is to be found half full of water. It is affirmed that as often as it is emptied, it will, with in half an hour, fill up to the same level, and except as a result of rainfall, will not rise to a higher level. Science has not yet explained whence the water comes, or why it rises to a certain height. That it does so is an undoubted fact, and equally undoubted is the fact that no natural source of supply can be discovered.

Local tradition affirms that when St Patrick turned this stronghold of Druidism to Christianity, he was attended by a great concourse of people. Having converted large numbers of them, he proceeded to baptise them. Water was necessary. Here at hand was a font, and what surer method of strengthening the faith of those who still wavered, than by drawing water from a rock. He did so and the font has never since dried up.

The wooded glories of Altadaven have departed, the venerable timber that shaded the glen and that lent enchantment to the scene have been cut down and turned into money. However the Department of Forestry of the Government of 'N. Ireland' have replanted Altadavan, but many, many years must elapse ere the charm of by gone days can return.
Altadaven still holds a high place in the popular respect for many miles around, when crowds assemble at the time that the blae-berries are ripe, which usually falls about the last Sunday in July and first Sunday in August, known in the district as "the Big Sundays".

Last Sunday was one of the "big Sundays". I was there and I saw crowds and crowds of boys and girls all enjoying themselves, laughing, courting, singing, and dancing, some picking the ripe blae-berries, some climbing up to see St Patricks altar and chair, all wearing happy faces and enjoying themselves to their hearts' content. I went to see St Patrick's Well. It is near the chair, but a little further down in the rocks. There was a great number of pins and needles and hair pins in it, also a few coppers left by those who made a "Wish" at the Well.

Cathleen Sweeney 4th August1938.
From the Schools Collection, now being digitised at Duchas.ie. Elsewhere the special days at Altadavin are just called "Blaeberry Sundays".

West Kennett Avenue (Multiple Stone Rows / Avenue) — Miscellaneous

From the Western Daily Press, 18th August 1939.
Historic Wilts Stone Circle Damaged.
Mr Norman Cook, curator of Avebury Museum, stated yesterday that the soldiers who were encamped at Avebury, Wilts, last week, did considerable damage in the stone avenue which adjoins the famous stone circle there, and left behind them filth and litter and refuse from the camp kitchen.

Mr Cook, who was speaking at a Swindon Rotary meeting, said: "They parked themselves in the Avenue on August 9. They had 119 tanks, a camp kitchen, etc. with them. When they had gone it was found that this crack regiment had left a permanent record of their visit.

"To our horror we found they had cut inscriptions commemorating their visit on our stones, although personal assurances had been given that no harm would come to the monument. They left an indescribable amount of filth and litter. It will cost us a tremendous amount of money. One inscription may remain forever to record their visit."

It is understood that the War Office is investigating the matter.
I expect the War Office very soon found itself with more pressing matters, unfortunately, given the date. I like the way Norman is taking it personally, about 'our stones'. I wonder if the graffiti is still visible, how disgraceful. But I wonder whether there were really 119 tanks? It seems a very specific number, as though he'd counted them, but also somewhat incredible - more crowded than the car park today down the road? And why were they allowed on an archaeological site when they had the rest of the Marlborough Downs? Rather confusing.

Cumin's Cairn (Cairn(s)) — Folklore

About a mile to the north-east of Loch Loch, among the hills of Ben-y-Gloe in Perthshire, is a cairn known generally as Mackintosh's Cairn, sometimes as Comyn's Cairn (Carn a'Chuimeinich). It is said by tradition to mark the spot where, some centuries ago, a great chief of the Comyns was killed by a certain Mackintosh, who raised the stones as a monument of his act.

