Books, Prehistory, Archaeologia Volume 23 1831 Appendix

Archaeologia Volume 23 1831 Appendix is in Archaeologia Volume 23 1831.

"Arthur's Stone [Map]," a Cromlech in the district of Gower. January 27, 1831. Extract of a Letter from Alfred John Kempe, Esq. F.S.A. to Henry Ellis, Esq. Secretary.

"About ten miles west of Swansea, in South Wales, on the top of a mountain called Cevyn Bryn, in the district of Gower, is an ancient vestige of which I am not aware that any circumstantial description, or any delineation, has been published. It is known by the name of ' Arthur's Stone,' most probably from the practice into which the common people naturally fall, of connecting every thing remarkable for its anti- tiquity, the origin of which is obscure or unknown, with the most prominent character in some memorable period of their history.

44 On the 22d of November, 1811, I set out from Swansea to visit ' Arthur's Stone,' and I experienced no small difficulty in the wild and thinly populated country through which I passed, in ascertaining my road to it; few or none whom I met had seen it, all had heard of it. I pursued my course however to the top of Cevyn Bryn, the bold and mountainous acclivity before mentioned, at the western extremity of Gower, which overlooks the Severn sea and a noble sestuary called the Burry. Falling in with 'Arthur's Stone,' a short time before sunset, I had sufficient light to make the outlines of the three sketchesa necessary to convey a distinct idea of its form and position; and the admeasurements which I have the honour to submit to the Society of Antiquaries.

Note a. See one of these, Plate XXXV.

"This Cromlechb is formed of a stone 14 feet in length, and 7 feet 2 inches in depth, being much thicker, 1 believe, than any similar remain in Wales. Its irregular shape may be seen by the views. One side has been rendered flat and perpendicular by cutting off several tons to form mill-stones.c

Note b. Crwm, crooked, or bending; Llech, stone: i. e. the stone for bending in adoration.

Note c. Llwyd's Additions to Glamorganshire. Gibson's Camden's Britannia, p. 619.

It has eight perpendicular supporters, the height of one of these at the north west end is 4 feet 2 inches. The whole height of the structure is therefore 11 feet 4 inches. All the component stones are of a hard compact lapis molaris, of which the substratum of the mountain is said to consist. Immediately under the Cromlech, is a spring of clear water, which has obtained the name, in Welch, of the Lady's Well.d A spring hus situated plainly shows that the monument is not sepulchral. The fountain and Cromlech are surrounded by a vallum of loose stones, piled in an amphitheatrical form. The supporting stones of this Cromlech terminate in small points, on which its whole weight (which cannot be less than twenty-five tons) rests. Some few stones stand under it, apparently intended as supporters, but not now in actual contact; they either failed of their purpose on the Cromlech being placed in its position, or have since given way under its weight. The vallum of loose stones, which encircles this rude but majestic vestige, is composed, I conceive, of the materials of an inclined plane, under the upper part of which its supporters were once buried. When the stone, which probably lay on the open moor near the spot, had been raised on the inclined plane, by levers and rollers, immediately over the supporters, the loose stones were removed, the rock rested on its short pointed pillars, and the septum round it was formed. This conjecture is not without strong presumptive evidence in its favour. At Dyffryn Go- luch, near Caerdiff, which Malkin renders the Vale of Prayer, or adoration, is a Cromlech, against which a large heap of stones has been thrown, and remains at this day. He mentions another in the same neighbourhood attended by a similar circumstance. He suggests that these heaps had been piled over the monuments of paganism, in desecration, by the primitive Christians; but it appears much more natural to suppose that they had some connexion with the mode of their construction.

Note d. The Topographical Dictionary mentions the holy t veil on Cevyn Bryn; this is doubtless the same. Carlisle's Topog. Diet, of Wales, under Llanridian.

Well known as places of worship by the first Christian converts of Britain, they still continued to assemble at these sacred enclosures to hear the preachers of the revealed Word of God. Nay, the intelligent author whom I have above cited, tells us that the British word Llan, a church, in its original meaning implied a circular enclosure, and that church and kirk are referable to the Latin word circus, in their primitive imports A striking traditional confirmation of what I have advanced will be found in the following instance, which I cite from a carefully compiled modern Itinerary of Wales. "Near Mare Cross (Glamorgan), is an ancient Cromlech, called the Old Church, the inhabitants believing that these rude structures were once places of worship."f As we know that the Druids consecrated groves, rocks, lakes, and fountains to their superstitions, there is little doubt, I think, but Arthur's Stone was erected over one of their sacred springs; it afterwards became a place of Christian assembly for instruction and prayer, and, as the adoration of the Virgin began, in the darker ages, to vie with, if not altogether to eclipse, that of the Saviour of mankind, the Deity himself, the fountain obtained the name of Our Lady's Well.

Note f. The Cambrian Traveller's Guide. Stourport, 1808.

"Arthur's Stone is celebrated in the vernacular records of the Welch. It is mentioned in the Triads as one of three stupendous works effected in Britain, of which Stonehenge is another, and Silbury Hill, perhaps, the third. It is called in the Triads the Stone of Sketty, from a place of that name in its neighbourhood. 'Like the work of the Stone of Sketty' has grown into a Welch proverb to express undertakings of great difficulty. For these particulars I am indebted to the writer to whom I have before referred. I wish I possessed that knowledge of the antient British tongue which might enable me to quote those valuable records, the Triads themselves, which are notices of remarkable historical events and other matters, coupled together in threes. They are without dates, being the composition of different bards, who composed them from time to time,g. and handed them down orally to their disciples. These Triads embraced the leading points of theology, morality, science, and history.h The most important are preserved in the publication called the Myvyrian Archaeology.

Note g. Pref. to Myvyrian Archaeology, vol. II.

Note h. Note by Sir Richard Colt Hoare, in his translation of Giraldus Cambrensis, vol. II. p. 309.

It were, I imagine, much to be wished, that a correct translation of the Triads could be made to enter into the plan of publishing the correct and collated edition of our Chronicles, which is now undertaken at the public expense. It would be curious to ascertain how far the Anglo- Norman writers had in themselves been guilty of engrafting fable on early British history; many fictitious interpolations might thus be detected, many apocryphal facts established.

To return, in conclusion, to the subject of my communication, ' Arthur's Stone/ The people who thus ingeniously elevated these enormous masses, have left no written records of their own immediate times, although their descendants were not slow in lighting their torch at the flame of human learning. We gather what may be considered but obscure sketches of their customs, from the cotemporary poets and historians or more polished nations, but they have scattered the surface of the British soil with imperishable monuments of their existence, against which the storms of two thousand years have wreaked their fury in vain. These silent witnesses are not to be despised by the Antiquary of true taste and feeling; he will consider them as that link in the tangible records of human history, which connects it in some degree with the postdiluvian times. Such thoughts, not unmingled with a sentiment of awe and veneration, will, I think, present themselves to the mind of him who views this massive Druid altar on Cevyn Bryn, in English, ' the ridge of the mountain'.

In the adjoining parish to Llanridian, in which Arthur's stone is placed, is the Leucarumg of Antoninus, now Lywchwr or Lloughor, a corporate town decayed to two straggling hamlets. Here is a ferry over the river Burry or Lloughor, into Caermarthenshire. On a steep mount near the river, is the small square keep of a castle of the Norman Lords of Gower. The Roman locality of Lloughor was decidedly evinced to me by an altar, which I saw placed as a stile before a cottage garden, in the easternmost hamlet. I was informed, that tradition said it had been brought from the church. This seemed pointedly to corroborate the assertion of Bede, that the Pagan temples of our island, cleansed of their idolatrous images, were converted into Christian churches.h

Note g. Leuchra, Mr. Logan says, signifies in the Gaelic, ' reedy, abounding with rushes.' Lloughor (pronounced Luccur) stands on a marsh. The Leuchar, which Mr. Logan speaks of. Appendix to Archaeologia, vol. XXII. p.410, is situated on an extensive moss. It is evident that in calling their station Leucarum the Romans merely added a Latin termination to a British word.

Note h. See Bede's Ecclesiastical History, Book I. chapter 30. "I knew an instance of a great quantity of the bones of fowls being found buried in the body of a parochial church. What were these but the relics of heathen sacrifice? Socrates, before his death, directed a cock to be sacrificed to Esculapius."