You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Christianised site’ category.

A guest article by Myghal Map Serpren.

A granite wayside cross stands at the roadside passing Gwealavellan Farm on the inland side of Reskajeage Downs, one of several such items of historical and archaeological interest in the area between Illogan Parish, Camborne Parish and the rugged North Cliffs of Cornwall.

Measuring some 5 feet 10 inches in height, it was one of 13 crosses marking the church route from Gwithian to Camborne Church although it has had something of a chequered history before coming to eventual rest during August 1999 in an ancient landscape which is also rich in the Cornish language.

Reskajeague Cross from the NE (taken by the author). Note the missing projection on the left.

This Medieval (1066CE to 1539CE) monument has a wheel head containing a broad cross below which were two projections, one on each side of the shaft. Sadly, one of these has been lost due to damage. It languished as a gatepost for many years, buried head down and defaced by having holes bored into it (and the projection removed) to allow for gate hanging.

It was again uprooted in 1995, then to rest in a field at nearby Butney Corner just north of Menadarva until 1998 at which time it was taken to Gwealavellan Farm, along the road by the farmer, Mr Ernest Bowden, who knew of the stone since 1966 but until recent times and as it was upended, was unaware of its historic significance.

Thankfully, following negotiations between Mr Bowden and Camborne Old Cornwall Society, it was on 24th August 1999, that the stone was re-erected on a new base set near the old Reskajeage, Gwealavellan, Menadarva, Kehelland to Camborne church route. Being adjacent to fields recorded in 1737CE as being named Parc an Grouse and Parken Grown, alongside the minor road between Carlenno and Gwealavellan where it is joined by the church path route, this seemed a most suitable location with toponymic precedent for the decision, although searches for the original base stone have proven fruitless.

Reskajeague Cross from the SW (taken by the author). Note the holes used for gate hinges.

‘Parc an Grouse’ and ‘Parken Grown’ both translate from the Cornish as ‘the cross field’, and join other local fields with names recorded in the 1840CE Tithe Survey and which together share fragments of ancient field systems together with the remains of an oval-shaped Iron Age round.

The farm settlement’s name of ‘Gwealavellan’ is again Cornish, derived from ‘gwel an velyn’ translating as ‘the mill field’ according to Craig Weatherhill’s research rather than the alternative ‘view of the mill’ suggested by others.

The nearby parish boundary dividing Illogan and Camborne is, in the main, delineated by field hedges which extend to the cliffs. Interestingly, in 1601CE, this boundary was recorded as  ‘Keasek Vres’ translating from the Cornish ‘ke segh uras’ or ‘great dry hedge’.

Of Reskajeage itself, recorded as  Roscadaek in 1317CE, Reskaseak Downs in 1673CE, Riskejeake Downs in 1723CE and finally Reskajeage Downs in 1888CE, the name translates from the Cornish ‘ros Cajek’ as ‘Cadoc’s hillspur’. The downs themselves are named after the settlement of Ruschedek recorded in 1235CE.

Reskajeage abounds in archaeological sites, Bronze Age (2,500 – 800BCE) barrows and there have been numerous finds of implements from the Mesolithic (8,000 – 4,000BCE) and Neolithic (4,000 – 2,500BCE) eras. The area also boasts numerous settlement names which have direct Cornish language roots.

A further Medieval cross is recorded at Callean, not far from the site of the current one. Records show that this was uprooted by the Basset family and relocated to Tehidy House where it stood between the conservatory and the nursery. It remained there until the great fire at Tehidy in 1919CE and thereafter, sadly, disappeared.

Perhaps one of the greatest mysteries of Reskajeage though is the possibility that it was the site of a great battle which occurred back in the mists of time.

Indeed, in 1926CE, Dr T. F. G. Dexter B.A., B.Sc., Royal Institution of Cornwall, wrote that Reskajeage derived from ‘’Roskedek’ recorded in 1236CE as ‘heath of many battles’.

This battle is commemorated by a one-time menhir later repurposed as a Christian Cross which now stands in the churchyard of St Martin & St Meriadoc in Camborne following a rather laborious journey.

Intriguingly called ‘Meane Cadoarth’ and also ‘Meane Cadoacor‘ and ‘Maen Cadoar’, and with ‘Meane’ and others deriving from the Cornish ‘men’ meaning ‘stone’ with a descriptor, this long stone is believed to date from the Bronze Age but was subject to extensive alterations in order to convert it into a Christian Cross in the Early Medieval to Medieval period.

