Victorian Books, Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, CWAAS Transactions 1880 Article VII Eskdale aka Brat's Hill

CWAAS Transactions 1880 Article VII Eskdale aka Brat's Hill is in CWAAS Transactions 1880 Article VII.

Brat's Hill Stone Circle [Map]. This, though the finest, is only one of several similar remains on the same moor. About 100 yards to the west, are two smaller rings in an imperfect state, each about 50 feet in diameter, and each inclosing one barrow. A quarter of a mile west-northwest, on Low Longrigg, are two others; one apparently perfect, about 50 feet in diameter, consisting of nine stones, and inclosing one barrow; the other imperfect, with diameters of about 75 feet and 65 feet, and inclosing two barrows. A number of ancient "dykes," each consisting of a slight ditch and embankment, intersect the moor, near these remains.

An imaginary plan of this inclosure is published by Dr. Fergusson, and it is described by him thus:—1

"The circle or rather circles, on Burn Moor, near Wast Water, Cumberland, are described by Mr. Williams2 as consisting of a 100-foot circle, formed of forty four stones, beyond which, at a distance of 25 feet is an outer circle of fourteen large stones. A niche or square enclosure on one side of the inner circle contains a cairn 25 feet in diameter, and within the circle are four others, irregularly spaced, and measuring 21 to 25 feet in diameter, each like the circle itself, surrounded by fourteen stones. These, on being opened, were found o contain a rude chamber formed of five stones, in which were found remains of burnt bones, horns of stags, and other animals. One point of interest in this monument is, that it explains the existence of a similar square enclosure on one side of a well known 100-foot circle, near Keswick. There is no sign of a cairn there now; it may have been removed, as those at Salkeld were, or it may be that the body was interred without this external indication; but that it lies, or lay, in this enclosure seems certain. The principal reason for referring to it here is that it is undoubtedly sepulchral."

Note 1. Rude Stone Structures, p. 159.

Note 2. Proc. Soc. Ant., iii, p. 225.

The plan is purely conventional, representing a perfect circle of stones of uniform size, with an outer concentric ring of fourteen megaliths, and an inner (nearly rectangular) inclosure fencing-in the eastern barrow. There is no evidence on the ground to shew that such an outer ring ever existed; nor is it likely that, placed as these remains are, out of the way of risk of molestation, such evidences, if there were any, would have vanished. One very small erect stone stands as an outlier to the north-west; and three or four others, equally small, lie prostrate on the surface, or are partly sunk into the ground, on the north, east, west, and south-east sides: that is all. Not the slightest trace of a barrow-inclosure can be found, though I carefully sought for it by probing. The eastern barrow was being opened at the time of my first visit in 1866, though the exploring party were not then on the spot.

Now I think a comparison of the four examples herein described will lead to the conviction that, though they have an outward similarity, they may not all have been devoted to the same purposes. The character of the last mentioned is purely sepulchral. There is a careless irregularity in the ranging of the peripheral stones, which gives the impression of being sufficient for purposes of separation, though little congruous with the dignity of a structure intended for ceremonial uses. Much of the area is occupied by the barrows; while, hard by, we find four other similar inclosures, also devoted to sepulture. Who can resist the conviction that, in this case, but one end was to be answered—that of consecrated interment?

There is no record of any barrow having been observed within or near the Swinside circle. The ruins are those of a bold and carefully-constructed peristalith. The stones were ranged nearly in a true circle, well founded on a dry site1, in a rammed stone-bed, and placed, for the most part at least, in juxtaposition—often, indeed, so close that it is possible there was no convenient access to the interior, save through the gateway. Hence, in this case, a necessity for that feature, which was evidently thought an important one, and must have been designed to give ceremonial access to the sacred inclosure. Perhaps this is one of the best examples we have of a structure which, according to our ideas, would be eminently suited to be a hypæthral temple; and I suggest that, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, this may have been the chief purpose for which the Swinside circle was erected.

Note 1. It must have been dry when the stones were erected, as it is now, though, in the interim, it became swampy.