The story of the feud which culminated in the erection of this cairn has been told more than once. The main incidents, asa narrated on the authority of local tradition by Col. J. A. Robertson (author of Gaelic Topography and other works) in a small volume entitled The Earldom of Atholl, privately printed in 1860, are as follows: - The Comyns, on obtaining a footing in Atholl, at once commenced their usual practice of attacking their neighbours. Among these were the Mackintoshachs, or Mackintoshes, descendants of the old Toshachs or Thanes of Glentilt, who were attacked by the Comyns at a feast and all murdered, except a young child in a cradle. This child, Ewen, also called "Sherigan," grew up, and some fifteen years after the massacre attacked the Comyns at a place called Toldamph (Tolldamh, near Blair Atholl) and defeated them. The Comyns fled up Glentilt, and turned in at the stream which issues from Loch Loch, but Ewen, taking a near way through the hills of Ben Gloe, by a stream called Cromaldun, met their leader at Loch-na-diodd, and shot him. Colonel Robertson says that these events are supposed to have taken place about or soon after 1260, and that Ewen had a son named Angus, who obtained a "bounding charter" to his lands.
There are other retellings mentioned in the article. One has rather striking image of Cumming the Big being shot just as he raises his hand to wipe away some sweat from his brow, so getting his hand pinned to his head by the arrow as he drops down dead.

From a report of a meeting of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, in The Northern Chronicle for April 15th 1885.

The cairn actually looks like it's on the banks of Loch Loch. It's miles from anywhere near a road and must be quite a spot. Frankly I doubt I could have been bothered to raise a cairn for the person who'd murdered my entire family, but you never know - it could well be older than the story purports, couldn't it (the record on Canmore hasn't assigned it a date yet).

Cock-Crow Stone (Natural Rock Feature) — Folklore

I don't have a good grid reference for this, but if you were climbing up Wellington Hill to the monument, then it wouldn't hurt to keep an eye out (especially if it's very early in the morning).
There is near the 'Cat and Fiddle' on the hill a large boulder stone known as Cock-Crow Stone, and it is said of the stone that every time it hears the cock crow it gets up and turns round.
An attempt was once made to move this stone, for it is believed that there is hidden beneath it a crock of gold. The stone, however, resisted all attempts of a team of horses to move it. When old houses are being pulled down it is a very common question to ask for 'the Crock.' Hoards of money have, indeed, been found which were hidden away in stormy times.
In 'The Materials for the History of the Town of Wellington, co. Somerset' (1889) by Arthur Humphreys.
The 'Cat and Fiddle' was a pub to the south of the road near Woodside (about ST13271680) - still marked in the 1960s, but I can't see any trace on maps or aerial photos now. On page 230 of the book, the pub is mentioned as being on the route of those 'Beating the Bounds' of the parish, and I can't help but wonder whether the stone, if it's that obvious, would be on the parish boundary as well, and so on the road's south (the boundary nearby is actually the county boundary too).

Simons Barrow (Round Barrow(s)) — Folklore

Simon's Barrow, Wellington.
The Devil's Lapful.
The Blackdown Hills.
The Devil was carrying a load of stones to drop on Wellington Church. He had so many in his apron that he carried a few in his glove as well. Just on the top of the hills the strings of his leather apron broke, and the stones, scattered over an acre of ground, formed the Devil's Lapful, while in his flurry he dropped the rest, which formed the five small barrows known as the Devil's Glove.

There is a crock of gold buried somewhere near, but no one has found it. Many have tried, just as many have taken away the stones to make walls and gateways; but the Devil always brings them back, and inflicts some terrible punishment for disturbing Simon's Barrow.
Story by Miss R. Clatworthy in Taunton, around 1908, recorded in Ruth Tongue's 1965 "Somerset Folklore".
On the Black-down Hills, just above the town, is a place named Symonsborough. Local tradition ascribes the name to the supposed fact that a British chieftain named Simond or Symmond fell in battle just at this spot. It used to be confidently asserted by the people living near the place that the barrow could never be lessened, because as fast as the stones composing it were drawn away more would miraculously come to fill their places. A man named James Bale, who died only a few years since, tested the correctness of the old legend, with the result that now neither the barrow nor any sign of it exists; but the spot is remembered in the name of Symonsborough hamlet, Great and Little Symonsborough farms, and the field names of Great Barrow Close and Little Barrow Close. A story which alternates with the foregoing in connexion with Symonsborough is that the stones were brought there by the Evil One in his apron. The place is, therefore, known to many as the 'Devil's Lapful'.
From 'The Materials for the History of the Town of Wellington, Co. Somerset' by Arthur Humphreys (1889).

