Books, Prehistory, Memoirs Historical and Topographical of Bristol by Samuel Seyer

Memoirs Historical and Topographical of Bristol by Samuel Seyer is in Prehistory.

Books, Prehistory, Memoirs Historical and Topographical of Bristol by Samuel Seyer, Memoirs Historical and Topographical of Bristol Volume 1

Books, Prehistory, Memoirs Historical and Topographical of Bristol by Samuel Seyer, Memoirs Historical and Topographical of Bristol Volume 1 Chapter

94. That system flourished in Britain especially, and was said to have been invented here; insomuch that those young men among the Gauls, who wished to be Jnore accurately instructed in it's mysteries resorted to Britain for that purpose. It is argued with the greatest probability by Rowland in his Mona Antiqua, that the metropolis or principal seat of Druidism was in the isle of Mona, that is Anglesea, where the Arch-druid resided, and where numberless vestiges of the order still remain. It is almost universally believed, that those circles and lines of vast upright stones such as Stone-henge, Abury and the like were constructed under their direction, and for their use. The parish of Stanton Drew in our neighbourhood contains a structure of this sort, which bas always been esteemed by Antiquaries, as one of those usually called Druidical temples. It has been described in the following books or plans. Musgrave in his Belgium Britannicum. Wood's Description Bath, 2 voll' 8vo' 1765. An anonymous writer in the Gentleman's Magazine, vol' LV, p' 762. Donne's Map of the country eleven miles round Bristol, in the corner; the anonymous author of a Dissertation on Stonage1; and particularly by Dr. Stukeley, in his Itinerarium curiosum. There appears notwithstanding to be still room for an exact description and plan of this interesting place.

Note 1. Published in Langtoft's Chron', Hearne's Works, vol' 4, p' 506.

95. Stanton Drew

95. Stanton Drew lies in Somersetshire, about seven miles from Bristol on the south, and on the further side of Dundry-hill. It's name sufficiently shews, that it was the Stone-town of the Druids. It contains three circles of stones, (beside some other stones contiguous to them), which are commonly called the Wedding, and a silly story is told, that the whole company were suddenly turned into stones: here stood the bride and bridegroom, here the fiddler, here a set of dancers The largest and the smallest circles are both situate in a field, called Stone-Close, adjoining to the dwelling house of Mr. Coates. The annexed plan represents the whole structure under the following rule: if the stone projects largely above the ground, it is represented by a black mark: if merely visible or tangible, by an outline: if quite under-ground, and only suspicious, by dots. The whole plan is made with great care, and is (as I believe) the first accurate one ever published. I have added two plates, giving a view of some of the most remarkable stones: the lithographic manner, in which they are represented, suits well with the rude appearance of the originals. The great circle according to my measurement is 342 feet diameter: Mr. Wood makes it 378, and Dr. Stukeley 300: the outward circle of stones at Stonehenge has only about 100 feet diameter, and that of Abury 1215 feet at the mean. The measurements in the Gent' Mag' are not worth attention. In the great circle at Stanton Drew only five stones are actually standing in their places; so that the first appearance is not particularly striking. How many there were originally it is impossible to ascertain, for the distances of those which remain are very irregular, and must have been so from the beginning, if the fallen stones still lie where they fell, which is probably the case. I have set down 27 in the plan, which (as I think) may be depended on; there were more without doubt: Dr. Musgrave, who wrote in 1718, supposes that there were once 32; probably there were many more. They were not perfect in his time: it is said in the village, that about 100 years ago, great depredations were made on them, and many were broken for the purpose of mending the road Dr. Stukeley says that about ten years before his time (he visited it in 1723) they suffered great dilapidation; until which time, he says, they were perfect. The greater part of them are magnesian limestone: but some are red sandstone, and some breccia.