The import of a gateway is much enhanced when we find it, either in its simple form, a marked incident of an open stone-peristalith, as at Keswick [Map] and Long Meg [Map]; or extended into a short avenue, as at Stanton Drew; or into a longer one, as at Callernish. In all these, the inference is irresistible, that the recognised mode of entering and leaving such inclosures—which were open on every side —was by the prescribed avenue; and, hence, we arrive, by an easy step, at the conclusion that processional services were a common feature of their use; but whether connected with religious, political, judicial, or sepulchral objects, or with a union of them, we do not yet know. It is probable that some of these structures may have been destined to a compound service,—primarily, perhaps, as temples; then, for a kindred purpose, as courts of judicature, or places of council; while, in certain cases, they may have been raised as memorials: and, thus consecrated, the ashes of the great may have been honored with dignified sepulture around, and even within their pale, as, in later times, the remains of the departed came to be laid in the church-yard; and, in special instances, even beneath the floor of the sacred building.

NOTE BY THE WRITER. It is due to the editor of these Transactions to acknowledge the kindness with which he has hunted-up, and copied for this paper, extracts from several old local authorities which were out of the writer's reach, and with some of which he was previously unacquainted. The discrepancies between them, and their errors of fact, are, as usual, so numerous, that the reader will hardly be in danger of accepting anything they say without testing it, when possible, by reference to trustworthy records, such as it is the object of this paper, and of the illustrations which accompany it, to supply.

Victorian Books, Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, CWAAS Transactions 1880 Article VII Eskdale aka Brat's Hill, The Ancient History of Wiltshire Volume 2 Chapter 3 Station X Marlborough


Mr. Letheuillier very justly observes, are so uncertain, that they can be little depended upon ; but as we find Leucomago, Cunetzione, and Punctuobice standing together, and if we agree that Cunetzione is the Cunetio of the Roman Itineraries, it seems not very reasonable to look for these other two at so great a distance as Mr. Horsley has placed them, namely, in Glamorganshire.

Great Bedwin has certainly strong claims to Roman antiquity, for it had its villas or stations, as well as its Roman ways ; all of which I shall endeavour to trace, when I treat of the Roman æra. Much also might be said of Wansditch, which traverses the whole length of this Station, and on quitting it at Prosperous Farm, enters the adjoining county of Berkshire; but as it is my intention to give a detailed account of its course through Somersetshire, as well as Wiltshire, I should be guilty of a needless repetition, were I to specify the particular portion of it that occurs during the present Iter.

Little more is now to be added to this Station, though many interesting relics, both of British and Roman antiquity, remain to be described in the immediate environs of the town of Marlborough ; but as they do not come within the limits prescribed to this Station, they cannot with propriety be inserted. One remarkable earthen-work however, must not be passed over in silence. I allude to the mount [Marlborough Mound [Map]] within the gardens of the Castle Inn, a huge pile of earth, and inferior in proportions only to Silbury Hill [Map] near Abury, PLATE IV. No. 1. Each are situated on the river Kennet ; the one near its source, the other near its margin ; and I have no doubt but that in ancient times each had some corresponding connection with the other. In more modern times, when the present inn was the hospitable mansion of the Hertford farniiy, this stately mound was converted into a hill of pleasure: on the ground floor a cavern was excavated and ornamented as a grotto, with shell-work, &c. ; the sides sliced down so as to form a spiral walk around it, fenced with parapet hedges, and the summit crowned with a summer-house ; of which, Dr. Stukeley has given a view in his Itinerarium Curiosum. Still, however, notwithstanding all these inappropriate decorations, it assumes an imposing appearance, This mound has been so mutilated, as well as lowered in its height, that it is impossible to calculate an exact measurement of either its circumference or height; but as nearly as we could guess by a trial with our chains, wc found the base to be about one-thousand feet in circumference, and the diameter of the summit one-hundred and ten feet.

... title of Ashbury Camp, or King Alfred's Castle, by which it is still distinguished. q his ealthen-work is situated close to the western boundary of Ashdown park paling, and at a very short distance from the mansion-house. It forms an irregular circie, is single ditched, has one entrance towards the south, another towards the north, and comprehends within the ramparts an area of two acres and three quarters. Near the centre of the enclosure, are some slight banks which indicate buildings or earthen-works within it.

Having satisfied my curiosity on this spot, I traversed a fine tract of down, and passing near a tenement which still bears the name of Thick Thorn farm1, I regained the line of the British ridge-way, when a square enclosure, very properly called the FOLLY by a neighbouring shepherd, when I made inquiry concerning Wayland Smith2, indicated the site of the object of my research.

This curious monument of British antiquity, distinguished in modern times by so ridiculous a title, stands at a short distance from the ridge-way, and on its left side. It was one of those long barrows, which we meet with occasionally, having a kistvaen of stones within it, to protect the place of interment. Four large stones of a superior size and height to the rest: were placed before the entrance to the adit, two on each side ; these now lie prostrate on the ground one of these measures ten, and another eleven feet in height ; they are rude and unhewn, like those at Abury. A line of stones, though of much smaller proportions, encircled the head of the barrow, of which I noticed four standing in their original position ; the corresponding four on the opposite side have been displaced. The stones which formed the adit or avenue still remain, as well as the large incumbent stone which covered the kistvaen, and which measures ten feet by nine, I have had occasion to remark in a former part of my work, that one side of the long barrows almost invariably pointed towards the east; and that here, on digging, we always had found the sepulchral deposit; but in this instance, this barrow deviates from thc general ltlle, by pointing north and south ; yet stilt the kistvaen is placed towards the east. ne avenue at first goes straight from south to north, then turns abruptly to the east, where we find the kistvaen.

Note 1. More will be said of this thorn-tree hereafter.

Note 2. A ridiculous name given to a British monument or very high antiquity. Mr. Wise, in his letter to Dr. Mead, concerning some antiquities in Berkshire (page 37), says that according to vulgar report, "at this place lived an invisible smith, and if a traveller's horse had lost a shoe upon the road, he had no more to do, than to bring the horse to this place, with a piece of money, and leaving both there for some little time, he might come again and find the money gone, but the horse new shod."

Proceeding dong the line of the ridgeway, a high point of land, distinguished by strong ramparts, now attracts our attention: and on reaching the summit of the hill, we are gmatified by the appearance of a fine earthen-work of verdant turf uninjured by the plough, and affording from its ramparts a most interesting and it bears the the name of UFFINGTON CASTLE [Map] and is single comprehensive view ditched, having an entrance towards the south-west, and comprehending seven acres within its area. On the east side of this eminence is a very singular insulated knoll, which Mr. Wise, (page 46) denominates a barrow, undet the title of DRAGON HILL, and mentions some traditions concerning it, not worthy of our notice. I cannot consider this hill as entirely artificial, and thrown up like Silbury, but it appears to me that a part of the upper ridge has been cut away in order to form it. On the northern side of this hill, the rude figure of a horse has been traced in the chalk, from which circumstance an extensive valley running through Berkshire, has gained the appellation of the VALE WHITE HORSE.1 The Whitc horse was made use of the banner of the Saxons, and is described in the act of gallopping: it is supposed to have been cut on this hill in token of the signal victory gained by King Alfred over the Danes in the year 971.

Note 1. I conceive this to be the otiginal white horse its extreme rudeness. and incorrect outline seem to warrant this conjecture: there are others at Bratton, Calne, Marlborough, and Alton.

In various pms of Wiltshire this figure has been adopted ; but besides the one just: mentioned, no other appears to have any claim to antiquity except that at. Bratton Castle, near Westbury, in Wiltshire, where the same illustrious monarch gained another decisive Victorv over the same enemy.1

Note 1. See Ancient History of South Wiltshire, page 55.

At a short distance from Uffington Castle. and nearer the base of the hill, another ancient earthen-work, mentioned also by Mr. Wise (page 22) under the name of HARDWELL CAMP. Its entrance is towards the south, and nearly opposite to that of Ullirvton; its area contains five acres. It is strongly guarded by the nature of the ground on the north-east side ; and on the south-east, where it is most accessible, it is strengthened by a double valium. In this camp Mr. Wise supposes that King Ethelred lay the night before the engagement at Ashdown; but as there are three earthen, works in this immediate neighbourhood, and another (Letcombe) at no great distance to the east, it would be very difficult to affix to the contending armies their several posts. Respecting the battle itself, and its consequences, we tread upon more certain ground, having the undoubtcd authority of the learned Asserius, the biographer and contemporary of Alfred, who has recorded the following particulars of this important battle: "After two battles fought near Reading in Berkshire between the Pagans and the united forces of Æthercd the King of the West Saxons, and his brother Alfred, in the former of which the ...