Category Archives: Uncategorized

Progress?

The last post titled ‘Developments’ was sent out by mistake.  It is one of the header articles which I was attempting to tidy.  Why it posted itself I have no idea!

Whilst in lockdown I thought I would get back to resurrecting the blog, which has suffered much neglect of late, and begin by attempting to sort out various unsatisfactory elements.  I am aware that it is not easy to navigate and I plead ignorance of the more subtle aspects of WordPress.     I think I am reasonably computer literate but the little grey cells are letting me down these days.

My son is trying to change me from WordPress to Squarespace, which he uses professionally, and it looks as though this will give my jaded enthusiasm the required boost – We shall see.

Meanwhile, I have another new site to add to one of my alignments, to be included when I have a little more information.

Discovery of a cave on St Catherine’s Hill

  • Cave believed to be dated from the 14thcentury
  • Considered to be a later medieval shrine or hermitage.
  • Thought to have associations with the nearby chapel of St Catherine

Although this discovery has no relevance to the alignments I have included it as St Catherine’s Chapel is this blog’s most visited site and there is clearly much interest.  It reinforces the importance of this hill from the Mesolithic era through to Medieval times.

Location of cave

The entrance can just be seen below the top end of the railings

The text in italics below is copied and credited to the newsletter of Network Rail.  It is virtually the same text as found on other sources and at the time of writing is the only information available.  The pictures are credited to Archaeology South East.

A team of rail workers delivering landslip repair works near Guildford have uncovered a small cave believed to be from the 14th century.

The sandstone cave was discovered during work to stabilise and protect the railway embankment. The cave may once have been much larger, but only this small piece survived the digging of the railway cutting through the hill in the early 1840s.

Initial findings by a specialist archaeological contractor suggest that it was a later medieval shrine or hermitage associated with the early 14th century chapel of St Catherine, the ruins of which are situated on the hill nearby. It may even have earlier origins as a site of cult activity, due to its pre-14th century name of Drakehull – ‘Hill of the Dragon’.

Images taken from the site show the presence of a Gothic niche decorated in dots with a Calvery cross nearby. 

Upon first inspection I thought that the carving below was in raised relief but looking at the way the light is coming in from the left it can be seen that the strange shapes are carved into the sandstone and what looks like little knobs around it are in fact pits.  This is quite difficult to see and is a classic optical illusion.

If the reference rod is 0.4m long then the carving is about 0.35m high (1.15 feet).

There are a total of around seven or eight further niches and experts found considerable evidence of writing and other markings across the cave ceiling. The cave is partially covered in deposits of black dust, which is believed to be soot from lamps. The remains of two suspected fire-pits were also uncovered in the cave floor. The hope is that radiocarbon dating can be used to establish the period when the cave was in use.

Mark Killick, Network Rail Wessex route director, said: “This is an unexpected and fascinating discovery that helps to visualise and understand the rich history of the area.

“A full and detailed record of the cave has been made and every effort will be made to preserve elements where possible during the regrading of the delicate and vulnerable sandstone cutting.”

Tony Howe, historic environment planning manager and county archaeologist at Surrey County Council, said: “The discovery of this cavern is tremendously exciting. It is very early in the process of understanding its full significance, but the potential for knowledge acquisition is huge.

“We’re looking forward to learning an awful lot more about the site as studies progress.”

A spokesperson from Archaeology South East, said: “The cave contained what appear to be shrines or decorative niches, together with carved initials and other markings. The old name for St Catherine’s Hill is Drakehull ‘The Hill of the Dragon’, so this has obviously been a site of ritual significance long before the construction of the church on the top of the hill in the late 13th century.

“Work is underway to analyse soot and charcoal found inside the cave, which will hopefully tell us more about how and when it was used.”

The only access to the cave is by abseilling and no attempt should be made to reach it on foot.

