I had the pleasure of chatting about our current exhibition to Dave Robson of Zetland FM. Interview starts at around 2:20:00
Circumstances have prevented me from visiting our joint exhibition, so this week we took a trip over to Grasmere to have a look. I was impressed with the way that the Heaton Cooper Studio has presented our work. The exhibition runs until the 29th May.
A few years ago I bought an album of old french postcards themed around prehistoric monuments and natural rock features.
This sparked a short obsession with prehistoric postcards. I bought most of them from ebay and boot sales, setting myself the challenge of paying no more than a pound or two for each card. The obsession burned itself out after a year or two so and I decided to put the collection online for anyone to use. I uploaded about a third of the cards and then kind of lost interest. I’ll return to it one day and finish the job.
If this sort of thing interests you, the collection can be found here
My friend Tony Galuidi asked me if I’d be interested in a joint exhibition, I agreed and here it is. If you like big old prehistoric stones and you happen to find yourself in Cumbria, pop in and have a look.
I recently saw this wonderful illustration of Yorkshire Megaliths. I contacted the author, Adam Morgan Ibbotson, and he kindly sent me a copy.
I was rather chuffed, Adam wrote one of my favourite books of 2021, Cumbria’s Prehistoric Monuments. It’s a lovely book, comprehensive, very readable with beautiful photographs, maps and illustrations. If prehistory and big old stones are your thing, you’ll love this. You can buy it here
Last week I learned that Harry Aubrey Woodruff Burl had passed away at the age of 93.
Sometime in the mid 1980’s I discovered a book in a second hand bookshop called The Stone Circles of the British Isles by Aubrey Burl. I bought it, read it and re-read it, it changed my world.
Prior to finding Burl’s book, I had an interest in all things ancient and had visited quite a few prehistoric sites. My views were shaped by the writings of Janet & Colin Bord, John Michell and other writers of the alternative archaeology community. Burl’s book propelled me into the world of Prehistoric Archaeology and set me on a path that I am still happily travelling.
Burl’s field guide, A Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, is a must for anyone interested in the subject. My dog-eared copy has travelled the length and breadth of Britain with me. It has led me over fields, across bogs and empty moors, walking in his steps, seeking out the megalithic remains of our islands.
Burl was my entry into the world of prehistory, once discovered my bookshelves soon started to fill not only with his works but books by Daniels, Hawkes, Bradley, Waterhouse, Thom, Barnatt and Piggott to name a few.
Burl also taught me to look back to the work of the early antiquarians such as Aubrey, Stukeley, Camden, Ferguson and Borlase. I also sought out the work of more recent researchers, people who marked the transition from Antiquarianism into modern Archaeology such as Fred Cole, Sir James Simpson, Canon Greenwell, Collingwood Bruce and Frank Elgee.
When travelling to a previously unvisited area, I always consult Burl and mark my maps accordingly. I’ve explored Brittany using his Megalithic Brittany book as my guide, on my first trip to Avebury I used his itinerary to discover the stones, he has never let me down. Aubrey Burl was my teacher and my guide and I am sad that he is no longer with us.
It has been hard pleasure to see so many fine circles in Western Europe. They are one family, now dispersed, a megalithic confusion of parents, children, nieces and nephews, in-laws, second cousins, even some dubious offspring at the furthest edge of acceptability…They fascinate and perplex. Enjoy them.
A Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Britanny. A Burl 1995
I’ve been exploring this moor for many years.
The Kopstone, gatekeeper of the moor. Looking towards Shap with the Howgills in the distance. The low escarpment on the upper left of the picture is Knipe Scar with its limestone stone circle, part of a chain of at least a dozen intervisible prehistoric monuments in the Lowther valley from Oddendale in the south to the Leacet circle in the north.
There is a loose alignment of monuments running across the moor, walking between this large pair of stones leads you towards the cairn circle known as Moor Divock 4
Stan Beckensall believes that the roughly circular area, below the arrow in the picture, is an eroded cup and ring motif. I have stared at this stone many times and in many lights, the eye of faith is required.
