Kittens born in May are even still proverbially spoken of and looked upon as bad mousers. I only within the present year heard a female say that “she wad nivver mair keep a May kitten as lang as she lived, for they were just good for naught at all!” [They are unlucky to keep; and besides, they suck the breath of very young infants: Long Benton, Newcastle.}DT 1859
Still-born and unbaptised children, persons executed in accordance with the law, felo-de-se,* and in fact all persons who laid violent hand on their own persons and brought themselves to an unnatural death, persons excommunicated either by ecclesiastical or civil law, and a variety of other offences deprived those so transgressing of the benefit of Christian interment – that is, there was neither service nor tolling of bell. They were also buried “within the night on the backside of the church.”
This antipathy to interment on the north also in a minor degree extended itself to the west end of the church. Witness the west end of the cemetery garth at High Coniscliffe, near Darlington, where till almost within the period of living memory no interments had taken place, the south and east portions alone being used.
We took a drive up to Northumberland to visit the most northerly English Stone Circle, Duddo aka The Singing Stones aka The Women.
Whilst in the area we dropped in at a couple of Prehistoric Rock Art sites. First stop was Roughting Linn where ate our lunch down besides the lovely waterfall. We then walked through the bluebell-clad ramparts of the ancient promontory fort to the large outcrop in the woods. The Fell Sandstone outcrop is covered in Prehistoric rock carvings and is the largest carved rock in Britain. The most of the carvings have been placed around the edges of the outcrop and have been compared to Irish Passage Grave Art.
This part of Northumberland is littered with Prehistoric Rock Art sites, most have wonderful views over the nearby fertile valleys. Many sites are intervisible with each other, quite a few also have nearby earthworks which have been interpreted as Iron Age in date. The carvings themselves are thought to be Neolithic/Early Bronze Age in date, the relationship between the carvings and the earthworks is not fully understood but it does indicate that these sites had a degree of continuity lasting for a considerable period of time.
We headed over to Weetwood Moor to check-out the carvings on the outcrops there before moving on to Chattonpark hill and the wonderful Ketley Crags, a Prehistoric Rock Shelter, its floor covered in deep cup and ring carvings.
On such a night the hills dissolved
And re-assembled in a shifting mist,
Numb with moonlight’s touch.
We learnt that silence was not hostile,
Took upon ourselves its deepest strength
Waiting for dawn’s layered sun.
A moon that placed
As crow’s shout cracked the sky
Fled from the triggered bird-song
Hesitant, then loud.
Before our eyes, a second birth,
A new-created universe,
Green and blue and gold.
Fluted stones whose shape had shifted
With emitted heat
From bearded barley heads,
Buried to the hips,
Reclaimed their circle and identity,
Guarding and inviting
As the sun’s diurnal course
Played a slow game
With shadow shapes
Time and time and time again.
Solstice: Duddo by Stan Beckensall from Northumberland Power of Place. 2001
Map and Lidar images by permission of the National Library of Scotland
8:20 Aberdeen to Darlington. Seat 66. View West.
Part One of a short series of films made by Bob Fischer and Andrew T Smith for Local History Month.
Each episode also features an original soundtrack written and performed by Oli Heffernan aka Ivan the Tolerable.
Another one of Graham’s beautiful films. Filmed during a walk we took around the Bran Sands, using an ancient Ensign Auto-Kinecam camera and 16mm film hand processed in Ilford ID-11. The soundtrack was created by Greg Marshall
Nine circles do I round ye run,
on each a black bean. Every one
to a black beetle turneth.
Nine spiders now about you spin their arran webs,
to ward off what’s out, to guard what’s in,
should ill clouds hang aboon ye.
Nine feathers now round ye fly,
each bird doth watch baith yeth and sky,
should ought ill come again ye
From Marvels, Magic & Witchcraft in the North Riding of Yorkshire. David Kirby. 2005
Heading north out of Wolds I crossed into North Yorkshire and stopped to check out St Nicholas church at North Grimston. The church was built in the 12th century and has been remodelled over the years.
There are a number of corbels on the south wall, two of which are reputed to be of the exhibitionist type, one depicts a character gripping his ankles baring his backside and groin to the viewer, the other is a bloke in a similar position but with his penis in his hand. Sadly both are very worn and the detail is lost.
Rita Wood thinks that this carving of two animals may once have been from the original south doorway which was replaced in the 13th century. It reminded me of the small panel on the church at Newton under Roseberry.
I tried the church door, fully prepared to be disappointed, it opened, another jaw-dropping moment. I’d seen pictures of this stunning font but to have it there in front of me, to be able to put my hands on it, is an indescribable joy.
The font is one of the biggest in the country and depicts the the last supper and the crucifixion. There is a depiction of a bishop too, it seems to be the way of things that the bishop gets to feature on the font, I guess he commissioned this thing of beauty so pretty much deserves to be there.
The chancel arch, if I were to see this in any of our local churches I’d get quite excited but all I could think about was the magnificent font.
Back outside the church I took another wander around the walls. There are a number of small crosses scratched into the east and west walls, the crosses have been defined by four dots. I presume these are consecration crosses, places where the bishop anointed the original church with holy oil.
In old Norse Grimr is used as a byname for Óðinn. The name is identical with ON grimr ‘a person who conceals his name’, lit. ‘a masked person’, and related to OE grima ‘a mask’. It refers, like Grimnir to Óðinn‘s well known habit of appearing in disguise. No dout the Saxons used Grim in the same Way.E. Ekwall
The Buildings of England Yorkshire: York and the East Riding – Nikolaus Pevsner and David Neave. 1997
Romanesque Yorkshire. Yorkshire Archaeological Society. Occasional Paper No. 9 – Rita Wood. 2012
The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names. Eilert Ekwall. 1974