I found the site of the barrow on an old map, so it should be an accurate grid reference, even if there's nothing left. The dates don't add up, I realise, but maybe Miss Clatworthy didn't get out much.

Caratacus Stone (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Folklore

Many of the stones and most of the barrows are supposed to have treasure buried under them or near them, but it is dangerous to look for it and there are many stories of foiled attempts. The Caractacus Stone, for instance, standing on Winsford Hill, Exmoor, is said to be haunted by a ghostly team and their foolhardy driver who tried to uproot and drag the stone away to get at the treasure it conceals. The stone overturned the waggon and team and crushed the greedy waggoner. On foggy nights they are still to be heard and met.
From the 1965 book of 'Somerset Folklore' by Ruth Tongue (p12) - she heard the story from "A Bossington blacksmith, 1946, and a Hawkridge gardener, 1956."

Tomnahurich (Sacred Hill) — Links

National Museums Scotland


A photo of the lovely carved stone ball found on Tomnahurich in the early 19th century. This one is made from hornblende, and is about 3 inches across. It's been dated between 3200 and 2500 BC.

Cave Hill (Cairn(s)) — Folklore

Belfast without the Cave Hill, the Cave Hill without Belfast: Killarney without its lakes: the causeway without guides or specimens. We love the old mountain still, but the attention which was paid it in days of yore has ceased, I am afraid, for ever. The al fresco feasts, the joyous junketings, and the explorations of its wonderful caves no longer take place on its breezy slopes. Time was, and not so long ago, when the Cave Hill was famous for its Easter Monday revellings. The vicinity was thronged with country cousins, who gazed with awe at the Corsican's Head or scaled the dizzy height towards McArt's Fort [...]

A few years ago, when a local geologist discovered a marvellous diamond - a ponderous stone which weighed pounds avoirdupois instead of orthodox carats - I thought it would boom the Cave Hill into activity again. This matchless diamond was stated at the time to be a relic of Finn McCoul, the head of his breastpin in fact, but personally I do not believe the giant cared for, or wore such an adornment as a breastpin. I don't believe he even wore a waistcoat [...]
In the Belfast Telegraph, 18th June 1891.
In fact, you can see a picture of the gem on the Culture Northern Ireland website, with lots more details. It's not really a diamond but quartz, and quartz isn't even part of the geology here. So what its true history is, is anyone's guess.

The Hill is also the legendary location of gold:
One might have supposed that a belief in magic and spells and fairies had all died away, and that in this very vulgar and materialistic and somewhat sceptical age, none could have been found, at least in this part of Ulster, to credit the tales of our grandmothers, and to act upon them. But there are some good people in Sandy-row who still retain the elder faith on these subjects - and, if works can prove the sincerity of conviction, theirs must be very sincere indeed. [...]

It is not gold, scattered about in dust or even in "nuggests," which formed the object of this search, but compactly laid up in chests - deposited, as the fairy records say, upon the summit of the "hill" by the Danes, in those days when they were compelled to make a hasty retreat from this part of the isle.

More than once have these gold-seekers struck upon these iron chests, but, just at that moment, the propitious influence was absent, and a kind of mysterious darkness and confusion fell upon their eyes. They believe, too, they heard a voice - "procul, o procul este profani" of the ancients. However this be, the chests still remain precisely where the Danes placed them, and these indefatigable Sandy-rowites are, at the present time, making inquiry, far and wide, for the seventh son of a seventh son, gifted with seventh sight, and possessing the power, as the legends tell, to take off the spell which has for ages rested upon this gold.