96. In describing the large circle, I begin on the eastern side, where two stones No. I and 2 lie only 18 feet asunder from center to center, as they are all reckoned: they are now but small, being almost buried or broken off near the ground. They seem to have formed a gateway or entrance. The northernmost is No. 1, and appears to have been advanced about five feet out of the circumference toward the center.-—No. 3 is underground, but certainly there.—No. 4 lies prostrate almost wholly aboveground, eleven feet long, and three feet thick.— No. 5 is probably underground, because in a dry season the grass was burnt up.—No. 6 is underground, but certain.—No. 7, the same.—No. 8 is prostrate, almost buried, nine feet long.—No. 9, the same.—No. 10 suspicious, as No. 5.—No.11 stands upright, six feet high, four wide, thick.—No. 12 lies prostrate, eleven feet long, four wide, and three thick.—-No. 13 is probable as No. 5.—No. 14 is prostrate, ten feet high, six wide, and three thick.--—No. 15 is nearly certain.—No. 16 almost buried.—No. 17 stands upright, 7b feet high, about six feet thick, like a column, but strangely ragged and 18 is certainly there, but underground.---No. 19 is suspicious as No. 5.—No. 20 underground, but visible.—No. 21 is a very massy stone, lying prostrate, eight feet square, and three thick.—No. 22 is underground, but certain.—No. 23 stands upright, seven feet high, seven feet wide and three thick.—No. 24 is underground, but certain.—No. 25 is prostrate, of great dimensions, nine wide, and 2½ thick: it appears like a large plat- eleven feet high, form.—No. 20 is fallen flat and nearly buried: it is ten feet high, pointed on the top, and 4½ wide.—No. 27 is suspicious, as No. 5.—Connected with this great circle are five stones on the eastern side: it seems probable, that originally there were four or five more, and that they formed an acenue to the great circle. No. 28 is lying on the ground, almost oval, ten feet high, seven wide and four thick.—No. 20 is upright, six feet high and pointed, six wide, and three thick.—No. 30 is upright, eight feet high, seven feet wide, and four thick.—No. 31 is lying down, about four feet square, and l½ thick.—No. 32 is six feet high, three feet wide and three thick. The writer in the Gent' Mag' by help of some of these stones 28, 29 Sc endeavours to form teoo circles, not concentric, but intersecting each other. Even by this contrivance all the stones cannot be introduced; and in my judgement the scheme is wholly without foundation.

97. Eastward from the great circle is the circle of eight, the circumference of which is about 150 feet distant from that of the other. The diameter is about 94 or 96 feet: it consists of eight very large stones, half of them erect, and the others high above the ground, and the workmanship of them is far superior to that of the other circles, so that their appearance cannot fail to surprize. If Musgrave's view of them be correct, they were in his time all erect except one: their present state may be known by the following description. No. 1 consists of several pieces: there are two large stones lying prostrate, feet long; and four smaller pieces, perhaps fragments of a third large stone; one of which pieces is more than five feet high.—No. 2 is 12½ feet high perpendicularly: it bows to the north, being so placed originally, as I suppose.—No. $ is square and massive, about eight feet high, erect. This stone and it's opposite, No. 7, are a little retired out of the circumference, further from the center.—No. 4 is upright and perfect, ten feet high and 71 square.—No. 5 is upright and perfect, nine feet high, 5½ thick, nearly square.—No. $ is prostrate, ten feet high, six wide and one thick.—No. 7 is prostrate, 13 feet long, six feet wide and three thick.—No. 8 is the largest of all: it lies prostrate 151 high, and five feet square.—Eastward from hence are seven stones, adjoining to the last-mentioned circle; I suppose that there were three or four more originally, and that they formed an avenue to it. Musgrave supposes that these seven extrinsic stones and the five mentioned above, formed originally another circle, going round the circle of eight.— Stukeley goes further: he supposes that the circle of eight, by the help of these extrinsic stones, was at first five concentric circles: and Wood is still more extravagant. The notion of intersecting circles has been already mentioned. These conjectures appear to me very improbable, and without the least foundation the number of stones required to fill up such circles would be very great, and there are no traces of them. It is a mere dream of these Antiquaries.—No. 9 is broken off even with the ground; it was about seven feet high, and four wide.—No. 10 is upright, and six feet high.—No. Il is lying along, eight feet high, and four feet wide.—No. 12 lies prostrate, nine feet high, pointed on top, thick and square.—No. 13 is five feet high, and four feet thick, almost square.—No. 14 is only four feet high, 2½ wide, and one thick.—No. 15 is five feet high, and two feet thick.

98. We come now to the south-west circle, called by Stukeley the Lunar Temple, the centre of which is distant from the center of the great circle 714 feet, according to Wood's measurement; which distance could not be expressed in the subjoined plan. The diameter he reckons to be 140 feet; Stukeley only 120. It is situate partly in a field, and partly in an orchard, and consists of eleven or twelve stones, as follows.

No. 1 might have been about six feet high; and tolerably thick: it lies on the ground, broken into three pieces.—No. 2 is 13 feet long, lying almost buried in the ground: it appears to be not very wide.—No. 3 is seven feet high, and about foot square: it lies on the ground in the wall. nere is close to it another of the same kind five feet high, built also in the wall, brought probably from some other part of the same circle.—No. 4 is not more than four feet high, and is almost buried.— No. 5 the same.—No. 6 the same.—No. 7 lies on the ground, four feet long, and 3b wide.—No. 8 is underground, but certain.—No. 9 lies prostrate, five feet high, and three square.—No. 10 lies prostrate, eight feet long, three wide, and two thick.—No. 11 is prostrate, somewhat of an oval shape, ten feet long, five feet wide, and two feet thick.—All in this circle are rude and irregular, and probably some have disappeared.

99. North-west from the last circle, little more than 100 yards distant, is a Core [Stanton Drew Cove [Map]], ten feet wide and about eight feet deep, formed of three large flat stones 18 inches thick: they are reckoned by Wood to be 992 feet from the centre of the great circle. The stone which formed the back is thrown down, and apparently two corners are broken out: it is 13 feet long, perhaps two feet of it were underground. The south-western stone is standing in it's place, eleven feet high. The north-eastern is standing, only five feet high; whether it was once higher, which is probable, cannot be ascertained. Such coves are supposed to have been erected for judicial purposes, where the Druids sat and administered justice to the neighbouring tribe. This cove [Map] is within a stone's throw from the Church of Stanton Drew.

100. North or north-westward from this cove are two large stones lying flat in a field, called Lower Tyning: they are said by Wood to be 3250 feet (i.e. two-thirds of a mile) from the center of the great circle.—Lastly, north-east from the great circle beyond the brook by the side of the road, as you approach Stanton Drew from the east, is a very large stone, called Hackell's Quoit [Map]: others call it Hackham's, and Ackam's, and Hakim's Quoit; but I am informed that the first is the proper orthography, derived from Hawkwell, a former possessor of land on the spot; but Stukeley calls him "Hautvill, a famous champion, of whom Legends are printed under the name of Sir John Hawkwell, as vulgarly pronounced."—lf the preceding account be compared with that given by Stukeley, it will be found, that this interesting monument of our ancestors, has suffered no discernible damage, since the time when that learned Antiquary visited it about A'D' 1723. A reprint of his and Musgrave's Views would be essentially useful for a History of the Britons. Stukeley supposes the original number of stones to have been about 100, the hypothesis of concentric circles inducing him to set down the number beyond all bounds of probability. My conjecture would be, not more than 60. Beside which some others, as it is said by the neighbours, lie on the ground unnoticed in unfrequented parts of the parish.

101. When or for what purpose this and other such monuments were erected can only be conjecture. That they were built by the Romans or under their direction, as Inigo Jones supposed, is too absurd to be argued. Equally strange is the notion, that they were erected by the Phænicians, as Sammes and others assert. The Phonicians for the purpose of their traffc might perhaps have formed some temporary settlements in Cornwall: but how they could erect so many and so prodigious buildings in Gaul, in Britain, and generally through the whole north-west of Europe, and often in inland places, situations to which they could not have penetrated, is quite inexplicable. That they were all erected by the Saxons, is impossible; for they are found in Cornwall, Wales, Cumberland, Ireland, and Scotland, where the Saxons never prevailed: that they were any of them built by the Saxons (parti- cularly Stonehenge) is incredible. While they and the Britons were engaged in a relentless warfare, how could the labor of a whole nation be spared for the purpose of erecting Stonehenge or Abury! Beside, we have. the Saxon history of England so well told, that we should certainly know the time of their erection, if they were built by the Saxons. Concerning Stonehenge there is a fable, that it was built in memory of the massacre of the British chiefs by Ilengist, and hence the name Stonehenge. To the many obsersations which have been made on this notion, I add the two following. The word itself is perhaps a corruption of Stoneage, that is, a place of stones; so it is written in the margin of the old edition of Camden; and never otherwise by the author quoted above 94: and by the same name a hill in Tickenham near Bristol is called, as being covered with stones. But secondly, if Stone- benge were built by the Saxons under Ilengist, it must however have been tljeiryrst building of that sort: but Abury and Stanton Drew were certainly built long before it, consisting of stones rough and shape- less; whereas Stonehenge was an elegant structure, having the stones bewn into a regular form, apparently the consummation of that style of architecture. If then such stone buildings were formed neither by the Romans nor the Saxons, they must be the work of the ancient inhabitants of Britain, before the arrival of the Romans; ours at Stanton Drew probably many hundred years before that event: Dr. Stukeley considers it to be far more ancient than Abury itself.