CWAAS Transactions 1880 Article VII Long Meg and Her Daughters

CWAAS Transactions 1880 Article VII Long Meg and Her Daughters is in CWAAS Transactions 1880 Article VII.

1599. LONG MEG AND HER DAUGHTERS [Map].—The earliest published account of these remains is that of Camden, who made a survey of Cumberland in 1599. He says:-1

At Little Salkeld there is a circle of stones, 77 in number, each ten foot high; and before these, at the entrance, is a single one by itself, fifteen foot high. This the common people call Long-Megg, and the rest her daughters; and within the circle are two eaps of stones, under which they say there are dead bodies bury'd. And indeed 'tis probable enough that this has been a monument erected in memory of some victory."

In a note, the editor adds:-2

"The heaps of stones in the middle of this monument, are no part of it; but have been gather'd off the plough'd-lands adjoyning, and (as in many other parts of the County) have been thrown up here together in a waste corner of the field. Both this and Rolrich-stones in Oxfordshire, may seem to be monuments erected at the solemn Investiture of some Danish Kings; and of the same kind as the Kongstolen in Denmark, and Moresteen in Sweeden."

The latest edition of the same work supplies the following supplementary matter,—the quotation from Stukeley, given in extenso below, being omitted:-3

"Long Meg and her daughters [Map], in Addingham parish, q.d. Ald Hengham, a town at the old hanging stones, is a druidical circle, 300 feet diameter, of 100 stones of which 67 are now standing. At the south side 15 paces south-west at the distance of 70 feet or 40 yards is an upright squarish stone near 15 feet in girth, and 12 high, and near two yards square at bottom and hollow at top like a Roman altar, one of its angles turned to the circle, and each angle answering to a cardinal point, and near it next the circle four large stones, or as Stukeley three, forming an altar or sacellum, and two towards the east, west, and north."4

Note 1. Britannia, Gibson's ed., p. 831.

Note 2. Ibid., p. 831.

Note 3. Camden's Britannia, Gough's 2nd ed., 1806, Vol. III., p. 444.

Note 4. The authorities referred-to in this quotation are, Dr. Todd, Hutchinson, Gentleman's Magazine, 1752, p. 311, Stukeley, I, p. 47, Burn's History of Cumberland, II, p. 448.

1650. Writing about fifty years later than Camden, Aubrey has a note on Long Meg. He says his information was derived "from Mr. Hugh Tod, Fellow of University College in Oxford, a Westmorland man," and it runs thus5"In little Salkeld in Westmorland are stones in an orbicular figure about seventie in number which are called Long Meg and her daughters [Map], Long Meg is about yards: and about fifteen yards distant from the rest." And he incidentally adds:—"Quære Mr. Robinson the minister there, about the Giants bone, and Body found there. The Body is in the middle of the orbicular stones."

The same writer has the following, which can hardly have referred to any other than the circle in question, whose distance from Kirk Oswald is only about three miles,—there being, so far as is known, no other sufficiently important example in that neighborhood.2

"From Sr. Will. Dugdale Clarenceaux: but 'tis not entred in his Visitation of Cumberland; but was forgot by his servant. In Cumberland neer Kirk-Oswald is a Circle of stones of about two hundred in number, of severall Tunnes. The Diameter of this Circle is about the diameter (he guesses) of the Thames from the Heralds Office, which by Mr. J. Ogilby's Mappe of London is [880] foot. In the middle are two Tumuli, or Barrowes of Cobble-stones, nine or ten foot high."

The width of the river, left blank in the original, has been supplied by measurement on a modern plan of London. It is singular that the exaggeration of the diameter (really averaging 332 feet) is closely proportionate to that of the number of stones, as compared with the number (about 70) given in the former account, with which, and with Camden's, this latter seems to harmonize in relation to the inclosed sepulchral traces.

Note 1. From Part I, Monumenta Britannica, M.S., in the Bodleian.

Note 2. Ibid.