Moving west, this embanked alignment of large upright stones has previously been interpreted as the remains of a circle.
Continuing west, an avenue of small, paired stones leads you across the moor towards the White Raise Cairn
Arriving at White Raise the western landscape opens out, the builders of the mound chose well when they selected this spot. The large white limestone block in the centre of the picture is thought to have served as a cover for the cist.
Onwards across the moor following the route of the Roman Road which deviates towards the circle indicating that this route existed long before the Romans arrived on our shores
When the Bronze Age people erected the monuments on the moor, the Cockpit may have already been regarded as an ancient monument.
The Cockpit was probably the first stone circle I ever visited.
Looking west across the moor from the Cockpit to White Raise and the Pennines beyond. Thinking about the journey home.
The Prehistoric Remains on Moordivock near Ullswater by M. Waistell Taylor. TCWAAS 001. 1886
The Stone Circles of Cumbria by John Waterhouse. Phillimore & Co. 1985
Map extract Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
I recently bought a copy of a new book called The Old Stones. The Book describes itself as ‘A Field Guide to the Megalithic sites of Britain and Ireland’ and ‘the most comprehensive and democratically selected list of prehistoric sites that has ever been put in a book like this.’ The book is a collaborative work and utilises the knowledge and experience of the users of the Megalithic Portal website.
I have been visiting prehistoric sites around Britain and Europe for over 30 years but I don’t consider myself experienced enough to give a qualified opinion on the national coverage of the book so I’ll focus on the treatment of North Yorkshire and Cumbria.
The gazetteer covers the major monuments of the Yorkshire Wolds, the Ure-Swale Plateau and a couple of Pennine sites. Sadly only two North York Moors sites have made it into the book, Nab Ridge and The High and Low Bridestones. Both of these are lovely sites although it could be argued that the Low Bridestones are merely a group of fairly underwhelming low walls. There is no mention of any of the impressive moorland standing stones or burial monuments. Even the nationally important prehistoric rock art site of Fylingdales Moor with its 200+ carved rocks and monuments, fails to get a mention.
The book then travels westwards to Cumbria and manages to capture many significant Cumbrian sites. Surprisingly the Greycroft and Elva Plain circles fail to get a mention. After Cumbria the book back-tracks east to Barningham Moor, then jumps 60 miles north to Northumberland.
The book promotes itself as a field guide, this is only part true, in eastern Cumbria it would be a handy book to keep in your car but in the case of the North York Moors and the Northern Pennines it would be of little use. It is also quite a heavy book to be toting around in your rucksack. My final gripe, the regional guides section at the end of the book fails to list any guides covering Northern England, Wales, most of Scotland and all of the island of Ireland. That said, it does list many useful many online resources.
Putting together a book of this size and scope was always going to be a massive task. There are over 1000 sites listed in the book and it is admirable that such an endeavour has even been attempted. Despite my criticisms, I am enjoying reading the book and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the Prehistoric sites of our islands. It is well laid out, easy to read and has full colour photographs and maps. There a forward by Mike Parker Pearson, an lovely piece discussing Prehistoric Landscapes by Vicci Cummins. There are a number of excellent articles scattered throughout the book on topics ranging from the Top 10 Urban Prehistory Sites to Archaeoacoustics.
This book serves to remind us of the sheer range and quantity of prehistoric monuments that exist in our islands. It is a fitting tribute to the hard work and devotion to recording these sites by Andy Burnham and the members of the Megalithic Portal website.
David Parker contacted me a few months ago and asked if we could meet up and have a chat about the Devil’s Arrows for a podcast he was putting together. I met up with David who is a lovely bloke, full of knowledge and enthusiasm. David has now released his podcast, the second in a series.
David’s website is here
During our chat I said a couple of things that weren’t 100% accurate so here’s a few corrections
- The paper on the alignment of Henges is by Roy, not Ron, Loveday
- I was way out on the height of the bank at Mayburgh Henge, 15 feet is probably a more accurate estimate.
- The Bronze Age monument at Street House was a round barrow not a long cairn. The long cairn was part of the final stage of the Neolithic monument.