[...] You must not suppose that I am calling upon my imagination in this narrative. I give you the facts in my own way, it is true, but in substance exactly as I learned them from a person most intimately connected with one of these gold-seekers. [...]
The Reverend W.M. O'Hanlon isn't very happy because "the persons engaged in it have abjured religion, and deem those members of their family who know aught of Christianity as serious obstacles in the way of their success, because 'the spirits of the vasty deep' cannot come so freely where these are."
In an article in the Northern Whig, 2nd October 1852.

Tar Barrows (Round Barrow(s)) — Folklore

The Torbarrow Legend at Cirencester.

Barrows in particular have been the objects of superstition. They have been looked upon as haunted by supernatural beings. They have been regarded as dwellings of ogres, or magicians, or the spirits of the dead. In the Bodleian library at Oxford is preserved an account printed in 1685 of the opening of a barrow near Cirencester. It is to the following effect:

"Two men digging a gravel pit at the foot of the hill or barrow, having sunk four yards deep, discovered an entrance into the hill, where they found several rooms with their furniture, which, being touched, crumbled to dust. In one of them were several images and urns, some with ashes, others full of coins, with Latin inscriptions on them. Entering another, they were surprised at seeing the figure of a man in armour, having a truncheon in its hand, and a light in a glass-like lamp burning before it. At their first approach the image made an effort to strike; so at the second step, with greater force; but at the third it struck a violent blow, which broke the glass to pieces and extinguished the light.

Having a lantern, they had just time to observe that on the left hand lay two heads emblamed, with long beards, and the skin looking like parchment, when hearing a hollow noise like a groan they hastily quitted those dark apartments, and immediately the earth fell in and buried all the curiosities."

We may perhaps regard this as a highly-sensational account of a real incident, but as we could not for a moment admit the existence of the magical statue and the lamp, we must suppose that the idea of such things had been floating about in people's minds ready to root itself upon any convenient spot.
This supremely imaginative tale is retold in the Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard, 19th March 1892.

Cae'r-Hen-Eglwys (Standing Stones) — Images

<b>Cae'r-Hen-Eglwys</b>Posted by Rhiannon

Cronk Howe Mooar (Artificial Mound) — Folklore

The members of the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society have had a pleasant and interesting excursion to the South of the Island. [...] The weather was delightfully fine and the excursion on that account proved most enjoyable. [...]

Making their way with some little difficulty along rocky paths and muddy lanes, the party passed Bradda Mountain Fairy Hill, which rises abruptly from a flat and rather boggy piece of land between Port Erin and the Rushen parish church. The origin of this mound is a matter of dispute. Geologists and antiquarians both claim it as their own, and until the mound is properly explored it is difficult to say whether it falls within the province of the one or the other, though certainly the theory that it was artificially formed appears the more probable one.

[...] Dr. Tellet remarked that it had been said the mound had been put up to commemorate the death of Reginald, son of Olave the Black, King of Man, who was slain in 1249, - Mr. Kermode said he thought it was Cumming who had first suggested that, but so far as he (Mr. Kermode) knew there was no authority for it.

[...] Mr. Kelly, of Ballaquinnea, some months ago had given them a sort of fairy story about this hill, which was known as Cronk Howe Mooar, which meant "The Big Hill." Howe was simply the Scandinavian word for cronk or hill.

The story was to the effect that a man, wandering about at night, saw a brilliant light on the hill and came there, when he saw great festivities going on amongst the fairies. He was invited to drink some wine, but a friendly voice whispered to him not to do so. He threw the cup to the ground, and immediately the lights were extinguished and the fairies rushed at him. He dashed along in an easterly direction through the bog followed by the fairies, and made his way towards one of the farms in the neighbourhood. In crossing the water he purposely stepped in the water and not on the dry stones. The fairies were calling out to him to keep on the stones and not in the water, but he was careful not to obey them.

