Books, Prehistory, Long Barrows of the Cotswolds, Section 2 Long Barrows, Herefordshire

 60 Arthurs Stone 61 Park Wood

Herefordshire is in Section 2 Long Barrows.

Books, Prehistory, Long Barrows of the Cotswolds, Section 2 Long Barrows, Herefordshire, 60 Arthurs Stone

Arthur's Stone Long Barrow [Map]

Herefordshire, 31 N.E. Parish of Dorstone. 60*.

Latitude 52° 04' 55". Longitude 2° 59' 38". Height above O.D. about 930 feet.

This monument is under the protection of the Ancient Monuments Department of the Office of Works ; the key is kept at Caeperthy Farm, 500 yards E.S.E. of the monument. It is clearly the remains of a cham- bered Long Barrow, the mound being still visible around the burial chamber and still distinguishable to the N.W., where it is crossed by the lane known as Arthur's Stone Lane. The northern hedge of this lane forms here the boundary between the parishes of Dorstone and Bred- wardine. The remains consist of a large burial-chamber and capstone still covering it, with a short approaching "passage" of two upright slabs on the N.W. At right angles to this passage, to the N.W. of it and on the S.W. side of the mound, is another passage formed of two uprights on each side, the space between each of the uprights being filled with smaller stones of which vestiges remain. The capstone itself is very large, about 1 5 feet by 9 feet across the middle where it is broken across. It has also split horizontally and a large "flake" has become detached ; this is due to the original "false-bedded" stratification of the sandstone of which it is formed. The capstone covers a chamber of polygonal shape formed by the uprights still in position (including one fallen). The plan of the chamber resembles that at Gwernvale (Brecknockshire), Hengwm (Merio- nethshire), and some of the Gloucestershire examples, but at Gwernvale the capstone is now gone. There is now a space of 2 feet or more between the uprights, filled originally, no doubt, by smaller stones built in, as in the S.W. passage. The orientation of the mound is from slightly W. of N. to E. of S., the chamber being at the southern end. At the south end, 10 feet south of the south end of the capstone, is an isolated upright slab (long axis East-West) with a fallen (?) stone lying at its side in contact with it. Possibly this may be the remains of the surround- ing wall of uprights, of which there are no other traces ; it is difficult otherwise to explain its purpose. At about 2 feet from the ground on the northern face of this stone, is a horizontal row of about a dozen "cup-markings," the size of a large finger-dint ; no opinion is hazarded as to their age or origin. Higher up on the same face are names cut by visitors in 1912 and at earlier dates. The view from the spot is magnificent, especially southwards towards Abergavenny and across to the Black Mountains. Visited August 15th, 1921.

The site was visited on July 26th, 1872 by the members of the Woolhope Club, when an account of it was read and published in the Transactions for 1872, pp. 4 and 5; the following is an extract:-

"The stone .... is still supported by the six smaller stones upon which it was originally placed. It is surrounded at about 8 feet distance by a circle of stones of considerable size, which are now mostly covered with greensward. There seems to have been an inner circle of upright stones about 4 feet high, of which only four are now to be traced, the remainder having probably been broken up and carried off to mend the road. ... One of these stones which is singularly marked as though with a gigantic thumb and two fingers, lies on the roadside, where it is shown by some relaters of local tradition as bearing the marks of King Arthur's knees, as he knelt down ; while others declare that the marks are those of his thumb and fingers when he was playing at quoits. The marks themselves seem to have been produced by water. , . How the stone reached its present position is a matter for conjecture, but it is probable that it was, with other smaller stones, brought from the Wye."

It is more probable that the stones described as ranged in a circle round the chamber are the remains of an encircling "peristalith" enclosing the mound. With the exception of the southernmost described above they seem to have disappeared. The stone by the roadside is still there, but lies outside the railing of H.M. Office of Works, in the ditch.