Maen Cadoar (Connor Downs Cross)

It was initially situated on the boundary of the Gwithian and Gwinear Parishes and recorded in the Gwinear parish bounds of 1613CE as “Maen Cadoarth” and “the Battle Stone” and in 1651CE recorded as “the long stone called Meane Cadoarth”.  By 1755CE it was said to be laying at a roadside between Camborne and Redruth and by 1896CE it had become a gate post. Finally, the landowner of the Rosewarne Estate, Mr Van Grutten allowed the stone to be moved to its current position on 1st November, 1904CE.

At the head of the former menhir, standing to a height of around six feet, Medieval alterations caused a cross to be formed by four rounded triangular sinkings. The shaft of the stone is beaded and the decoration consists of a panel with lines of shallow holes.

Local tradition now recorded informs that each hole represents the life of a man killed at the great battle at Reskajeage Downs.

Of this battle, nothing is currently known. Some have speculated that the Cadoc included in toponymical research of Reskajeage is in the Cornish Royal lineage of King Doniert and that the spur and battle were named for him. Cadoc, also known as Condor, Candorus and other names, was a legendary Cornish nobleman and 16th Century antiquarians recorded him as Earl of Cornwall during the Norman conquest.

However, as with the menhirs, ancient sites, relics and stone crosses of Reskajeage and elsewhere, history moves irrevocably on and more has been forgotten than will ever be known.


  • Cornish Names – Dr. T.F.G. Dexter B.A., B.Sc., Royal Institution of Cornwall, Longman Green and Co. Ltd. 1926 with a reprint D. Bradford Barton Ltd, Truro 1968
  • Unpublished notes of the late Craig Weatherhill

If you enjoyed this article and would like more in a similar vein, please let us know in the comments.

Police are probing the destruction of a Pagan stone circle in Lampeter, South West Wales. The University of Lampeter is well-known for its theological courses and there is speculation that the attack could be religiously motivated.

The site is used as a meeting place for the 75 members of the university’s Pagan Society, whose members have said the damage is “heart-breaking”.  They have called for the vandals to be “caught and punished”….. but not , so far as we know, for them to be burned at the stake.

Which is surely game, set and match to the Pagans!

(See also our previous article, Pope warns against Paganism).

by Littlestone. Heritage Action.

One of two trapdoors with sarsens beneath them
Image credit Littlestone

Pulling in to a dead-end bit of road by Alton Priors church* (now closed off by a farm gate) I was about to head across the field towards the church when a herd of cows started ambling by with a few of their calves in tow; I held back behind the gate to let them pass (good thing too because the cows were being gently herded forward by a very handsome and very big black bull). Halfway across the field, and between the gate and the church, I passed someone coming in the opposite direction. The gentleman turned out to be the landowner and he told me, as we stood chatting in his field, that his family had farmed the area for more than a hundred years (and that the big black bull was really a bit of a softie).

I asked the gentleman if the church was open and he assured me that it was. I asked him if he knew anything about the sarsen stones under the church floor and he assured me they were there. We talked a little more and then he casually mentioned that I should also take a look at the 1,700 year-old yew tree in the churchyard and the spring that rose close by. I thanked him for his time and we parted.

The church was indeed open. Hot English summer without, cool sacredness within. Just your regular little country church. But where were the trapdoors leading to another sacredness? I ambled about the church for a bit then spotted a trapdoor that was partly boarded over and couldn’t be lifted.** Disappointed, I was about to leave when I spotted another trapdoor. Kneeling alone there in the silence, slowly pulling the clasp and watching as the trapdoor lifted to reveal a sarsen stone below was… mmm… more than a little magical.

I went outside and spent some time under the ancient yew tree in the churchyard – then tried to find the spring that the farmer had mentioned. I found the stream but everything else was too overgrown and the day too hot to look for more.

Alton Priors is a very, very special place. A little church built upon a sarsen circle set in the Vale of Pewsey. I’ve been to a lot of circles but none have had the sense of continuity that Alton Priors has. Go there and be at home (the church is open during the summer months; at other times the key can be obtained from one of the nearby houses).

* This feature first appeared on The Modern Antiquarian in November 2008.

** Since writing this the larger of the two trapdoors can now be lifted revealing a sarsen beneath. There is also a sarsen under the north-east buttress.

See also in our Christianised site series.

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.

A guest feature by Resonox

Oxted in Surrey is a delightful little village. Yet St. Mary’s church, established long before the Norman invasion, whilst being part of the village now was once over half a mile from the old village centre.

Oxted means “Place of The Oaks” (Ac-stede), but the actual oak grove which the village was named for has long since vanished, perhaps it was originally on the mound where the church now stands? The site is said to have been a pre-christian burial mound, which explains why a church was built on it in 1040 AD, according to local folklore, but not why so far from the village centre. The mound is emphasised these days by having been made an island by a surrounding wall and path. 

There is a separate little mound (a tumulus?) to the south of the main door (north of the lych-gate), where now a yew tree, rumoured to be 600 years old, stands guard. Tucked neatly by the first buttress on the south wall are two slabs lying side by side with carved crosses on them, 

these grave covers were long thought to be memorials to two crusaders (Knights Templar), but have since been dated as late Anglo Saxon and compared with similar stones in situ in Titsey and Tandridge. To the west of Oxted is Barrow Green,

It has often been listed as a motte and bailey site, though no stones are available at all to support this, unlike the motte and bailey remains at nearby Bletchingley. There is however a raised rectangular area north of the mound which might lend provenance to the claim. 

The very name does insinuate that this large artificial hill is an ancient barrow, unfortunately it is fenced and inaccessible (I believe the present owner is Mr Al-Fayed of Harrods fame) so without permission to explore it remains an enigma.

Oddly enough an Oxtedian tells me as a child he was told that it was built as a Victorian viewing platform for Barrow Green Court gardens, a pretty if implausible idea as the house would be named after the area and not vice-versa.

Further west yet, in between Oxted and Godstone, there is a monument known as The Moot Stone indicating the meeting place  (moot is a Saxon word for meeting place) of the Saxon hundreds.

The area is also know as Undersnow which is a corruption of Hundreds Knowe in what is now considered to be the first Saxon “parliament”, where the lands were divided and allocated amongst the Saxon lords, this allocation is almost unchanged to the present day.

Unfortunately the A25 cuts through what would’ve been the mound where the wooden hall would have stood. Though there is a raised copse slightly south which in my opinion would be a likely canditate for the hall – if and only if, the stone was in the wrong place.

Anyone visiting the area would be advised to visit Godstone too, for behind the Hare & Hounds public house (a varied selection of beers and home-cooked foods available for the weary explorer) there is the Godstone tumulus, known affectionately by the locals as “The Grave”.

 It is a popular dog walking area so whilst it is easy to access, just mind your step as not all the dog walkers are as responsible as they ought to be in cleaning up after their pets!  There is another possible tumulus but as it is sited in someone’s garden so it is not readily available for photographing and /or investigating.

a guest feature by Littlestone.
It is a little known fact that some of our churches are built on what are probably pre-Christian ‘sacred’ sites; as such any pre-Christian remains still evident on these sites deserve to be recognised as part of our heritage and duly preserved and protected for posterity.
The Church of St Mary with St Leonard in Broomfield, Chelmsford, Essex stands on a little knoll a couple of miles from the town centre. It is one of only six churches in the county with a round tower – the reason for constructing round towers in Essex is that large stones are so scarce in the county that using small stones, set in mortar, was an economical way of building larger structures. The Essex RIGS Group on behalf of Essex ( ) has the following entry, “Chelmsford. At Chelmsford Museum a block of puddingstone stands next to the main entrance door.[*] Two sarsen stones can be seen in Broomfield by the church gate.”
Following a visit to Alphamstone, which also has sarsens by the church gate and built into its foundations, the mention of two sarsens by the gate of The Church of St Mary with St Leonard was enough to lure me out one afternoon to see for myself. Could there really be more sarsens in the stone-scarce county of Essex? After a couple of wrong turns I finally found the church and saw the two sarsens as I went past the church gate. Deciding to drive a little further I went down a lane and pulled up behind the church. Entering the churchyard from a gate on the west side I started walking clockwise around the church. Nothing to see in the foundations – nothing that is until I turned the south-east corner. There in the foundations of the south wall was this – 
Puddingstone in south wall of The Church of St Mary with St Leonard, Broomfield, Chelmsford
The stone (an amazing black puddingstone) has a similar ‘positioning’ to one of the stones protruding from the foundations at Pewsey Church in Wiltshire – it literally sticks out about two foot from the wall and is about six inches from ground level! I stood there gob-smacked for a while when the vicar happened to walk by. “Interesting stone” said I. The vicar nodded and said he thought it was either a way marker or of pagan origin. He then went on to tell me about Pope Gregory and his edicts concerning the assimilation of pagan practices into early Christianity. Although the church was locked, the vicar took me in (via the tradesman’s entrance as he put it) for a look inside. Some interesting items in there and well worth a visit. On the way out I picked up a copy of the church information pamphlet** which has this to say, “The original Norman church, possibly on the site of a wooden Saxon church was probably built on the incentive of the de Mandeville family of Broomfield Hall, almost a thousand years ago. The south wall of that original small church containing nave and chancel survives today. The windows were small lancets then and the chancel was shorter, as can be seen from Roman bricks that formed the original south east corner. Among the flint and Roman bricks of the South wall is a projecting puddingstone, or mass conglomerate. Some believe that such marker stones are an indication of a pre-Christian site.”

The pamphlet goes on to say, “The Roman tiles are a reminder of the story still related fifty years ago. The plan had originally been to build the church at the top of New Barn Lane, called Dragon’s Foot in the tithe maps, there is a depression, now somewhat ploughed out but still deep enough to be a dragon’s footprint. This was the site of a Roman building which still yields numerous hypocaust tiles and bricks, so the story is a delightfully muddled memory of the Saxons trundling cartloads of Roman bricks down to the Green on the orders of their new Norman masters to use as quoins since there were no local stone quarries.”

The Church of St Mary with St Leonard has all the hallmarks of a Christianised site. As at Alphamstone in Essex and Pewsey in Wiltshire it has an unusual stone protruding (and prominently visible) in its foundations. Across the lane from St Mary with St Leonard’s there is a pond (as there is at East Kennet church in Wiltshire). The pond is fed by both a stream and several springs – one of the houses (parts of which are medieval) opposite the church has a rivulet running under the paving stones in its cellar. I was told by the occupant of this house that the two sarsens in front of the church gate were originally in the stream that runs close to the church. The springs and stream, together with evidence of a Roman villa and the unusual black puddingstone in the church foundations, perhaps all indicate that the site was sacred and pre-dates both Christianity and the Roman occupation.

* See 

** The Church of St Mary with St Leonard by Ann Howard.

by Littlestone, Heritage Action

Sarsen under one of the south-facing butresses of the Church of St Peter, Clyffe Pypard
Image credit Littlestone

John Aubrey (1626-1697) visited Clyffe Pypard in, or around, 1660 – some twelve years after his visit to Avebury where he records being, “…wonderfully surprised at the site of these vast stones, of which I had never heard before, as also the mighty bank and graffe (grass) about it.” At Clyffe Pypard he describes the Church of St Peter as, “Here is a handsome Church, and have been very good windowes.”

While the tower, nave, aisles and porch of the Church of St Peter were built in the 15th century there remains some 14th century stonework in the south porch. Further study may show that the Norman church was built on the foundations of an earlier Saxon one and, as at other Christianised sites, the Saxon church may have been built on a pre-Christian structure. Six of the buttresses have sarsen stones under them, only one of which has been cut to the shape of the buttress. The other five sarsens, one of which is very large, are left protruding as they do under the buttresses of the Church of St James, Avebury; the Church of St Katherine and St Peter, Winterbourne Bassett and the Church of St John the Baptist, Pewsey.

The Church of St Peter is situated at the bottom of a steep escarpment and is set in a well-cared for graveyard surrounded by trees.* There is a distinct air of a ‘grove’ about the place which is reminiscent of the grove, and its disordered sarsens, by the river close to Pewsey Church. The leafy and sarsen-paved footpath that leads east past the church comes out on a secluded meadow with a magnificent tree at its centre. Nearby is a stream and lake. Nikolaus Pevsner, art and architectural historian and author of The Buildings of England, is buried with his wife at a place between the lake and the church – their grave is marked by a headstone of slate.

About a mile from Clyffe Pypard, towards Broad Town and close to Little Town Farmhouse, is the cottage which Pevsner used as a country retreat. The cottage was formerly the home of the poet and literary critic Geoffrey Grigson, whose friends included Paul Nash and John Piper. Nash and Piper between them produced numerous paintings of Avebury, West Kennet Long Barrow, Stonehenge and other megalithic structures.**

* The ‘Clyffe’ of Clyffe Pypard refers to the adjacent escarpment. ‘Pypard’ refers to Richard Pypard who was Lord of the Manor in 1231.

** Geoffrey Grigson’s 1960s guide to touring the countryside (The Shell Country Alphabet) has been republished (see for a review).


March 2023

Follow Us

Follow us on Twitter

Follow us on Facebook

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 10,813 other subscribers

Twitter Feed

%d bloggers like this: