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Why yowling moggy? Because a series of misrepresentations (6 so far) may suggest a concerted agenda….


It didn’t take long did it?!

The Times has said (presumably having been briefed) that “In May the tunnel won the backing of Unesco“.

No. The advisory mission for UNESCO expressed misgivings that a short tunnel of 2.9km would be technically possible without irreversible damage to the World Heritage Site’s Outstanding Universal Value: we are concerned that associated portals and dual carriageways could have a highly adverse impact on other parts of the World Heritage landscape that cannot be set aside, however great the benefits of a tunnel.

By what possible interpretation is that “backing the tunnel”?


Watch out for the seventh!

[To see the others put Yowling in the search box.]

arthur rollrights

We’ve written many times in the past about situations where, whether by arrangement with the site custodians, or illegally via vandalism, ancient sites have been damaged (temporarily in most cases) in the name of ‘marketing’.

Over the past couple of weeks, a new furore has arisen in Tintagel Cornwall, over a new carving of the ‘face of Merlin’ into the cliff face below Tintagel Castle.

Tintagel Merlin1

Apparently, the sculpture is not much larger than life size and takes some effort to locate, being seen only from the base of the cliff. “So what?” you may ask? Well, English Heritage (EH) say this is

“part of ongoing re-interpretation and investment at the site. The new artwork is the first part of a project by English Heritage to re-imagine Tintagel’s history and legends across the island site. Further works will be revealed late this spring.”

The ‘further works’ planned include a large statue of Arthur, a Sword in the Stone sculpture and a scultured stone bench commemorating the legend of Tristan & Yseult. Leaving aside the artistic merit of the sculptures, the moves are being seen locally as ‘false history’, an attempt at further ‘Disneyfication’ of the village and castle site in a direct move to increase tourist footfall, maximising tourism income, and to hell with any authenticity as to historical fact.

Regardless of the local opposition, there is a much bigger issue to be resolved here. Cornish historian (and friend of the Heritage Journal) Craig Weatherhill commented:

“this is just one of 28 visual display proposals for the site, one being an 8.5ft statue of Arthur in late (not early!) medieval gear, to stand on the clifftop on The Island! The Cornwall Archaelogical Unit assess that 9 of these will have a neutral effect on archaeology and visual amenity, but that 19 have minor to moderate negative impacts. ANY negative impact on the archaeology and visual amenity of such an iconic, important and spectacular site should have been refused permission… Of the carving, the CAU says that it will have an irreversible physical impact on the natural environment. i.e. vandalism.”

With the withdrawal of government funding and the need for EH to become ‘self-sufficient’, should they be allowed to sacrifice or change the authenticity of a site in this way in the search for additional income? And if so, where does that leave our heritage, not only at Tintagel but at all the other sites up and down the country that EH are responsible for?

Further Info:

English Heritage: Merlin’s Face

Cornwall Archaeological Unit: Environmental Impact Assessment

English Heritage: Tintagel Castle

Daily Telegraph: EH accused of vandalism 18 Feb 2016

The Cornishman: Vandalism, or Art? 17 Feb 2016

Archaeodeath: Putting Merlin to Death? Tintagel, Art and the Death of Imagination 15 Feb 2016

Kernow Matters To Us: Campaign group web site

A couple of years ago, we took a Heritage Drive through Herts, Cambs and Essex, on the way passing the Leper Stone at Newport, a short distance south from Saffron Walden in Essex. We recently had an opportunity to revisit the area and take a closer look at the Newport Stone.

The stone, which is the largest standing sarsen in Essex, is situated on a grass verge on the east side of the B1383, just north of the village of Newport. The River Cam flows just a few metres further to the east. I’ll admit up front that the origin and age of the stone is in some doubt – was it raised in prehistoric times, or  is it medieval? The St Mary and St Leonard’s Hospital was a lay establishment founded nearby by Richard de Newporte during the reign of King John (1199-1216) and was thought to have been a leper hospital, but no definite proof of this exists. Nevertheless, the stone is said to have been used as a ‘trading point’ for the hospital, where goods or alms would be left for the victims. There is a small depression on top of the stone where money may have been left washed in water or vinegar as payment, though it has to be said that many similar ‘plague’ stones with depressions in the top have identical stories behind them, many without any basis in fact. In this case, the hospital did exist, and stones from part of the old hospital can still be seen built in to the modern wall by the footpath.

Newport Stone from the south, showing the older blocks in the wall alongside.

Newport Stone from the south, showing the older blocks in the wall alongside.

There is of course no surefire way of dating the stone and its current setting, but the fact it is set upright (an unusual position for glacial erratics to come to rest) points to it’s having been purposefully placed. I can find no record of any excavation though it is likely that the stone has been disturbed, and possibly moved, not least when the modern road was laid. Perhaps it was originally placed as a marker stone for an easy crossing across the Cam? Unfortunately there is no mention of the stone on O.S. maps from the mid 1800’s up until at least 1923, though the site of the hospital is marked. So either it’s a comparatively recent placing, or the O.S. ignored/missed the stone and concentrated on the hospital site.

An interesting item in the Essex Field Club Journal from 1884 (v4 p95) suggests that the area exhibited signs of habitation, in the form of worked tools, from before the last Glacial period i.e. before the stone would have been deposited by the glaciers:

Mr. Greenhill thought, with those who had taken up the study, that there was no longer any question as to the comparative age of these implementiferous deposits compared with the Glacial period. During the winter he had travelled down by road to Saffron Walden, to examine all possible sections in the Lea and Stort Valleys with this object only in view, and at Newport, in Essex, he had found an implement which equalled in elegance of form anything that was upon the table that evening. It was now in the possession of the Head Master of Newport Grammar School. He (Mr. Greenhill) immediately went to the spot where this implement was obtained*, and satisfied himself that it had come from a position under what was there known as the Chalky Boulder Drift. There was plenty of proof that the men who used these implements were living, at least, in inter-glacial times, and, indeed, in pre-glacial times. The implements which he had brought to the meeting were entirely pre-glacial—that was to say, they dated before the last Glacial period.

I wonder whether the implement in question is still held at the school?

Newport Stone from the north.

Newport Stone from the north.

Speaking of marker stones, the village has another stone of note slightly further south near to the train station. In this case the stone is puddingstone, a conglomerate stone which was often used to mark crossing points at rivers. indeed there is the theory of a prehistoric ‘Puddingstone Trail’, set forth by Dr Rudge and his wife based upon their research into puddingstones in the 1950’s. They suggested that a “Puddingstone Trail” predating the Romans may have been waymarked stretching from Grimes Graves in Norfolk to Stonehenge in Wiltshire. More information on the Puddingstone Trail may be found on the Megalithic Portal web site.

A guest feature by Albert Resonox

 Northern slope facing east towards the entrance

Sussex as we know it today, seems to be bereft of standing stones and dolmens, could this be down to the dearth of materials?  It would appear that unlike other areas, there didn’t seem to be the need or indeed inclination to import great stones for creating mighty monuments. There are actually records of quite a few, now long lost, although there are still some available to view it would seem that most stones were broken into manageable pieces and reused as building blocks for many other edifices, but that is another story.
So how did early “Sussex” man put his lasting mark on the landscape? Quite simply by using the indigenous materials, namely flint and chalk. Flint mining was the major “industry” of the area (and presumably the age). Cissbury Hill in Findon, north of Worthing on the A24 was the site of an enormous flint mining community.

Climb up to the top of Cissbury on a clear day and the “slight” effort will be worth every step, for once at the top you are rewarded with spectacular views right down to the sea, even Chanctonbury to the north is well within sight. There is evidence of the enormous extent of the flint mines and subsequent archeological explorations. To my knowledge only three skeletons have been discovered, two females and one male, one of the female skeletons does not appear to be a burial but the victim of a tragic accident as she was, by all accounts, carrying a torch and seems to have been the victim of a cave-in, the other two skeletons do appear to have been laid to rest, complete with “offerings” but the strange thing is they both seem to have been sickly or deformed.

One excavated mine had distinct carvings on the wall, clearly showing deer, one of which has the appearance of being tethered. The rubbings are on display in Worthing Museum. There have been numerous antler picks and deer (or ox)shoulder blade shovels come to light, only enforcing the toil involved in the mining, there are several knapped pieces which surface (courtesy of the rabbit population) from time to time, which would indicate that not only was the flint mined but also prepared on site ready for trade.

At some later point in its history there was the need to reinforce the site with ditches, we can only speculate as to whether this was to guard the mines or if the area had become its own little village; certainly there is evidence of livestock, before, during and after Roman intrusion. The name itself is not of antiquity, but a more recent invention, the hill had been long known as “Old Bury” before it was named for a local Saxon prince/invader called Cissa. Though recent research claims the actual title is a corruption of Sithmesteburgh (meaning The Last Fort) and only altered as a homage to the old Saxon warlord.

There is also a Bury Hill north of Arundel, with the village of Bury still slightly further north and an area of Hove which once was the site of an enormous long barrow, before it was flattened and built over, called “The Bury”.

All lay claim to being the sites of an Easter ceremony compromising of drinking, merrymaking and a rather dubious sounding dance called “Kiss-In-The Ring” (the accompanying song had the chorus “Hey Diddle Derry, Let’s Dance On The Bury!”) but the practice was stopped by the church as it was resulting in several unplanned pregnancies. Of course this ban may be why the participants moved sites so often, why let geography and tradition spoil a bit of fun!!!

It is also said that if you run around the ring three times widdershins you will either be granted second sight, a visit from faeries or summon Old Nick, personally I’d need to be granted an oxygen tank! Faeries are said to dance around the ramparts on Midsummer’s eve… and Wiccan practitioners carry out white magic rituals on Halloween… but it is a beautiful place just to sit in quiet contemplation on a sunny day.


Ditch on western slope looking south-west. 

There is also a legend of buried treasure under Cissbury Ring.  Rumour had it that one of the early occupying tribes had concealed their gold in a secret tunnel.  One story tells that some men from the Worthing area who were contracted by the then owner of  Offington Hall (long since demolished), to clear the entrance to the tunnel, which he had discovered behind some panelling in the library and which was blocked by debris and rubble.  After being promised a share of the treasures, they toiled strenuously to clear the way with their picks and spades with a fervour borne of the promise of untold wealth. Nearing the end of their quest (how did they know I hear you ask – as often with such tales there are very grey areas which don’t bear scrutiny) the treasure seekers were faced with an “uncountable writhing mass of  hissing serpents” which made en masse to attack the intruders, the men fled in panic and sealed the tunnel for ever.  Unlikely, but a good tale to tell in the local tavern for the price of a flagon of ale.

The lands around Cissbury were to be sold following the death of a local farmer, a move which would’ve meant losing public access to the site, but after a stormy protest the local council changed their collective minds (for now…watch this space!!).


January 2023

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