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Heritage Action Cared for Rating **** (out of 5).
Suggested improvements: Sign from the main road indicating location. Signs instructing visitors not to climb on the stones.
A guest article by Colin Coulson
St. Mary’s church at Lastingham, North Yorkshire, is remarkable on a number of counts. The crypt below – said to be the only complete crypt in Britain – was built by St. Stephen between 1078 and 1086. It contains decorated stone fragments which go back to the eighth century.
The first church here served the monastery founded by St. Cedd in 659, and it is from that early period that we find Lastingham’s greatest enigma. You see, it wasn’t easy to convert the English to Christianity. Pope Gregory the Great issued some very novel instructions in order to make it happen. “Do not destroy pagan temples, but convert them to Christian use so that the people will feel more comfortable coming there.” “If the people insist on sacrificing an animal, let them do it – just so long as they sacrifice it to God.” Both of these are to be found in a letter from Pope Gregory to Abbot Mellitus, who had come to England with St. Augustine. The letter is dated 601 and is quoted extensively in Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica. All sorts of ‘softeners’ were employed to make people more comfortable with Christianity. Pagan deities, such as Brigid, suddenly became Christian saints. Wells, probably the home of pagan water spirits, were maintained but re-named after prominent Christians – St. Helen’s Well, St. Hilda’s Well, and so on. Bede records that even the great Christian Spring festival bears the name of a pagan goddess, Eostre.
In Lastingham crypt, there is a door lintel said to be from St. Cedd’s monastery.
This lintel is made of oak. Now, what does that mean? Was it a Christian ‘softener’ for local pagan people? Or was oak used simply because it is a strong, durable building material? There’s no way of knowing. But then, at one corner, we find … an acorn! And that is much less ambiguous.
The Lastingham question doesn’t end there, however. There is neither cross nor any other Christian symbol on this lintel. So was it crafted by St. Cedd’s builders at all? Or is it from a pagan temple which Cedd converted to Christian use?
We’ll probably never know. St. Cedd died of plague here in 664 a.d., and is buried to the right of the crypt altar. Sadly, he took the story of the Lastingham lintel with him.
Pentre Ifan, Pembrokeshire, South Wales
Image credit and © Littlestone
Access to Pentre Ifan is along a footpath from the road; there is parking space by the road for four or five cars. The cromlech is in a well-cared for, fenced off area at the end of the footpath and has a good information board showing, among other things, an artist’s impression of how the structure may have originally looked.
Administrative authority: CADW ( http://www.cadw.wales.gov.uk/ ).
Heritage Action Cared for Rating *** (out of 5).
Suggested improvements: Better off road parking facilities. Clear signs instructing visitors not to climb on the stones. One or two benches where people could pause and reflect on the monument and its surrounding setting.
See also moss’ feature on Three Cromlechs in Pembrokeshire here –
See also – http://scatteredheritage.blogspot.com/ with its take on real and imagined heritage loss!
Section of the Ridgeway near Wayland’s Smithy. Image credit Moss
“BARRIERS installed along Britain’s oldest road have helped cut poaching and hare-coursing, according to police.
“Oxfordshire County Council installed the temporary barriers between Hill Road, Lewknor and Hill Road, Watlington, on the Ridegway National Trail. And they have already seen results with a drop in crime. The blocks were fitted in April to stop poachers, harecoursers and deer stalkers in cars accessing the track, known as the Icknield Way, and to stop thieves driving to isolated farm buildings.
“The pre-historic Ridgeway track runs from Avebury, Wiltshire, to Ivinghoe near Dunstable, across South Oxfordshire.”
Lunchtime Talk at the Wiltshire Heritage Museum.
Sir John Lubbock, 1st Lord Avebury.
An illustrated lecture by Adrian Green, Director of Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum. Beginning 1:00 pm. Wednesday, 10 November 2010.
“Sir John Lubbock was born in 1834 and brought up near Downe in Kent.
“In 1865 Lubbock published ‘Pre-historic times, as illustrated by ancient remains, and the manners and customs of modern savages’. He invented the terms Palaeolithic and Neolithic to denote the Old and New Stone Ages. He was also an amateur biologist and a close friend of Charles Darwin, who also lived in Downe.” It is to him that we owe Bank Holidays…
Image credit Ken Williams