 

 

A Possibe Standing Stone on High Curley Hill

A Possibe Standing Stone on High Curley Hill

It has recently been pointed out to me by a fellow researcher, David Fernleigh, that if my NEWLANDS LINE is extended as a backsight from my base point at Whitmoor Barrow, there is a clear line of sight for some 7.2 miles across flat countryside to High Curley Hill near Lightwater village.  This line is orientated to the mid-winter sunrise in the south-east and the backsight is to the mid-summer sunset in the north-west. The two opposing bearings align because they fall within the critical band of latitude which passes through the site of Stonehenge where a similar coincidence of sighting may be found.

It is unfortunate that the view toward Whitmoor is now obscured by mature trees, many of which are evergreen pines.  The old photograph below is copied from a notice board at the Surrey Heath Museum and shows that there were once uninterrupted views to the far horizon.  This sarsen stone is unusual; although there are other sarsens in this area this is the most outstanding example.

On my second visit to the hill, I noticed a strange indentation in the sarsen; in the photograph below a conical depression can be seen in the centre.  There are other depressions but I believe these were created by root growth when the sandstone was being formed and had not yet solidified into the hard rock we now see.

 

This depression is obviously man-made.  It is very smooth and regular, unlike any of the natural features.  The remaining rainwater conceals an evenly dished base.  At the surface it is about 15 centimetres in diameter and is some 16 cm deep.  I have no idea of the age or purpose of this feature.

But this stone, although interesting, is not on the alignment, so further site investigation was required.  The summit of the hill is a flat plateau at a height above sea level of around 420 feet. The summit is at the end of a ridge extending from the west and there are views to the horizon in all directions apart from along this ridge.  It would surely have been of significance to prehistoric peoples with its flat top measuring approximately 140 metres by 40 metres wide offering panoramic views to horizons some thirty or more miles away.

Taking a ranging rod; a trowel; and a pruning saw; my next visit was concentrated on the area where the backsight of the alignment crossed the hill about 44 metres from the sarsen.  The area around the sarsen and out to the viewing point in the north-west is well-trodden and clear of scrub, but coming back towards the south-east the ground has a dense covering of heather and gorse.  Working my way from the alignment back north-west towards the sarsen I stumbled across the corner of another sarsen just visible through the growth.  The pruning saw proved ideal for ripping through the covering of heather roots to reveal a large recumbent stone.  The next photograph shows the relationship between the two sarsens – the distance between them is about 21 metres, and the recumbent stone is about 27 metres from the alignment – a very small error over seven miles and without investigation of the rising and setting of the sun at this elevation.

This photograph below is all I have been able to expose to date.  This is a public country park and I did not want to be seen digging around the stone to ascertain its extent – besides which, at my age, the effort to get this far was quite crippling.  The exposed surface measured some six feet long by 2.5 feet wide (1.8m x 1.2m).  Probing the edges did not help in determining the depth or limits of the stone.

As it is so close to the mid-summer sunset alignment, I am going to be so bold as to suggest the possibility that this sarsen was once a standing stone fallen in antiquity.

The pale corner is just visible on Google Earth at  51°20’45.41″N   0°41’30.92″W.  The altitude is given as 411 feet which gives a clear line of sight back to Whitmoor Barrow.  This is best viewed in Google Earth by selecting June 2018 in the ‘Historic Imagery’ option.

It now needs younger and fitter researchers, and with the permission of Surrey Heath Borough Council, to undertake a proper archaeological dig.  I would love to see the whole plateau subjected to examination – at the very least by ground penetration radar.

Best access to this site is from the public car park in the Lightwater Country Park off High View Road, Lightwater, postcode GU18 5YF.

 

To be added to Church Croft on DEERLEAP LINE

In May I decided to visit the Church Croft site at Puttenham before the summer growth covered too much of the area.  As it turned out I needn’t have worried, the small field (approximately 100 metres square), where the 19 Druid Mile point on the Deerleap Line sat, had recently been ploughed and the ground was clear and open.  It is strange that it is the only plot of cultivated ground in a mixed deciduous woodland.  This is an area of orange sandy soil which showed evidence of having been the site of a maize crop from last year.

Site centre is on the grey patch in centre of the view

I navigated with my hand-help Garmin GPS to the coordinates of the point on the eastern side of the field and found myself to  be in a patch of distinctly grey sandy soil about twelve metres in diameter.  In the above photograph it can just about be seen in the centre of the view.  Nothing could be found to differentiate it fro the surrounding orange soil.

