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The Sanctuary in 1723 by William Stukeley
The Sanctuary at Avebury was destroyed by a local farmer at the beginning of the 18th century. Fortunately we have this engraving, by William Stukeley, from 1723 showing what it was like before the stones were carted away. Access to the Sanctuary is still allowed and the view portrayed above, by Stukeley, remains little changed. The missing or destroyed stones, that once formed the Sanctuary, are now indicated by concrete markers.
To quote Stukeley, who witnessed the destruction of the Avebury stone circle at around the same time, “…this stupendous fabric, which for some thousands of years, had brav’d the continual assaults of weather, and by the nature of it, when left to itself, like the pyramids of Egypt, would have lasted as long as the globe, hath fallen a sacrifice to the wretched ignorance and avarice of a little village unluckily plac’d within it.”

This bronze age round barrow  is a miracle of proportionality, form and placement with auspicious  views in all directions across the Midlands to the Clent, Lickey, Clee, Abberley, Malvern and Cotswold Hills – a four thousand year old piece of landscape art, little noticed yet stunning and without modern parallel in the bland Worcestershire countryside.


Barrow Hill, Worcestershire

It would have been no trouble at all to build the shack a few yards away… but since the planning system doesn’t care, why should anyone else?

by Gordon Kingston, Heritage Action

One of the most prominent commenters on the recent application for extension of the Drogheda Port boundary – the preliminary move necessary for development of the proposed deep-water port in the Bremore and Gormanston area – has been An Taisce and the text of its submission to the Department of Transport, in relation to this extension, is available online . The main areas of our own concern are, naturally, the prehistoric remains on the headland and at Gormanston, but there is also much detail included on the likely impact of a new port on the local environment. For the benefit of readers who may be unaware of what An Taisce is, or what it does, I will provide a brief summary over the following few paragraphs.

An Taisce

An Taisce, or the National Trust for Ireland, a voluntary non-governmental organisation, is the only independent ‘Prescribed Body’ under Irish planning legislation and must be consulted, by Local Authorities, on development proposals that might impact on its particular areas of concern. Its objective is to ensure compliance with Irish and EU environmental protection legislation and the contexts in which it will take an interest are set out in the Planning and Development Regulations 2001. These include the following, as excised from An Taisce’s website;

1. Amenity where ‘the land or structure is located in an area of Special Amenity’

2. Protected structures and architectural conservation areas and proposed protected structures or architectural conservation areas

3. Development which, ‘might detract from the appearance of a structure referred to in’ Part 2

4. Development that might affect or be unduly close to ‘a cave, site, feature or other object of archaeological, geological, scientific, ecological or historical interest.’

5. Development which ‘might affect or be unduly close to monuments or places recorded under the National Monuments Act 1994 or 1997, or are protected or are under ownership or guardianship under the National Monuments Acts 1930 – 1994.’

6. Development affecting previous categories of development in Part 5

7. Nature Conservation

It is an environmental charity, the owner and manager of heritage properties and is funded, for the most part, by its own membership subscriptions, the Department of the Environment and the EU. Although it should be noted that the bulk of this Government funding is not set aside for its activities as a ‘Prescribed Body’ on planning issues, or for property custody, but for the specific projects run by its Environmental Education Unit; such as the ‘National Spring Clean’ anti-litter campaign, or the ‘Blue Flag’ beach quality programme.

As you might imagine, however, it is for An Taisce’s role in the area of planning – and for its obstruction, or delay, of development proposals within the area of its remit – that it is best known and public judgement has frequently been made accordingly. To use the words of the Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole; “…in some parts of Ireland, admitting membership of An Taisce is to invite the pariah status of a paedophile.”

In this respect, it may be instructive to look at the actual extent of the obstruction and the following figures are, again, available on the An Taisce website;

“In 2004 An Taisce was referred and reviewed approximately 12,000 applications and made approximately 4,000 submissions to local authorities. Arising from these submissions and subsequent decisions of local authorities nationally, An Taisce made appeals to the Board. In 2003, 248 appeals were taken. A similar number of appeals were taken in 2004.”

Dispensing recommendations – regarding proper legislative compliance – on one third of applications reviewed and appealing a mere 248, or 2% of the total, hardly seems excessive and one might well question the statements that some of their detractors make in this context…

From the Meath Chronicle of 24th February, for example; “Cllr Reilly said that reports about the transfer to Gormanston “have already met with the usual complaints from An Taisce”. He claimed the organisation had “cost County Meath thousands of jobs in their continuous objections to every plan for industry that is brought forward.”


Investigation of a large ring fort, about 3km south of the Rock of Cashel, in County Tipperary, using sensitive “high-resolution magnetic imaging” equipment, has led Richard O’Brien, the archaeologist involved, to conclude that the site may have first been used in the Late Bronze Age. Furthermore; “none of the traditional evidence associated with ring forts – such as houses, hearths or rubbish pits – was found”  in the unusual, triple-ditched monument.

As you may be aware, there has often been a tendency, in media reports on archaeology, to fall into the comfortable arms of ‘ritual’, as an explanation for any unusual feature found in exploration of a site, but, of late, there has also been a growing trend for the consideration of ‘sporting events’ – as a possible use for larger circular enclosures. This is not, of course, a reason to dismiss these ideas, merely to point out that they might not be the only answers when you go on to read the investigator’s contention that; “one of the most exciting discoveries was evidence of a Stonehenge-style circle of wooden posts suggestive of “a ceremonial or ritual role for the fort”, or that the; “vast interior area which is much larger than most ring forts is like a sports arena”. In addition, the translation of the name of the fort; ‘Rathnadrinna’, here fittingly given as ‘Fort of the Contest’, could equally derive from ‘Draeighean’ and thus become ‘Fort of the Blackthorns’.

Putting quibbling aside. The survey of this distinctive and intriguing site was funded by the Heritage Council and is to be commended for the amount of information obtained by innovative, non-intrusive method. Much more can be read here;

This interesting blog – Pagan Claims on Human Remains, though it was written at an earlier date by Dr. Tiffany Jenkins came up as a Google alert on the issue of reburial and the role of the museums in displaying  ancient remains.  She gives a secular viewpoint, and some might argue with her interpretation of the multi-faceted Pagan religions that now exist, but the question asked ‘did English Heritage and the National Trust’ spend too much time and money on the consultation of  the reburial of the skeleton at Avebury Museum is a valid one, given the minority viewpoint of the Druid organisation who petitioned for reburial.

Archaeology 2010 is a two day conference at the British Museum from the 26-28 February 2010 (the presentation of heritage research awards is on Friday, the 26 February and is free and open to anyone, although reservations are needed).

On Saturday, 27 February The Stonehenge Riverside Project will be discussed. Participants for the session include Dr Mike Parker Pearson, Professor of Archaeology, Sheffield, University and co-director of the Stonehenge Riverside Project. Dr Josh Pollard, Reader in Archaeology, University of Bristol and co-director of the Stonehenge Riverside Project. Dr Julian Thomas, Professor of Archaeology, University of Manchester and co-director of the Stonehenge Riverside Project. The Moderator for the session will be Julian Richards.

More here –

by Gordon Kingston, Heritage Action

The Irish Times of 23rd February reports what could be the beginnings of a move away from the development of a port at Bremore;

“A proposed deepwater container port at Bremore in north Co Dublin may be moved farther north to Gormanston, Co Meath, to avoid encroaching on a neolithic complex of passage tombs.

A spokesman for Treasury Holdings, which is planning to develop the new facility in partnership with Drogheda Port, confirmed yesterday that one of the options now being considered was to “shift it off Bremore headland” for archaeological reasons.”

Although “no final decision has been taken”, as of yet and “it is likely to be autumn before a firmer proposal will be put out for consultation.”

How did Drogheda Port and Treasury Holdings, miss the tomb complex, a national monument, in the first place? Pages 28 and 29 of their own “The Strategic Need for a New Port Development” report, prepared for them by John Mangan and Associates, carry a photographic ‘artists impression’ of the proposal, in which the position of the tombs is to be found buried (excuse the pun) underneath a large expanse of busy concrete. This photograph has usefully been added to by An Taisce, to demonstrate the exact impacts, here;

When tackled last year on this topic, the Treasury Ireland managing director, John Bruder, said that the archaeology could be “worked around” and perhaps I wasn’t alone in being unable to imagine an awkward traffic island with a few litter strewn lumps, stuck right in the middle of what was expected to be the biggest port in the country. In fact, a cynic might even suggest that they never intended to put anything at Bremore at all and that it was merely an example of the old government “Ok, so, we won’t hit you with the leaked 10% rise, we’ll make do with the 5% ‘Gormanston’ option instead and you’ll be happy with that, in contrast. Wink.” trick. We’ll never know.

According to the An Taisce submission, linked to above, and only concentrating on the Neolithic complex – the one that is speedily and usefully referred to as “not thought to be as significant as the one located at Bremore” – the Gormanston relocation prospect contains two definite tombs, one, excavated in the 1840’s and now “practically destroyed by sea erosion” and the other, 150m to the west and about 25m in diameter. In addition there are two nearby features which have been suggested to be the remains of passage tombs by Professor Michael Herity. The Irish Times article refers to the fact that the site is “partly covered by an EU-designated special protection area (SPA) for wild birds.”

I might also, and finally, draw attention to the quoted contention, from the Treasury spokesman, that “Ireland needs a deepwater port; the IDA (Industrial Development Authority) is conscious that we are losing projects because we don’t have one.” This does seem an odd statement to make – even though I am in no real position to judge exactly what the IDA might be conscious of – as the Department of Transport’s ‘Indecon’ report concludes that the need for additional port capacity will not be present until 2020-2025 and if the depth of ports was a decisive issue, should surely have noted it.

In the linked article Dr. Mark Clinton, of An Taisce; “queried the need for a new port, noting that throughput at Drogheda Port had fallen by 50 per cent in 2008, according to its most recent set of accounts, while business at Dublin Port was down by 10 per cent.”

“There is no need for a new deepwater port,” he said.

Langridge Barrows

Som. Arch. Soc. Proc. Bath Branch) – Thomas Bush apparently excavated them in 1909 and found ‘many flints’ (chips, scrapers, etc). Curiously he found 177 in the easterly one, but only 20 in the other. He also found some bits of burnt pottery.”The tenant told us he understood that many years ago the barrow was dug into for the purpose of getting stones, but on coming across some bones the quarrying was stopped.” *

I had forgotten these ‘twin barrows’ though to be truthful it may be a long barrow, but quarrying has obscured the nature of this barrow, as no excavation has ever taken place apart from the above. What has always struck me about this stretch of land called Langridge (long ridge) is the fact that a very long trackway joins prehistoric sites, with the barrow situated near the track. Forgotten barrows are lucky they survive in fields not deemed easy to plough, the farmer leaves them for posterity, but others of course are not so lucky.

These barrows on the Lansdown are witness to the farmer’s annoyance of scheduled monuments on his land, their ‘weeds’ are burnt so that the crop is clean, there is a slow attrition of the earth of the old mound by large farm machinery that cuts into the lower surface of the barrow.

The Langridge barrows though are somewhat isolated overlooking Catherine Valley. The barrow sits just below the crest of the ridge that separates two valleys and is termed ‘false-crested’. They are also a parish boundary mark, and are situated close to an old trackway that runs from Brockham Wood (site of a Roman villa) and the Lansdown Bronze Age cemetery. Not of course forgetting another Romano-British settlement that sits on a ridge overlooking the barrow.

The old track goes from a Romano-British settlement just by the Civil War battlefields fought four hundred years ago. If you continue down the track it winds to the valley below, across the busy A46 and up to Charmy Down, once this down also had a line of barrows, all now gone, flattened to make a temporary airfield in WW2, and just across from Charmy Down you can see Solsbury Hill, a hill fort that sits guarding the river Avon below, whilst across on the other side of the river Beckhampton Down with traces of ‘celtic’ field systems and a presumed stone circle.


A walk down the old trackway in this parish of Langridge, will reveal a treasure of wild flowers on the verges, vetches tangle with yellow archangel, bluebells will replace primroses, the white gleam of stitchwort; the stoney path slopes gently down curving on its way, later on the white of elderflower will catch the eye, the sweet scent on a warm day reminding you of elderflower champagne.

A nature walk in summer down to the Langridge will reveal amongst the different grasses, pale ladies-smock flowers, wander on down the path, the remains of Langridge barrows up on the ridge greets you, and as we come to a steep slope, wild purple orchids in the long grass, time forgotten for a moment, or perhaps an understanding by the farmer that such places hold an intricate web of history and nature.

* Taken from Rhiannon’s  notes on The Modern Antiquarian.

Article by Moss

“A lecture at the University of Bath will explore the theories and myths surrounding Avebury stone circle.

“In the lecture on Wednesday 24 February, Roger Vlitos will give an illustrated lecture that compares and contrasts the beliefs of those who manage the site, with others who claim it as their traditional shrine.”

More here –

A guest feature by Albert Resonox

Goldstone looking west

The Goldstone Valley in Brighton was once one of the most famous stone circle sites in Sussex in the early 19th century. Its earliest written mention was by a Rev. Douglas who commented in a letter that, “…it is evidently a tolmen (sic) of the British (aka druidic) period…” and further observed that at the end of the valley there was, “…situated a dilapidated cirque composed of large stones…” (reports vary between six and ten stones, although nine smallish stones now surround the Goldstone in its present position).

The Goldstone however was toppled in 1833 into a purpose built pit by the then farmer landowner annoyed at the number of people visiting the stone and ruining his crops.

The stones of the “cirque” followed suit in 1847 by being used to fill a pond. They all remained hidden for over half a century until their hiding places were discovered in 1900 by a William Hollamby, who had most of them exhumed and set up at the southern entrance of Hove Park, where they can be viewed to this day. Unfortunately extensive building work and landscaping of the area means that the original site will never be available for any archaeological examination and/or verification.

The Victoria Fountain

Some of the stones of the circle are reported to have been used as the foundation for The Victoria Fountain in Old Steine, Brighton. Football fans will be aware that Brighton and Hove Albion’s first football stadium was called Goldstone Ground.

The very name is said to be a corruption of either The God Stone or even Gield Stone, because the stone was said to represent a deity as it had the appearance of a human face looking out to sea, like an early version of Rapa Nui.  Due to erosion (and not knowing if it has been re-sited right way up ) this “face” is only visible in the eyes of the very imaginative).


St. Nicholas Church

Church Hill in Brighton was also the site of some impressive standing stones, they surrounded the church of St. Nicholas. 19th century sketches (in Brighton Museum) show that at least two stones were upright at the time, an urn containing human bones was found at the base of one stone (which was never recorded for posterity). Two beakers were also found in Church Hill, indicating Neolithic/Iron Age burials. Again, as with the Goldstone, building work has destroyed any vestiges of these stones so no-one knows if they were a natural rock deposit used for burial purposes or whether they were erected as a monument to mark a noble  burial!

It is also claimed that these stones were the ones used to create the base of the Victoria fountain. So one way or another it is almost assured that some ancient stones were used for this purpose.


February 2010

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