[...] Mr. Kermode went on to refer to the tradition of the mound having been opened early in the present century, and said that might account for the deepening of the hollow in the centre of the top of the mound, nevertheless it seemed probable that the place had been fortified by the erection of a rampart round about the mound. The mound (he said) was private property; and on that account great difficulty had beenexperienced in trying to obtain permission to explore it.

[...] It afterward transpired that the land belonged to Mr. Turnbull, of Port Erin. Mr. Turnbull is himself interested in archaeological research, and would raise no objection to the opening of the mound, but objections have been raised - ostensibly on the ground of the injury it would cause to the adjacent fields. There is reason to think, however, that some superstition may underlie the difficulty encountered in regard to the proposed exploration of this interesting mound. [...]
From the Isle of Man Times, Saturday 15th September 1894.

Kempstone Hill (Standing Stones) — Folklore

The Kempstonehill, the scene of this grim legend, is a moor several hundred acres in extent, about 432 feet above sea level. It is on the Cowie estate, and lies about two miles south of Stonehaven. On the summit of the ridge two unchiselled stones have stood up for untold centuries, and it is from these that the hill derives its name.

Tradition says that a battle was fought on the moor, and there can be little doubt that tradition in this instance is correct, though it is not necessary to agree with the belief strongly held by Robert Barclay of Ury that it was here that Galgacus was defeated by Agricola.

One of the stones, according to an immemorial legend, marks the spot where a chief of the defending army had his head cut off, and the other indicates the spot where he fell, after traversing the intervening eighty yards on horseback and headless.
J. D.
Aberdeen Press and Journal, 16th March, 1928.

Oliver's Castle (Hillfort) — Folklore

At the weekend we were up on Westbury White Horse getting some fresh air. It rained of course, but before the drizzle set in, we got right round the ramparts. And on the far corner, you can look out and see Oliver's Castle quite clearly, so I pointed it out to my companions. My sister said, "Do you remember when we were up there and I heard that cannon?" (Insert my somewhat bewildered expression). "Yes, we were walking up there and I heard it and you didn't."

Clearly I had blanked this (lack of) experience at the injustice of it.

It's the very sort of place you'd expect ghostly cannonfire of course. But I can't remember if she already knew that or not, when we were actually there. Mr Rh immediately put her anecdote down to someone shooting pheasants. The rationalist spoilsport.

Dun Bhuirg (Broch) — Folklore

By the Rev. Thomas Hannan.

The recent announcement that the proprietor of the small estate of the Burg has given or bequeathed it to the National Trust for Scotland recalls to my mind many journeys which I have made from my summer quarters at Lochbuie, on the south shores of Mull, to the wild and interesting peninsula on the west side of the island which bears the name of Ardmeanach. The western end of that peninsula is easily the wildest part of Mull - rugged in the extreme, in many parts terrifying in aspect; the last and almost inaccessible home of fairies, glaistigs, and grugachs. The Burg is on the southern side of the peninsula, very near the western end; Tavool or Tapul, another house famous in fairy lore, is on the way to Burg from Tiroran, the residence eastward of Brigadier General Cheape; and the wonderful fossil tree is about the middle of the western end of the peninsular.

... At Tavool the farmer's wife was much troubled by the officious help of the fairies, who seem to have lived at Dun Burg; and "the rhyme of the goodman of Tapull's servants" - that is, the fairies - is a testimony to their desire for work -
Let me comb, card, tease, spin;
Get a weaving loom, quick;
Water for fulling on the fire;
Work, work, work.

Of course, all that is in Gaelic, which is the language of the fairies as well as of the people, and the results of their work were seldom equal to their zeal.

An example of this unfortunate trait is associated with The Burg, which is nearer than Tavool to Dun Burg. The good lady of the house had seen her husband and family to bed, and had sat up to do some weaving in the quiet of the night. But she had already spent a busy day with the farm and the cows and the hens and the children, and was tired. So she sighed and said - "Oh that some one would come from land or sea, from far or near, to help me with the work of weaving this cloth." This was quite enough, for the fairies are inveterate eavesdroppers.

A knock came to the door at once, and a voice said - "Tall Inary, good housewife, open the door to me, for so long as I have, you will get." Inary opened the door, and a woman in green entered and sat down at the spinning wheel and got busy. That was satisfactory enough; but knock after knock came, and fairy after fairy entered and set to work, until the room was full of fairies, all making the most awful noise. Then they wanted food, and the more they ate the hungrier they became, so that Inary was veritably being eaten out of house and home. At last, when she had baked the last of her flour and meal, she went and stood on a hillock outside the door, and cried - "Dun Burg is on fire." That fetched the whole tribe out of her house to save their own.

As they rushed out, she rushed in and barricaded the door. But they came back, very angry; and she had a terrible business to prevent the spell-bound spinning wheel, distaff, wool cards, fulling water, and other things which the "good people" had used, from admitting the crowd again. As fully told it is a very long story.
In 'The Scotsman', 2nd April 1932.

Garth y Foel (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — Folklore

Back at Croesor, where you parked, is the spring Ffynnon Elen. It's named after Saint Elen, who features in the Mabinogion. She was Romano-British, and noted for founding churches in 4th century Wales. Since Garth y Foel looks like something out of Welsh mythology, here's some local folklore.
The following story is handed down, generation after generation, in this parish, of Cidwm and Elen Lleuddog. When Elen was marching with her army from the south to Caer Eryri, her youngest son marched his men from Segontium to meet and welcome her. One of her sons, whose name was Cidwm, - the Welsh for wolf, - was an impulsive and prodigal fellow; he was filled with a deep rooted jealousy toward his youngest brother, and was ever planning to take away his life.

He had heard of this march, and had hid himself on the high and precipitous cliff on Mynydd Mawr, close by Llyn Tarddeni, beneath which ran the Roman road. He had watched his opportunity, bent on shooting his unsuspecting brother as he passed with his men.

In the meantime Elen had marched as far as the hills which join the hills of Nanmor, and was resting herself and her men by a sweet, clear spring on the roadside, in the parish of Llanfrothen. In marching through Nant y Bettws, her son had taken the rear of the regiment, and walked behind them all.

Cidwm's opportunity had come, but as he emerged from his hiding-place, one of the soldiers saw him and recognised him. His bow was bent, and his arrow aimed, before his cruel intention flashed upon the mind of the soldier, who, as soon as he could collect himself, shouted, "Llech yr Ola'" (Last man, hide). Quick as lightning was the cry taken up by the whole regiment; but before the last man had time to take in the warning, the arrow of the fratricide had dealt him a deadly blow.

The sad news was immediately conveyed to his mother by a batch of soldiers, and when she heard it she threw down her sword, lifted up her hands, and cried, "Croes awr, croes awr i mi!" ("Sad hour, sad hour for me!").

The well at which she sat is called "Ffynon Croesor" (Croesor Well) to this day, and the village which has grown within a couple of hundred yards of it has been named "Croesor" from it.
From Bedd Gelert: its facts, fairies and folk-lore. by D E Jenkins, 1899.
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This hill, it has a meaning that is very important for me, but it's not rational. It's beautiful, but when you look, there's nothing there. But I'd be a fool if I didn't listen to it.

-- Alan Garner.


...I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn...

-- William Wordsworth.


I'm currently mad on visiting Anglo-Saxon and Norman carvings and enjoy the process of drawing them:
http://wiltshirewandering.blogspot.co.uk/

and I've been helping digitise the Schools' Collection of the National Folklore Collection of Ireland... you can also at
http://www.duchas.ie/en

Some interesting websites with landscape and fairy folklore:
http://earthworks-m.blogspot.co.uk
http://faeryfolklorist.blogspot.co.uk

My TMA Content: