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 Prehistoric Sites in

ENGLAND

by Martin J Powell

Page 2 of 5

 

Click on a picture to see a larger image (all pictures will open in a new window).

 

 

Castlerigg stone circle, Cumbria (Photo: July 1989)

Castlerigg

a.k.a. Castle Rigg or Keswick Carles

Stone Circle

 

County: Cumbria (Cumberland)

Ordnance Survey Grid Ref: NY 291 236

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

Satellite Photo (Google Maps)

This impressive circle was carefully sited by its builders to take full advantage of the magnificent mountainous views and the ever-changing interplay of weather, light and shade.

 

The circle is 98 ft (30 m) in diameter and is not truly circular, but flattened on its North-eastern side. There are 38 stones in the circle, eight of them standing over the impressive height of 6 ft (1.8 m).

 

Inside the circle, at the eastern side, is a rectangular setting of ten stones of unknown purpose. An outlier stands 295 ft (90 m) to the South-west. A gap at the Northern side is flanked by two large stones and may represent an entrance.

 

Charcoal was found in the rectangle in 1882 and an unpolished axe was found in 1875. The circle is thought to date from the period 3370 to 2670 BC.

 

The noted archaeoastronomer Alexander Thom, a retired Professor of Engineering, surveyed hundreds of prehistoric sites between the 1930s and the 1960s. He proposed several astronomical alignments at this circle which involved the Sun, the Moon and the star Altair.

 

Moor Divock cairn-circle, Cumbria (Photo: July 1989)

Moor Divock

Cairn-Circle

 

County: Cumbria (Cumberland)

O.S. Grid Ref: NY 483 223

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

A group of small stone circles, avenues, ring cairns and barrows are spread across 1 mile (1.6 km) of exposed moorland South-west of Askham village. The site pictured is a cairn-circle which was found to contain a cremation inside an inverted Bronze Age urn.

 

The structure and layout of the sites on the moor suggests that the complex dates from the final phase of stone circle building in Britain.

 

 

Westbury White Horse hill figure, Wiltshire (Photo: September 1990)

Westbury White Horse

a.k.a. Bratton White Horse

Hill Figure

 

County: Wiltshire

O.S. Grid Ref: ST 898 516

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

1:25,000 Map (O.S. Map excerpt)

Satellite Photo (Google Maps)

Site Plan

One of seven horses cut into the chalk downlands of Wiltshire, the exact date on which this horse was first scoured is not known. It is certainly the oldest white horse in Wiltshire, its original form having looked very different - if early sketches are to be believed.

 

One theory is that it relates to the Battle of Ethandun in 878 AD which took place in the vicinity. Another source considers it to be of Iron Age date, the appearance of the original carving bearing a resemblance to horses found on Iron Age coins.

 

The original horse was destroyed for several years before being re-cut in 1778.  Further renovations have taken place since then, including the addition of drainage gratings and concrete re-enforcements.

 

Click here for a view of the horse as it appears from the Westbury-Bratton road.

 

The Westbury White Horse should not be confused with the Uffington White Horse in Oxfordshire (see Page 5), the only hill figure in Britain which has been confirmed to be of prehistoric date.

 

Hambledon Hill hill-fort, Dorset (Photo: June 1991)

Hambledon Hill

Hillfort

 

County: Dorset

O.S. Grid Ref: ST 845 126

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

Satellite Photo (Google Maps)

This hill-fort is one of the finest in Britain, dating from the Iron Age period (ca. 800 BC - 50 AD). It has three entrances and is encircled by two banks and ditches, which still survive up to 49 ft (15 m) high in some parts. The ramparts enclose an area of about 30 acres (12.5 hectares).

 

The fort developed in three stages; the first dating from around the 3rd century BC and the last from between 50 BC and the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 AD.

 

A Neolithic long barrow is also enclosed within the ramparts, and a causewayed camp of similar date lies to the South-east of the fort.

 

Idol Stone carved rock, West Yorkshire (Photo: July 1988)

Idol Stone

Rock Carving

 

County: West Yorkshire

O.S. Grid Ref: SE 132 459

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

Across about 5 miles (8 km) of the Northern and Western edge of Ilkley Moor are around 286 rocks which contain carvings believed to date from the Bronze Age (ca. 2500 - 800 BC).

 

On Green Crag Slack, at the North-eastern corner of Rombalds Moor, is a small, smooth grit rock called the Idol Stone. It has 25 cupmarks, eight of them grouped together and seven of them surrounded by a groove. A single groove runs around the perimeter of the rock. The carvings are remarkably organised when compared to other carved stones on the moor.

 

 

Lugbury long barrow, Wiltshire (Photo: September 1990)

Lugbury

Long Barrow

 

County: Wiltshire

O.S. Grid Ref: ST 831 786

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

In a field to the North-east of Nettleton village are the remnants of a long barrow dating from the Neolithic period (ca. 4400 - 2500 BC). The stones in the picture are not those of the chamber, but of the false portal (or blind entrance) at the Eastern end of the barrow. The four burial chambers of this laterally chambered tomb are below ground level on the Southern side of the mound.

 

Excavation in the 19th century revealed the skeletal remains of 26 individuals, including ten children. The long mound is 216 ft (66 m) long but is only slightly visible.

 

 

Roughtin Linn carved rock, Northumberland (Photo: July 1989)

Roughtin Linn

a.k.a. Routin Lynn

Rock Carvings

 

County: Northumberland

O.S. Grid Ref: NT 984 367

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

Situated in a clearing amid gorse and silver birch trees, this sloping rock measures some 59 ft (18 m) long and 39 ft (12 m) wide, making it the largest carved rock in Britain.

 

It has over sixty carvings, including large deep cups, rings, grooves and flower-like figures.

 

 

 

 

 

Cerne Abbas Giant hill figure, Dorset (Photo: June 1991)

Cerne Giant

a.k.a. Cerne Abbas Giant

Hill Figure

 

County: Dorset

O.S. Grid Ref: ST 666 017

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

1:25,000 Map (O.S. Map excerpt)

Satellite Photo (Google Maps)

Site Plan

A quarter-mile (0.4 km) North of Cerne Abbas village, on the Western slope of Giant Hill (formerly known as Trendle Hill) is one of the most celebrated chalk carvings in Britain. The Rude Man of Cerne is 180 ft (55 m) tall and 167 ft (51 m) wide.

 

The date of its first cutting is not known. One idea is that it was a joke on the part of the monks from the nearby Abbey. In 1764 the suggestion was made that it might be a Romano-British representation of Hercules, cut during the reign of the Emperor Commodus (180-193 AD). Similar images of Hercules appear on pottery and altars of that period.

 

A recent theory is that the Giant may not be ancient at all, but a relic dating from the English Civil War (1642 to 1651). This is largely based on the fact that there is no written reference to the carving before 1694. The suggestion is that the Giant may be a parody of Oliver Cromwell - statesman and Lord Protector of England from 1653 to 1658. Lord Denzil Holles, who owned Trendle Hill from 1642 to 1666, was a fierce critic of Cromwell and he may have instructed his servants to carve a caricature satirising Cromwell. Indeed, Cromwell's enemies had often referred to him mockingly as 'England's Hercules'.

 

Stanton Drew stone circle, Somerset (Photo: May 1990)

 

Stanton Drew stone circle, Somerset (Photo: May 1990)

Stanton Drew

Stone Circles, Avenues & Cove

 

County: Bath & North East Somerset (Avon)

O.S. Grid Ref: ST 600 631

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

Satellite Photo (Google Maps)

Contained within the environs of the picturesque village of Stanton Drew is a complex prehistoric site comprising three stone circles (one large and two small), two stone avenues and a peculiar setting of stones referred to as a cove. The site has not been excavated, but it most probably dates from the Late Neolithic.

The largest of the three circles - known as the 'Great Circle' - is a true circle in plan, measuring some 370 ft (113 m) in diameter. It is the second largest stone circle in Britain (after Avebury in Wiltshire). Twenty-seven stones remain of an original thirty, though only two of them are now upright.

The two smaller circles are elliptical in plan.The North-eastern circle is about 102 ft (31 m) in diameter and has 8 stones (four of which are standing). The circle to the South-west is about 136 ft (41 m) across and has 11 stones (all of which are fallen).

Both the Great Circle and the smaller North-eastern circle have the remains of a short stone avenue running North-eastwards from them, on slightly differing alignments. It appears that these two avenues joined together a short distance to the South-east of the smaller North-eastern ring; it is likely that the avenue continued on to the River Chew about 330 ft (100 m) away.

The Cove is situated beside the Druid's Arms Inn, some 545 ft (166 m) West of the South-western circle. It has three stones, one of which has fallen. The North-eastern ring, the Great Circle and The Cove together form a NE-SW alignment along a distance of 1360 ft (415 m). Another line drawn through the South-western circle and the Great Circle in a  NNE direction points to a menhir 1180 ft (360 m) distant known as Hautville's Quoit; it is now a shattered stump lying beside a hedgerow, having been moved from its original location.

The seventeenth-century antiquarian John Aubrey recorded a local legend which said that the Stanton Drew stones were the remnants of a wedding party which was turned into stone because they danced into the Sabbath! The stones of The Cove were said to be the parson, the bride and the bridegroom; those of the avenues were the fiddlers.

In 1997 a geomagnetic survey carried out within the Great Circle revealed nine concentric rings of buried pits, which may originally have held timber uprights. Surrounding the circle was an enclosure (henge) ca. 440 ft (135 m) in diameter with an entrance at the North-east. At the centre of the North-eastern circle, a quadrilateral of four pits were detected, which may have held stones or timber uprights.

The name 'Stanton' means 'homestead of the stones' and 'Drew' is the surname of a family who lived here in the thirteenth century.

Ringmoor Down stone circle and stone row, Dartmoor (Photo: April 2003)

Ringmoor

Cairn-Circle & Stone Row

 

County: Devon

O.S. Grid Ref: SX 563 659

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

Situated on Ringmoor Down at the South-west corner of Dartmoor, this restored circle is 41 ft (12.5 m) in diameter with a robbed cairn at its centre. Its most impressive feature is a stone row which leads from the circle on a bearing of ca. 10 degrees East of North. The row is a substantial 1740 ft (530 m) in length, comprising small to medium-sized stones, with a tall terminal stone at its Northern end. Although it is now mainly a single row of stones, it may originally have been a double row.

 

A few hundred metres downhill from Ringmoor, overlooking a china clay works, is the picturesque Brisworthy stone circle (SX 565 655). It is twice the diameter of the Ringmoor circle and has 22 remaining upright stones. Fragments of charcoal were found there during excavation in 1909.

 

Chun Quoit portal dolmen, Cornwall (Photo: June 1991)

Chn Quoit

Chambered Cairn

 

County: Cornwall

O.S. Grid Ref: SW 402 340

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

Standing on open moorland to the East of Higher Boscaswell, Chun Quoit is one of several examples of a portal dolmen in Cornwall. The square-shaped chamber measures 6 ft (1.8 m) long by 5 ft (1.7 m) wide. It is effectively sealed off, with only a narrow gap at the South-east angle providing difficult access.

 

The peculiarly poised capstone - 8 ft (2.4 m) square - gives the chamber a mushroom-like appearance.

Copyright Martin J Powell  2001-2008

Prehistoric Sites in England (Page 3 of 5) >>

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The Cerne Giant

Landscape, Gods

and the Stargate

Peter Knight

Wessex to

AD 1000

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Barry Cunliffe

The Silbury

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A Solution to

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John Drews

A Guide to the

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David Watson &

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A

Layman's Guide

to Prehistoric

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William Lyon

Prehistoric

Rock Art in the

Northern Dales

Paul Brown &

Barbara Brown

The Sacred

Stone Circles of

Stanton Drew

Gordon Strong

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