In an essay on the monument published in the same Transactions (1881, pp. 175-180), the then President of the Woolhope Club [G. H. Piper] gave two illustrations of it, one as it was in 1804, and one as it was in 1881. In the former it appears to have been in much the same state as it is now. Piper adds a few details not in the earlier account, such as the name of the hill on which it stands, which is now spelt Mer- bach, but was spelt Morbridge on the old MS 2 in. Ordnance Survey map of 1814. He also says: "The whole [' cromlech '] stands on a mound of oval shape, its long axis 20 yards, its short axis 10 yards." (p. 177). This is a good example of inaccurate observation. The stones, all of them, rest on the natural surface of the ground, and though doubtless originally their lower portions were more covered by the mound than at present, they can never have stood on the mound by any possibility whatever. (This error is worth special notice, since it proves that, in an instance where it is possible to test this very common assertion by actual observation, it is found to be untrue. It is unlikely that similar state- ments of other "cromlechs" said to stand upon mounds, contain any more accurate basis in fact). Piper quotes an account of the chamber in 1728-9 by Nathaniel Salmon (born about 1676), who says it was called "Artil's Stone, corrupted probably from Arthur's Stone." Piper adds: "Salmon's details. . prove that the appearance of the crom- lech is now much the same as it was 200 years ago. The great top stone was then broken, and the description generally would apply to the present state of this curiously interesting ruin."

Nathaniel Salmon. A new Survey of England, wherein the defects of Camden are supplied and the errors of his followers remarked. 1728-9,

Transactions of the Woolhope Club, 1872, pp. 4 and 5; 1881, pp. 175-180; 1901-2, pp. 194-9; (and a paper by Mr. J. G. Wood, read May 27th, 1920.)

Arch. Camb., 2 S. V., 94-6.

Beauties of England and Wales, by E. W. Brayley and J. Britton, VoL ¥i, 1805, p. 545.

Books, Prehistory, Long Barrows of the Cotswolds, Section 2 Long Barrows, Herefordshire, 61 Park Wood

Park Wood Long Barrow [Map]

Herefordshire, 38 S.W. Parish of St. Margaret's. 61.

In describing a cruciform earthwork (probably a mediaeval enclosure bank) in St. Margaret's Park Wood, the late Mr. George Clinch says: "About 250 yards N.E. of this earthwork, there is (or was in 1854 when the account was written), a flat, horizontal slab of limestone like the upper stone of a cromlech." Its form was oval, measuring 27 feet 6 inches by 9 feet 6 inches, with an average thickness of 2 feet 6 inches. "This stone " the writer of the account in A.J. referred to by Mr. Clinch (the Rev. Dr. Jenkins of Hereford) continues, "lies on the declivity of the wooded hill, its face on the western side being level with the adjacent surface of the ground and on this side there is a trench, 2 feet wide and 2½ feet deep, which appears to have been at one time much deeper, and to have been filled up by soil brought down by the rain into it. On the east side, and partly on the north, the ground slopes from it, and a cavity appears under the slab. Half a century ago, as stated by an old man in the neighbourhood, it stood wholly free from the ground on certain upright stones. There is still at the west end of the slab, but now at a slight distance from it, an upright stone, flat at top, which may have originally been one of those on which it was supported. It seems probable that these may be the remains of a fallen cromlech." This conclusion seems highly probable from the account quoted. A careful search failed, however, to discover it, although the cruciform earthwork was located; nor did local enquiries prove more successful. The site is now a thick wood (called St. Margaret s Park Wood on the old Ordnance Survey 2 in. to the mile MS map of 1814) and the "park" applied to it, though doubtless historically correct, is misleading, since there has not been for a very long time at any rate, anything like a modern park here. Visited August 17th, 1921.

Arch. Journal, XI., 1854, pp. 55-6, (the Rev. Dr. Jenkins).

Victoria County History (Herefordshire) Vol. I., 1908, p. 160 (Mr. George Clinch).

Compare Gentleman's Magazine, 1853, Part II., pp. 387-9 (Gent's Mag. Library, ed by G. L. Gomme, Archaseology, Part I., pp. 269-273 ; account of cruciform mound etc., by Thomas Jenkins, but no mention of the "cromlech.")