1725. The next observer in order of date is Stukeley (age 37), who in 1725 says:- 1

"Mr. Patten and I went to view that fameous monument of antiquity called Long Meg and her Daughters [Map], in the parish of Aldingham, between Little Salkeld and Glassenby. It stands upon a barren elevated plain of high ground, under the vast hill called Crossfell to the east. This plain declines to the east gently, or rather north-east, for that I find to be the principal line observed by the founders. It is a great Celtic temple, being a circle of 300 feet in diameter, consisting of 100 stones: they are of unequal bulk: some are of very large dimensions: many are standing, but more fallen, and several carried away: but lately they have destroyed some by blasting, as they call it, i.e. blowing them in pieces with gunpowder; others they have sawed for mill stones: but the major part remaining, gives one a great idea of the whole; and it is a most noble work. The stones are not all of the same kind: some made of square crystallisations, (of the same sort as those at Shap) and I saw many of that sort of stone scattered about the country: others of the blue hard flaky sort, like those of the temple at Mayborough. The intervals are not exactly equal, but judiciously adapted to the bulks of the stones, to preserve as much as possible a regular appearance. This large ring thus declining north-east is now parted through by a ditch, so that the larger half lies in an inclosure, the other in a common; and the road lies by the side of it, that goes from Little Salkeld to Glassenby. South-west from it seventy foot, stands a very great and high stone, called Long Meg [Map], of a reddish grit, seeming to have been from the side of some quarry of the country: I think it leans a little north-east; it is about fifteen foot high. In the middle of the circle, are two roundish plots of ground, of a different colour from the rest apparently, and more stoney and barren, which probably were the immediate places of burning the sacrifices or the like. Not far from hence toward Glassenby is a very fine spring: whence no doubt, they had the element of water, used at their religious solemnities: and higher up the field is a large spring, intrenched about with a vallum and foss, of a pretty great circumference, but no depth. Full south-west from this work, in the next enclosure and higher ground, is another circle of lesser stones in number twenty: the circle is 50 foot diameter: and at some distance above it is another stone placed regarding it, as Meg does the larger circle. In that part of the greater circle next the single stone, called Meg, are two stones standing beyond the circle a little, and another fallen: which I believe were a sort of sacellum, perhaps for the pontifex to officiate in: and westward is another stone or two, perhaps of a like work: but the ruinous condition of the work would not admit of any certainty about it."

Note 1. Iter curiosum, ed. of 1776, Vol. II, P. 47.

As to the number of stones, which Stukeley here puts down at 100, the above quotations from earlier authors shew that it must have been his estimate of what constituted the complete work, rather than a record of the number that then remained to be counted.

1752. An account of Long Meg [Map], written by G. S[mith] , appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine for July, 1752, p. 311. Omitting his opinions and reflexions, the most important of the writer's facts (several of which are quite erroneous) are thus recorded:-

[The eminence on which the remains are situated] "appears to have been all moor formerly, but now about half the stones are within enclosures, placed in an orbicular form, in some places double. [Doubtless, this refers to the gateway, and, perhaps also, to the position of No. 25.] I make 70 principal ones, but there are 1 or 2 more disputable; several lie flat on the surface, their greatest eminence not exceeding a foot, others yet less, and others perpendicular to the horizon; the highest of those in the circular range does not much exceed 3 yards, nor is it more than 4 wide, and 2 deep; but none of them have a regularity of shape. * * * Long Meg herself is near four yards high, and about 40 yards from the ring, towards the south west, but leans much, it being of what they call the free-stone kind, is more regular than those in the circle, and is formed like a pyramid on a rhomboidal base, each side being near two yards at the bottom, but a good deal narrower at top. * * * The others in the orbicular range are of the kind of stone to be found in that neighbourhood, and the four facing the cardinal points are by far the largest and most bulky of the whole ring. * * * In diameter the ring may be 80 yards or more, and the circle is pretty regular."

Spencer has a short early notice1, evidently culled from Camden.

Note 1. English Traveller, 1773, p. 560.

1773. Hutchinson, who visited Long Meg [Map] in 1773, gives a plan and a view of the circle, both drawn conventionally —the latter quite worthless. The plan represents 64 stones (2 less than the number still remaining) undistinguished as to attitude, all nearly of the same size and shape, and ranged on a true circle. Two additional stones outside the ring form the cheeks of an entrance, opposite to the centre of which, and in close proximity, Long Meg is placed. The author describes these remains in the following terms:- 1

"Near to Little Salkeld, on the summit of a large hill, inclining a little towards the north, we had the pleasure of seeing a large and perfect druidical monument, called by the country people Meg and her Daughters. A circle of three hundred and fifty paces circumference is formed by massy stones, most of which remain standing upright; —these are sixty-seven in number, of various qualities, unhewn or touched with any tool, and seem by their form to have been gathered from the suface of the earth;—some are of blue and grey limestone, some of granite, and some flints;•--many of such of them as were standing, measured from twelve to fifteen feet in girt, and ten feet in height; others of an inferior size.—At the southern side of this circle, at the distance of seventeen paces from its nearest member, is placed an upright stone naturally of a square form, being a red free stone, with which the country about Penrith abounds.—This stone is placed with one of its angles towards the circle, is near fifteen feet in girt, and eighteen feet high; each angle of its square answering to a cardinal point.—In that part of the circle most contiguous to the column, four large stones are placed in a square form, as if they had constructed or supported the altar: and towards the east, west, and north, two large stones are placed, at greater distances from each other than any of the rest, as if they had formed the entrances into this mystic round.—What creates great astonishment to the spectator is, that no such stones, or any quarry or bed of stones are to be found within a great distance of this place; and how such massy bodies could be moved, in an age when the mechanical powers were little known, is not to be conceived. * * In Camden's description of this place, we find him mistaken, both as to the number of stones in the circle, and in his assertion, that within the circle were heaps of stones, which he was told covered those slain in fight.—There is not the least appearance of any such tumuli or heaps of stones.—He took many of his northern remarks from hearsay only, from whence he was liable to the errors discovered in his works."

Note 1. Excursion to the Lakes, pp. 108—111.

Though the stones vary in composition, it may here be noted that none of them are of granite.

Grose gives a view of this circle, looking west, from a sketch taken in 1774, while the wall of the intersecting road was standing, and the fallen stones in the field beyond were hidden by standing corn. His account1 is merely a summary of Hutchinson's, and repeats its errors.

Note 1. Antiq. Repert., reprint of 1809, Vol. IV, P. 458.

Nicolson and Burn notice this circle1, and state the number of stones as 72; but Hutchinson, repeating in another work2 particulars quoted above, corrects this, reporting that it should be 67.

Note 1. Hist. Cumb. and Westm., Vol. II, p. 448.

Note 2. Hist. Cumb., Vol. I., p. 226.

Otley writes as follows, merely giving the substance of Hutchinsons' description:—1

A monument of the same kind [as the Keswick circle] , but of far larger dimensions, called Long Meg and her Daughters [Map], stands near Little Salkeld, seven miles N.E. of Penrith. This circle is 350 paces in circumference, and is composed of 67 massy unformed stones, many of them 10 feet in height. At seventeen paces from the southern side of the circle, stands Long Meg [Map] square unhewn column of red freestone, nearly 15 feet in girth, and 18 feet high."

Note 1. Guide to the Lakes, 8th ed., 1849, p. 67.

Lastly, I quote Dr. Fergusson's account:—1

"About half a mile from Little Salkeld is the circle known popularly as Long Meg and her Daughters, sixty-eight in number, if each stone represents one. It is about 330 feet (too mètres) in diameter, but does not form a perfect circle. The stones are unhewn boulders, and very few of them are now erect. Outside the circle stands Long Meg [Map] herself, of a different class of stone from the others, about 12 feet high, and apparently hewn, or at all events shaped, to some extent." After quoting Camden, he proceeds:—"I am not aware that the centre has ever been dug into with a view of looking for interments. My impression, however, is that the principal interment was outside, and that Long Meg [Map] marks either the head or the foot of the chief's grave." In a note, he adds:--"On this stone (Long Meg) Sir Gardner Wilkinson traced one of those circles of concentric rings which are so common on stones in the north of England. I did not see it myself, but assuming it to be true,—which I have no doubt it is,—it will not help us much till we know when and by whom these circles were engraved."

Note 1. Rude Stone Structures, p. 127.

All traces of the two cairns have long since been obliterated by cultivation. The number of stones 69, exclusive of several rather large fragments lying by the road-side; so that it seems we may go back even to Aubrey's date without finding that these remains have been subjected to much numerical loss. There can, however, be no doubt, after hearing the reports of people on the spot as to the depredations of former occupiers of the ground, that the sizes of many of the stones must have been reduced even in recent times. Among the largest of the prostrate ones, are two measuring respectively io ft. by 8 ft. 8 ins., and 9 ft. 11 ins. by 8 ft. 6 ins. A sufficient number remain erect to shew that this peristalith was an irregular oval—the departure from continuity of line being very manifest on the northern side, especially about the stones numbered 24, 25, and 26. It may, however, be well to note that No. 25 is so much inclined as to make it difficult to decide in which category it should be put. Thus, it may possibly not be in situ; and yet, even with this angle removed, No. 24 is still considerably out of the run of the curve. The eastern face of Long Meg [Map] only one that is really flat—points 261° west of north. The spacing of the stones seems to be a mean between the open order and the close; and, if we supply seven evident gaps with one stone each, we shall obtain an average distance, from centre to centre of successive stones, of a little over 14 feet. The aspect of the gateway is nearly south-west, and slightly up-hill, in contrast to the majority of examples which I have seen, and which usually look toward a valley with a stream. The limited time of my visit was too entirely absorbed in the work of the survey to permit examination and delineation of the cup-and-ring-marks noticed by Sir J. G. Wilkinson, and shown in Professor Sir J. Y. Simpson's work on cup-and-ring-marking.1 Since the memoranda on the plan were written, I have met with additional evidence in support of the theory that the stones of this circle were erratic blocks, found on the spot.

Note 1. Proc. Soc. Ant. Scot., Vol. VI, Appendix, Pl. VII.

The smaller circle with external mênhir, mentioned in the passage from Gough's Camden, quoted above, was not reported to me when on the spot; and, possibly, may not now exist. Another circle, of intermediate size, called the Grey Yawd, is described by Nicolson and Burn1 as on the summit of a fell called King Harry, in the parish of Cumwhitton, 7 miles south-east of Carlisle, and 7 miles north-west of Kirk Oswald; and as consisting of about 88 stones, in an exact circle, 52 yards in diameter; one stone, larger than the rest, standing out of the circle, about 5 yards north-west.

Note 1. Hist. Cumb. and Westm., Vol. II, P. 495.