View down to Puttenham from Church Croft

Although now partly obscured by the tree line on the boundary the site was found to be in a good position to see down the valley towards Puttenham.

A substantial scattering of worked flint, including a hammer stone, was evident as I walked this side of the field, and I am sure that with more time and effort I could have amassed a substantial collection.  But as I was trespassing (I did not know the identity of the land owner) I was reluctant to spend too much time there.

Hammer stone for knapping flint and two flint tools from Church Croft

A close examination of Google Earth, using historical Imagery, did not reveal anything of interest and LIDAR was no help.  It would be most interesting to have a ground penetrating radar survey carried out.

Addition to CULVERSWELL BARROW

 

Exploration of potential sites has ground to a halt whilst the summer growth is at its most prolific.  With lack of outdoor research to do but with the urge to get out on a beautiful September day, I thought it would be good to see how Culverswell Barrow was looking. Followers of this blog will know that this unknown barrow was rediscovered by me many years ago in a position predicted at a high point on an alignment and thus is crucial in validating my work.

I have previously described my interest in the possibilities of using LIDAR contours and that I have downloaded the Crooksbury area.  The picture below shows the barrow located within the LIDAR contours and moved slightly to coincide with the landform.  This brings it more perfectly onto the alignment and a few metres nearer to the twelve Druid Miles position.  My early theodolite research, before the growth of silver birch obscured the view, suggested that the line from Whitmoor Barrow, through Hogs Back Barrow, was aligned to the mid-winter sunset.

Clicking on the PDF link below will show that the diameter is 26.5 metres (87 feet) and that the altitude is 110.25 metres.

Culverswell revised with LIDAR

 

There is a small car park about half a kilometre south of Littleworth Cross on the west side of the road and from here a forestry track goes past the barrow on the south side.  Since my previous visit the site has been extensively cleared of Scots Pines and for the first time the barrow is clearly visible.  In the picture below, taken from the forestry track, the barrow can be seen on the horizon in the centre of the photograph.

Barrow at centre of horizon seen from forestry road

This picture shows how the ground is ravaged by the extraction works but happily the barrow itself does not appear to have been much affected by the tracking of large machinery, possibly because it is dry as opposed to the more boggy ground below it where some deep tyre tracks are visible in the sandy surface.

Barrow seen from the west showing typical damage to terrain

Below is the best view I could get of the barrow showing how prominent is its position in the landscape with uninterrupted views to the South Downs.

Barrow seen from the north

Standing on the highest point it can be seen that the bracken is obscuring the surface and a return visit in the spring, once this has died back, is anticipated.

From top of barrow looking south east down to forestry road on the right

Shropshire church found to be UK’s oldest sacred site still in use

 

The following is extracted from an article in the Shropshire Live website dated 18 May 2017.  This will be added to the pages on site continuity titled ‘The Elephant in the Corner’.

The church, known as the Church of the Holy Fathers, now belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church which bought it for the nominal sum of £50 from the Church of England in 1994 and saved it from dereliction. It was previously called St John the Baptist and dedicated to St Milburga in pre-Reformation times. It stands on the edge of a housing development site in Sutton on the edge of Shrewsbury in Shropshire.

Local Anglicans had held services there once a year, but it had not been a regularly functioning parish church since before the First World War and had stood in the corner of a farmer’s field, effectively used as a barn for storage.

The Church of the Holy Fathers, Sutton, Shrewsbury.

Carbon dating of a wooden post, which extracted from the dig in February, has shown it was first placed in the ground in 2033 BC – a time when the ancient Egyptians were still building Pyramids.  Archaeologists expected the post to turn out to be Anglo-Saxon, so were shocked to discover it dated from the late Neolithic/early Bronze Age period instead.

The dig has given a fuller picture to the ancient history of the site at Sutton, Shrewsbury. Its findings correspond directly with earlier archaeological excavations, carried out on nearby development land to the east of the tiny Medieval church in the 1960s and ‘70s, which unearthed evidence of Bronze Age and Neolithic structures. It wasn’t then known that these were connected with the church site.

Back then archaeologists discovered burial mounds and cremations, slots for standing stones and two rows of Neolithic post holes and a ditch, known as a cursus, which they interpreted as a processional walkway. It was aligned east to west, extending towards the current late 12th/early 13th-century church.

The recent archaeological dig now shows that the prehistoric site extends to a larger area to the west of the church and that the building is built directly on top of both a previous Anglo-Saxon church and prehistoric structures. The current 10–metre long church itself was discovered to have originally been three times longer and to have once had transepts.

“The 15-inch section of post we found was sticking up into the Medieval foundations. It appeared to have been deliberately incorporated,” said archaeologist Janey Green, “We thought we had found a Saxon post that formed part of an earlier church amongst Medieval foundations, but the radiocarbon dates have shocked us all! What we actually have is a sacred site dating back over 4000 years. It appears the current Medieval church is built over the site of an ancient pagan burial ground that’s been in use from the late Neolithic period through to Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman, Anglo-Saxon and through to today. These findings appear to indicate that this special place has been recognised and honoured by our ancestors from at least 2,000 years before Christ until the present day. To put it into context – all this was being built and used at the same time as the ancient Egyptians were building pyramids for their Pharaohs and writing in hieroglyphics”.

“What makes this site different is the continuity of ritual practice in one form or another. It predates the Basilica of Rome. It is well known that Christians liked to build churches on pagan sites, but this goes back to the Neolithic and this time we have the archaeological evidence so we can rewrite the history books and add to our knowledge”. There are other British sites of Christian churches known to date back to prehistoric origins.  The best known is probably Knowlton Church at Cranborne Chase in Dorset.  A Norman ruin built within a Neolithic henge.

Knowlton Church at the centre of Neolithic henge

“The earliest sacred development on the site was probably a stone circle with a cursus, a processional walkway. It’s tremendously important to fully understand what is going on here and another phase of excavation is desperately needed. Christian use of the site probably goes back to the late 7th century when the manor of Sutton was given to St Milburga, the founder and abbess of Wenlock Priory sometime between 674 and 704 AD.

Church priest Father Stephen Maxfield said “Who would have thought that this little church, stood in the corner of a field and written off as a ‘shed’, has turned out to have a history of great significance. It’s quite possible that Milburga herself visited this location,” he said. “From the moment we first saw this building as a crumbling ruin, full of farmer’s clutter, we thought it was a very special building. Now we know that it is and that it is quite unique. It is a place of transcendence and healing”.

Other significant finds from the archaeological dig include a carved Saxon stone from an archway, the remains of what is thought to be an Anglo-Saxon apse, a prehistoric worked flint and a Neolithic stone counting disc. Some unusual animal burials were found, but these are thought to be Medieval and have yet to be dated.

Ms Green found two coins, minted from between 1625 and 1634, amongst rubble from a wall collapse and believes this could indicate that two-thirds of the church collapsed during that period or slightly later, possibly during the English Civil War, 1642 to 1651.

The dig was started because a new housing development of 300 homes is currently being constructed next door to the church. The first phase of the dig has been completed but archaeologists believe there is more to be found in the area.

Read the full article via shropshirelive.com at: http://www.shropshirelive.com/2017/05/18/archaeological-dig-discovers-shropshire-church-is-earliest-known-sacred-centre-still-in-use/

LIDAR

LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is an airborne mapping technique, which uses a laser to measure the distance between the aircraft and the ground. Up to 100,000 measurements per second are made of the ground, allowing highly detailed terrain models to be generated at spatial resolutions of between 25cm and 2 metres.

At the moment I am working on an area of some ten kilometres square centred on the barrow I discovered on Culverswell Hill (see CROOKSBURY LINE). So far I have selected some landforms and listed the positions as Ordnance Survey coordinates. I will be visiting the sites and locating the positions using a Garmin hand-held GPS with the hope of some positive results.

Unfortunately, the LIDAR data comes at a cost; the Crooksbury area came to nearly £50.  Also it is difficult to manipulate due to the large size of the data files. The above area was a composite of several downloads into AutoCAD and care had to be taken not to crash the computer.

This is a sample of LIDAR taken from a recent job. The contours are at one metre intervals. On my project, I plot them at half metre intervals for more detail.  In this example, the rectangular area is a recreation ground and the bumps and humps are old mineral workings.

It should be noted that LIDAR is capable of penetrating trees and vegetation and the contours are the height of the terrain.

Church Croft added to DEERLEAP LINE

I have in my library a copy of ‘Puttenham under the Hog’s Back’ by Ruth Dugmore. Published in 1972 by Philimore Press.  At long last it has risen to the top of the pile of my required reading and I was interested to find the following:

‘In the seventh century England was divided up into vast dioceses. And each of these dioseces would have a minster. And from these minsters priests and laymen would penetrate the rough countryside evangelising. They would stop at a cross which was possibly erected on an old pagan site and would preach to those who came to hear them. As they evangelised they would push further afield and chapels would be set up where once there was only a preacher’s cross. The minster however would remain the mother church. There was a minster at Tuesley and it is almost certain that the area would have been Christianised from the minster there. One of the duties of the travelling priests would be to discover sites dedicated to heathen gods. Here the priest would set up a cross and substitute a Christian service for a pagan one’.

Another extract from Mrs Dugmore’s book:

‘In Puttenham there is a possibility of a heathen centre which became a Christian place of worship at Church Croft; a small hill not far from the village, which is approached by a network of tracks and paths. The name Church Croft has no significance in later times and was never church property, but there must have been a reason for it. Could it have been an altar which had been erected to some god and where a preaching cross was later set up?’

And an extract from the highly recommended website ‘Surrey Medieval’ by Robert Briggs.

‘Another piece of evidence of a very different kind (but whose record we again have Rev. Kerry to thank for) suggests a more complex chronology. Local folklore maintained that the first church in Puttenham was sited almost a mile to the southwest of the village in a location known as Church Croft. Kerry told the story thus: “In the plantation near Mr Hewettʼs Barn [no longer in existence; its site lies west of present-day Gores Farm] is a spot where it is said by the old people that the church was to have been erected, but that their pious intention was frustrated by the fairies who removed in the night what had been erected in the day to the place where the church now stands”. It is not hard to be captivated by such a tale, and Knox interpreted it as signifying the destruction of an early church on a site of pagan worship by ʻsupporters of the old religionʼ’.

‘In the case of Puttenham, the name Church Croft may hold the key. We know a new rectory at the east end of the church – effectively in ʻthe place where the church now standsʼ to repeat Kerryʼs words – was provided for in the will of Richard Lussher who died in 1502. Its previous site is undocumented, but a decent case can be made for it to have stood atop Church Croft. For one thing, this would mesh with John Blairʼs observation that many medieval Surrey rectories were isolated from their churches. A simple explanation of the fairy story, one which accommodates its key components, is that it was the rectory removed from its original site at Church Croft and re-established on a site so close to the church as to count as being “where it stands”.’

Many of the barrows in the area of Puttenham, Seale, and around were dug into by the above mentioned reverend Charles Kerry, curator of Puttenham church from 1868 to 1877, and indeed it may be him responsible for the cross trench on the crown of Culverswell Barrow. Unfortunately he seems to have been a ‘hobby archaeologist’ and was lax in recording his finds. After spells in various livings from Bedfordshire to Northumberland, he ended his career in Derbyshire with all his notebooks. Upon his death these were left to Derby Public Library. There may be something of interest there but probably a long shot.

screenshot-church-croft-1

Church Croft appears to fall upon the DEERLEAP LINE, shown crossing as a red line above, it is  at the nineteen Druid Mile (DM) point in private land being used as a pheasantry. Last week I visited this point using my hand-held GPS to locate the precise location.  From the rough track, visible running up the left side of this Google Earth image, I navigated through mixed woodland to an unkempt field knee deep in weeds, seen in the centre of the image.  The point is in the north east corner of the field and is the edge of the top of this high ground.  The land to the east falls downhill on a shallow gradient towards the village.  It was difficult to judge but this area would appear to be at the highest point on the ridge which extends all the way back to Hillbury Hillfort.  In the LIDAR image below the red circle marks the 19 DM point and the shape of the field above can be made out.

puttenham-common-lidar_edited-1

In this image the high ridge of common land runs from Hillbury (266 degrees and 20 DM), outlined in red, through to the red circle of 266/19.  An ancient field system can be seen all over the high ground, little known before the introduction of LIDAR, with valleys running downhill on the north and south sides.  A trackway can be seen running from point 266/20 inside the south east corner of the fort fairly straight towards point 266/19.

Hillbury to Hogs Back looking NE View from 266/20 inside the fort looking north east to show the terrain.

Puttenham Church added to SEALE LINE

 

270_7-puttenham-church-rev

270_7-puttenham-church-rev

Taking advantage of the glorious sunshine of the last few days, and ignoring the bitter cold, I visited Puttenham to revisit the church and look at Bury Hill. I had downloaded the Ordnance Survey of the area around the church to include Bury Hill to the immediate east and to show more detail around the church. The church itself is a very conventional restoration of 1861 with little to see of its origins. Only the Norman pillars between the aisle and the nave being of interest. The original street ran around the south of the churchyard, through the grounds of Puttenham Priory, and was diverted by the Lord of the Manor around the north side in the 1820s. Although the church stands on rising ground from the village, it does not stand at the highest point, this being the knoll behind the church to the east known as Bury Hill. It has been suggested that the name originates from the existence of a Bronze Age round barrow on the crown. Bury Hill is now in the grounds of Puttenham Priory, currently the home of Roger Taylor the Queen guitarist, and is not accessible. It is possible to walk the north and east limits along the road and it can be seen that the top of the hill is some five metres above road level and would have been a prominent landscape feature before the present dense vegetation developed. Once again we see the possibility of a religious site evolving from pagan origins.

screenshot-bury-hill-promap

Ordnance Survey extract of area

Puttenham Church from The Street

Puttenham Church from The Street looking East

The LIDAR image below, with the church outlined in red, shows very distinctly the extent of Bury Hill in the centre.

bury-hill-lidar_edited-1

dscf9801

Referring to the plan at the top of the post it will be seen that the SEALE LINE passes through the inside of the above wall to the Manor Chapel on the left.  More clearly understood by comparing with the floor plan below.  The seven Druid Mile point is just off the east corner of the Manor Chapel.

plan-of-puttenham-church

Manor Farm Moat added to the COMPTON LINE

There are only four points on this alignment which is 30 degrees west of the SOUTH LINE reflecting the TYTING LINE which is 30 degrees east of the SOUTH LINE.  Unfortunately two of these points have relevance problems, this being one of them, but the alignment is of extraordinary accuracy.

Plan of Manor Farm Moat

Manor Farm Moat on COMPTON LINE

Manor Farm Moat on COMPTON LINE

Guildford Park Manor was excavated by the University of Surrey Archaeological Society over four seasons from 1972 to 1975. The moated site was found to be a substantial house from the 13th century, the house occupying the southern end of the moated area. At the point where the alignment passes through the island within the moat the stone foundations of a small building were excavated. The manor house was the home of the keeper of Guildford Park, a position created by Henry II at the beginning of his reign in 1154. A hedge survey gave results which are consistent with the park boundary and road to the house being established in the 12th century and most of the field boundaries surrounding the house dates to about 1700 when the park was divided into farms.

Manor Farm looking west from the site of the medieval manor

Manor Farm looking west from the site of the medieval manor

Just before Christmas 2016 I decided to try and find this site, which is surprisingly remote despite being within the grounds of the University of Surrey. Parking at the university sport centre I walked around rugby fields and navigated to a wooded area surrounded by more playing fields in the course of construction. The site is adjacent to derelict farm buildings and is quite a little oasis circled by scrubby growth. The moat is difficult to see but can be made out with a little exploration. Happily it has been proposed that this Scheduled Monument should be enhanced with appropriate planting in consultation with English Heritage.

The moat viewed from the northern end

The moat viewed from the northern end